PRINCE FEDERICK

TT Raghunathan knows the past can be undone, thanks to his 2002 Triumph Bonneville T100

The past never leaves us. The mental pictures we carry around can bring the past to our doorstep at any moment. The image of a Triumph Bonneville used to be etched in TT Raghunathan's mind, together with other significant snapshots. It would bring a wave of eel nostalgia, and also a pang of guilt. It would remind him of a wrong decision he took in the 1970s. But he could have been easy on himself and actually forgiven himself for throwing away his 1969 Triumph Bonneville. Most `Bonnie' owners of that time did not know they had a good thing going . In the early 1970s, the Japanese had taken the motorcycle market by storm and no British motorcycle was counted among the hottest things to own. Raghunathan chose to go with the prevailing view about "what's hot and what's not" and sacrificed his Bonneville for a 750 cc Honda. By the time he realised his mistake, it was too late. The bike had changed hands, and according to a vague report, it had even left the country. The Bonneville made its appearance in 1959 and was in production till 1983. During this period it underwent a few technical changes and collected many accolades. Bonneville reached its height of popularity in 1969 when Malcolm Uphill used the machine to win the Isle of Man Production TT. With Uphill averaging an astounding 99.99 mph per lap, the Bonneville became a synonym for speed. This success seemed to justify its name — which comes from the Bonneville Salt Flats (in Utah, USA), a preferred place for motorcycle majors to create speed records. The bike was also associated with style, because Steve McQueen owned a Bonneville. Called the King of Cool, the actor seemed to impart part of his charm to the bike. But the McQueen charm faded in the late 1970s in the face of competition from the East — the Japanese bikes seemed to characterise the present more than the Bonneville. The T140D Bonneville Royal Wedding which was launched in 1981 was its swan song. Despite a few elements of modernisation such as an electric start, the bike was popular only because it was meant to commemorate Prince Charles' marriage to Princess Diana.When Triumph went belly-up in 1983, John Bloor sought to revive the company. Bloor did not have any prior experience manufacturing motorcycles, but had been turning the idea over in his mind for a long while. Bloor knew he had to build the company from the ground up, but the Triumph brand name was hard to resist. He had to outbid Enfield India to acquire it. To anyone other than Bloor, the acquisition probably made little sense. But the man understood the power of the past. Instead of competing with the Japanese who were clearly head and shoulders above, he retraced the path Triumph had travelled. He chose to manufacture retro models that reintroduce the best of Triumph . The new Bonneville was introduced in 2001. It offers the advantage of latest technology without ignoring the components that characterised the original Bonneville — which means carburettor and chain have not been dispensed with. The new Bonneville bikes have an enthusiastic following only among those who once owned these bikes and are trying to reconnect with their past. The Bonnevill T100 that he brought home in 2002 has taught TT Raghunathan that the past can be undone.

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