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Shadowing The DJ With A Brace Of Bonnie’s

Image source: Triumph

Ryan van de Coolwijk, the Business Unit Head, of Cyber, Collectibles and Business Distribution at iTOO, a Special Risk division of Hollard, also has the insurance of classic and vintage cars and motorcycles as part of his portfolio. He asked me if I would be interested in travelling down to Newcastle to cover the iconic DJ Rally. The DJ bikes start off in Hillcrest and overnight in Newcastle. “Hell yes!” was my reply after giving it at least 3 seconds of serious consideration. Rather than go down on my regular bikes, I chatted to Bruce Allen at Triumph SA about the possibility of hooking us up with a brace of Bonnie’s for the trip. The Modern Classic Bonneville’s would look way more suitable shadowing the DJ bikes.

So it was that Ryan and I picked up a T120 and a Street Scrambler 900 at lunchtime on the Thursday before the DJ weekend. We planned to ride down to Newcastle and then, on Friday, ride down to meet up with the DJ bikes approaching Newcastle for their overnight stop. As always, the trip really only begins once you leave the urban sprawl of Jo’Burg. Having said that, both Bonnie’s made short work of the traffic. The neutral riding position and torque-laden motors punt you past slower traffic effortlessly. I was on the T120 and Ryan the Street Scrambler 900. I owned a Street Scrambler for a while and loved it, so I wanted to spend some time on the T120. The weather was hot and humid, so the blast of air on the naked Bonnie’s was welcome.

Image source: Triumph

We needed to press on with Newcastle over 300 k’s away and not wanting to ride in the dark. The bikes are such a pleasure to ride. Cruising at the speed limit is perfect on a naked bike. The high torque motors, with their muted 270-degree parallel twin motors, are both smooth and refined. The Scrambler has a 5-speed gearbox, whilst the T120 has six speeds. It ambles along feeling absolutely stress-free and relaxed. With its 105 Nm of torque at a mere 3,500 rpm, there is always power on tap. The 900 makes its 80 Nm at an even lower 3,230 rpm. Power on the 1200 is 79 horses @ 6550, with the 900 making a conservative 55 hp @ 5,900 rpm. Torque is what these bikes are about. They both have oodles of creamy shove.

Image source: Triumph

We turned off the N3 at Villiers, onto the old road which runs parallel to the freeway. As we approached the turnoff to Memel, we experienced a bizarre phenomenon never experienced in all my years of riding. Within the space of literally 200 metres, the hot and humid weather turned instantly cold. Talk about a cold front! I have ridden and had the temperature drop during the ride, but progressively, not in an instant. We stopped to pull on our warmer kit and then off we went. Past Memel we hit some mist and then, on the mountain, rain. It was that sort of weather where it wasn’t looking like widespread rain, so you expected the rain to abate. We didn’t feel the need to rain suit up. The rain did stop but as we got into the mountain pass proper, where there was no safe place to stop, it started chucking down. Literally, 20 k’s from Newcastle we managed to pull off the road and get our rain suits on. By this time, we were decidedly damp but the rain kit helped to ward off the cold. We were meeting the friends with whom we were staying at a really cool pub in Newcastle. A couple of ‘vuil cokes’ did much to settle the shivers.

Reflecting on the ride, the Bonnie’s had acquitted themselves well. The T120 is a relaxed ride. Stable and sweet handling, it is not set up too stiff, so it handled the varied road surfaces which we traversed well. The Scrambler’s shocks were a bit soft and bottomed on some of the bumps. Feeding in some more preload transformed the bike’s handling. It turned better and handled the bumpy roads well. Long-distance touring on a naked bike is rather hard work. Triumph offers various accessories to make your ride more comfortable but you then sacrifice “the look”. These bikes are both stunning renditions of classic Triumphs of yesteryear. The clean classic lines are such a huge part of their appeal that I would struggle to fit screens and such. I suppose you could pimp it for trips and then strip it back to its naked best once home.

Image source: Triumph

On the Friday we rode down to Fort Mistake to meet the DJ bikes. It was sunny and warm. After the freeze of the night before it was so pleasant to cruise through stunning scenery on the beautiful Bonnie’s. This sort of riding is these bikes’ reason for being. The essence and simplicity of motorcycling. I gave the bikes a good wash to get rid of the wet road crud and restore the bikes to their full glory. Sitting and sipping on a coffee and ogling the bikes confirmed what handsome and desirable beasts they are.

The T120 has non-adjustable 41 mm Kayaba forks and twin RSU shocks with adjustable preload. It sports 120 mm of travel at each end. The classic Bonneville tank holds 14,5 litres. It is a doddle to get over 20 km/L so a range of over 300 k’s is easily achieved. Twin 310 mm Brembo discs up front and a 255 mm rear disc with a Nissin calliper provide ample predictable stopping power with a good feel, hauling the 236 kg bike to a stop without fuss. The wheels are spoked, in true classic style, laced to beautiful alloy rims. A 100/90-18 wheel does duty up front with a 150/-17 on the back. A seat height of 790 mm makes the T120 accessible to most. The seat is flat and comfy. There is ample space for your significant other to enjoy the ride with you. The exhaust pipes are the classic Triumph pea-shooter design, reminiscent of classic Triumphs from the past. They emit an extremely pleasant throaty burble.

Image source: Triumph

The Street Scrambler 900 is more of a styling exercise than a scrambler in the true sense. It certainly pulls off the look. The twin exhausts sweep along the side of the bike and exit in two trumpet-shaped reverse cone mufflers. It feels significantly smaller than the T120. With a 12-litre tank, it is 13 kg lighter than the T120, at 223 kg wet. Kayaba suspension provides 120 mm of wheel travel. Like the T120 it only has preload adjustment on the rear shocks. Both bikes are well set up and decently damped.

The 900 has a single 310 mm disc up front and a 255 mm rear, chomped on by Nissin callipers. Staying true to the Scrambler theme, the front wheel is a 19-inch. Sizes are otherwise the same as the T120. The seat is a two-piece design, with a smaller pad-type back seat and a reasonably comfortable single front seat. The previous model had an alloy base to which the back seat was mounted, whereas the current bike has a plastic ornamental base. The alloy base is now offered as an accessory. I preferred the old alloy setup which, for me, stuck way closer to the original ‘desert sled’ scrambler theme. The high-riding pipes look superb, but the form is a bit better than the function. You are aware of the pipes splaying your leg ever so slightly on the right.

Image source: Triumph

Cruising up and down the field of DJ bikes, Ryan and I had an absolute ball on the brace of Bonnie’s. Comfy and easy to ride, they are the epitome of motorcycling simplicity and classical elegance. The T120 has superb cruise control which came into its own as I set it to match the speed of the DJ bikes, giving me a hand free to take photos. The torque of the motor allows it to trundle along effortlessly. On the Saturday we rode over the Majuba mountain pass with its long smooth sweeping bends. The Triumphs were an absolute pleasure, railing through the sweeps with accuracy and aplomb. The T120 that I was riding at this point was nothing short of sublime through the bends. I was not pushing it, but riding at a decent clip through the mountains was just so rewarding on the big Bonnie.

The DJ route took us to Volksrus and then Standerton and across to Heidelberg. By and large, the roads are in reasonable nick and pleasant to ride. I made a mental note to take this route to Durban rather than the N3. It is so much more chilled and scenic. Perfect on bikes like the Bonnie’s, where speed is not of utmost importance, but riding pleasure is your aim. Rejoining the N3 at Heidelberg, the weather was now properly hot, in stark contrast to the cool mountain air over Majuba. Rolling into Jo’Burg on the big Bonnie’s was the end of an epic weekend of riding on equally epic bikes. I cannot think of any other bikes that could have been as enjoyable and authentic. It was like a two-day distinguished gentleman’s ride. Admittedly, the bikes were way more distinguished than the riders, but you get my drift, I am sure! A huge shout out to Bruce and Triumph SA for the privilege of riding the splendid brace of Bonnie’s, it is truly appreciated.

Image source: Triumph

Triumph Bonneville T120 & Street Scrambler 900

For more information on the bikes featured in this article, click on the links below…

2023

Triumph Bonneville T120 Black

Pricing From R229,000 (RRP)


Brand: Triumph
2023

Triumph Scrambler 900

Pricing From R199,000 (RRP)


Brand: Triumph
Dave Cilliers
Dave Cilliers
My name is Dave Cilliers, from as far back as I can remember I have loved travel. Africa provides salve for the gypsy in my soul. My best trips are done travelling to unlikely places with unlikely vehicles, keeping it as simple and basic as possible.
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