What I want: a Triumph anything

Triumph Legend
That stuff I said last week about wanting a Royal Enfield? Forget that. Well, don't forget it completely  –– I'd still happily accept an RE if anyone wants to give me one –– but I've recently shifted my focus. Again. Or, rather, perhaps it's more accurate to say that I find myself suddenly refocusing on what I've always wanted. And here's why:

When my wife was a little girl, growing up in a small village in Devon, she had a sticker book full of motorcycles. On the wall of her tiny cottage bedroom, she had pictures of even more motorbikes and she daydreamed of growing up to ride a bike of her own.

"Triumphs were my favourites," she told me the other day. "Those are the ones I wanted in my sticker book. I don't like racing bikes; I don't like the look of them. The ones that I always liked were the Triumphs that, you know, look like proper motorcycles."

You hear that, Liam Marsden? Proper motorcycles.

What Jenn is referring to, of course, is a cruiser or upright in the 'classic' style. Triumph make race bikes and adventure bikes, both of which are (not surprisingly) beloved in the UK. But the bikes that hearken back to the company's early heydays are the ones that spark Jenn's interest.

Of course, I have long pined for a Triumph. Before I even started this blog I was stating on my personal blog a desire to one day find myself astride a Triumph America. And on this blog I've also expressed a desire to own a Triumph Speedmaster or a Triumph Bonneville, the latter of which means I have an equal desire for a Thruxton or a Scrambler.

Triumph Thunderbird 900
Over the months, these various faces of Triumph have risen and fallen within my daydream scenarios of which bike I'd most like to own as my first. At the very beginning of this motorcycle obsession, when my focus was centred more directly on the America, I thought its 900cc engine meant it would be far too powerful for someone who is new to riding, even one who (like me) has trained on a 600cc bike.

But then, of course, I slowly, slowly came to understand that whole "a bike with a big engine is not necessarily a fast bike" thing. (A 900cc Bonneville churns out just 67 bhp, compared to the 76 bhp produced by a 600cc Honda CBF600 –– that still blows my mind.) And suddenly the idea of getting a second-hand Bonneville, strapping some Kriega bags to it, and mimicking Jamie Roberts in Sequoia National Forest became my new favourite thing to think about. This was a fantasy that became even more justified when Jenn said she thought I'd look sexy on a Triumph.

Indeed, that my wife thinks I would look cool on said bike moved it from the mental realm of wishing to something more akin to necessity.

But, unfortunately, it appears a few other people in Britain think Triumphs are cool, and partially because of that the bikes seem to hold their value really well. For the average cost of a 5-year-old Bonneville, one could buy a brand new Honda CB500F. After running the numbers over and over in my head and even trying to work some fuzzy math it became relatively clear that, lottery win withstanding, although I could choose a Bonneville as my first bike it would probably be several years before I could afford to do so.

Realistically, and I use that term loosely, I reckon that over the next year or so I may (possibly, maybe) be able to find £2,000 for a bike –– a good £3,000 short of what I've seen secondhand Bonnevilles going for. So, armed with that knowledge, dreams of Triumph ownership faded into dreams for the future, and I began to ponder other bikes that could be had closer to the present.

I pondered, too, the costs of insurance. Soon I had whittled myself down to thinking a 125cc Honda Varadero would be acceptable, despite the fact that it is the sort of bike that most certainly does not pass the Chris Jericho test (1). Soon thereafter, however, I spotted that Royal Enfields are in the same insurance group and can also be had for roughly the same price secondhand, and I set my heart on one of those.

Triumph Adventurer
"Well, it looks kinda cool," Jenn said after being subjected to a monologue on the virtues of the Royal Enfield Bullet Electra. "But, you know, if it's not very powerful... Is that what you'd want? I thought you wanted a Triumph."

"I do," I said. "But you said I should think about the insurance costs and everything. A Royal Enfield is in a lower insurance group."

"Hmm," Jenn said. "Yeah, well. It would be your bike. So, you know, I guess you can do whatever. But, well, would it really cost that much more to insure a Triumph? Maybe you should look into it. Because I thought that the bike you wanted was a Triumph..." 

Then she told me about the sticker book she had as a little girl.

Fellas, you're reading the subtext there, right? The lady wants a Triumph. Keep in mind, too, that when I first started to express this motorcycle obsession her reaction was flat opposition. So, she really wants a Triumph. And I have now the option of either making her little-girl dream come true or getting myself a motorcycle that will probably come to annoy her in its non-Triumph nature.

Therefore, a Triumph it will be. Somehow... some way...

I checked rates and although a Triumph is indeed more expensive to insure than a Royal Enfield (or Varadero or CBF600), it is still quite a bit less than I thought it might be. Entirely possible if I have my wife's blessing.

Unfortunately, knowing I could manage to afford to insure and keep such a bike doesn't mean I will anytime soon have enough money for the initial purchase. Or so I thought.

Triumph Thruxton
Up until a few days ago I was focusing my Triumph love on five models:
  • Triumph America
  • Triumph Bonneville
  • Triumph Scrambler
  • Triumph Speedmaster
  • Triumph Thruxton

They are all effectively the same bike. So much so, in fact, that some are hard to tell apart. The main difference with the America and Speedmaster models from the other three is that their forks are a little more forward, in cruiser style. But between each other, as best I can tell, the America and Speedmaster differ only in their styles of seats and mudguards. Whereas the Bonneville, Scrambler and Thruxton all seem to only differ from one another in where the exhausts and handlebars go. Credit to the boys and girls at Triumph for making the most out of a single bit of engineering.

But it turns out this is an old trick. As I say, up until a few days ago I thought the above listed were the only Triumphs I liked. But upon reordering the way in which search results are displayed on BikeTrader I discovered that there is such a thing as a Triumph Adventurer. Which looks a whole hell of a lot like a Triumph Legend, which is almost exactly the same bike as a Triumph Thunderbird 900. The forks on the Adventurer are forward; the Thunderbird and Legend differ only in the amount of chrome.

These three previously unknown-to-me models are machines from the late 90s, eventually phased out in the face of stringent Euro 3 emissions standards. But by all the accounts I've read, they were built incredibly sturdy –– amid a resurgence for the Triumph company during which it seemed eager to overcompensate for the awful bikes it had produced in the 1970s. Add to this the fact that Triumph owners have a reputation for being quite dear with their machines and the end result is that there are a number of really beautiful examples of the models available secondhand.

And those older machines are closer to my price point (though, admittedly, on the high side of "close"). I can, if I squint really hard, picture myself being able to get one. So, the bike that I want is a Triumph Adventurer, or America, or Bonneville, or Legend, or Scrambler, or Speedmaster, or Thunderbird, or Thruxton. Whichever I can afford first...

–––––

(1) "Guys wanna be me; girls wanna be with me."

Comments

  1. I found you blog by accident and agree with your wife 100%. A Bonney to me has always seemed to be a "proper bike" and a Triumph is most likely in my future.

    Either that or a Royal Enfield. I like the classic lines of the British bikes.

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  2. I am biased towards Triumphs. You know how I say I want a Ducati? Lies. What I want is a new Triumph Daytona. My thing for Ducati is more of an idle lust.

    By which I mean, the Daytona is the bike I'm currently working to get. It will likely be my actual next bike, and I will pet it and wash it and feed it and name it George. And ride the wheels off of it. I get giddy just thinking about it. Whereas I'll just daydream about how nice a cherry red Ducati will look in my library of leather-bound books one day.

    I also want a Thruxton. I nearly got one, but ultimately bought my Speed Four instead (because I like to go fast, yo). I got all drooly just looking at the picture of the Thruxton above. The Scrambler is also hella cool.

    Aw hell, they're all cool. Triumphs are the motorcycles other motorcycles want to be when they grow up.

    Which is all my way of saying: get a Triumph.

    And does, uh, does Jenn still have that sticker book?

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  3. Don't forget cost of ownership.

    I bought a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic, the top of the line tourer, because my wife (now ex-wife) loved the comfort of the back seat. I figure if I could reduce her aches and pains, she'd stop slapping me on the side of the face to get off.

    What I found is that the H-D is so full of design flaws that it's constantly in the shop getting repairs. It cost me a ton of money just to maintain it. Yet, my Honda ST1300, has been absolutely reliable after 61,000 miles.

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    Replies
    1. A very good point. I can't quite get a read on the quality of Triumphs. They are beloved here but I worry that may, in part, be the effect of patriotism/emotional connection -- the way Harleys are loved in the US.

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    2. Triumph's quality and reliability is pretty high, y'all. Everyone I know with a modern Triumph says the same.

      Now, an early Triumph...

      In the long run, a Honda is probably going to be cheaper to maintain, and even more reliable. Honda makes some pretty sweet bikes, too. But a Honda isn't a Triumph. If you want a Triumph, a Honda won't do. And vice versa.

      (I have to say again, Honda makes some sweet bikes.)

      And let's be honest, when it comes to motorcycles, the emotional factors are just as important as the quantifiable factors. If we were being strictly rational, we'd choose economy cars with a high resale value and just roll down the windows when we want the wind in our hair.

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  4. Chris:

    You have certainly done your homework, and what a surprise to find that Jenn secretly loves Triumphs, so that's what it's going to be.

    I mean, we can't have a non-Triumph, can we ?

    Good luck on your search for a pristine, pre-owned model at an affordable "to you" price

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

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  5. Hi Chris,

    I own 1997 Thunderbird 900, see the link below

    http://iamin.motomood.com/post/33973064376/saturday-ride-on-my-triumph-thunderbird-900

    go for it, mine has 55K kms on the clock and you can't even tell it at the first look. It's a classic triple, over-engineered, reliable and very emotionally satisfying.

    pros:
    -great low end torque
    -very, very reliable
    -comfortable
    -hell yes, it looks cool

    cons
    -quite heavy (I have 65kg but still can manage it somehow)
    -not so good mpg in the town
    -handling - it's more cruiser style but you can still scratch the pegs

    There is a story that a London courier clocked up 250k on a 900 triple. Apparently the factory took it back for evaluation and gave him a new bike. So this bike can live with you the rest of your life. And I think the price they are sold for now is on the low. It can't drop anymore according to my humble opinion.

    btw. I always get questions when I park it - from all age groups. It looks fabulous with the racing green

    P.K.

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