Triumph Motorcycles Ltd is the largest UK motorcycle manufacturer. It was established in 1984 by John Bloor after the original company Triumph Engineering went into receivership. The new company (initially Bonneville Coventry Ltd) continued Triumph's record of motorcycle production since 1902.
In 1884 Siegfried Bettmann starts an import-export company. He imports German sewing machines and also sells bicycles badged with the name “Bettmann.” In 1887 Bettmann changes the name of his company to New Triumph Co. Ltd. (Later it will be changed again to Triumph Cycle Co. Ltd.)
First Triumph is produced in 1902 – known as No. 1. This is basically one of the company’s bicycles, fitted with a 2-hp Minerva engine made in Belgium. In 1905 Triumph produces its first motorcycle completely in-house. It’s powered by a 3-hp engine and has a top speed of 45 mph. Triumph makes a big advance in 1910 with the ‘free engine’ device (basically, the first practical clutch), which allows the user to start the engine with the bike on its stand and ride away from a standing start. There are two models in the lineup, and sales hit 3,000 units!
In 1920 Triumph produces the 550cc Type SD, the company’s first bike to feature a chain-driven rear wheel. SD stands for Spring Drive – it’s an early version of a cush drive. Bicycle-style rim brakes are replaced by drum brakes. The new bikes in 1921 need better brakes, as they now make a lot more power – especially the prototype 20-hp Model R, with four-valve head. It is known as the “Riccy” after one of its designers, Frank Ricardo. The 350cc Model LS (from 1923) is the first Triumph with an oil pump driven by the motor. (Until then, the rider had to pump oil by hand.)
In 1932 the noted engine designer Val Page joins the firm. Page quickly creates several new motors, including a 150cc two-stroke and 250, 350 and 500cc four-strokes. In 1935 a foot-change gearshift is available as an option on 650 Twins.
In 1936 Jack Sangster, who had owned Ariel, buys the motorcycle business and immediately hires Edward Turner (who had previously created the Ariel Square Four) as chief designer. Sangster reinstitutes Bettmann as the company chairman. In 1937 Turner unveils the 498cc Speed Twin (T100) that has a top speed of over 90 mph. It is the definitive British motorcycle and establishes a pattern for Triumph bikes that will last more than 40 years.
With the return of peace in 1945, the company focuses on three models, the Tiger 100, the Speed Twin and the smaller touring 349cc 3T. All models feature a telescopic front fork. In 1946 Ernie Lyons wins the Manx Grand Prix on a redesigned Tiger 100, using a lightweight all-alloy motor that Triumph designed for use on aircraft during the war. (The motor powered a radio generator.) In 1947 a rear “sprung hub” is optional. In 1949 the off-road 500cc TR5 “Trophy” and big-bore 649cc Thunderbird are released.
In 1951 Jack Sangster sells Triumph to BSA for £2.5 million. The 149cc OHV Terrier is released in 1953. The Tiger 110 is released in 1954, which is basically a tuned (40+hp) version of the Thunderbird, with a rear swingarm. The exquisitely styled 350cc “Twenty one” of 1957 may be an aesthetic success, but it proves a commercial failure.
The very popular T120 Bonneville 650 is introduced in 1959. It’s an evolution of the Tiger, fitted with twin carbs – something American dealers have long been asking for. It will remain in production until 1983. Bert Hopwood moves from AMC to Triumph in 1961, where he conceives a three-cylinder motor. The T120C “TT” (starting 1963) will become one of the most sought-after Triumphs of the period.
The 750cc Triple finally makes an appearance in 1968, powering both the Triumph Trident and the BSA Rocket 3.
The BSA group, which includes Triumph, posts a huge financial loss in 1973. The decision is made to shut down BSA and focus resources and energy on Triumph. Craig Vetter’s freelance “American hotrod” design for the Triple, which was to be a BSA model, is produced as the Triumph X75 Hurricane. By the end of the year, Triumph merges with Norton.
When Triumph Engineering went into receivership in 1983, John Bloor bought the name and manufacturing rights from the Official Receiver. The new company's manufacturing plant and its designs were not able to compete against the Japanese, so Bloor decided against relaunching Triumph immediately. Initially, production of the old Bonneville was continued under licence by Les Harris of Racing Spares, in Newton Abbot, Devon, to bridge the gap between the end of the old company and the start of the new company. For five years from 1983, about 14 were built a week in peak production. In the USA, owing to problems with liability insurance, the Harris Bonnevilles were never imported.
Bloor set to work assembling the new Triumph, hiring several of the group's former designers to begin work on new models. The team visited Japan on a tour of its competitors' facilities and became determined to adopt Japanese manufacturing techniques and especially new-generation computer-controlled machinery. In 1985, Triumph purchased a first set of equipment to begin working, in secret, on its new prototype models. By 1987, the company had completed its first engine. In 1988, Bloor funded the building of a new factory at a 10-acre (40,000 m2) site in Hinckley, Leicestershire. Bloor put between £70 million and £100 million into the company between purchasing the brand and breaking even in 2000.
Bloor has previously created two subsidiary companies, Triumph Deutschland GmbH and Triumph France SA. In 1994 Bloor created Triumph Motorcycles America Ltd.
A range of new 750 cc and 900 cc triple-cylinder bikes and 1000 cc and 1200 cc four-cylinder bikes were launched at the September 1990 Cologne Motorcycle Show. The motorcycles used famous model names from the glory days of Meriden Triumph and were first made available to the public between March (Trophy 1200 being the first) and September 1991. All used a modular liquid cooled DOHC engine design in a common large diameter steel backbone frame. The modular design was to ensure that a variety of models could be offered whilst keeping production costs under control.
The first models, known generically as the 'T300's, all used a common piston diameter (76mm) in a common wet cylinder liner. Basic engine variations were achieved through the use of two specifications of piston stroke: 65mm to create individual cylinder capacity of 300cc, and 55mm to create a 250cc individual cylinder. Two 750cc models were released - and the Daytona and Trident 750 triples (3 x 250cc). There was one 1000cc model - the Daytona 1000 four (4 x 250cc). Two 900 cc models were the Trophy 900 and Trident 900 triples (3 x 300cc). The Trophy 1200 four was the largest model (4 x 300cc). All were remarkably smooth running. The three cylinder models were equipped with a contra-rotating balance shaft mounted at the front of the engine. The four cylinder models benefitted from twin balance shafts - unique at the time - mounted beneath the crank shaft. Contemporary road tests noted the solidity and smoothness of performance as positives but the weight of the machines as negatives.
Revisions to crankcases for the three-cylinder models in 1993, together with a move to high pressure casting, reduced engine weight considerably. All painting and plating operations were brought in house in 1993, as the Hinckley factory benefitted from further investment after the initial success of the range. The result was improved quality and durability of finish, added to the basic engineering integrity of the engine and chassis, made for a long-lasting and robust motorcycle.
The range was largely revised in 1997 with the release of the T500 range, followed by a light-weight four-cylinder 600 cc sports TT600. The Triumph Thunderbird 900 exploited the styling cues of the 'old' Triumph's legendary designer, Edward Turner whilst retaining the modern triple engine. The 790 and 865 cc versions of the Triumph Bonneville and Thruxton look and sound original but internally they have modern valves and counterbalance shafts.
The 2,294 cc (140.0 cu in) triple Rocket III cruiser was introduced in 2004. In 2009 1,600 cc (98 cu in) Thunderbird twin-cylinder cruiser was announced.
Triumph's best selling bike is the 675 cc Street Triple. In 2010 they launched the Triumph Tiger 800 and Tiger 800 XC, dual-sport motorcycles, which uses an 800 cc engine derived from the Street Triple, and is designed to compete directly with the market leading BMW F800GS. In 2012, the Tiger 800 was joined by the shaft-driven Triumph Tiger Explorer.
Tue, 04 Feb 2014 00:00:00 -0800
Erik Buell Racing (EBR) today announced its founding dealerships across the United States. The recruitment process began shortly after the American International Motorcycle Expo in Orlando, Florida, where the company took the wraps off the 1190RX production superbike. More than 60 dealers will be the first to carry the 1190RX.
Wed, 29 Jan 2014 00:00:00 -0800
Triumph is recalling a combined total of 2,800 units of the Tiger Explorer and Trophy SE due to a problem with the electronic control unit detecting the throttle position. According to documents released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the ECU’s detection threshold is set too tightly and it lacked proper signal filtering, causing it to prematurely detecting a deviation in the throttle butterfly position. The ECU would then activate the ride-by-wire system’s safety shutdown, closing the throttle butterly valve and cutting the fuel and ignition.
Thu, 16 Jan 2014 00:00:00 -0800
The Bucephalus is not just another “Old Meets New” custom. It’s a completely fresh idea from Loaded Gun Customs, builders of other wild machines, combining a 1967 Triumph Bonneville twin — an iconic engine in its own right — and surrounding it with state-of-the-art performance components. Basically, if motorcycle engines ceased production in 1967, this would be a modern day racebike.
Mon, 13 Jan 2014 00:00:00 -0800
AMA Hall of Fame member Craig Vetter will be the featured guest at its annual AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Breakfast at Daytona, on Friday, March 14, at 7:00 a.m., at the Daytona 500 Club on the infield at Daytona International Speedway.
“Craig Vetter’s impact is far-reaching, starting with the design of the iconic Windjammer fairings of the 1970s, continuing with motorcycle designs like the Triumph X-75 Hurricane and the limited-edition ‘Mystery Ship,’ and enduring more recently with a resurrected series of motorcycle fuel economy runs that push the boundaries of everyday streamlining,” said Jeff Heininger, chairman of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation, which oversees the Hall of Fame. “We’re proud to host motorcycling’s design professor emeritus for this year’s Breakfast at Daytona.”
Taking place during 2014 Daytona Bike Week, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Breakfast at Daytona fundraiser will feature a live interview with Vetter on stage, an audience Q&A period and an autograph session with Vetter and other Hall of Famers in attendance. The event is open to the public, and tickets are available now at www.motorcyclemuseum.org.
Wed, 08 Jan 2014 00:00:00 -0800
Bonhams will be auctioning two oil on canvas originals from contemporary motorsports artist Robert Carter, January 9th at Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. The title piece for this auction (pictured above) measures 48” x 60” and depicts AMA Flat Track star Jim Rice piloting his BSA to victory at the 1970 Santa Rosa Mile. Carter’s second original celebrates the Catalina Grand Prix of 1950’s fame. The oil on canvas piece is 36” x 60”. In addition to these two originals, some of Carter’s Giclee prints will be available.
Wed, 08 Jan 2014 00:00:00 -0800
Here’s an opportunity to own motorcycles associated with Steve McQueen and Von Dutch - need we say more? Get your credit cards out because tomorrow, January 9, 2014, will see a 1923 Indian Big Chief with Princess Sidecar owned by McQueen and fully restored by Von Dutch put on the auction block at the Bonhams Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction. Previously sold at the Steve McQueen Estate Sale in Las Vegas in 1984, the 74cu (1200cc) Indian is “capable of reaching speeds of 90mph.” If McQueen’s coolness factor isn’t enough, having the notoriety of Von Dutch’s restoration is the icing on the cake.
Thu, 02 Jan 2014 00:00:00 -0800
Triumph is recalling 2013 Trophy SE models because of a risk of fracture in its center stand mount. According to documents released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the left side center stand lug may fracture, reducing the amount of weight the stand can support. Triumph discovered the problem during a quality control audit.
Fri, 27 Dec 2013 00:00:00 -0800
The Triumph Bonneville is the popular choice when it comes to flat tracking, but maybe it’s time to rethink that decision. German Triumph dealer Motocorner thinks so, anyway. Their flat tracker of choice?
Mon, 23 Dec 2013 00:00:00 -0800
Front-end upgrades are now available from Öhlins for Adventure bikes and Dual-Purpose motorcycles. The Öhlins FKA 100-series drop-in Cartridge Kits benefit from the lineage of Öhlins championship-winning road-racing kits, with applications for many mediumweight models of burly bikes. Tuned for riding long miles on difficult terrain, the Öhlins Cartridge Kits provide smooth comfort everywhere, from riding tame routes to crossing insane roots, from tarmac to terrain.
Fri, 20 Dec 2013 00:00:00 -0800
The original Triumph Bonneville is such an iconic motorcycle with a huge following around the world. So when Triumph reintroduced the modern version of the Bonneville, followed by the Thruxton and America, those who were inspired by Steve McQueen‘s or Marlon Brando‘s antics, but didn’t want to mess with fixing an old motorcycle, found renewed interest. From re-entry riders to trendy hipsters, Triumph has found success with the modern classic lineup.