TRI­UMPH? IT WON’T LAST

25th AN­NIVER­SARY bike rolled offthe pro­duc­tion line. It’s 25 years since the first Hinck­ley mak­ing Trum­pets Phil West re-as­sesses those early, his­tory- Con­tin­ued over

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Features - By Phil West MCN CONTRIBUTOR

ston­ish­ing as it seems, it was a full 25 years ago this month when the first of the all-new, John Bloor/ Hinck­ley Tri­umphs hit the road – I should know, I was there. There was no fan­fare, no great un­veil­ing, no glitzy press launch. In­stead, scruffy, in a knack­ered bike jacket I’d had 10 years, along with pho­tog­ra­pher Jim For­rest in an equally scruffy Citroen BX GTI, I turned up un­her­alded at a slightly damp Hinck­ley car park to put the new ma­chine, the first Tri­umph Tro­phy 1200, through its paces.

What fol­lowed, though we didn’t re­motely re­alise it at the time, turned out to be one of the most sig­nif­i­cant events of mod­ern Bri­tish mo­tor­cy­cling.

MCN de­cided to re­visit some of those orig­i­nal Hinck­ley ma­chines and reeval­u­ate what it was about them that helped new Tri­umph suc­ceed. Af­ter all, with­out those bikes, the orig­i­nal Tro­phy 1200, short-stroke Day­tonas and charis­matic triples, Tri­umph sim­ply wouldn’t be what it is to­day.

To do just that we en­listed Jack Lil­ley’s of Ash­ford, Mid­dle­sex who, apart from be­ing one of the mar­que’s lead­ing deal­ers, are also one of the longest es­tab­lished, be­ing one of the firm’s orig­i­nal agencies in 1991. To­day Lil­ley’s are run by Jack’s grand­son, Dave, who, apart from sell­ing and ser­vic­ing the lat­est Tri­umphs to the great and the good (James May, Rav Wild­ing and Jean-jac­ques Bur­nel of The Stran­glers are all among their loyal clien­tele), has in re­cent years be­gun col­lect­ing those early ma­chines. It’s Lil­ley’s bikes you see here…

ABloor’s mir­a­cle revival

With hind­sight, par­tic­u­larly in light of other re­cent ‘re­vivals’, it’s sim­ply im­pos­si­ble to over­state the dif­fi­culty of the task fac­ing John Bloor’s fledg­ling team back in the late ’80s.

In re­cent years there has been an abun­dance of his­toric re­turns – Nor­ton, Ariel and Brough Su­pe­rior among them. And while all are achieve­ments to be proud of and pro­duce ma­chines that are truly de­sir­able and ex­cit­ing in their own ways, none come any­where near match­ing the achieve­ment of Tri­umph.

Those oth­ers are mostly cot­tage in­dus­tries, ‘bou­tique’ brands hand­build­ing ex­otic bikes in small batches. John Bloor, his mil­lions and his team, recre­ated a whole in­dus­try, launch­ing not just ‘a bike’ but a whole range of them all at the same time.

Key to achiev­ing just that (leav­ing aside the lit­tle mat­ter of set­ting up a fac­tory ca­pa­ble of mass pro­duc­tion, a brand new dealer net­work and all the com­pli­ca­tions that go with it) was what has been called a ‘mod­u­lar ap­proach’ to the bikes’ de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing.

Sim­ply: one base bike lay­out could be con­fig­ured in a va­ri­ety of ways with a min­i­mum of al­ter­na­tive parts to cre­ate a whole range. In Tri­umph’s case this meant a com­mon tubu­lar steel spine frame com­plete with 25-litre tank and seat unit which held a trans­verse, multi-cylin­der en­gine that, with a sin­gle bore size and pis­ton could be pro­duced in both three and four-cylin­der lay­outs and, cour­tesy of a dif­fer­ent crank, in long or short stroke form.

The var­i­ous per­mu­ta­tions of that meant four dif­fer­ent mo­tors could be pro­duced, which Bloor’s team then con­fig­ured into six dif­fer­ent ma­chines in three dis­tinct fam­i­lies. The sport­tourer Tro­phy 900 and 1200, sport­ster Day­tona 750 and 1000 and road­ster Tri­dent 750 and 900 were the re­sult and were all pub­licly un­veiled at the Cologne Show in Septem­ber 1990 to go on sale early the fol­low­ing year.

The down­side with that ap­proach, of course, is that all the re­sul­tant ma­chines are in­her­ently com­pro­mised. A tourer, for ex­am­ple, that shares much of the ba­sic ar­chi­tec­ture of a sport­ster, such as chain drive, is never go­ing to quite be able to match a pur­pose-built, shaft-drive ri­val.

But there was a fur­ther hand­i­cap, too. While Bloor’s new Tri­umphs ben­e­fit­ted from a his­toric name that was guar­an­teed to arouse pub­lic in­ter­est (a ‘Bloor’ mo­tor­cy­cle fam­ily would cer­tainly never have cre­ated so much public­ity) it was also a name tar­nished by rep­u­ta­tions for non-com­pet­i­tive per­for­mance and un­re­li­a­bil­ity. It was vi­tal that the new Bloor ma­chines in­stantly dis­pelled these as­so­ci­a­tions and to that end they were not just mas­sively ‘over-en­gi­neered’, as has of­ten been re­ported (or, for short: heavy), but also con­ser­va­tively equipped and styled.

As would be borne out by the bikes them­selves, these are not nec­es­sar­ily bad re­quire­ments. As a re­sult, sus­pen­sion com­po­nents, for ex­am­ple, were by Ja­panese firm Kayaba, al­ready well known to the Bri­tish pub­lic as sup­pli­ers to the ‘Big Four’ man­u­fac­tur­ers. Sim­i­larly the brakes were also made

1993

O Tiger 900 in­tro­duced O Tri­dent Sprint in­tro­duced O Day­tona 900 Su­per III in­tro­duced O Day­tona 900 & 1200 in­tro­duced (and 750 and 1000 deleted) new rear body­work etc

1994

O Speed Triple 900 in­tro­duced

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