~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Triumph Hits A Home Run

In olden times when one wanted to ride off road you didn't always have a specialized bike for it as we do now. You simply turned off the pavement and rode. What a concept! No special bikes needed and the off road areas were still wide open to anyone who wished to wander far a field and without asking or getting a permit or worrying about squishing the "snarking rock toad" or some other such creature. In fact touring bikes and off-road bikes were pretty much the same bikes with minor changes like tires, handlebars, and skid plates. Note to the folks who spend $$$ on a high tech, custom skid plate for their dirt bike: Early desert racers would take the metal part of a square shovel and bolt it under the engine. It made a super tough bash plate and only cost a few bucks.

Back then, street bikes still retained some vestige of off-road capability from the days when there were still many roads that were not paved. People EXPECTED that their street bike could be ridden down fairly rough dirt roads without much thought. I doubt that Goldwing owners think that way now. Two of the preeminent bikes at this were the BSA and Triumph "scramblers." They were called "scramblers" because they were usually fitted with high pipes and slightly more aggressive tires in case you intended to compete in scrambles races, the precursor to motocross. The modern AMA Grand National off-road series is, I think, the grand child of the old scrambles races. Click here to see my comments on riding a classic Rickman Triumph a few years ago.

A Triumph ISDT bike, a waxed cotton Belstaff jacket, open face helmet and Uvex glasses and goggles. You don't get more manly than this. It was all real at the International Six Days Trials 40 years ago. McQueen was no poser. 

Triumph was reborn some years ago under the guidance and significant funding of British zillionaire John Bloor. Since they have done an admirable job of renewing the brand honestly, doing modern things all the while holding onto their heritage. Their latest effort for 2006 is the Triumph Scrambler, a bike styled to look like the machines of the '60s that dominated most forms of off-pavement racing. I am in love.

As always seems to be the case when in love, my timing is off and I've put my money down on the one of the previously mentioned new bikes already (picking it up today in fact). But this new Triumph looks wonderful, taps into the all the imagery of motorcycling in the 1960s while stuffing a modern machine under the rider. If I wasn't already commited to the new machine the Triumph might have popped to the top of my moto-lust list.
I have to believe that that Scrambler or whatever they choose to call it is going to be a huge success. The Triumph Thruxton retro-bike was tempting but the scrambler is more than tempting: Just enough street performance to be entertaining, enough dirt performance to wander off-road without thinking much about it was we did in the old days, and a very classic and timeless look, all at a fairly modest price, I'm sure. There is definitely NO money left in the budget for one of these unless I sell my beloved Aprilia Caponord. Hmm…


Travis said...

Doug, I've got to agree with you on Bloor and company hitting this one out of the park. I mean, they've actually managed to make standards sexy and they're one of the only companies still making what can truly be considered a standard style motorcycle.

And, even if you never get to take it off road, those knobbies, the fork gaiters, high pipes and the blacked out frame and engine are all attitude. Bring on the urban jungle, dirt road, pothole, you name it.

subcon said...

Wow, I don't know a lot about off-road biking but even I can appreciate this machine. The straightforward and utilitarian design of the bike really speaks to that primal urge many riders (including me) espouse.
I don't know if you had a chance to look at the 2006 BMW R1200GS HP2. I just heard about it and was thinking about it as I read your post.
It'd be interesting to compare the two... the British and Germans are at it again!

Gymi said...

Guess you popped for the RT then. It seems no matter what bike you ride, there is always another comes along to get you thinking about pulling the wallet out again. I'm glad I'm not a millionaire, I'd have to buy warehouse to keep all the bikes I would own. Then I would have the problem of deciding which one to ride.

nickromaniak said...

doug, i came across your page looking for more scrambler images. i haven't seen it yet, and the msrp IS $8K, not the $10K it may have been speculated around, but i've gone and put my deposit down already. i'm excited. this will be the first brand new vehicle i've ever purchased. i got the red/white combo. i'm gonna take a couple of options right off the bat, definitely the skid plate is the first thing to add and the number plate is attractive, because who doesn't want a number 278 on their bike? anyways, i'll let you know how things go when i pick her up in april!

Doug Klassen said...

Ah, nickromaniak you lucky dog! I've printed out a large picture of the Triumph and have it hanging on the wall above my monitor. I've got bike fever but it hasn't turned into moto-lust just yet. Before the year is over though...

BTW, check out Raptors & Rockets website for some great hi-res Triumph pictures.

Anonymous said...

Have to point out that the jacket Steve McQueen is wearing is actually a Barbour international,bought from Lewis Leathers in London.Mr McQueen never wore a Belstaff,although the current manufacturers would like everyone to think that he did.

Doug Klassen said...


Thanks for the comment. More discussion on McQueen's jacket with this blog entry:



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