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2017 Triumph Bonneville T100 – Ride Review

Photos by Megan Harris

"I've had a look at this motorcycle of yours whilst you were having your supper," my wife's grandmother says upon my return from the pub.
Grandma, as she allows me to call her, is upper-middle class and English to the core. She is naturally wary of Americans and has been known to suddenly burst out laughing at the idea of my being able to make a living writing about motorcycles. Add to this the fact she is somewhat deaf, a condition not helped by my natural Texas mumble, and it's easy to see why she and I don't chat a lot. When my wife is around, Grandma prefers to deal with me in third-person terms: "Now then, Jenny, does Chris want tea?"

My wife isn't around this time, though. I've ridden the 2017 Triumph Bonneville T100 down to Devon on my own, staying the night, so I can get meet photographer Megan at the beach the next morning before tourists arrive. Without my wife as interpreter, Grandma and Grandad (who is also…

What I want: Harley-Davidson Iron 883

Let's be honest: you would, wouldn't you? No, stop lying. You totally would. Yes, yes you would. Look, it's just you and I in this conversation and no one else will ever know. So you can be honest. Deep down inside, you totally would. If the opportunity presented itself, you would ride a Harley and you would love it.

It's quite popular to engage in Harley hate (especially in the UK, where that hate generally extends to all cruisers), and I'll admit that I've been guilty of following the herd once or twice over the years. There's no doubt that H-D sells an image as much as it does a product and there is something ingratiating about the sort of person who is clearly putting all his/her money into the former over the latter.

We want to believe that we are better than that person. But, in truth, that superficial element exists in almost any non-essential purchase we make. The same is true of cars and bicycles and clothing and on and on; somewhere at the heart of almost everything a man does is the desire to look sexy or threatening. The Harley-Davidson Iron 883 is a little bit of both.

The complaints against Harley-Davidsons are myriad and more often than not deeply emotional. Not possessing a great deal of mechanical knowledge myself I can't truly speak to the veracity of such claims, but it seems the most legitimate criticism is that a Harley needs more mechanical attention than other bikes of equal size and type. This is what other people tell me. Steve Johnson, a former Harley owner, has confirmed this on his blog –– his H-D was comfortable and cool to be seen on, but required more love than the Honda with which he is now touring the United States.

That little truth probably won't stop me from ever owning own a Harley. Hell, perhaps that's part of the appeal. Many moons ago, when Jaguars were still British cars, my dad used to dream of owning one. I pointed out to him that they were notoriously finicky things, prone to frequent visits to the mechanic. 

"That's kind of the point," he said. "I'd not just like to be able to drive a Jaguar, but be able to afford to keep a Jaguar."

But, no, I think the appeal of a Harley is greater than that. If I were to be given an Iron 883 I would cherish it. They just look cool. They sound cool. I would feel cool riding one around. Harley-Davidson does sell an image, an intangible that can be frustrating to people who like to see themselves as above such a thing. But the image is what you make of it, and primarily just a thing of self-confidence.

And you can't help but respect the fact that Harley-Davidson has gone to great lengths recently to widen its appeal. With its Stereotypical Harley campaign, H-D has become the best-selling motorcycle among women, blacks and Hispanics. That can only be a good thing for motorcycles in general. The only other company that seems to be really trying to broaden its (and motorcycling's) appeal is Honda.

In fairness, Honda has done this by offering new products (e.g., bikes with automatic transmissions) rather than a new package. But, hey, when you have a product as iconic as a Harley, perhaps there's no need to change.


  1. That's a sweet bike.

    Sportsters are kind of red-headed step children. Harley people call them "half a Harley." Non-Harley people don't like them because they're still a Harley. At least Buell gets some respect from the sportbike crowd.

    Sportsters are appreciated by... people who like Sportsters.

    I like 'em.

    That said, I have an extremely low opinion of the HD experience. I went and sat on several Sportsters, as well as the Big Twins. The thing about HD is that they are for little people. You'll either want forward controls, (or highway pegs) or enjoy having your knees up by your ears all the time.

    Also, I do not want to buy an $8,000 - $10,000 motorcycle which requires immediate accessory purchases to be rideable. Look up the Harley Tax. The bikes I saw in the dealership had goofy handlebars, poor fit and finish... They were canvases to be completed at home. Which is cool, if you want to tinker and modify your bike as much as ride it.

    I have heard that modern Sportsters are actually very reliable, and I have several acquaintances who just love theirs all to pieces. They are cool bikes, and I wouldn't mind adding one to the stable.

    Shortly after, you know, a Ducati.

    I love this blog, by the way. Your enthusiasm for motorcycles is infectious.

    1. Ah, see, I hadn't considered the size of the thing. Why are so many bikes made for tiny people? It's interesting that manufacturers don't put more effort into making their products adjustable to size.

    2. In HD's case, if they made it adjustable, they wouldn't be able to sell you the parts to make it fit.

      Also, short guys are the ones who need to compensate with an over-chromed, overly-loud, over-hyped piece of butt jewelry.*

      Also, my opinion of comfy and yours might be wildly different. Your best bet is to hop on one and find out.

      One good thing about Sportsters is that the rear jug will do a great job of keeping your vitals warm over there in the soggy nations.

      *I kid because I love.

    3. I think a simpler explanation would be that little guys are the average/majority. Big guys are the exception, not the rule. Congratulations. That said, a company that's out to make money will more often than not make a product that is suited for, and will appeal to, the largest audience. It's just good business.

  2. Chris:

    I'm not sure I want a Harley. I don't like the forward controls and having to sit on your tailbone. I don't like the loud exhausts and I don't like all that chrome. I have never ridden one and I don't want to.

    Riders we meet on the road on Harleys are generally friendly, but those in our city are snobs, don't wave and have an attitude.

    that being said I am sure there are exceptions but I prefer quiet and fast without making much noise.

    Your idea of making bike riding heights adjustable is brilliant. I wonder how you would design something like this. You could patent your idea, make a fortune & retire

    Riding the Wet Coast

    1. Yeah, my limited experience with HD riders is also that many are snobs. And you're right that the chrome is silly. The thing that appeals to me about the Iron 883 is that it's blacked out.

      And, well, I suppose you're also right about the exhausts, too. My understanding was that those exhausts that annoy the hell out of people are aftermarket, but perhaps I'm wrong.

      I think BMW may have beaten me in terms of an adjustable seat. I think the seat on the new F800GT is somewhat adjustable, though probably not as simple to use as I'd like.

  3. OK Fellas,

    The rider with the hot tits is going to chime in. . .

    Lucky, you slay me! "Also, short guys are the ones who need to compensate with an over-chromed, overly-loud, over-hyped piece of butt jewelry." I intend to quote you. How could I let THAT quote go unquoted??

    As for me, Gentlemen, I'm 4'11" of hotness and I really, really struggled to find a fricken bike I could manage. I'm marginally strong (certainly not weak, but no muscle-bound wench), but with a 29" inseam, and short arms, it's really hard to find a motorcycle that I can not only touch the ground, but man-handle the weight. I rode my hubs Yamaha Roadstar (800 lbs) just fine, until I hit an odd spot where I couldn't get good footing. Then down we went. Too much weight.

    As for a Sporster, on my list for the future. My Step-mom rode a Sportser her entire riding career (22 years) and that was the ride I always dreamed of. But for the "cool-factor" mostly. I've sat upon a Sportster Low and liked it very much, but for now I want to do some sport riding. I'll cruise on a recliner when I'm too old to enjoy the twisties anymore!

    P.S. Chris, thanks for mentioning Highway and our trip!

    Hugs Boys,


  4. I read an interesting article in a Brit motorcycle mag (sorry, can't remember which). They went through warranty claims from various manufacturers and compiled some stats, and found that Harleys are right about in the middle of the pack for warranty claims: better than some bikes, worse than others.

    The one brand that was done at the bottom of the heap in terms of reliability: the much vaunted BMW.

    1. I think I saw that same article, or saw mention of it on VisorDown, and the BMW apologists tried to suggest this was because BMWs were being ridden year-round, and therefore getting more use.

  5. I bought this bike but in the Candy Orange. A 2013 model.

    I owned a 2007 Nightster, the best paint combo one in dull flat black and silver and thought it was an Industrial Bike for the way it shook and missed and rode like a log wagon.

    I put Progressive rear shocks on the rear and same on the front to raise the bike back up to the original sportster height. It is actually 1" higher on the rear than stock but that is cool. I like the look of my new ride, kind of like a flat tracker.

    With a Springer seat on my bike now it rides awesome, handles great and is like riding a sport bike.

    Don't ever let someone tell you the 883 isn't a good bike.

    I've owned 17 bikes in 7 years logged almost 70,000 miles on these over this time and just recently sold my Victory 106 HighBall a couple weeks ago with over 17,000 miles on it.
    Victory bikes are great, most likely some of the best. American made too.

    Trouble is Victory has only 15 years in and Harley 110 to make people like the brand and want to own one even if they don't ride a cycle.

    Too much to say here.

    Buy one, you'll like it and the new ones are very nice. Make sure you go rubber mounted engines and fuel injection. Only the newer models from 2007 and on have this. I think.

  6. My husband and I both ride an Iron 883. He is 6'3" and knees are definitely not in his chest. He loves his and I love mine.

  7. Been riding my 2013 for 2700 miles and love it! I am 6'4" and still have the factory mid controls. I am comfy and confident!

  8. I love my 2013 superlow with a s&s 1250 kit port heads and cam done. I also love the power of the s&s kit 1250 very easy to do. I also put 6500 miles on it 5 ft 8 195 pounds 42 yr old . I have a 1989 sporty 1 st bike at 18yrs old road it till 86,000 miles then I got my 2013 883 super low love the rims and the bigger gas tank. I put the kit on because I love the power and it is a real sleeper at the hang out's.. sporty are great you will never see the same one and you can buy so many after market parts more then the jap stuff. Harley are made is so much better then most. sporty been around for a long time .More then any other kind of bike kind made from 1957 ???? I have over 85 hp on my 2013 don't care about the bullshit just ride for me and I love all people who ride and love to ride. I love sporty and don't care what people say. I have 2 sporty still have my 1st it is all ready to ride and still can get what I payed for it. the new one was more money and made better like most things over time!!!!!!! best engine made and easy to work on... A must for sporty owners is get a better seat and rear shocks then go from what you like and have some fun be happy you can see and ride. I lost my eye site for 4 months the doctor gave me meds that I should of not taken with my other meds and when I could not see I thought I would never ride again. just be happy for others for what they have and ride. be safe think before you talk and be happy for other riders and what they like . god bless f. d cherry hill nj

  9. I've had a VFR NC30 400, Bandit 600, GSXR 600 & hated them all. I now have the new Iron 883N 2014 model with ABS brakes. Thank you Harley for making me fall in love with riding again, I absolutely love my bike! so much so that I'll never go back to a sports bike again. Yes I'm a guy, 5.5ft tall & 36 years old...... I get on this bike & get lost on purpose so I can ride for longer. I've had people beep their horn at traffic lights just to give me the thumbs up, I've been stopped outside Sainsbury's to be told what a nice bike I have. Damn I even caused a traffic jam when a guy in a Merc pulled over to tell my how frickin cool my bike was. Anyone that says the 883 Iron is a shit girly bike is a dick!. This is a damn nice bike!

  10. I sold 6 vintage Hondas to get my 2013 883 iron in brushed black. Here's a bike that reminds me of older British bikes with great sound and torque at low RPMs, and you can actually feel the motor between your legs. I did not want a quiet, sophisticated, balanced, bike with no soul. I wanted and got a bike that is what the old school riders experienced, but with reliability, not a drop or seep of any engine or chain oil. Brakes aren't great on these 883's, and if you are riding on a fairly crappy road your kidneys will be up where your lungs should be: there is precious little dampening. This is an awesome looking, no frills, no bling, motorcycle with a soul. Thank you HD for giving us an option to buy a bike that looks and sounds (not loud unless you buy aftermarket pipes) great and is not unlike the way it must have felt for the bike lovers that came before us, but with all the modern goodies that make it reliable, with fuel injection (no choke, no tickler to press down, no compression release, etc.) and pretty good lighting. For me after having motorcycles since 1969, I've found a bike that really satisfies me and the way I drive (in town mostly). I also get a lot of folks giving me thumbs up and at gas stations people coming up and asking if it's custom bike. I think I'll go for ride.

  11. I'd definitely own a Harley if given the opportunity. The problem is that I have a family now! I can't justify spending that much money on a 'toy'. Until I have enough disposable income to justify getting something as frivolous as a motorcycle, I'll be confined to looking and drooling. I love that black one you pictured though—that's a great bike!

  12. You all are truly motorcycle nuts. "Hot tits" chimes in and not a single response. I'm going to give the Iron a ride today but doubt I'll buy one.

  13. I got a chance to own a 2014 iron 883. The girl who owned it was moving over seas and she offered me the bike if I would take over her 180.00 a month payments. I gladly said yes and had the bike shipped from California to Miami. Now I've been riding for years and always rode dual sports suzuki dl 650s mostly. I love those bikes. The Iron has massive power and rides like a tractor on steroids. Really nice pull and ok on the turns. Gas mileage is a little weak with the small tank. 3.3 gallons. Theres a ticking noise that i hear when riding. Valves are very noisy. The fit and finish are really good and the bike will always get looks and you'll catch the occasional person sitting on it for pictures. I think i like this bike. Its quickly growing on me. The long chrome pipes have to go. Too much chrome and sound a little wimpy somewhere down the road i will get some shorty black pipes for it. Anyways first Harley and i am starting to see why people choose them .


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