Life imitates art, and the result is very McQueen
By Bill Heald
Modern design is a beautiful thing, but it’s important to remember that genuine cool never goes out of style. Triumph was originally founded 110 years ago, and while the company collapsed and then rose from the ashes back in the eighties, it has managed to both create cutting-edge modern motorcycles and build a range of bikes that celebrates the brand’s heritage. This has been a great move for the com pany, because it has proved especially appealing for folks who think the perfect ride would feature the styling of the sixties but the technology and reliability of the present. The Triumph Bonneville T100 is a perfect expres sion of this, because not only is the “standard” version of the bike a beautiful ride, and available in several striking paint schemes, but a new limited-edition version pays tribute to one of the coolest blokes ever to throw a leg over a British motor bike: Captain Virgil Hilts (the “Cooler King”), aka Steve McQueen.
The Great Escape, released in 1963,was one of McQueen’s most famous films and featured a great near escape in which Hilts jumped his stolen German military motorcycle over a substantial barbed-wire fence. While McQueen was an accomplished motorcyclist and did most of his own riding, the jump was performed by his friend, talented racer and stunt artist Bud Ekins. The bike Ekins constructed for the sequence wasn’t German at all, but a modified Triumph TR6, and now, 60 years later, the McQueen estate has worked with Triumph to produce an officially licensed McQueen Edition Bonneville T100. This timeless movie star is pretty much mechanically identical to the rest of the T100s, and has Triumph’s classic air-cooled 865-cc vertical-twin engine with its user-friendly spread of power, made all the more responsive thanks to state-of-the-art fuel injection. A five-speed transmission gets the power to the ground via traditional chain drive, and even though the front forks and twin rear shocks look right out of the sixties, they’re actually very contemporary units.
The McQueen treatment (of which only 1,100 units will be built) includes a skid plate and blacked-out wheel rims and hubs, handlebars, rear springs, mirrors, and front mudguard supports. And just like the bike in the film, the solo seat is followed by a tool rack. The paint scheme is a green khaki military hue with a stencil-style Triumph logo, making the bike a minimalist masterpiece, and very true to what was seen on-screen all those years ago. Of course, the McQueen signature on the side cover is more contemporary, and a fitting tribute to very memorable badasses, both man and motorcycle.
All the Bonneville T100s are beautiful bikes—proof that when styling works, it can transcend generations. The McQueen Edition is now part of the legacy of this proud Triumph tradition, and a very cool way to roll (even if the Nazis aren’t chasing you).
|Engine type||Air-cooled parallel twin|
|Bore x stroke||90 mm x 68 mm|
|Fuel system||Multipoint sequential electronic injection|
|Front suspension||41-mm telescopic forks|
|Rear suspension||Twin shocks, preload adjustable|
|Front brakes||Single 310-mm disc, two-position floating caliper|
|Rear brake||Single 225-mm disc, two-piston floating caliper|
|Front tire||100/90 R19|
|Rear tire||130/80 R17|
|Fuel tank||4.2-gallon capacity|
|Seat height||30.5 inches|
|Curb weight||506 pounds|