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1958 Triumph T110
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Back in the 1970s when he was a student, Steve Taylor rode a chopped 650 Triumph twin. That was classic biking on a real budget...

"There it was gone"

The photo on the piano brought it all back. The wide comfortable dual seat, the sound of the two-into-one exhaust, the wind hissing through the sides of the Project 4, and the slightly un-nerving handling of the best parallel twin that 45 quid could buy. Ah… memories.

Steve 'Easy Rider' Taylor 1958 Triumph T110, photographed in 1970

Just before my last visit to mother's, she had found a brass photo frame in which was mounted a faded picture of me sitting proudly astride my Triumph Tiger T110 in the autumn of 1970. In the other side was another faded shot of my brother on his 5TA. This is the story of my brief ownership of the T110. My dad took the pictures that unfortunately are the only ones of both bikes.

Back in the hot summer of 1970, like most engineering students (all students, come to think of it) I was skint, and facing a long vacation with no means of support was not a pleasant prospect. Each summer I'd agreed with my parents that I would get a job to help with the financial burden of my further education. This year finding one was proving difficult. Mum and dad had always been generous, but it was important for me to show them that I could fund my own fun and possibly return some funds to the family coffers during the three months idleness between June and September.

So what would I do? Holiday jobs in our town of Harrogate were always in short supply. One good payer was the local council, but year by year they were cutting back. If you were lucky enough to get a post, it meant getting to the depot at 7am. As far as I was concerned that was just too early.

The previous year I'd landed a driving job at the local laundry but this year the owner wanted a more permanent employee. So my chance alongside all those randy, middle-aged women, working the washers and driers, went out of the window. Eventually I chose petrol retailing. Lousy pay, early and late shifts but the tips were good so I got stuck in.

By September I'd got together enough cash to buy a bike. I'd spent a fair bit of the summer money just having a good time but it was time to scour the classified ads for a suitable steed. What should I buy? Obviously new was out of the question. Our local rag had plenty of Honda 50s and a couple of Tiger Cubs but I had really set my heart on something with a bit more beef. I really fancied a Triumph or BSA twin but they were quite rare in my particular price bracket.

After a week or so the Yorkshire Evening Post small ads revealed a 1958 T110, down the road in Yeadon just outside Leeds. Apropos of nothing, the owner lived just opposite the airfield which is now Leeds Bradford International. I think the site of the house is now part of the extended runway.

Anyhow, I made an appointment and drove down there next evening. The owner was away but his mum let me give it the once over. My expertise at that time was limited so it was only many weeks later that I slowly realised that the bike had been highly modified.

The address on the log book did not tally and the colour was different. However on the evening I was not going to be discouraged so I carried on with the inspection. The bike looked good, it did not smoke, or rattle (much), the tyres were good, so I agreed the price: £45.

I returned on the following Saturday to hand over the cash and collect the bike. On the ride home it did not disappoint. However my previous two-wheel experience was a Vespa 125, so yes, I was easily impressed.

Dad, a former Rudge and Sunbeam S7 owner, was also impressed. But he didn't badger me for a ride. I was a little surprised but never forced him. Maybe he'd had enough of bikes -- I remember a tale about him falling off in the Manchester rush-hour traffic and him seeing a rather large set of wagon wheels flashing past his nose. That probably cured him of two-wheel transport.

Triumph T110 stuff on

Over the next few days, I changed the oil, both engine and gearbox, put in new plugs, checked tyre pressures, and adjusted this and that and generally molly-coddled it into shape.

I thought it was Kawasakis that were hinged in the middle.... 1958 Triumph T110, from the Triumph catalogue

It was in roadster trim or in modern parlance, naked. It had originally been black and silver but by now had acquired a red tank and had lost all its original tinware. At the time I was happy with that. If I'd been buying one now I would have loved the bath-tub fairing that came with that particular model. It was the Easy Rider era so a set of ape-hanger bars were fitted. Job done. I was ready to return to Manchester for a new term.

For the year 1970-71 I joined four friends in a large flat in South Manchester. Save for the contents of a small rucksack, my personal effects arrived courtesy of father in his Victor 2000. The term began well. The famous five, me and my four mates, occupied the top two floors whilst two attractive and musical young ladies were tenants on the ground floor.

One thing led to another and pretty soon I had a female on the pillion. Vivienne was so impressed with the sound of the big Trumpet that she decided to point her cap at its owner. The bike was our common ground as both her brothers were motorbike nuts, one winning several championships in Australia on Yamahas and Bridgestone 350s, and the other was a superb engineer who built all sorts of bike-engine powered specials.

We enjoyed our sorties out into the Cheshire countryside on the Tiger but as autumn gave way to winter the Triumph became a distinctly chilly form of transport. Vivienne stopped riding pillion, making all sorts of polite excuses and taking the bus instead. I continued to use it as daily transport to lectures. It was ideal in the heavy Manchester traffic, maneuverable and quite intimidating to other road users particularly as I always had the big headlamp lit.

I made one trip home to Yorkshire that term. Leaving Manchester on a filthy Friday evening I threaded my way through the rush-hour traffic up Cheetham Hill Road and eventually out on to the A62 through Oldham and over the top at Stanage to Huddersfield. The M62 was still being constructed and was by no means continuous. It was good for high speed testing late at night but little else.

Whilst negotiating part of the ring road in Huddersfield the dynamo fell off, leaving me covered in oil and with no charging. Thankfully the battery was new so lighting was OK for the rest of the journey. I stopped and recovered what parts I could find but thought better of crawling about on a busy ring-road in dark clothing looking for the other bits. Bent studs and lost nuts meant that I had to bodge the dyno back in place with wire, if only to block up the hole to prevent loss of more oil. Someone in the dim and distant past had stripped the threads in the case leaving the dyno just hanging on with one stud.

With careful nursing we got home. Next day involved a trip to Shipley where that marvellous emporium of Triumph parts, Allan Jeffries resided. He sold me some new studs and a kit for rethreading the holes. Quite advanced in those days. By Sunday it was all back together and ready for the run back to Manchester. I had no other problems with the bike that year.

Christmas 1970 came and went and pretty soon we were into the new year and heading for spring. The bike never failed to get me into lectures, starting first or second kick every morning. The security features of the bike were not leading edge so one had to supplement the single ignition switch with a large chain and padlock. Nothing changes.

'Go easy, lads....' 1959 Triumph T110

It continued to excite when one Saturday evening we were pulled over by Mr Plod for doing 75mph along Kingsway. 'We were only trying to get a football pink from the news agent before they ran out, Officer'. Any excuse for a burn on the big twin. Amazingly he let me off. After looking around the bike he announced that he had one too, a 1959 example complete with its tinware. 'I love it' he murmured. 'Go easy lads, we don't want to be scraping you off the central reservation now do we?'

The only disconcerting trait it had, as many Tiger owners will remember, was its propensity to weave alarmingly in the middle of an undulating corner. In fact in any corner. But in those days we just put it down to dodgy tyres or worn shockers or both and rode around the problem. It couldn't possibly be the design of the thing, now could it? As the weather got better Vivienne and I resumed our trips out into the Cheshire countryside at weekends. Life was good.

Then it all came to an abrupt end. One sunny March morning I parked the bike under the arches at UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) and went off to morning lectures. At the end of the day I came out to ride home and there it was gone. Not even an oil drip on the ground to show where it had been. The police were not very helpful or hopeful and I took my place on the bus looking like an early version of the Stig, full leathers, helmet etc, to hide my tears. Vivienne did her best to console me but secretly I know she was hoping for four wheels.

I submitted my claim hoping that it would be settled quite soon. Then another bombshell. The insurance company folded. I could not believe it. The Vehicle and General Insurance company had gone bust, going down with all souls.

So that was the end of the story of my T110 ownership. I had a final payment from the receiver of 20 quid in 1986. Incredible at the time as I never knew it took so long to sort out the books of a bust insurance company.

If anyone knows where the old girl is it would be nice to know. I hope who ever took it had as much fun as I had. It was probably stripped and used for parts.

It wasn't until 2000 that I bought another bike, a Honda Superdream then a ZZR600. But wait. Now I have my brother's 5TA and will be telling the tale of that restoration over the next few years.

But it's the riding I want to re-live. After all that's what it's really about.


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