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Old 08-17-2012, 08:22 AM   #1
RidingDonkeys OP
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Triumph Bonneville Tugs: An Owner's Perspective

I've been meaning to do this for a while now, but am just getting around to it. I always see people asking about the prospects of using a Triumph Modern Classic (Bonnie, Scrambler, Thruxton) as a tug, and the answers are typically a resounding "YES!". However, not a lot of details are provided.

Since I crossed over 2,000 miles on my new-to-me Bonnie hack yesterday, I feel somewhat qualified to put some information out there. Let me start by saying that I LOVE this rig. But with any rig, there comes some tradeoffs.


First, here is the rig that I am basing my observations on. It is a 2007 Bonneville with a Ural cargo box.







Now for the commentary.

Pros:

1. Power/Engine. The Triumph 900 engine has more than enough power to tug a chair. It pulls like a beast, and is a night and day difference from my Ural. The Ural has its limitations, and I'm fine with those. However, the Bonnie's limitations are beyond what I want to do. So in a sense, I have no speed restrictions. In the mountains at 6,000ft, it ran like a champ. I could toss it through the curves beyond the speed limits. On the interstate, I can run it with traffic. I cruised at 75mph fully loaded on a trip in July during 100 degree days. Oil cooling is nice!


2. Ergonomics. The modern classics have great ergonomics and are very conducive to long trips. 300+ mile days are a breeze. The lack of jugs sticking out from the side makes it easy to move my feet around. The bike is so comfortable, I only have to stop for fuel.


3. Suspension. It's a comfortable ride that handles the bumps like a champ. I don't get tossed off my seat every time I hit a bump like I have on some of my bikes.


4. Handling. This thing handles amazing. The chair is kicked out a little more than I'm used too, which means I can't hang off as easily as I can on the Ural. The Ural makes it easy to hang off lazily and grab some seat on the tub. The Bonnie rig makes me use more muscle, as hanging off really means hanging off. I routinely toss this thing around like its a sport hack.

Cons:

1. Maintenance: Maintenance on a Ural is easy. Maintenance on a Bonnie is a PITA. Prior to having hacks, the newest bike I ever owned was a '73 CB750. I like my bikes old, and easy to work on. The Bonnie has a whole lot of parts compressed into a tight area. This is no bueno on maintenance day. Add a hack into the mix, and things get hairy. That nifty little sight glass for oil is neat and might be awesome....if I could see it. That sight glass is completely invisible to me. By the time I hang over the bike to see it, something like glare or dirt always distorts the view. I rarely know how much oil is in the bike. I want my dipstick back. It's the little things that make routine maintenance a pain, but, maintenance intervals are lengthy.

2. Steering: I have the billet triple trees from DMC. This makes the bike SUPER EASY to steer. However, the occasional jaunt on the Ural reminds me that a steering damper is a nice feature. It is easy to steer, but does have some low speed wobble. Taking my hands off the bar at sub 30mph speeds isn't really feasible. It is a minor complaint at best, because at speed, this thing tracks awesome.

3. Suspension: The front forks need a boost. I notice a fair amount of dive under braking, and on low speed maneuvers. I've got a set of Hagons en route. Perhaps those will fix it.

4. Ground Clearance: This biggest issue by far is ground clearance. Once the triple trees were done, and the sidecar mounts added, I'm looking at under 4" ground clearance. This sucks. I camp on my travels, hence the reason for the cargo tub. I like the forest, the roads less traveled, and secluded campsites. This rig will get me there, but not without some headache and scraped frames. I desperately need to find a way to pick up an inch or more of ground clearance.

I think that about sums it up. My original post got chopped somehow, and I've tried to recreate it here. If there is something I missed, please let me know. Otherwise, I will edit this as I discover more things I like/don't like about this rig.
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Old 08-17-2012, 10:10 AM   #2
cathouse willy
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RD Thaks for posting this.I'm in the the process of mounting a Dmc Mx car to my 01 Bonnie and have been looking for this sort of info.I've gone to a 16 tooth front sproket to get a little more bottom end oomph. Have you done any suspension mods and what tires are you running? Do you have a brake on the car? Sorry for all the questions but hacks are not common in these parts and information like this is hard to find.
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Old 08-17-2012, 11:00 AM   #3
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This rig was built by DMC for another gent. It sat in his collection for five years before I got it, so I don't know all the history on it as far as suspension mods and such.

There is plenty of bottom end oomph, and room at the top to cruise at highway speeds.

I am running the stock Metzeler tires. The pusher is a Mez2. I will run it until it is dead, and probably replace it with something with a little more bite for campsites and wet dirt roads.

The sidecar brake is still there, but not connected. I do NOT need the sidecar brake on the road. The stock Bonnie brakes offer more than enough stopping power. However, in a weird sort of way, the sidecar brake did come in handy a couple times. Coming down a mountain (literally) on the trails, I completely lost traction several times. Having the sidecar brake separate allowed me to reach over and tap it with my foot, allowing me to somewhat keep the rig straight by alternating which brake I tapped. Weird, but it worked.
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Old 08-17-2012, 06:50 PM   #4
Ivan Rider
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Nice Report. Glad Bonnie found a good home. I hated to see her just set for the past 5 years. As I recall Richard didn't have any modifications done to the suspension or steering on the Bonnieville.
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Old 08-18-2012, 04:37 AM   #5
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Shocks & springs

You may find upgrading to heavier springs will solve or help with your clearance concerns. I founf this to be true when I hung the car on my K-bike. New suspension made a world of difference.
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Old 08-18-2012, 06:06 AM   #6
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I may have to give that a shot. Thanks for the tip.
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:46 AM   #7
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Great summary of pros and cons. I have a T100 Watsonian rig but it was never built for off-road. Even without a sidecar, I would not think a Bonneville is good off road bike.
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:17 PM   #8
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I hacked my 09 Bonnie. Works a treat. Installed a Inder car for my boy. Upgraded rear shocks to Progressive and set them on full preload.
You are correct-the Bonnie has PLENTY of power and stops fine. FWIW- the bikes are air/oil cooled. Not liquid. That said it does not run hot thru town at 90 degrees F.
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Old 08-20-2012, 06:02 PM   #9
cathouse willy
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RD I just finished mounting a Dmc m72 to my 01 Bonneville likje you I'm concerned about the ground clearance. There's not much.Some suspension work will be needed. Here's a picture of my rig.

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Old 08-20-2012, 06:17 PM   #10
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Keep us posted if you find a good solution. I don't have a lot of funds to start tinkering just yet. I was thinking progressive springs would be a good start though.

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Old 08-21-2012, 06:26 AM   #11
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cathouse, can you post up more photos of the rig, specifically ground clearance shots? Thanks!
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Old 08-21-2012, 06:48 AM   #12
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One minor (or major if you do distance touring frequently) inconvenience is the limited range due to a small gas tank. With my rig loaded, I get as little as 30 mpg on trips on interstate riding. That's only about 90 miles on a tank before I tap into the reserve. I just completed a 700 mile trip and I saw a lot of gas stations . In city riding, not a big deal at all.
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Old 08-21-2012, 07:10 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RidingDonkeys View Post
Keep us posted if you find a good solution. I don't have a lot of funds to start tinkering just yet. I was thinking progressive springs would be a good start though.

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Does the trumpet have internal springs in the forks? You could try adding some PVC preload spacers and maybe a bit heavier oil. Pretty low $ mods...........
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Old 08-21-2012, 07:42 AM   #14
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I put Race Tech springs with cartridge emulators in the front and went with Works Performance shocks in the back for my Scrambler rig. It made a huge difference and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
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Old 08-23-2012, 02:10 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Motoblag View Post
cathouse, can you post up more photos of the rig, specifically ground clearance shots? Thanks!
Moto here's a shot of the front lower mount. The tape measure is at the wrong angle but you can see there's less than 4'' of clearance.I think I'll try some longer spacers in the front forks. I'm hoping that will make the bikle sit a little higher and lose some of the front suspension travel.

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