Friday, May 21, 2010

Bonnie the Great Performer

The focus of this story is my 1977 Triumph Bonneville 750cc twin – the Great Performer. As far as handling goes; leaning around curves; stopping on a dime; powerful acceleration and overall good looks, she was the best of her day. The only bad thing I can say about my beautiful Bonnie is that after more than four hours cruising on the highway, she started to rattle your bones a bit, especially, your rear end.

I found her advertised for sale in the Ottawa newspaper. She was stored in a farmer's barn ninety minutes west of Ottawa. I was without a motorcycle at the time so I went to take a look at her. She was covered with a tarp standing off to one side of the stables. When the vendor removed the tarp, I saw a blue and white 1977 Triumph Bonneville 750 twin covered in dirt and bits of straw. He had put a charger on the battery in anticipation of my visit. 1977 was the last year the Bonnie came with kick-start. Motorcycles stored in barns sometimes end up with mice nesting in their carburettors, so I removed the seat and checked this out. No signs of mice. Also, the seat was in fairly good condition; no rips or tears. She was not so clean but I could sure fix that in a hurry. It took me a few kicks to fire her up and she started fine. The clutch, gears and drive-chain looked OK too but the tires needed inflating to their correct pressures. Her silencers were rusted-out so I accepted the fact that I would have to replace them. I bought the Bonnie on the spot subject to the vendor getting a safety certificate. Emissions tests were a thing of the future in those days. Two days later I went to pick her up. WOW! The vendor had cleaned her up and she looked great. It was a done deal. I drove her home. When you know bikes like I do, you get a "feel" for them and I knew I'd bought a winner.

I'm a believer! I'm a believer in frequent and regular oil changes and correct tire pressures at all times. I changed her oil and filter; lubricated her chain; re-washed her and gave her a coat of wax; I removed her silencers and replaced them with new noisy rat-ta-tat stubby pipes; I filled her gas tank with high-test petrol and took her on a road trip through the hills and valleys of mid-western Ontario. She didn't disappoint me. She excited me. I took the time to get to know her. She and I toured most of Ontario, parts of Quebec and Northern New York State, many many times. Her superior handling and performance were second to none. We were true mates. I loved my Bonnie.

In the early 1980's I had moved to a new flat in down-town Ottawa. I had underground parking with a security gate. One beautiful Sunday morning I decided to go for a ride. I sat on my Bonnie and kick-started her but something didn't feel right. In fact, everything seemed wrong, but I didn't put my finger on it right away. Then it hit me! An assortment of loose cables were staring me in the face. My speedometer and tachometer were missing. They had been torn-out by vandals. I was devastated. "How dare they do this to me!" I shouted at the top of my voice. I reported the theft to the police but nothing much happened. I had to order new clocks from England and a machinist friend of mine constructed an attractive metal console to house them. It was my first theft and I can understand very well what people are feeling when they say they feel violated. I spent the next couple of years roaring up and down the highways of Ontario and upper New York State. She ran great! So why did I decide to sell her?

I don't know! Have you ever decided to do something stupid in your life? I have, on more occasions than I care to remember. It might have been the remarks of one of the mechanics at my local motorcycle shop telling me that Triumph parts are hard to get, or something like that. I advertised her for sale. The response to my ad was immediate and overwhelming.

A kid from Quebec came to look at my Bonnie with his girlfriend. He was only about twenty. I had decided in advance that if he didn't give me my full asking price right away, I would decline any further negotiation. I would withdraw the ad and keep my Bonnie. But, I could tell that he was impressed. He asked me to start it in my garage. I knew that with my stubby-mufflers she would make a deafening-roar like no tomorrow - and I saw the fire in the young man's eyes.

He handed me a certified cheque for my full asking price and from the very moment I accepted it, I regretted selling my Bonnie. She was indeed my Queen of Motorcycles.

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