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Road Test Shootout: Harley vs Triumph Conclusion

 

Any good shootout has to have a clear winner, right? Trying to flatly say one machine is better than another is not only a matter of opinion, but one of perspective. Both the Forty-Eight and the T100 are great choices for a new bike. While some might think the two motorcycles are like comparing apples and oranges, I would argue the contrary. They are certainly different, but serve the same purpose–filling that empty spot in the garage for a rider with roughly ten grand. If said rider wants a fun, reliable and cool motorcycle that is lighter and more nimble than a full-on cruiser, more laid back than a sport bike, and loaded with classic style, either bike fits the bill. The Chop Cult reader will undoubtedly want to modify his bike, whether it's stripping it down, tarting it up, or to use as the basis for a full-on chopper. Being able to define what you expect from your machine is what impacts your perspective and helps you choose the right bike. Lots of things are vague and subjective, but when my criteria is as simple as: "how fun is this machine to ride compared to how much it costs?" the winner emerges and it's the Hinkley Triumph.

 

Triumph-Bonneville-T100-Road-Test-Review_21

 

Now, don't go hatin' since I didn't pick the Harley. I have nothing against them, and currently own three, one of which is a 1999 Sporty. I love riding Harleys. There is not a more enjoyable endeavor than blasting down the road on a well-tuned Milwaukee tractor. That low-end torque, the relaxed head angle and classic styling that is often imitated but never duplicated is undeniably fun. Coupled with an abundance of aftermarket support and plenty of shops available to help you customize one, H-D's are a great starting point for a custom bike. The focus on form over function is what makes the Forty-Eight nick over the finish line in second place. It's a fine motorcycle and one of the best looking factory-produced bikes from any manufacturer, but isn't as fun to ride as the Triumph, and that's the bottom line. The fact that the Forty-Eight is uncomfortable with ridiculous rear suspension and forward controls will eliminate it as a good choice for a lot of larger riders, where the Triumph is easy for just about anyone to get comfortable on. If you are over 6' or over 200lbs, I'd save up a little more and get a Dyna if you've got to have a bike with the bar and shield.

 

2012 Harley-Davidson Sportster 48 Road Test Review_14

 

Now, if we were trying to determine the best bang for your buck on two wheels, or the most practical machine in the universe, it'd be a different story. A venerable KLR, Suzuki V-Strom or Street Triple would surely stomp a mud hole in either of these bikes. But, practicality and value were not the only measures, and we only tested these two bikes. What the Triumph does is mix the same ingredients as the H-D; fun, performance, ergonomics, value and style into a recipe that is just right for the intended rider–it's simply a great regular old motorcycle. You can ride it all day in virtually any conditions, it is smooth and predictable and there are a wide variety of modifications that can be done to change it's somewhat frumpy appearance and to improve performance. For the Chop Cult member going for anything less than a rigid frame chopper, the T100 would be better on price alone. With a $1500 price difference compared to the 48, that leaves a lot of bucks on the table to spend on modifications and improvements. If heavy mods in the chopper direction are your goal, I'd recommend the Forty-Eight, as most modern Bonne chops always seem to be just a little awkward and there are a ton of good examples of hard-tailed Sportsters out there to prove how well the Harley lends itself to that.

 


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Commented on 5-11-2012 At 11:48 am
 

Both seem alright... Cool write up.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 12:34 pm
 

Great write-up/reviews. Nice to get the inside scoop on any bike I can't afford.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 01:23 pm
 

wondered which you'd plump for. ive had both bikes too, [ok nightster not 48 but near as damnit] i agree out of the 2 the bonnie is the nicer bike for my daily needs of pushbutton classic-ish style riding

i have the w800 at the minute - you need to get hold of one and see what you think of that as well - i think you might pick it over the bonnie. see if you ca blag one off kawasaki :)

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 01:30 pm
 

Great write-up. Triumph would get my money as well.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 02:22 pm
 

Triumph got my money a few years back over the Sportster so hooray Triumph! Oh yeah now I own both. Great write up on a couple of great bikes with spot on observations.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 02:50 pm
 

OOOoooh! And the scrawny, scrappy, Brit comes from behind and finishes off the crowd favorite by snapping his neck. Using his nimble maneuvering skills to get around, England defeats the USA for the first time in nearly 240 years!!

I'll email the Queen immediately and let her know.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 02:58 pm
 

I new you would love this CRFyou !!

long live the queen !

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 03:20 pm
 

Everything written in this shootout rings true. And although the Bonneville was reviewed in 2010, it bears saying that its specs line up with the T100, it costs even less and it sidetracks that overt geezerness. You have even more cash to spare for performance and appearance upgrades without necessarily having to repaint.

Truly, you had me at "Nothing says 'I didn't want a Harley' like a Triumph." My god, there are some beautiful HDs out there, but you can't go outside and spit without hitting one.

Thanks for a tremendous week of articles.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 03:56 pm
 

Has Triumph ever beat Harley like this?

Oh yeah, on the track and salt flats from 1955 to 1975, I forgot.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 04:15 pm
 

It did not matter who won the shootout to me. What mattered is the depth of the article and on target personal opinons. I read many comparos in magazines and Bill you did a bang up job on this one. Keep them coming!

Tim

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 06:01 pm
 

All in all, this is essentially an apples to oranges "shoot out" in my opinion, and there is no real "winner" - it just comes down to choice (but really, I guess it always does). But this is even more true given this site - I mean, comparing bone stock bikes for a group of customizers, fabbers and builders makes no sense to me. If you planned to leave either of these bikes as-is - why are you coming to this site in the first place?

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 06:51 pm
 

Great write ups on each scoot, the trump does look fun as hell for canyons but the overall styling to me goes to the forty-eight.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 07:05 pm
 

"comparing bone stock bikes for a group of customizers, fabbers and builders makes no sense to me. If you planned to leave either of these bikes as-is - why are you coming to this site in the first place?"

Right. Shootout needs a second round for the mods required to make the Tri 'cool' and the 48 'usable'


In this shootout the bottom line here is pretty much which is the better daily driver..what passes today for a "standard motorcycle." Formerly called a UJM if it came from Japan...

...That is,daily driver for those folks that can't stand the looks of something practical but horrible looking like a VStrom a Versus Gladius etc. And wouldn't be caught dead on a metric wannabe


There's no way something with a tiny tank and poor ergos is gonna make it
as a daily driver, no matter how good it looks. So the Triumph takes it.

Oops, I'm writing on CHopCult where a LOT of people ride bikes EXACTLY like that ALL the time..but there's not enough of them to keep any manufacturer staying in business. That's too bad, actually.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 07:05 pm
 

"comparing bone stock bikes for a group of customizers, fabbers and builders makes no sense to me. If you planned to leave either of these bikes as-is - why are you coming to this site in the first place?"

Right. Shootout needs a second round for the mods required to make the Tri 'cool' and the 48 'usable'


In this shootout the bottom line here is pretty much which is the better daily driver..what passes today for a "standard motorcycle." Formerly called a UJM if it came from Japan...

...That is,daily driver for those folks that can't stand the looks of something practical but horrible looking like a VStrom a Versus Gladius etc. And wouldn't be caught dead on a metric wannabe


There's no way something with a tiny tank and poor ergos is gonna make it
as a daily driver, no matter how good it looks. So the Triumph takes it.

Oops, I'm writing on CHopCult where a LOT of people ride bikes EXACTLY like that ALL the time..but there's not enough of them to keep any manufacturer staying in business. That's too bad, actually.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 07:14 pm
 

good write up. the 48 looks sweet but the trumpet is classic. fuckit id take the 48

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 08:09 pm
 

think i choose the trump too, i like them both but the t100 just have that classic look.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 09:24 pm
 

I have owned both and stuck with the 48. I loved my T100, but to modify to the look I was wanting was expensive and sometimes impossible to find parts that didn't need to be custom built. I know it was lazy, but just ended up easier (and cheaper) to get the 48 and be satisfied. I still miss the Triumph though.

Commented on 5-11-2012 At 11:09 pm
 

I'm a huge fan of harley, just for the simple fact...ITS A HARLEY. but I would pick the triumph over the 48 any day, ridden the 48 and thought it was boring.

Commented on 5-12-2012 At 04:05 am
 

nice write up guys...I'm 6'3" and have ridden the 48 and agree it is one uncomfortable machine as it sits stock. not sure I would buy a trump but def seems like a good choice in the case between the two.

Commented on 5-12-2012 At 04:15 am
 

Nice write up Bill, I enjoyed all three very much.

When I was sitting on that 48, I was blown away by all of the extras and time they put into that motorcycle to make it look so finished, its a beautiful machine to say the least.
On that note - I never got to ride that damned 48, sort of pissed about that! but have spent some time on sporties and allot of time on modern triumphs and all I can say I have never been impressed with the sportster, not even a smidgen! but, I think there is no other modern engine than the sporty engine that looks better in a hardtail frame...

Commented on 5-13-2012 At 04:19 pm
 

One of the primary goals of the new Triumph motorcycle company was to build bikes that can compete with the Japanese motorcycle reliability, and they succeeded.
And I am so glad to see Harley's quality come back to the point where you could even consider a Sportster or any Harley as a daily driver.
In my opinion, this is all good as riders have a choice of bikes to buy and use as a valid form of reliable transportation other than Jap bikes.
In the end these are both great bikes and this will end up as a personal preference call, as it should be.

Commented on 5-14-2012 At 03:17 pm
 

The Triumph sans mods is not good for the vertically challenged; the sportys require much less finagling if you want to ride a swing arm bike..just sayin..

Commented on 5-14-2012 At 04:21 pm
 

Glory glory Man United,
Glory glory Man United,
Glory glory Man United,
As the reds go marching on on on!

Also....Triumph's rule!

The end!

Commented on 8-27-2013 At 03:00 am
 

I'm torn between the two. I own a somewhat modern Bonnie. Its an 01 T-100 converted to a 900. and I Also own a 04 HD FXDL. I love them both dearly but there is just something about that Triumph. Ive done bits and pieces here and there to it over the years but it was cool right out the box. I had and 04 T-100 that was f'n sweet and like an idiot I sold it when I bought my Dyna. I still regret that sell today even though I made about 2k after it was all said and done. Its so hard to compare the two but I can defiantly tell you that I will always be a Triumph owner. And as for the comment about resale value. Cool never loses value. Ive gotten good deals when buying but I rarely ever lose money on things I decide to sell.

Commented on 3-27-2014 At 09:12 pm
 

I am about to choose between the two for a chop job. Not full hardtail frame but just get it as basic as possible. I already have a Trumpet (95 Speed Triple) and if we are truly honest its all about attitude. I've ridden sports bikes for years and neither of these are performance cycles. I can't afford a pre 80's HD so when all is said and done which bike, when everything's ripped off and skinnied up and the baffles are out is gonna make me feel more of a cutthroat....The Harley. Uncomfortable and slow. But if I wanted these things I buy a Blackbird.

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