Triumph Speed Twin

Triumph Speed Twin 1930s British classic motorcycle

On the face of it, the Triumph Speed Twin was the quintessence of Englishness. But, it had Germany to thank for its existence. In 1902, two Germans – Siegfried Bettman and Mauritz Schulte – grafted a Belgian-made Minerva motor onto a bicycle. Believe it or not, Triumph was in business! Three years later, the Coventry-based company produced its own engine. It obviously ran well. Before too long, ‘Trusty Triumph’ had entered the biker vocabulary.

The Speed Twin was launched in ’37. Its parallel-twin motor made it faster and smoother than its single-cylinder rivals. The 498cc motor made 29bhp. Top speed was 90mph – heady stuff, at the time. The new bike was the brainchild of Edward Turner. It displayed commercial courage – as well as styling skill. The motorcycle industry is inherently conservative. In other words, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Single-cylinder ‘thumpers’ had monopolized the market for years. Turner’s Speed Twin, then, broke the engine layout mould.

Mr. Turner did double-duty at Triumph. He was both head of design and general manager. His administrative tasks clearly did not impinge upon his creativity. The Speed Twin looked great standing still. And – with a dry weight of just 365lb – it looked even better, swinging through corners. Edward Turner – visionary that he was – had dreamed up a bike ahead of its time. The Triumph Speed Twin was a blueprint for many a motorcycle to come. ‘Brit bikes’ were on the march … and coming to a showroom near you!

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