When you name a bike after one of the world’s greatest racetracks, it had better be good. If not, you risk a copious amount of egg on your face! No worries for Triumph, though, in that department. The Daytona 650 had a top speed of 160mph. And weighed in at just 363lb dry. Either in a straight line or through corners, then, performance was not an issue.
For all that, the Daytona’s in-line four engine made a modest 110bhp. The power was unleashed, though, with blistering efficiency. Revs peaked at 12,750rpm – courtesy of 16 watercooled valves. Anyway, a wise man knows not to equate strength with size. The Daytona 600 was not as big as some of its superbike rivals – but it packed a potent punch, notwithstanding!
Looks-wise, the Daytona was drop-dead dynamic. Taking in every twist and turn of its bodywork took time. What could have been a jumbled mess was, instead, an intricate interplay of curves and scallops. There is a 3-D depth to the Daytona’s design. So, superior styling – plus tip-top technology – made Triumph’s Daytona 650 a track day dream come true!
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!
In ’83, Triumph looked dead in the water. Finally, the once-famous firm went into receivership. If it was to survive, it needed a saviour – and fast! Up to the plate strode multi-millionaire building magnate, John Bloor. A new HQ was set up in Hinckley, England. That was not a million miles away from the original Triumph factory – in Meriden, Birmingham. For the next eight years, Bloor and his colleagues planned a new range of Triumphs. One of them would be the Speed Triple. Throwing off the shackles of the wilderness years, the new bikes would be modern marvels of engineering. There would also, though, be design references to Triumph’s glory days.
In ’91, six new Triumphs rolled into the showrooms. The parallel twins of yore were no more. Now, three- and four-cylinder engines were the norm – complete with double overhead camshafts and water-cooling. Stylistically, a sea change had occurred. The new ‘British’ bikes were as futuristically slick as their Far Eastern counterparts. Indeed, their suspension and brakes had been made in Japan. Notwithstanding, they were clutched to the ‘Brit Bike’ bosom with eager arms. Whilst there were reservations amongst dyed-in-the-wool riders, a new breed of bikers was just glad to have a British brand-name back in motorcycling’s mix.
The names of the new arrivals harked back to the past. Trident, Trophy, Thunderbird … these were legendary labels! In ’94, came the Speed Triple. For bikers of a certain age, that evoked memories of the Sixties’ Speed Twin. Technically, though, it was state of the art. Saying that, Triumph had long turned out a tasty ‘triple’. But, this was a three-cylinder machine with some major updates. As a result, it clocked up a top speed of 130mph. 97bhp was output from an 885cc motor. The bike’s ‘naked’ look – devoid of a fairing – pared weight down to 460lb dry. It also lent itself to lean and aggressive styling. Road tests were positive. The Speed Triple was competent in every category. Unsightly oil stains were a thing of the past. A mighty marque was back on its feet. The Triumph Speed Triple – and its second-generation siblings – would take another tilt at the two-wheeled big time!