Triumph Bonneville Long Term Test - Report #6

Feelin' Flat

Triumph Bonneville Long Term Test
Though it still held a few pounds of air pressure, the Bonneville's flat was enough to cause extremely diminished control on the freeway. Photo © Basem Wasef

It can happen at any moment, and no amount of preparation—neither tire maintenance, nor obstacle avoidance—can prevent it. I'm talking about flat tires, and my experience aboard the long term Triumph Bonneville took me completely by surprise.

I was cruising at around 70 mph down the 405, an oft-clogged southern California interstate, when the Bonnie started to feel a bit squirrelly. "It's probably the rain grooves," I thought to myself, attributing the weird front-end undulations to striations in the cement below, rather than something more serious. But when the rain grooves went away moments later and the disconcerting feeling was still there, I got suspicious. My first instinct was to lean over the side of the bike and give a quick look at the front tire, which looked as normal as ever… but at that point, my ability to control the Bonneville was getting seriously hampered, and I decided to start making my way over to the right lane in order to exit the freeway.

By the time I scooted across four or five lanes, the bike felt almost completely unwilling to turn, like the front tire was digging into a deep layer of sand. Maneuvering the freeway offramp was challenging; the bike felt so wobbly at this point, I had to stand on the pegs and ride it like a dirtbike in order to keep from tipping over. By the time I pulled up to a gas station, the problem was clear: it was the rear rubber that was nearly deflated, thanks to a nail stuck practically dead center on the back tire. Sigh.

Now that the bike was in a safe spot, the next task was to find out I had a slow or a fast leak on my hands. Inflating the tire using a gas station pump pushed air through the tire's side; apparently the tire had rolled enough on low pressure to damage the sidewall, rendering it essentially useless… though there would have been no guarantee of its ability to hold air, even though it seemed to hold a few pounds of pressure on its own.

I happened to have been on my way to pick up an Aprilia press bike at their Costa Mesa headquarters, so I called my contact and asked about the possibility of a ride. He asked, "Are you an AMA member?" To which I replied, "Yes." Turns out American Motorcyclist Association membership entitles you to free roadside assistance and up to 35 miles of towing, not to mention fuel delivery and several other services that require extra fees with AAA membership. It took a quick phone conversation with an AMA operator to convey my member info, location, and bike description, and within forty minutes a tow truck with a flatbed showed up, ready to take me to my destination.

My Piaggio contact had mentioned that the nearby Ducati Newport Beach dealership would soon be Triumph-certified, so I had the driver head down there and drop off the Bonnie—which was handy, since it needed some routine maintenance on top of a new rear tire.

How did the service experience go? Well, that's another story for another time.


  • Total miles ridden: 3,420
  • Total miles ridden this period: 208
  • Total odometer miles: 6,890
  • Average fuel economy: 44.0 mpg

>>Triumph Bonneville Long Term Update #4: Is this thing old enough?

>>Triumph Bonneville Long Term Update #1: Configurate Me!