Friday 13th February 2015
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Too Many Triumphs?
Triumph motorcycles, and in particular Triumph twins, are the ubiquitous British bike in classic motorcycle magazines. Dave Blanchard explains why...
Over breakfast, my wife Sue and I were discussing the RealClassic magazine and its very successful format. As a Triumph owner, Sue brought up the subject that some readers think there are too many Triumphs written about these days. We stopped talking briefly to chew on the delights of bacon, eggs and sausages – the only real alternative aroma that comes anywhere near close to the ‘historic smell of Castrol R.’
Proportion is the reason why we still see lots of Triumphs in print. BSA boasted in their advertising leaflets that their bikes were ‘The Most Popular Motorcycles in the World’. But! We remember that Triumphs were close rivals in terms of numbers sold and, while Meriden was still building them, they too seemed to be everywhere and usually were.
We thought deeper about ‘too many Triumphs’ and decided that possibly Triumph articles seem numerous at times because so many classic bike owners nowadays are obsessed with getting their pride and joy into catalogue spec, just as it left the factory way back then. This causes a continuous stream of standard spec models that are written about, and there is only so much you can say about a bog standard Triumph twin of any kind. The only visual difference between one ‘Tangerine Dream’ (or nightmare, depending on your view) and another is the registration number and the two colour options. We prefer the blue one! Duplication can be a flattering thing, but can become boring over time.
After finishing our tea (drunk from our RealClassic super-sturdy shed mugs, of course) we too drifted into ‘way back then’ mode. We can still remember that our bikes as well as friends’ bikes were nearly always modified to suit the owner’s taste or pipedream aspirations. This usually meant café racer ‘R’ us for bikers, or spotlights, ex-army tank aerials, and lorry-sized mud flaps for scooterists. Do you remember those chromed bubbles on Vespas? Cost a fortune!
What we see today is close-to-standard condition factory bikes that were usually ridden by commuters or the precision engineer owner, the motorcycling magazine journalists, the AA patrolman or the unpopular Speed Cop riding his obligatory Triumph sprung hub Speed Twin, or Thunderbird or maybe the later Saint. These standard-looking bikes were the exception rather than the rule way back then. Most young owners got the hacksaw out to try and create the look of a Manx Norton, no matter what make of two-stroke they owned…
Accessory manufacturers would market five-gallon racing fibreglass petrol tanks for Bantams, and uncomfortable humpback seats for Mobylettes. Ace handlebars (the alternative to proper clip-ons), gave a racing look, although sometimes the welding would break and cause a near heart attack. If you could afford them, then swept-back exhaust pipes and replica Gold Star silencers finished the customising and made the bike beautiful to the eye of the beholder. But! These ‘after market’ Goldie type silencers hardly ever twittered. Twittering is a whistling noise you hear on the over-run, nothing to do with social media…
So me and Sue have come to the conclusion that ‘Too Many Triumphs’ is a modern day phenomenon caused by this factory spec, showroom obsession. Let us not forget the previously mentioned individualist look where we would dump those now expensive and hard to find deeply valanced mudguards, replacing them with slim alloy ones reminiscent of road racing machines. We also dumped the air filter to fit a long bell-mouth that would suck in road dirt and increase the cylinder bore wear. If we could find an old pair of pillion footrests, and mount them further back on the frame, they were instantly transformed into racing rear sets – but most were quite worn and drooped at the ends. This droop made it easier to touch your boots down on the corners just like Mike the Bike would do. This skill impressed your café racer rivals back then.
So articles on Triumphs are welcome in our house but not too many in factory trim please or we might just complain. Keep up the good work, RealClassic writers…
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