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motorcycle, touring, coast to coast, maintenance, bonneville, ninja 500, beginner bike

The 2012 Triumph Bonneville and my first bike, a 2009 Kawasaki Ninja 500. I had to get this shot -- I knew it would be a cold day in Hell before I had two bikes again. 

Still Dancing with the

One Who Brung Me

From commuting to weekend jaunts to coast-to-coast travel,

my Bonneville has given me (almost) no reason to trade up.

My first bike was one that many riders began on – a Kawasaki Ninja 500. I loved that bike. It fit my body, it was quick enough to entertain me, forgiving of stupid input, and fun to work on.


But then I took it on an out-of-town trip.


Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., why not? A Texas moto-riding friend was there on business, so I told him I’d ride down and we’d go to dinner. After work I grabbed my tank bag and hit I-95 just in time to crawl through rush hour until I got south of Wilmington, Delaware.


The rest of the trip was cake traffic-wise, but my knees and wrists began complaining somewhere in Maryland. By the time I got off the bike in D.C. I felt like I’d been pulled through a knothole. And this on a bike that is relatively straight up-and-down. There was only one solution, I told my wife. I needed another motorcycle. Being that I have the greatest wife in the universe, she agreed.


Think of the huge variety of motorcycles available. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Now think of all the reasonably upright ones that can be flat-toed (I’m not even asking for flat footed) by someone with a 28-inch inseam. That doesn’t leave too many. I sat on a bunch of bikes, but finally decided on a Triumph Bonneville. Yeah, yeah, it’s an old man’s bike, blah blah blah. Lucky for me I’m at the age where if I like something I don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks. And I like the Bonneville.


When I was looking at bikes at Manayunk Triumph, I asked Jake if I could tour on a Bonneville.


“Tour?” he said. “Some people tour on them.” The look on his face said “that is, if you’re under 30 and have masochistic tendencies.” I’m 52, but years of living in the Philadelphia area have inured me to pain. If other people did it, then I could too.

In 2013 I rode out to a family reunion in Oklahoma, as kind of a test trip. I did 1,000 miles on the first day – Philadelphia to Jefferson City, Missouri. 

Triumph, Bonneville, coast to coast, motorcycle maintenance, Ninja 500, first bike

Packed up and ready to hit the road to Oklahoma from Philadelphia in 2013. This year on the coast-to-coast trip, my new windshield didn't arrive in time so I went naked. Other than the soul-crushing wind, high-velocity rocks and freezing rain, it turned out to be a great decision. 

Triumph Twin Power, motorcycle, coast to coast, maintenance, bonneville, ninja 500, performance

It's easy to check the Bonneville's valves. I also got rid of the air injection and the oxygen sensors. Everything went back together pretty easily. I'm staying out of the bottom end. 

motorcycle touring, coast to coast, triumph, bonneville, maintenance, touring

Do I like my Bonneville? What do you think? I'm hoping to add a Triumph Trophy or a Moto Guzzi Norge to the stable, but they're both long shots. Wish me luck! 

After that I knew I could do a coast-to-coast. Monkey butt did not set in until the 7th or 8th hour – apparently my ass and the stock seat make a lucky match.


Over the winter I had time to play with the bike. First I did all the maintenance, even checked the valves for adjustment. They were fine. After that I decided to see what I could do to upgrade the performance.


I already had aftermarket exhausts and Manayunk Triumph had remapped the injection, but I still felt undergunned when entering the highway. Something had to be done.


After much tedious internet research, I mapped out an improvement plan.

1. Take out the airbox baffle

2. Trash the air injection system

3. Dump the oxygen sensors

4. Install a DNA air filter

5. Install a Triumph Twin Power intake

6. Re-map the injection using a custom map from Triumph Twin Power.

7. Hagon rear shocks

8. Race Tech fork springs


The work was all easy. I even installed the new fuel map myself using some free software called Tune ECU.   The suspension switch made a huge difference. No more shimmying when hitting bumps in curves, and overall a firmer feel. 


I’d like to get it on a dyno to really see how much difference it makes. It sure sounds better – the inrush of air at full throttle is a hoot.


The one thing I can't do is make the Bonnie as comfortable as a big tourer. I'm definitely taking my windshield next year though. The wind wasn't so bad, it was the rain that really got me. 


Even if I get another bike (Hello, Moto Guzzi? Can I do a long-term test of the Norge?), I want to keep the Bonnie. It’s zippy, it’s dependable (try bulletproof), and it got me out to California and back safely and in reasonable comfort, without so much as a hiccup. It’s a part of me now. And that’s what makes a good bike.

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