Any good shootout has to have a clear winner, right? Trying to flatly say one machine is better than another is not only a matter of opinion, but one of perspective. Both the Forty-Eight and the T100 are great choices for a new bike. While some might think the two motorcycles are like comparing apples and oranges, I would argue the contrary. They are certainly different, but serve the same purpose–filling that empty spot in the garage for a rider with roughly ten grand. If said rider wants a fun, reliable and cool motorcycle that is lighter and more nimble than a full-on cruiser, more laid back than a sport bike, and loaded with classic style, either bike fits the bill. The Chop Cult reader will undoubtedly want to modify his bike, whether it's stripping it down, tarting it up, or to use as the basis for a full-on chopper. Being able to define what you expect from your machine is what impacts your perspective and helps you choose the right bike. Lots of things are vague and subjective, but when my criteria is as simple as: "how fun is this machine to ride compared to how much it costs?" the winner emerges and it's the Hinkley Triumph.
Now, don't go hatin' since I didn't pick the Harley. I have nothing against them, and currently own three, one of which is a 1999 Sporty. I love riding Harleys. There is not a more enjoyable endeavor than blasting down the road on a well-tuned Milwaukee tractor. That low-end torque, the relaxed head angle and classic styling that is often imitated but never duplicated is undeniably fun. Coupled with an abundance of aftermarket support and plenty of shops available to help you customize one, H-D's are a great starting point for a custom bike. The focus on form over function is what makes the Forty-Eight nick over the finish line in second place. It's a fine motorcycle and one of the best looking factory-produced bikes from any manufacturer, but isn't as fun to ride as the Triumph, and that's the bottom line. The fact that the Forty-Eight is uncomfortable with ridiculous rear suspension and forward controls will eliminate it as a good choice for a lot of larger riders, where the Triumph is easy for just about anyone to get comfortable on. If you are over 6' or over 200lbs, I'd save up a little more and get a Dyna if you've got to have a bike with the bar and shield.
Now, if we were trying to determine the best bang for your buck on two wheels, or the most practical machine in the universe, it'd be a different story. A venerable KLR, Suzuki V-Strom or Street Triple would surely stomp a mud hole in either of these bikes. But, practicality and value were not the only measures, and we only tested these two bikes. What the Triumph does is mix the same ingredients as the H-D; fun, performance, ergonomics, value and style into a recipe that is just right for the intended rider–it's simply a great regular old motorcycle. You can ride it all day in virtually any conditions, it is smooth and predictable and there are a wide variety of modifications that can be done to change it's somewhat frumpy appearance and to improve performance. For the Chop Cult member going for anything less than a rigid frame chopper, the T100 would be better on price alone. With a $1500 price difference compared to the 48, that leaves a lot of bucks on the table to spend on modifications and improvements. If heavy mods in the chopper direction are your goal, I'd recommend the Forty-Eight, as most modern Bonne chops always seem to be just a little awkward and there are a ton of good examples of hard-tailed Sportsters out there to prove how well the Harley lends itself to that.