Opinion: Triumph Bonneville Light Fantastic (not)




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Ric Pirson owns a Hinckley Triumph Bonneville, and tells a sad tale of not seeing the light…

In May 1980 I bought a new Honda CX500. Why? Well I’ve often wondered but it was a Honda and it never let me down.

In the summer of 2001 my thoughts wandered to a new bike. I don’t like to rush these things. I had had a Triumph when a young lad and the new Triumph Bonneville seemed an attractive proposition. The first of September came and so did the Bonny.

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All went well and we were very happy together until one Friday night in March 2003 when I was riding along the M40 spur into Oxford. Firstly I noticed cars coming up very close behind me and only pulling out to pass at the last minute, then others started blaring their horns. I was tramping on at the speed limit and wondering why people should take such hostility at my rate of progress.


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Yes, I know I’m a bit slow on the uptake, I know you would have realised, but I didn’t. Not until stopped at the traffic lights by the Oxford park and ride when a guy yelled at me ‘You’ve got no back light, mate’. Spare fitted, onward with the journey and no more incidents.

That experience left me wondering. The old CX never did that to me as it had two bulbs in the rear light, as many bikes do. I pondered for a year or two (I don’t rush things) and happened upon the ideal answer at a bike show. A plug-in LCD unit to replace the all too fallible bulb. Marvellous! Happy was Bonny and me, safe in the knowledge that the LCD would outlast both of us. No more the prospect of no rear light.

An LED bulb, yesterday...

Summer 2006 came and so did a trip to the Manx GP. A great time was had by all, marred only by one friend bouncing off a coal truck and ‘me chums’ almost running up ‘me back’ end on several occasions. Problem being; the LCDs just don’t cut the mustard when the sun, it shineth. After much cheery banter, back went a standard, fallible bulb.

Not very happy with this, I sort another solution. Eureka! There in the M&P catalogue just the answer, a replacement light fitting with two bulbs. All for fifteen quid including P&P and two bulbs, quality eh?

Quality? Well, not really.




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Summer 2007 came and so did another trip, two weeks touring Ireland. Sometimes it only rained, other times it really came down! Have you ever tried finding replacement fuses for a bike, in the rain, in the middle of rural Ireland? I have! Managed to stabilise things enough to continue the trip, daylight riding only.

Home again and back goes the standard Triumph rear light with bulb. Riding home one evening along an unlit section of the A46, Yes you’re there before me. Hoot, hoot, flash, flash, ‘You’ve got no back light, mate.’

A Triumph Bonneville taillight, fitted to a Triumph Bonville, yesterday...

Well, I’ve been back working in the area where I grew up (have I really grown up?) for a couple of weeks. One of my regular haunts of days gone by was ‘The Graveyard’ in Twickenham. Not the one where folk are laid to rest you understand but Dennis Heath’s Motorcycle Breakers of Forth Cross Road. It was my original Triumph that caused the constant visits there. She used to lose rocker box caps at an alarming rate.

I’m sure old Den must have a portrait up in his loft, for he looks no different to 30-plus years ago! And he recognised me, beard et al! A good hunt through his stock of assorted rear lights and a good quality Suzuki item was chosen. It’s fitted now and after 23 miles of daytime riding it’s still working.

Could this be an end to the saga? Should I just have bought Japanese in the first place? Will the Chinese really buy Triumph? Will they fit twin bulb rear lights? Will you bother reading this far?

Answers on a postcard please, to the Bide-a-while Home for the Illuminatetively Challenged, Ballspond Road. Evesham…

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