Those who have had the misfortune of suffering my opinions on bikes will know that I carry something of a flame for Triumphs. Why this should be so is somewhat unclear, I can only put it down to having a Triumph bicycle in my youth, although at the time it was no more than a brand name for Tube Investments who also owned Raleigh. Triumph pushbikes and Triumph motorcycles do share a common heritage and there was something about the solidity of that old bike and the miles we did together as I grew up through my teens that has remained riveted within my soul as firmly as the Triumph badge was riveted to its headstock.
My next full on encounter with the name was when I was casting around for a motorbike to replace a competent but dull Diversion and found myself falling in love with a 1200 Trophy . As a newly born again biker my knowledge of the market was over 20 years out of date and so it was something of a shock, a quite delightful one, to see the name resplendent in gold upon a majestic tourer of British Racing Green. The last I had heard of the marque it was all disputes, co-ops and bankruptcies , its purchase and rehabilitation by John Bloor had gone unnoticed amongst the business of work and families which had filled my years since, yet what had been created was something unique with a strong identity that spoke of values that went beyond mere stop watches and rev limits. Its aura was undeniably British without any resort to cheap appeals to patriotism which the marketing department (ill)judged to be necessary at a later date. Unfortunately a patch of ice sealed the fate of that machine and so it was that I moved on with broken heart, and rib, to something lighter and brighter, a Daytona 900 from the first year of the new company’s operation. I still have that bike although it is not taken out often, she can be quite a handful at times and needs to be ridden with purpose, the rider has to be in charge and as long as you keep your mind on the job then her soul will sing and you’ll be as one.
Those two bikes belonged to Hinckley Triumph’s early days, they had what was known as a spine frame, and then, in the late nineties they went all twin spar and the character changed completely. It wasn’t all bad, the Sprint, which is particularly characteristic of the type, is a far more relaxing bike to ride and doesn’t demand the input of that early Daytona and, what’s more, it still retains some soul, although not as intense. From then on though Triumph seemed to lose their way while chasing the competition, ‘Anything BMW can do we can do better’ seemed to be the mantra for a few years, but they didn’t have the sales volume, the resources or the experience to live up to it. It didn’t seem to affect sales though as the graph kept pointing in the right direction and the Speed Triple topped the charts on a regular basis, yet one wonders if they could have done even better if they were not so focused on the Teutonic manufacturer. It is telling that the best selling Triumph models were those that the company had created from their own imagination, the 675 Daytona being the classic example. The various new Tigers and Trophies of the last few years are well respected bikes and move quickly enough through the showrooms but they always had the image of being ever so slightly copycat editions of German designs.
In parallel to this chasing around after others Triumph made plans for separate ventures, one a manufacturing plant in India, the other being the production of small off road recreational and utility vehicles. Neither came to anything but the energy was lost and in 2014 all they could promise was new paint schemes for the venerable Bonneville for the following model year. I despaired! However, all is not lost after all, they have just announced, sort of, that a new platform, as is the jargon nowadays, is being developed around which a new range of models will be built. Putting aside the fact that both Ducatti and Yamaha have been planning this for a while it does seem that they are picking themselves up and moving on again, especially as one of the mooted machines will be a sports tourer of around 125hp, which is where the present Sprint is now. So in the spirit of goodwill I’d like to make a few suggestion as to how they might make the bike more appealing to those of us who like to tour and are still, at heart, great supporters of the brand.
1. First up is weather protection, I know I know, we are meant to call it ‘wind management’ nowdays, but whatever name you apply a proper arrangement for keeping the rain off while you are moving would be appreciated.
2. Large lumps of torque are also a must. Ranging up and down the box in a hurry is for the race track, not the twists and turns of many a delightful European road.
3. Plenty of luggage capacity. By this I don’t just mean vast warehouses slung each side of the rear end, but the space and ability to strap such things as tents with ample room for a topbox and/or a tank bag.
4. The minimisation of tools required for repairs and servicing. The rider should be able to remove both wheels in the middle of nowhere without the need for a mega spanner at least!
5. Leading on from the above the engine should be accessible without having to displace tanks and fairings, or at least make them easy to remove. I was told by a recovery company who were meant to offer roadside assistance that they never take off the plastics when trying to find a fault because it takes too long. Think about that Triumph.
6. Soul, a bike needs to move you to want to ride it someplace.
That’s a first half dozen, I’ll maybe be blogging with some more one day, but I think I have covered the basics there.
Good luck Mr Bloor!
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