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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have been riding a new Triumph Bonneville for the past year and am interested in moving to something with sportier handling. Not an SS bike but something more along the lines of a 650r or sv650. A sport bike for everyday riding on the street. The hp on both is comparable to the Bonnie. My question is, to those that have had a chance to ride a Bonnie, do these mid weight bikes handle significantly better? My riding is typically 2-6 hours on weekends on the backroads of CA with some overnight trips thrown in. i am not saying I have explored all of the limits of the Bonnie, but it is a modern take on an old design and its retro charms are no longer so charming. Having said that, I have upgraded my Bonnie with gold valve emulators and Ohlins out back.
 

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I have been riding a new Triumph Bonneville for the past year and am interested in moving to something with sportier handling. Not an SS bike but something more along the lines of a 650r or sv650. A sport bike for everyday riding on the street. The hp on both is comparable to the Bonnie. My question is, to those that have had a chance to ride a Bonnie, do these mid weight bikes handle significantly better? My riding is typically 2-6 hours on weekends on the backroads of CA with some overnight trips thrown in. i am not saying I have explored all of the limits of the Bonnie, but it is a modern take on an old design and its retro charms are no longer so charming. Having said that, I have upgraded my Bonnie with gold valve emulators and Ohlins out back.
I've never ridden a Bonneville, but I own an SV and have ridden the 650r on several occasions. The Bonneville is about 100lbs heavier than these two bikes, so the weight savings will help tremendously in terms of handling. The SV's stock suspension sucks. Unless you're in the 120lb range, it's way undersprung for a road bike. The Ninja's suspension is better, much stiffer, but still lacking. If you're used to good suspension on your Bonneville, you may be disappointed in this aspect. However, there are a ton of aftermarket suspension options for the SV; I'm not sure about the aftermarket support for the 650r though. Both the SV and Ninja will be far faster than your Bonneville.

The SV is a very popular track and racing bike. They can be made to handle far better than most riders will be able to take advantage of.
 

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I've never ridden a Bonneville, but I put 10,000 miles on an 08 650R and it is a fine bike in every way that you can really do anything with. Sport riding, city riding, and light touring all work well on it. Super reliable too.

But I always found the perceived quality on Triumphs to be a lot higher than Kawasaki. Kawasakis tend to look and sometimes feel cheap, but they are quality bikes. Compared to the fit and finish on the Triumph, you may be a bit disappointed. When I went from 650R to Street Triple it felt like a huge jump up despite it being more of a lateral move just due to the great quality.

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Thank you all for the comments. As far as handling goes, the Bonnie is ok but the stock suspension is terrible. My thinking is that if quality of suspension components is fairly equal, that the SV's and Ninja's of this world will have an advantage over the Bonnie due to their more modern design and lighter weight frames. These bikes are all in a similar price point and all of them have concessions to be at that price point. I don't expect a $7500 bike to behave like a bike that costs twice that. As for quality, I have been mostly happy with the Bonnie but there are some areas that could be improved (like with many bikes I suppose.) i will have to check them out. I can say that the Triumph Street Triple seems to be higher quality than the Bonneville to me but it is also built as a performance bike. The Bonnie, in my opinion, was brought back to appeal to an element of nostalgia before anything else. People definitely hop them up but my concern is for the foundation of the platform. I hope that makes sense.

Again, thanks.
 

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The stock components on all the bikes are going to be roughly the same until you get into the premium suspensions (BMW HP4, the Speed Triple R, etc.). Even then, the Ohlins you get on a Speed Triple isn't the Ohlins you get aftermarket, which isn't the Ohlins that the factory guys get.

So by moving to a more modern bike, you are going to get a stiffer frame with a more aggressive geometry which can handle higher forces and transitions, and will *probably* have more third party options for suspension and maybe tires. It will be "better" only in the sense that a racer could horse it around a race track a few seconds faster.

If you like the Bonnie, I would thoroughly investigate the suspension options available (Traxxion Dynamics, RaceTech, Suspension Dynamics, etc.). You can make a world of difference with suspension work.

If you kind of want something else anyway, that's great, just plan that you may still have to do suspension work. I *never* assume that a bike - even one I like the feel of bouncing it on the showroom or a short ride - won't require that.

KeS
 

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Have you put lower bars, rearsets, and stickier rubber on the Bonnie yet? Even with the giant 19" front hoop, I think she handles extremely well for a 'retro' bike. Unless you move to a true supersport, don't expect dramatic improvements without suspension upgrades.

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I have many, many satisfied miles on my ZRX, and before that, many parallel twins. I am currently excited about the Yamaha fz-09. I had the same feeling about the Kawasaki ws650, which I let get away (from buying new), and I had the same feeling about my ZRX (which I didn't), and I am really working on putting cash together for the fz-09. (The ZRX is staying).

Get your current bike functioning the way you like, perfectly, first, otherwise you may not come back to it.

Yamaha Unveils 2014 FZ-09 850 Triple « MotorcycleDaily.com – Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
This is what I was trying to learn from my post. Is the inherent structure of the Bonnie worthy of upgrades or is it better to start on a bike with a more modern frame. From what I am hearing here, as well as elsewhere, the basic differences in design are not so great to necessitate a bike switch and that there is a lot of improvement potential with this bike. FWIW, it is a mag wheeled bike with 17's f/r although the sizes are slightly odd limiting tire choices. I can get some Sport Demons or BT 45's for it though. I already have Ohlins on the back and emulators in the forks. I am sure I could tweak it further.

Thanks for the comments.
 

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Uhm, no. Doesn't matter how much money you dump into the Bonneville it will remain a long bike with low center of gravity and lazy geometry. It will ride better for a long bike with lazy geometry, that's for sure, but it will never handle like a newer sportbike with a very long swingarm, short wheelbase, aggressive geometry and centralized mass. I didn't reply to your initial post because your question is actually pretty vague, "handle better", what does that mean to you?

I have a XJR1300. It is a modern old school Japanese muscle bike, with an engine straight from the early 80s in a modern-ish frame considering the constraints set by the engine. I have a blast with that bike, and even considering how heavy it is and "underpowered", my friends in sportbikes have a hard time keeping up with me. I'm planning on cartridge emulators and to rebuild the rear Öhlins shocks, that's it. It handles WAY different to a new sportbike, it needs a lot more input to get it going to where you want it to go, and it will fight back all the way. Its a very heavy bike that doesn't like to go in too hot into corners, but with 1300cc it has torque to shoot out of corners like a bat out of hell. It's a long bike with lazy geometry, you can't expect it to transition fast.

And I love it. But I want to make the suspension "better" as it gets kinda floaty over 100mph, making 125mph quite scary and tricky, I want the damping to be just a wee bit firmer and it is undersprung, but I don't want it to be a harsh riding bike, I like its posh ride.

If we were talking about the SV1KS suspension, "better" takes a whole different meaning. The suspension is too harsh, the adjusters seem to be worthless and the rear shock doesn't keep the rear end planted as much as I'd like to.

And if we were talking about the XT660R...


You already have emulators in the front and Öhlins in the rear, yet you are not satisfied. Throwing money at a bike without a clear picture of what you want is a straight road to disappointment.
 

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This is what I was trying to learn from my post. Is the inherent structure of the Bonnie worthy of upgrades or is it better to start on a bike with a more modern frame. From what I am hearing here, as well as elsewhere, the basic differences in design are not so great to necessitate a bike switch and that there is a lot of improvement potential with this bike. FWIW, it is a mag wheeled bike with 17's f/r although the sizes are slightly odd limiting tire choices. I can get some Sport Demons or BT 45's for it though. I already have Ohlins on the back and emulators in the forks. I am sure I could tweak it further.

Thanks for the comments.
Is she ever going to handle like a modern supersport, no. But I think getting a Bonnie to handle as well as you need on a street bike is doable. After getting used to the heavier turn-in, my only real complaint is I'm starting to scrape my boots with the mid controls, probably going to change to Norman Hyde rearsets at some point.

I'm running progressive fork springs, Hagon shocks, and Norman Hyde M-bars. EBC HH pads up front will improve braking, but still not quite up to the stopping power of a lighter or dual disc bike.

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Uhm, no. Doesn't matter how much money you dump into the Bonneville it will remain a long bike with low center of gravity and lazy geometry. It will ride better for a long bike with lazy geometry, that's for sure, but it will never handle like a newer sportbike with a very long swingarm, short wheelbase, aggressive geometry and centralized mass. I didn't reply to your initial post because your question is actually pretty vague, "handle better", what does that mean to you?

You already have emulators in the front and Öhlins in the rear, yet you are not satisfied. Throwing money at a bike without a clear picture of what you want is a straight road to disappointment.
This I can appreciate as it is where I find myself. I am trying to decide if it is worth it to me to put more money into this bike or move on to another. The narrow wheels bug me (lack of radial tire choices,) but it would be a lot of $ to change that, for example. I am looking for more willingness in the turns and more stability at speed.
 

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Mexican Hard Shell Taco
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This I can appreciate as it is where I find myself. I am trying to decide if it is worth it to me to put more money into this bike or move on to another. The narrow wheels bug me (lack of radial tire choices,) but it would be a lot of $ to change that, for example. I am looking for more willingness in the turns and more stability at speed.
Well, that's not going to happen with that bike, end of story. You could raise the forks on the triple trees (to lower the front) and even raise the back, to make the geometry a bit quicker, but you will lose stability, so that would be a no-go. Getting b***** tires in there will be a PITA, and the heavier tires will affect handling. All in all a bunch of money spent without actually solving other issues, and to make it worse, I really suspect that when you make it more stable at speed you will be looking for more power, which will show the limitations of the stock brakes, and then the thin forks will induce wobbles, etc.

It really sounds to me like this is not the bike for you. You've done the easy bolt on mods to the bike, anything from there will be pretty expensive and you're already at the point of diminishing returns...

For example, a Speed Triple R already is ahead of your bike in suspension, handling and power, right out of the box. Maybe you'll have to respring it, but it already has adjustable cartridge USD forks that are leaps and bounds better than the best modded Bonneville forks, it also has a rear adjustable shock that might not be as good as a good set of Ohlins, but with the rest of the package will work better, it already has b***** wheels and tires, radial brakes, etc.
 

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Sounds to me like you need something lighter and more responsive to start with. Several people have suggested the Street Triple; I agree. You've already identified the SV and 650 Ninja as possibilities. You could also look at one of the other sport-standards, like the Ducati Monster, Buell 1125CR, Kawasaki Z1000, Aprilia Shiver or Tuono, BMW F800R, KTM SuperDuke, Yamaha FZ1 or FZ8, or MV Agusta Brutale.

Go testride a lot of stuff and have some fun.

PhilB
 

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or supermoto.

Never been on a bonny but as far has handling goes get an sm.

I've ridden a both a sv 650 with the gsxr conversion and a 650r with zx-6r conversion. They both handle fantastically, but nothing quite gives me the feel and confidence of my sm.
 

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OP, I think the key to unlocking perspective here is to consider the fact that, when the Bonnie and bikes of that vintage were cutting edge tech, doing "The Ton" was still a big deal and a right of passage.

They are not inherently stable at speed so spending money to make them that way is like putting make-up on an old sow. She's good bacon but she ain't ever gonna make it onto a plate at Ruth's Chris.

And this is advice from someone who is coo coo over old British bikes.

Doing “the Ton”, the boys who did it and those who will.. | Cafe Racer TV Season 3
 

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OP, I think the key to unlocking perspective here is to consider the fact that, when the Bonnie and bikes of that vintage were cutting edge tech, doing "The Ton" was still a big deal and a right of passage.

They are not inherently stable at speed so spending money to make them that way is like putting make-up on an old sow. She's good bacon but she ain't ever gonna make it onto a plate at Ruth's Chris.

And this is advice from someone who is coo coo over old British bikes.

Doing “the Ton”, the boys who did it and those who will.. | Cafe Racer TV Season 3
He doesnt' have a "Bonnie of that vintage". He has a modern Triumph replica. They aren't the same thing at all.

KeS
 
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