Taking a Triumph Bonneville for a spin along the Hampshire coast

PUBLISHED: 15:25 20 December 2016 | UPDATED: 15:25 20 December 2016


From a living museum to an historic fort, Mark Whitchurch takes the Triumph Bonneville for a spin along the coast

The route

The Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum, situated near New Milton, is one of the finest collections of classic motorcycles in the world. Described as a living museum, the majority of the exhibits are in working order, with custodian and 11 times motorcycle trials champion Sammy Miller demonstrating them at race circuits and events across the world.

Superbly presented, it’s a challenge to know where to start, with the friendly staff, which on the day I visited included Sammy, proposing a route through the lines of immaculate and historically significant machinery.

A hall of Nortons is punctuated with the ‘Kneeler’, complete with fascinating streamlined bodywork and horizontal riding position. Then there were the lines of rare and highly collectable Vincent’s and Brough Superiors and a row of Triumphs, including a rare prototype, helped our modern example feel at home. My favourite in the hall of racing greats was a BMW RS54 Rennsport, which is a regular at Goodwood Revival.

With craft stores, donkeys and other furry friends, a children’s play area and tea rooms, there is plenty to keep the family entertained.

Togged up I hit the road, weaving along Bashley Cross Road to reach the B3058 and following this into the bustling yet quaint town of New Milton. Remain on the B3058, past Barton on Sea golf course with the coast revealing itself shortly afterwards with the Needles and Isle of Wight in clear sight. The B3058 hugs the coast before heading inland to pass through Milford on Sea and onto Everton to hook up with the A337 where we continue in the direction of Lymington.

Negotiate this busy tourist town passing over the Yarmouth- Lymington River on the B3054 and turn right onto Undershore Road and into one of the more tranquil areas of the New Forest. Follow the winding lanes to South Baddesley, Norleywood and East End, taking the Main Road to the wonderfully named East Boldre which will take you back to the B3054 in the direction of Beaulieu.

Turn right into the village passing over the Beaulieu River and onto Palace Lane before ascending Beaulieu Road to Hill Top and the right turning for Exbury, which neatly leads to the secluded village of Lepe and a beautiful stretch of coastland.

Leave the water’s edge and travel briefly north looking out for Stanswood Road with signposts for Calshot. Turn right at Fawley Power Station - it’s hard to miss - and return to the coast where a one way system will take you along an avenue of brightly coloured beach huts and journey’s end – Calshot Castle.

Originally an artillery fort built for Henry VIII to defend the Southampton estuary, it has also been used by the Navy and as a sea plane base for the RAF. It’s fascinating to explore its tapestry of history, which has been wonderfully preserved. I particularly enjoyed reading about the sea planes and Calshots links to some of the world’s most luxurious flying boats.

The ride

Launched in 1959 the Triumph Bonneville T120 was the superbike of its day with twin carbs mounted to its 650cc engine generating a crisp note from its chrome exhaust pipes, it was the perfect machine to race from café to café exploiting its 120mph top speed.

Nearly six decades on and with superbike design evolving to bear no resemblance to the naked form of the Bonneville, this most British of motorcycles has taken on an altogether more relaxed and stylish demeanour.

Re-launched at the start of the noughties, the retro Bonneville has gained international acclaim for encapsulating the looks of the 60’s whilst offering 21st century engineering and rider refinement. 2016 has seen the first major overhaul of this Bonneville, ensuring it maintains its USPs and remains the retro bike to ride.

Experienced in black format, shiny chrome is mostly replaced with satin black to give a classic yet contemporary stance. Mean and moody, the dark tan saddle completes a machine that James Dean or Steve McQueen would be happy to cruise the Hollywood hills on.

Whilst the styling will continue to appeal to cats of nostalgia and the stars of yesteryear, the Bonneville’s mechanicals are bang up-to-date - the 120 today refers to the size of the parallel twin motor, which is now liquid-cooled to help meet new emission regulations.

With 79bhp, this new engine is all about providing smooth power through a progressive torque curve. Keep the revs above 2,000 via the six speed gearbox and acceleration is plentiful, pushing to a top speed of 130mph. With a 14.5 litre fuel tank and 50 mpg achievable, 140 miles between refills is easily obtainable.

This new Bonneville also does its best to marry safety with style - ABS brakes, traction control as well as throttle response modes for both wet and dry conditions do their best to keep you upright and your leathers scuff free.

Astride the classic elliptically shaped petrol tank and knees pressed against the obligatory rubber tank pads, gracefully flowing the Bonneville along fast undulating country roads is where it feels most at home. Revised frame geometry and enhanced suspension have facilitated a bike that absorbs the harness of our British roads, yet provides confidence to push on and enjoy the freedom of the experience.

Twin 310mm brake discs up front and a single 255mm at the rear ensure that when the speed needs to be dissipated, there is plenty of stopping power on offer.

This is the perfect two-wheeled machine for relaxed Great Drives. The Triumph Bonneville T120 certainly has the presence and performance to gain my attention and with a price tag of just under £10,000 it certainly has value for money on its side. To put it bluntly – I want one and so should you!

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