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Triumph Demo Day 2010

Sunday, August 08, 2010
It's that time of the year again: time for the annual Triumph demo day, when Triumph (the motorcycle manufacturer) brings their bikes around at the behest of Cascade Moto, our friendly neighborhood dealer. As with last year, I was working the TEAM OREGON booth. As with last year, Google Maps completely failed me in getting to the site. Unlike last year, the site up in a parking lot in Canby, OR and was only Triumphs, no BMWs this year.

My first ride was a Bonneville T100. As I took it around the 13 mile course that had been chosen, I thought about the bike I was on. It's a quiet bike, with decent power for its size. The power delivery is smooth, but it was offset by the suspension that felt slightly primitive. The seat was very uncomfortable, lacking any sort of support and leaving me sliding around on it. Most of my ride was spent thinking, "why?"

But, then, as I was idling down a country road at a comfortable 40 mph, I figured it out. While the engine was happy to wind up to 7000 RPM, the power felt constant throughout the band, and the brakes were firm and confidence-inspiring, I realized that the whole thing felt like a beginner bike; a bike you'd upgrade from. It's fun to ride in a relaxed way, it's when you're not in a hurry, but it lacks any sort of refinement or ability to grow.

Triumph Bonneville T100

I rode the America next. It has the same engine displacement as the T100, but definitely feels like it has more torque. While the ride was less fun because of the other slower riders, the bike itself was much more capable. It's much more comfortable than the T100, with forward footpegs, a windscreen, and a much better seat. This is a bike I would love to have and just go tour the country on. With an 865cc engine, it felt like it had plenty of power, but it still felt light and competent. And, notably, It had the best mirrors I've ever seen on a motorcycle!

Triumph America

Finally, I got my third ride (out of a maximum of two) on a new Thunderbird. While the Bonneville and the America had 865cc motors, the Thunderbird was sporting a motor almost twice that size at 1597cc. It definitely felt like a bigger bike, and this one had even more accoutrements. In addition to the windscreen, bags, etc, it also had floorboards which left a nice shower of sparks as I dove into the first 15mph turn on the course at a speed I would normally approach on my Sprint ST.

Still, once I calmed down a little I found that I was still keeping up with the lead rider and the riders behind me were only catching up at the stop signs. I enjoyed the Thunderbird a lot, but it was definitely a bigger bike. All the power and luxury - the seat was phenomenal - but it felt like a large, large motorcycle. If I did a lot of riding with a passenger, it would be perfect, but since I like to ride alone I'm still a fan of the America.

Triumph Thunderbird

Now the astute reader might note that I mentioned that I ride a 2007 Sprint ST, a competent and fun sport-touring bike. So what in the world was I doing taking a dip in the pool of cruisers in Triumph's line?

The short answer is that I was curious. I love my bike and it's got limits I've never explored, but there's a part of me that would love a second bike that I could just take out alone and comfortably see the countryside with. There's room in my garage (metaphorically, if not physically) for more than one bike.

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