We all recall Steve McQueen’s character Virgil Hilts jumping a motorcycle over a fence in the iconic 1963 WWII movie The Great Escape. And it doesn’t matter that, for insurance reasons, the jump was actually performed by McQueen’s friend and fellow racer Bud Ekins. McQueen was the real deal. He rode his modified 1963 Triumph Bonneville in the California dunes and competed in the 1964 International Six Day Trial in East Germany on a factory-prepared 650cc Triumph Trophy. When he died at age 50 in 1980, he owned well over 100 motorcycles.
To honor McQueen, and in cooperation with his estate, Triumph has issued a Steve McQueen Edition motorcycle based upon the Bonneville T100. Blacked-out components include wheels, handlebar, mirrors, shock springs and fork lowers. Only 1,100 of them will be available worldwide, and each has a numbered plate on the handlebar; ours was No. 48. Color is a military Matte Khaki Green with a stencil-style Triumph decal on the tank and a replica of McQueen’s signature on the sidecovers. It carries only a solo seat but has a luggage rack, skid plate and a small headlight.
This model is powered by the air-cooled, DOHC, 865cc parallel-twin engine. What appear to be period carburetors are actually fuel-injection throttle bodies. With a 59-inch wheelbase, rake/trail figures of 28 degrees/4.3 inches and a 19-inch front wheel the bike steers slowly by today’s standards, but trades agility for stability. Its fork is supple, and rear suspension controlled if not plush. Seating is upright to the point that, above 70 mph, the wind blast will begin to tire the rider. While the motor is smooth, you may be reaching for another higher gear above that speed. Overall, the bike feels like bikes used to feel in that it doesn’t do anything spectacularly but is a lot of fun to ride, and it benefits from modern components, reliability and a heap of cool.
Triumph T100 Steve McQueen Edition
Base Price: $9,999
Engine Type: Air-cooled, transverse parallel twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 90.0 x 68.0mm
Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 59.0 in.
Rake/Trail: 28 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 30.5 in.
Wet Weight: 515 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gals., last 0.8 gal. warning light on
MPG: 87 PON min. (high/avg/low) 49.1/45.6/41.5
(This Ridden and Rated Special was published in the October 2012 issue of Rider magazine.)