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Bike Review - Posted 1st March 2013
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1935 Triumph L2/1

A recent article in RealClassic about the Triumph L2/1 reminded Dave Evershed of his experience with this rare 250, squeezing the maximum performance from a pre-war single...

The story in RC106 explains how the 250cc Triumph L2/1 was designed by Val Page and built between 1934 and 1936. When Edward Turner then got involved, the L2/1 was transformed into the Tiger 70 but, as owner Keith Bellinger discovered with his own L2/1, this transformation was far from cosmetic.

So although the two models appear to be quite similar, very few components can be swapped back and forth between the L2 and the Tiger 70, but bits from the other Triumphs of the Val Page era, the 350 and 500, are interchangeable with the 250 L2.

Issue 106 of RealClassic magazine. Yes, there's a magazine.

The 249cc OHV L2/1 boasted a forged flywheel and rock solid bottom end which made it more robust than most small capacity singles of the time, but it was also very expensive to build. In the fullness of time the Speed Twin would inherit some of the L2's characteristics - including its cylinder's 63mm bore and 80mm stroke - but in the meanwhile the L2/1 suffered by comparison with its bigger counterparts, being less powerful but not much less heavy.

Back in the early 1970s I raced with the VMCC at several local circuits, Brands, Silverstone and Donington and also with the North Gloucester Motor Cycle Club at Staverton and other airfield circuits. The NGMCC always ran a vintage event in amongst the moderns and we usually got a ride in one of the other classes if we wanted. My first post-vintage ride was on a 1936 Triumph Tiger 70, which I swapped after two seasons for a Triumph 6/1 whilst I campaigned a Model 7 plunger Norton. I then swapped the 6/1 for a L2/1 with a view to getting back into the 250 class. I still had a whole load of 250 and 350 Triumph single parts and also a roadgoing 2/1.

Dave's Triumph L2/1, on the right...

The L2/1 was considerably lighter than the T70 and the bolt-through barrel and head made a strong little unit. As Keith said some of these were raced before the war. I don't know what modifications they had, but I can tell you what we did to make mine quicker. The standard crank was strong enough, (the T70 tended to break crank pins) and a 9:1 Tiger 100 racing slipper piston was used in the standard barrel. The gudgeon pin was a floating fit with no circlips and polished steel plugs shrunk into the ends.

The standard cylinder head was worked on by Bruce Wheeler. The ports and combustion chamber were polished, the inlet opened right out to (I think) an inch, with a large valve made from a Norton exhaust valve. An inlet manifold was converted from a Norton item and a TT carb with remote float fitted. I'm fairly sure this was also an inch but it may have been 1" and 1/16th.

Dave's Triumph L2/1 in all its autumnal garden glory

I used the standard inlet cam which was surprisingly lumpy but advanced it by one tooth. (This was a standard Triumph single trick). The exhaust cam was a little trickier, so the answer for this was to use another inlet cam with the oil pump actuating pin ground away. I used a Lucas racing magneto that I had laying around. The exhaust pipe although it looks rudimentary was the result of using a formula from 'Tuning for Speed.'

The first incarnation of this bike ran the standard gearbox as in Keith's bike but with a new positive stop lever fabricated to give a reversed action. However after the first tests I replaced the whole gearbox with a T70 unit with close ratio internals. This also meant that I could use the stronger clutch from the Tiger range.

Brakes were a bit of an issue: in the standard form they are tiny. I couldn't make a Tiger wheel fit into the smaller girders so I simply ventilated the brake plate, fitted AM4 green linings and an additional substantial brake torque arm. The back was left as it was.

So how did it go? Satisfyingly quick with outstanding acceleration. Handling was as you might expect with girder forks and a rigid rear end being raced on the airfield circuits of the time! I only ever achieved mid pack results, but it was good fun.

Racing Triumphs on

In the issue of the magazine, Keith suggested there may only be 19 of these bikes left these days. I suppose mine may well be one of them. It was sold along with all my bikes to finance my first house and imminent marriage.

Triumph L2/1 brochure. 'Full sized 250'...

Just to complete the Triumph single saga, I had a ride on the ex-Alan Jefferies 500cc 5/1 at Silverstone one year. That thing was a pig to bump-start, but really very quick and smooth. After a poor start I was making up time and flung the thing into Maggots, grounded the exhaust pipe and just hung on. So whoever has that bike now - take a look at the pipe!

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