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Triumph Bonneville: Portrait of a Legend

Triumph Bonneville Portrait of a Legend

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by: James Mann and Mick Duckworth
ISBN: 978-0-85733-017-8
Publisher: Haynes Publishing
Publication Date: May 2011
256 Pages. 300 Color Photos. 7″x9″
List Price: $49.95 USD; $55.00 CAD; £30.00

The Triumph Bonneville is one of the most enduring, classic and iconic designs in all of motorcycling.

The Bonneville name continues to be revered.

And it is still in production 52 years after the first version.

That’s proof enough of this motorcycle’s charm!

For my generation, the Bonneville was the bike to have, hands down.

It was the superbike of its day; fast, sleek and bathed in glory. And it sounded glorious!

The history of the Triumph Bonneville is also intertwined with its American fans in more than just the name.

The original 650 cc Bonneville was a direct descendant of the 1954 Triumph Tiger 110 and the 650 cc Thunderbird of 1950.

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But all three motorcycles trace their heritage back to the 500 cc Triumph Speed Twin of 1938, yet another iconic ride.

American riders became aware of the Bonneville name starting in 1959, when over 1,100 T120’s were sold in the U.S.

The bike proved so popular that a slightly revised model with new paint colors was rushed to market before the end of the year.

That marked the start of a roll for Triumph, who listened to their customers and dealer network and improved the Bonneville each year.

Before the end of the 1960’s, the bike had reached its iconic status…only to be outfoxed by the 1969 Honda four-cylinder CB750.

I’ve been a Triumph Bonneville fan since way back and I remember seeing a CB750 for the first time in 1970. It looked heavy and bloated, a complete opposite of the beautifully svelte Bonneville proportions.

Who needed a four-cylinder motorcycle?

But, the market — and the price — spoke volumes and, as fate would have it, Triumph (BSA) management went down the wrong path (in addition to many other problems at the Meriden plant).

And that was pretty much the end of the classic Bonneville.

Triumph sputtered alive with Les Harris until John Bloor revived the marque in 1990.

The rest is modern history and, of course, an up-to-date version of the Bonneville continues today, although I must say it just doesn’t have the same beautiful proportionality that made the original such an icon.

Triumph Bonneville Portrait of a Legend

That’s my nutshell version; the entire Bonneville story is very nicely documented in the new book Triumph Bonneville: Portrait of a Legend by photographer James Mann and writer Mick Duckworth.

The photographs are the start of this book, not the printed word, and that’s just fine with me.

There is just enough background to give the reader a taste of the history, but the real beauty here can be seen in James Mann’s wonderful photos, capturing the essence of many exquisite Bonnevilles from various restored collections around the UK.

I’d say that the authors have found the perfect combination of just enough text and just the right images to keep the reader entertained without feeling swamped by too much detail about minutiae like frame numbers, paint codes and production dates.

You want to see some of the juiciest Bonnevilles you’ll ever lay eyes on? They’re all here. I’ll take one of each please!


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Motorcycle history buffs and anyone interested in Triumphs and the Bonneville will very much enjoy Triumph Bonneville: Portrait of a Legend.

If you thought that nothing more could possibly be communicated about this bike, you’d be wrong, because there’s a lot to like in this concise history and fantastic images of restored Bonnies, each one nicer than the one before.

Review Date: July 2011

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