Thursday, February 28, 2013

Road Trip: Riding along the coast of Oahu on a 2009 Triumph Bonneville

My wife and I had the pleasure of traveling to Hawaii for a friends wedding, and on one day, when we slept in and most of our other plans fell through, we found ourselves with a half a day of free-time, so being the kind of person that I am, I suggested that we look into renting a motorcycle and do a little riding around the coastal roads of Oahu. When calling around to see what was available, the selection was paltry, to say the least. Mostly heavy HD cruisers or tiny step through scooters, neither of which were my taste. However, I eventually stumbled upon one place that carried a newer Triumph Bonneville, so I jumped at the opportunity. The gentleman who answered the phone was pleasant and event told me he'd give me the rest of the day  (6+ hours) for the 3-hour rental rate. Sweet!

Every road we were on that day looked
like this; smooth as glass and
hugging every curve of the island.
So we grabbed our stuff and walked the handful of blocks to the shop and signed the paperwork and picked up the keys to a 2009 Triumph Bonneville. The heritage look of the overall design works surprisingly well with the more modern looking wheels on the black one that we picked out, though the fake carburetors were kind of a goofy touch, given the bikes fuel injection. The low flat seat made pillion accommodations surprisingly comfortable for the wife and we got set quickly and headed out onto the streets of Honolulu.

Being what it is, it was no surprise that the somewhat heavy feeling Bonnie became nicely light and sprightly once you got moving. Low speed maneuvering, especially with a passenger, feels heavy, in spite of the wide bars. And while the seating position is upright and comfortable, for me, it just did not offer the level of control that I am used to, since I mostly ride a sportier bike. However, once the grunty twin is fired up and the copious torque at low RPMs is used to get the bike up to speed, it all starts to make sense. The slow and heavy steering gives way to light easy effort and the pounds seem to just melt off as the speed climbed.

We hopped on the freeway and made our way out of the city, heading east towards the windy mountain roads that we had driven days before. With somewhat limited time, we avoided making the usual stops and just rode for a big. The non-existent wind protection was not terribly problematic at these cruising speeds, but I could see it getting tiresome after a longer ride. Of course, I was also concerned as we had not come to Hawaii planning to ride, so we were not in our usual bevy of protective gear. It was weird riding in my street clothes and even weirder riding without gloves. And while not required, my wife and I opted to take the shop up on its free helmet offer, though the brain buckets were likely to do little should anything have actually happened.

Tossing the Bonnie through some corners and cruising along the ocean, this was what motorcycling was all about. The sun, while warming, was tempered by the cool breeze coming off the ocean making for some wonderfully comfortable conditions. And for a relatively low tech ride, the Bonnie was proving to be quite the entertaining partner, especially when kept to the sane speeds dictated by traffic. The roads on Oahu, outside of Honolulu to the east become a collection of fast sweeping turns that hug the curves of the island, allowing one to enjoy not only the beauty of the island, but also the amazing views of the ocean. It really is an amazing place and should be a stop for any motorcyclist.

With a half day worth of riding behind us, I was disappointed that we had to return the Bonnie at the end of the day. In fact, the brief time my wife and I spent with this bike has me contemplating getting one of our own as an around town, local jaunt, two-up bike which I think the wife would love.

Or, I guess we could just keep coming back to Hawaii since I suspect my location may have had some influence on my demeanor. Regardless of all that, the Triumph Bonneville shows why it is one of the longest enduring designs in the world. It's comfortable, handles well, torquey enough that you never feel like you would be caught out for power while running around the city, and it is so simple that maintenance should be a breeze. It just goes to show that sometimes, when you keep things simple, they can all come together and just work. The Bonneville proved a wonderful companion during our time with it and really added that extra little bit to an already awesome vacation.

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