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Shari Vahl | 16:43 PM, Monday, 5 July 2010

triumph303.jpgThe phone rang and a chirpy gentleman asked me if I thought it was reasonable to have to wash and dry a motorbike after every use. Spluttering slightly at why on earth a You and Yours journalist rather than a Top Gear type would be asked such a question he went on to explain the wheels on his new Triumph Bonneville SE were corroding after only three months of riding. After complaining to the dealer they'd pointed at the manual - yes, that book you get AFTER you've spent your money - which explicitly says, if you don't wash and dry your bike after every use, bits of it will corrode. I hummed and haahed for ages about this. I looked at my car which was desperately in need of a wash. Would it be reasonable to have to wash and dry my car every time I used it, or watch it corrode before my very eyes?

The Triumph Bonneville SE is a modern re-working of a classic - much like BMWs Mini or Fiat's 500. It's a beautiful thing and so it should be at a book price of 6500 pounds. And some of those who buy them (yes we did sigh deeply on the programme thinking of Steve McQueen and his Triumph TR6 Trophy Bird in The Great Escape) evoke an age of care free motoring where style sometimes trampled on substance. In fact many Bonnie owners now say one of the great things about the new bike is they actually work.

We decided this was a story, and certainly the question of reasonableness was one we had to put to Triumph. I contacted Triumph and time ticked on with no response. First it appears my email got stuck in their spam system, and then I misspelt the name of the press officer. It was getting a bit close to broadcast and then we received an email from Triumph saying they wouldn't be able to find anyone suitable in advance of our piece. It's important to be fair to organisations, and as I'd messed up the email address, reducing their response time, we decided to put off the broadcast for 10 days or so, to give Triumph more time to 'find someone suitable'. But not a squeak. I rang and rang, and discovered the press office had gone on holiday. I finally found another press officer, who promised a response so I sent an email to him. It got stuck in their email spam system and he didn't get it for four hours!! Then I rang and rang again, and finally got a statement from them saying 'sorry we couldn't find anyone suitable in advance of the broadcast'.

It came as quite a surprise that Triumph - a company expanding rapidly all over the world - would run away from a few complaining customers who had a problem. Phil West from Motorcycle News said people love Triumph so much they sometimes tattoo its name on their bodies. This story has provoked much chatter in the forums, not least because people don't like Triumph, the creator of their beloved Bonnies, being criticised .

I think it's time I went out on one to test for myself. Got a spare helmet anyone?

Click here to listen to Shari's report on the Triumph Bonneville SE motorcycle

Shari Vahl is a reporter on You and Yours

You & Yours is on BBC Radio 4 at 1200 weekdays. Listen to today's episode on the Radio 4 web site.


  • Comment number 1.

    The forum link you gave was to the forum. They are notorious for their intolerance of anyone who is critical of Triumph and they will delete posts where people have crticised the manufacturer. As for Triumph themselves, I have owned two but will never buy another. Both had their problems but when paint started to flake off the second one in numerous places the factory turned down my warranty claim and told me I should have cleaned it using the instructions in the handbook. The fact that they failed to prepare and paint the various components had nothing to do with it. Their warranty department are mean spirited and wouldn't know good customer service if it booted them up the backside.


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