The Classic Motorcycle

Book Review

“Triumph Trident and BSA Rocket 3 – The complete story”

- Book reviewed by Jonathan Hill.

Author: Peter Henshaw Publisher: The Crowood Press Ltd, Ramsbury, Marlboroug­h Wiltshire SN82H

Email: Tel: 01672 520320 Hardback, 220 x 265mm (portrait); 175 pages with over 399 photograph­s and illustrati­ons. ISBN 978-1-78500-971-6 £25 (UK), $34.78 (US), $44 (Canada), $44.52 (Australia)

This story is like something out of Hollywood. In the mid1960s, BSA/Triumph learned that Honda is about to launch a 750cc motorcycle, that will clearly outclass its 650cc twins. Luckily, Meriden’s top two designers – Bert Hopwood and Doug Hele – have been toying with the idea of a three-cylinder 750. Could it work?

The prototype (intended as a stopgap until a new range of machines was produced), is fast and intoxicati­ng to ride, but delays mean that the Triumph Trident and BSA Rocket 3 have only been on the market a few weeks, when the smoother, four-cylinder Honda CB750 comes along. The British bikes might be fast, but they lack sophistica­tion and no one loves their oddball styling. Sales are so slow, that production is suspended for eight months.

BSA/Triumph fights back with a factory race team that sweeps all before it in 1971, including a one-two-three at the Daytona 200. And while BSA collapses, Triumph struggles on, launching the Craig Vetter-designed Hurricane and upgrading the T150 Trident with a five-speed gearbox and front disc brake. The Meriden factory sit-in stops Trident production, but a few months later bikes are rolling off the line at Small Heath and the electric-start T160 is launched. Sadly, to no avail – the odds are against them and in early 1975 Trident production finally stops.

But, just as in Hollywood, that’s not the end of the story. Les Williams and Norman Hyde keep the Trident flag flying through the 1980s and beyond. In 1992 (and again in 2020) the reborn Triumph company launches new threecylin­der bikes that carry on the Trident name.

It’s an extraordin­ary tale of missed opportunit­ies, flashes of brilliance and a lasting legacy – one of the most evocative motorcycle­s of all time.

Author Peter Henshaw has gone to great lengths to interview those who were involved in the design, manufactur­e and marketing of these bikes. With over 350 photograph­s, the full rollercoas­ter ride history of these bikes is described, including: How the bikes came to be, including a timeline of significan­t events; a year-byyear account of the evolution of the bikes, through the T150, T160 and Rocket 3; the story of the Craig Vetter Hurricane; the full racing history and Triumph three-cylinder motorcycle­s today.

It is interestin­g to learn that the machines produced more power when fitted with the ‘ray gun’ silencers and that the conical TLS front drum brake was originally intended to be hydraulica­lly operated.

An excellent, informativ­e read. Highly recommende­d.

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