Wheel alignment

Wednesday 30 June 2010

3 cylinder Triumphs - full circle

I guess that most people know that I currently ride a Triumph Street Triple which is now 8 months old and I love it to bits - perfect for the type of riding I do at present.  There's a nice symmetry to owning a Triumph now because after the Suzuki 50 which my grandparents bought me to learn on in 1964 whilst still at school (arrrgh... 46 years ago!), my "formative" years were all spent on Triumphs; including a spell on the drag strip.

The 675 cc 3 cylinder motor in both Daytona and Street Triple guise is a peach of an engine and the bikes have won many awards and continue to distinguish themselves creditably on world racetracks. However, you probably have to be a Triumph enthusiast or a sad old git like me to know that the origins of it go back 48 years to 1962!  This was the year that two talented engineers at Triumph (Hopwood and Hele) laid down the original design for an across the frame triple.  Typically for Triumph at that time, politics and poor management delayed the launch and it wasn't until mid-1968 until they were launched in the guise of the 750cc Triumph Trident and the BSA Rocket 3.

Unfortunately, the production delays only saw it launched weeks before the first Honda 750 4 which was a higher specification bike in all respects.  Nonetheless, the 750 triples enjoyed huge racing success in both Europe and North America.  I was privileged to attend the first UK Transatlantic Match Races in the very early 70's where the UK's finest competed against the likes of Nixon, Mann, DuHamel, Rayborn and many more.  At one stage, both teams had factory-backed Triples and in my humble opinion; hearing the howl of 6-10 triples with unsilenced 3 into 1 megaphones warming up in the pits is still one of the greatest motorcycle sounds ever.  I saw a replica Rocket 3 racing in a classic meeting in Auckland early this year and the howl still gave me goosebumps!

Here are two photos I took at the 1971 event.  Despite it being nearly 40 years ago, these bikes still look fantastic!

Dave Aldana's Rocket 3

Paul Smart's Trident

Completing the symmetry between the original 1960's 750cc Triple and today's 675, it's interesting to compare a few key specifications.  Top speed of the 750 was around 130mph (210km/hr) with a 0-60mph time of about 4.1 seconds.  The Street Triple has a top speed about 5 mph up on that but the 0-60 mph time of ~3.3 seconds is far superior thanks to the better power to weight ratio (~220 kg for the 750 compared with ~170kg for the 675).  So despite the passage of time being over 4 decades, there's not a huge difference in straight line performance and the same goes for the racebike versions of both capacities too.  In the handling stakes of course, there's no comparison! 

There's also no comparison in terms of reliability.  A close friend of mine in the UK still has an early 70's Trident.  Admittedly, it rarely comes out of the shed these days but he has so many memories invested in it that selling is completely out of the question.  When he used to ride it regularly, electrical (un)reliability was such that his wife claimed he was on first name terms with every Automobile Association recovery team in half the country!

Personally, it's almost Karma for me having returned to Triumph after an association which started so long ago - long may it continue!


  1. Those photos show two examples of beautiful racing machines....(and I won't mention that the year they were taken was two years before I was born!!)

    Your Triumph is a fantastic machine, and the Street Triple was (and still is...) on my wishlist of "Bikes to Own One Day"...


  2. Thanks Anthony! There was a Rob North replica for sale in NZ about 5 years ago. Wish I'd had the money (and permission) to buy it. Not a bad price ~NZ$18000.

    Choke, splutter.... thanks for reminding me that I'm an old fart ;-)

  3. Geoff:

    Okay, you've talked me into it due to your slick talk and facts and figures. I know what you were trying to say and "I accept" graciously your offer of trying out your Street Triple on my impending visit (one day). Just make sure it is full of petrol and check the tyres. I will be gentle with it and return it unscathed after a tour around the island in a few days

    thanks again
    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  4. Bob:
    By the time that we visit each others' countries, it will probably be time for motorised scooters. However, if you're a good lad, I'll skip the battery-powered version and toss an alloy block V8 in. Can't say fairer than that :-)

  5. Geoff:

    are you saying that I should purchase an electric mobility scooter for your visit in 2019 ?

    just say the word and the batteries will be charged and waiting.

    forget about the V8, there will be no petrol left

    Wet Coast Scootin

  6. Well, let's not get too hasty Bob :-)

    Then I shall assemble a V8 diesel, using converted cooking oil from the local chip shop! Never say die....

  7. Not Old Geoff, just older.... :) And just for the record I give you permission to buy whatever you want!!

  8. Thank you Anthony. I must introduce you to Jennie ;-)


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