Triumph T100 Rebuild: Updating a Modern Classic
August 20, 2006
Filed under Triumph Motorcycle Reviews
story and photography by Jerry Smith
By now, anyone under the age of 30 is sick to death of dinosaurs like me getting all nostalgic about the good old days, when riders in waxed-cotton jackets and cork-lined helmets laughed at danger, and motorcycles could be rebuilt by the side of the road with nothing but a Swiss Army knife and a deck of playing cards. The period riding gear is best left in the closet these days, but there was something to be said for those old bikes, which were light and narrow, and handled reasonably well, and were fast enough to entertain anyone without a clinically diagnosed death wish.
You can still find those virtues today in bikes like the Triumph T100 we tested in the September 2005 issue. But along with them come a few compromises—some would call them shortcomings—that mar the overall goodness of the bike. So after the road test was done, I kept the T100 to see if I could round off some of the rough edges.
First up was a centerstand. There’s no excuse for selling a bike with tube-type tires and chain drive without one—how are you supposed to adjust and lube the chain, or fix a flat?—but Triumph will be happy to sell you one from its accessory catalog. It took about half an hour to install, and from that point on I hardly ever used the sidestand.
Something else the T100 didn’t come with is a toolkit. Technically speaking, you get one tool—a 5mm hex key that’s used to take off the seat—but it resides under a side cover, which you need a screwdriver to remove. Should you react to this Catch-22 by assembling your own toolkit, you’ll find nowhere to stow it under either of the side covers or the bolt-on seat. The solution is sort of roundabout, but solves another problem at the same time.
The color-matched Corbin Smuggler seat has a hollow rear section that’s big enough to hold a toolkit, registration and insurance papers, and a few other small odds and ends, all secured by a locking lid. Although it reduces the T100’s seating capacity to one, and precludes the use of throw-over saddlebags, it makes up for it with a seat that’s as firm as the stock one but better shaped and much more comfortable. It’s also an inch or so higher than stock, which has the effect of increasing the distance from the seat to the footpegs, a welcome feature for those of us with aging knees.
The T100’s low-buck suspension was perhaps the most disappointing thing about this otherwise nicely balanced motorcycle. There’s just so much you can do with fork oil and spring preload, so I called Works Performance for a set of its preload-adjustable Steel Tracker rear shocks, and Progressive Suspension for a pair of progressively wound fork springs. Given the stock units, there was nowhere to go but up. Still, I was surprised by how much better the aftermarket components worked, especially the shocks. Performance isn’t up to the level of a bike with rising-rate rear suspension and a cartridge fork, but for a motorcycle with the T100’s mission statement, it’s plenty good enough, taking the sting out of sharp bumps and soaking up smaller ones with ease.
The Triumph catalog provided a well-built tankbag, and a pair of nylon saddlebags. The expandable tankbag uses plastic quick-release buckles to attach to a pad that’s strapped to the tank and protects the paint, and has two strips of hook-and-loop that keep the bag from shifting from side to side. The saddlebags are on the small side, best suited to a solo rider accustomed to traveling light, and have built-in rain covers. To keep the bags out of the rear wheel’s spokes I also ordered a pair of chrome saddlebag rails from Triumph. With the bags off, the rails aren’t too obvious, and they make a fine grab handle for hoisting the bike onto the centerstand. They’ll work with other brands of soft bags, too.
A fairing or full-sized windscreen would have looked as out of place on the Bonnie as a bowtie on a grizzly bear, but there are days when a little wind protection is welcome. For that I got a National Cycle Deflector DX, a modern version of the flyscreens sometimes seen on Britbikes back in the day. It mounts to a couple of brackets on the handlebar via a pair of threaded knobs, and can be put on or taken off in seconds, as your mood dictates. It’s adjustable for height and rake, and does a dandy job of keeping the windblast off your chest without blocking so much airflow that your helmet vents don’t work.
The T100’s brakes were almost as disappointing as its suspension. I slipped some DP brake pads into the two-piston calipers to replace the dead-feeling stockers and got a noticeable, if not outstanding, improvement in braking. It still takes a stout pull on the brake lever to get the job done, but now you’re rewarded with rapid deceleration and not just hand cramps. And from deep in a box of parts in my basement I found a pair of Kouba mirror extenders that came off my Suzuki V-Strom and also fit the Bonnie’s mirrors. To install them you unbolt the mirror head from the stalk, thread the extender between the two, and tighten everything back up. They position the mirrors several inches higher and farther outboard for a much better rearward view.
In the course of long-term testing I had two problems with the T100. The first concerned gas mileage, which was poor compared to that reported by other T100 owners on www.TriumphRat.net, an indispensable Internet forum for Triumph owners. Many said their T100s typically average 40-45 mpg, compared to the 34.3-mpg average ours achieved over 2,000 miles of riding. I wish that had been the case with our test bike, but it wasn’t.
The other problem, which showed up after I’d ridden the bike about 1,000 miles, was a small but noticeable amount of free play in the swingarm pivot when the rear wheel was yanked side to side. I had a local motorcycle dealer re-torque everything, which cured the looseness—but only for about 200 miles, then it came back. Turning again to www.TriumphRat.net, and polling some Triumph dealers, I learned of no other T100 with the same problem. It’s a three-hour ride to my nearest dealer, and my workload prevented a trip over there to investigate the matter further. But I feel confident in concluding this is a fluke of our test unit. If in the course of time it turns out to be otherwise, you’ll read about it in Rider.
Our long-term T100 now combines the virtues of its ancestors with the benefits of modern technology. The modified T100 is more fun to ride, more practical to live with, and just as lean, light and uncomplicated as ever. Nostalgia never felt so good.
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