Suzuki GN 250
Suzuki GN 250

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History Of The Triumph Motorcycle

from . JG Mashino

In 1902 the first motorcycle emerged from Triump’s Coventry works. Known since as ‘No 1’, it was essentially a strengthened bicycle with a 2.25bhp Minerva engine hung from the front down tube. By 1905 the Model 3HP featuring a 363cc single cylinder side-valve engine, was born.

It was claimed the Model 3HP produced a heady 3bhp at 1,500rpm and had a top speed of around 45mph.

An Isle of Man TT win the same year further underlined Triumph’s reliability and road worthiness. As was said at the time, Eight Triumph’s started, and eight finished.

By the outbreak of the First World War the Type A, as it was known, had a 550cc engine slugging out 40hp. The British Government placed orders with Triumph in order to equip army dispatch riders at the front. The now legendary Triumph Type H was pressed into service from late 1914 onwards and, in the face of the mud and misery that existed for its riders in the Great War, earned itself the nickname ‘the Trusty’.

With a capacity of 550cc the Type SD was too big to enter the Senior TT so Triumph developed an all-new single cylinder engine of 500cc capacity. The ‘Riccy ‘, as it became known, went on to collect many world speed records, including the flying mile with a speed of 83.91mph.

Other models followed including the basic Model P, which sold 20,000 units, and the TT (or Two Valve, as it was called), which became the mainstay of Triumph’s range.

Suzuki GN 250

1937 proved a landmark year for Triumph with the launch of a range of revamped singles (known as Tigers) together with the remarkable 498cc Speed Twin (T100). This model revolutionized motorcycling it started well, ran well, had a reported top speed of over 90mph and simply defined everything a modern motorcycle should be.

The outbreak of WWII put a different complexion on Triumphs commercial aspirations, as all production was geared up for the armed services. A prototype 350cc twin the 3TW was on the blocks and approved as the standard service bike when, on the night of the 14th November 1940, the Triumph factory was completely demolished in the blitz of Coventry.

Post war the range on sale consisted of three models – the Tiger 100 and Speed Twin plus the smaller touring 349cc 3T and in 1946 Irishman Ernie Lyons won the Manx Grand Prix on a Tiger 100, beating a host of Nortons.

The 1950s was a golden decade for Triumph, although it started with the sale of the firm to rivals BSA. Triumph continued to be run separately however and in 1953 a new breed of Triumph bike arrived with the advent of the 149cc OHV Terrier. The 199cc Tiger Cub followed a year later, which proved a massively popular bike.

The same year also saw the introduction of the Tiger 110, in essence a sports makeover of the 649cc Thunderbird twin but with swinging arm rear suspension and a bigger front brake.

Two years later Johnny Allen set a new world motorcycle speed record (214.5mph) on the Bonneville Salt Flats using a 649cc Triumph engine in a streamlined vehicle. His record was rejected, due to alleged timing gear problems but it inspired one of Triumph’s most famous motorcycle ever, the T120 Bonneville.

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