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15th February 2016

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Famous Last Words 34: Triple Trials

Triumph Tridents are the stuff of dreams. Maybe they should remain that way, says Frank Westworth...

I am a man on a mission. Two missions, in fact, although only one of those involves motorcycles. Three missions… I am a man on several missions. This is how we stay young; if you’re on a mission you’re immortal. Or something like that.

I need a Trident. My life will be incomplete until The Shed contains a Trident. Although there are already several allegedly classic machines in there – along with a larger collection of depressing old junk which ruins my life with its dependable unreliability – it does not contain a Trident. There is a Triumph 750 triple in there, but that is a hideous orange monstrosity with its three silencers stacked on top of each other in a truly bonkers arrangement, and which is in any case a BSA, despite what the label says. It has reflective stripes, too. Sheesh.

No, I need a Trident. A proper one. A T160. I am utterly and completely bored with kickstarting motorcycles. It is just so undignified. And T160s have a lower seat. And delicious swoopy lines. And I owned one for very many years. On the rare occasions when I could afford to keep it filled with oil it was a superb thing to ride; beautiful handling, excellent power delivery and a great swooshing zoom to the exhaust. It had two failings; remarkable discomfort (I was once spotted riding it along the M5 while standing up to ease the posterior pains) and improbable thirsts. After one particularly memorable blast around North Wales, battling heroically to keep up with a pal on a Kawasaki GT550 chopper, I discovered that the triple had consumed petrol at the rate of 30mpg, and oil at the rate of 30mpp. A symmetrical thirst, then. Plainly I do need another, then. But why?

Famous Last Words 34: Triple Trials

It’s an occupational hazard, one which is too rarely appreciated by riders with real jobs. I ride lots of bikes which, sometimes mercifully, do not belong to me. This is great fun, and passes my declining years quite well. Very occasionally, I meet a machine which is somehow special. Magic. Remarkable. Very occasionally, I encounter a bike which I do not even need to ride to understand that this is a model I must own. That if I had one of these I would ride it everywhere at Top Speed and fulfilment would be mine for ever and ever amen. Or something like that.

So there I was, listening to a familiar and splendid three-pot roar. Besotted. Which is an achievement for anyone of my advanced years and strange tastes. After my last close encounter of the third cylinder kind I swore that I would never own another. That life was simply too short for such expensive nonsense. And before you ask, the orange thing in The Shed does not belong to me. Heavens, no.

And so of course it’s off out into the great hunt. If the bike was a Triumph Tiger then I could have described my venture as a tiger hunt, but Trident hunt sounds ridiculous. As indeed does the entire notion of riding another one. Life can be mysterious. Discoveries follow. It is several years since I looked seriously at triples, although I’ve ridden a couple of beauties, including an electric start BSA Rocket 3 which was almost beyond description. There are plenty of T160s around, which is impressive, given how short the production run was and how few were produced. A bit like Rocket Gold Stars, although T160 Tridents are less easy to fake.

Famous Last Words 34: Triple Trials Click to embiggen
Tempting Tridents on ...

Previous experience suggests that there are two routes to the nirvana that may possibly be ownership of a T160. Note that I carefully did not say ‘riding a T160’. I still have doubts about that bit. We should all keep open minds, preferably in kennels, where they may belong. The first route is to buy a minter from someone I know. A Trader friend had one on his website. Price? ‘TBA’. I always like that. I also know that if I ask it is a display of interest which can elevate the price. I looked every day, waiting for ‘TBA’ to mature into ‘£100’ or something close. It didn’t. It matured into ‘Sold’. I asked my Trade friend the how much? question. He told me. I may have wept at that point. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘You could have had it for less.’ Failure is an unrewarding cross to bear.

The other route is to buy a wreck at a low price and spend far too much making it good. I have done this once. It was a remarkable experience, also rewarding. Rewarding in a financial sense and only for specialists in Trident parts and skills. As I type this, I know of a T160 available for £10,500. It requires sorting because it does not go, though the vendor just knows it will. Me too.

Ignoring the uncomfortable fact that I could not pay that sort of money for a T160 even if I wanted to, which I do not, an unkind companion wondered wryly which other bikes I could acquire for the same price? Were any of them less fulfilling than the dream of a T160? I was stumped.

Which is the point, is it not? Although it is always important that a chap should, like Martin Luther King, have a dream, sometimes a touch of sanity needs to balance things. In any case, dreams are like buses; there’ll be another along in a minute…

Famous Last Words 34: Triple Trials

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