Magic Mountains: In Search of the Olympics on a 1970 Bonneville

Motojournalist Robert Smith goes in search of the Olympic Mountains aboard his 1970 Bonneville.

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by Robert Smith

How can an entire mountain range disappear?

Though they’re clearly visible from Seattle and southern Vancouver Island, the closer you get to the Olympic Mountains of Washington State, the harder they are to see. The reason? They’re in the middle of the world’s largest temperate rainforest! I decide to go find them — on my 1970 Triumph Bonneville.

The Bonneville harkens back to a different era, when most vehicles lumbered around lethargically, and a 650cc motorcycle would leave everything but a muscle car in its dust. Now in an age of 350 horsepower SUVs, the Bonnie is more likely to become a speed bump. And while careful, regular maintenance keeps old bikes going, modern motorcycles are just so much faster and more reliable. A new 250 would probably clean the Bonnie’s clock.

On the road

Touring on old iron can be interesting. While some newer bikes would barely get to operating temperature on my 700-mile trek, the Bonnie will be due for a valve adjustment and halfway to its scheduled oil change. Most of the parts on my Bonneville are original fitment, too, and therefore 50 years old — including the Canadian-market stainless fenders. Fortunately, many of the roads around the Olympic Peninsula are also of an age: rambling and meandering; and mostly well maintained thanks to WSDOT. They’re suited for more leisurely travel — log trucks notwithstanding!

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