At Bonneville Performance we like Jay Leno. Not only is he a great comedian and NBC Tonight Show host, he’s a car guy and more importantly, he’s a motorcycle guy! We follow Jay Leno’s Garage, an online video blog of interesting cars and motorcycles that Jay has collected or is featuring, plus projects that his Big Dog Garage team restores or works on.
Recently we watched the video below with great interest because it features one of our passions… the Triumph Bonneville. Jay’s guest is Richard Varner of Champions Moto and they discuss three modern Triumph Bonneville builds, and their mutual love of the Triumph Bonneville motorcycle.
We definitely share the passion for the Triumph Bonneville that Jay and Richard express in this video, and we admire the work of Champions Moto. However, some comments made in the video don’t align with our own experience working with this great machine.
Power to Weight Ratio
At 3:30 into the video Jay and Richard are looking at the “Streetmaster” tracker style bike build and Richard says to Jay, “We had a design thesis on this one of 300 lbs. We went through the motor and got about 50% more power out of it.” The Champions Moto website reports the weight of this bike at 305 lbs. and the horsepower at 75.
We know how hard it is to get a Bonneville based street tracker down to 305 lbs. Our custom designed and built street trackers weigh in the neighborhood of 350 lbs., which is roughly 100 lbs. less than a Bonneville from the Triumph. However, our rear wheel horsepower is in the 90-100 range, and 87-91 ft. lbs. of torque, producing a superior power to weight ratio than the one featured in this video.
Displacement and Reliability
There was also an inference at about 7:45 into the video that the Triumph Bonneville engine loses reliability when altered from its stock displacement (790cc – 865cc), and that the engine “gets too big for the bike.”
We know that part of what makes owning and riding a Bonneville so great is the ready availability of high quality after market modifications and upgrades of all types. We agree that good performance gains can be accomplished through after-market carburetion or fuel injection modifications, exhaust systems, cams and the like without modifying the displacement. Bonneville Performance is one of these after market suppliers of custom parts and kits to accomplish the goal of personalization and higher performance.
However, in our experience the modern Triumph Bonneville 790cc and 865cc parallel twin engine is rock solid at 904cc, 995 cc, 1100cc and 1200cc using combinations of our own custom modified heads and crankshafts, Carillo rods and high performance piston sets developed in partnership with Wiseco. We have experienced real world reliability as we have run these engines in our Triumph Factory Sponsored AMA Pro Flat Track racing team for the past several years. We don’t think Triumph Bonneville owners and enthusiasts should be worried about or discouraged from modifying the displacement of these engines as suggested in the video.
What Others Say
For an additional unbiased view on the performance of one of our displacement modified Bonnevilles, check out the real world riding review of our Street Tracker 995 on Motorcycle.com.
Our Invitation to Jay Leno’s Garage
In conclusion, it was certainly great to watch Jay road testing the classic looking Brighton model Bonneville that Richard brought to the show, and hear his comments on the experience. As Bonneville riders we understand the excitement. In that spirit, we’d like to invite Jay to meet Bonneville Performance designer, builder and owner Bill Gately and road test our Street Tracker for what Motorcycle.cpm called the ultimate Bonneville riding experience.
So Jay, let us know when, and we’ll set you up with a sweet test ride on a Bonneville Performance Street Tracker!