2009 Triumph Bonneville SE

The new Big Easy

| July/August 2009

2009 Triumph Bonneville SE
Years produced:
Claimed power: 67hp @ 7,500rpm
Top speed: 105mph (est.)
Engine type: 865cc DOHC, air-cooled parallel twin
Weight (dry): 440lb
Price now: $8,399
MPG: 45-50

It all seems a bit surreal as I head from New Orleans’ storied French Quarter into the bayou territory east of the city. I’m riding the 2009 Triumph Bonneville SE, its perfect blue and white paint gleaming and fresh in the patchy morning sun, while the rest of the world around me looks battered and worn.

The wounds of Hurricane Katrina are still painfully fresh in this area, where uprooted homes still teeter on broken foundations, waiting to be put right. Riding by a makeshift sign, threateningly spray painted with the words “U-dump, U-die,” it strikes me as both ironic and appropriate that Triumph, itself almost washed away by the storms of change, should choose New Orleans to launch its 2009 Modern Classics line.

Triumphant rebirth
Twenty-six years ago, Triumph was on its deathbed, its health terminally threatened following a worker blockade that shut the British company down for 18 months in 1974-1975. Reincorporated as a workers’ cooperative afterward, it was clear to anyone watching that Triumph’s best days were long behind it. The end came on August 26, 1983, when the doors of the old Triumph Meriden plant were closed forever, and the curtain fell on the Triumph legacy. Or so most people thought.

In 1991, in one of the greatest brand revivals of all time, John Bloor, a construction magnate with no real motorcycling background, relaunched Triumph. A former plasterer’s apprentice, Bloor is a gifted businessman who took on Triumph simply because it was there.

Instead of trying to relaunch the old Triumph, Bloor set his sights on creating an entirely new company, with an entirely new line of motorcycles that looked forward, not back. His first bikes hit European dealer showrooms in 1991, and they were nothing like Triumphs past. Sporting 3- and 4-cylinder liquid-cooled engines, they were modern, almost cutting-edge designs incorporating the latest technology.

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

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