Moments after her first pillion ride Diana knew she wanted a motorcycle. Not only did she want a bike, she wanted a Triumph – a T100 Bonneville. Can a ‘big bike’ be your first ride? Diana finds out…
Bitten by the bug
I fell totally in love with motorbikes as soon as I had my first pillion ride on my boyfriend’s Triumph cafe racer. We met in a pub and after chatting for a while he mentioned he was a biker. I asked if I could see what bike he had, sort of bad pick-up line I guess but it kind of worked as it turned out to be a lovely Triumph and I thought ‘I’d love to go for a ride on the back of that!’.
A couple of months went past and I had to chase him to take me out for a ride. I don’t think he realised how keen I actually was. Long story short, we finally went out for a ride one September weekend near where we live in Brighton on the south coast of England, and that’s all I’ve wanted to do every weekend since.
The direct route
The learning experience was a bit of a rollercoaster ride and an unconventional pathway, so I am told, as I had zero previous experience and wanted to go straight on to a ‘big bike’.
I was determined to bypass any L-plate riding and 125cc bikes and go for my full licence ready for the summer. My boyfriend winced when I said this as he was an advocate for the traditional way of learning how to ride, but I was determined to buck the trend.
I struggled at first to find any training schools that were supportive of this. Most tried to convince me to do the typical CBT, then ride a 125 for a year before progressing on to the Direct Access Scheme (DAS). However, not shy of a challenge, I didn’t want to go through all of that, I wanted a big bike straightaway and nothing less.
By day two, I was riding on the public roads on a 700cc bike
Perfect first bike:
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Luckily, we came across MTS Sussex rider training who were more than enthusiastic to get me on their books. I had a one-hour, first-ride ‘taster’ lesson to see if I had potential – and to find out if I would even like it. After 30 minutes, I was figure-of-eight-ing a 125cc bike around the car park, changing gear and emergency stopping. I think they assumed it was going to be a challenge with my zero experience, but it felt natural almost immediately.
I booked my DAS for the following month and opted for a five-day course, booked with MOD 1 and 2 tests on day five. By day two, I was riding on the public roads on a 700cc bike, which my boyfriend was amazed at – he said he was riding for three years before getting on a big bike!
We started training for the Mod 1, which is focused on slow-speed riding. I didn’t realise how hard this would be and I ended up crying, not the strong woman image I was striving for, but the stress of a DAS is quite surprising. I also scared my instructor a few times I’m sure.
Day three and four went a lot more smoothly but I was still worried about my slow-speed riding. I even practised my U-turns just before riding into the test centre on day five. My examiner was a fellow Triumph enthusiast which helped as we had a mutual interest. Luckily, I managed to pass my Mod 1 first time.
I had my Mod 2 booked for the afternoon, so we went off for a mock test ride and the heavens decided to open. I arrived soaking wet at the test centre and, unfortunately, the rain didn’t stop. I had to do the full test in what can only be described as end-of-days rainfall. My rider trainer told me to enjoy it and just go with the flow, which I did, and to my utter surprise I passed my Mod 2 first time… with zero minor faults, which I was told was a near-perfect ride. I am grateful to MTS Sussex rider training as I would never have done it without them.
The Triumph effect
I love the Triumph Motorcycles brand and I learned all about the company and love how, thanks to Mr Bloor, the company was saved and has become the benchmark for cool retro bikes. I love the cafe racer look and classic Brit bike styling of Triumphs. I am not one to go at crazy speeds and I’m not really into sport bikes, so a Triumph Bonneville was the perfect choice for me. It not only rides smoothly but is also fairly easy to manoeuvre considering it isn’t the lightest of bikes.
The cafe biker scene was huge in Brighton in the 50s and 60s, so it’s nice to ride around on iconic roads such as Madeira Drive on the Ace Cafe Reunion.
My boyfriend surprised me with a 2006 Triumph Bonneville T100 as a birthday present and I totally loved it, but I felt it was a little bit too manly as it had been converted into a scrambler and had very loud open megaphone exhaust pipes – I wanted to make it slightly more girly so it would suit me better.
I have changed the off-road tyres back to Avon Roadrunners, as the handling was heavy, and I also removed the exhaust heat wrap from the header pipes. After upsetting quite a few locals, I installed DB baffles to the exhausts to make the ride a little less anti-social, although it did sound great.
Other modifications were mainly done by the previous owner, James Oakley, who is also the co-founder of the Hinckley Triumph Owners Club – which I am a part of. These modifications have been mainly styling, like shortened front and rear mud guards, upgraded seat and the tank was custom painted for me in grey with my favourite colour of blue. The next upgrade will, hopefully, be to a different motorcycle altogether… I have my eye on the new Bonneville Street Cup in yellow.
Just do it
I love having a bigger bike as my first and I’m so glad I took this route. Although 125s are lighter, I found them to be a lot more annoying, especially when it came to speed and constant gear changing. I was worried that the Bonneville would be too heavy for me but once it is moving I don’t find it a problem at all.
Slow-speed riding was a little bit of a struggle to start with but I have got used to it. I’d definitely recommend a Bonneville as a first bike.