Ok, lets face it, this was not BSA’s finest hour in some people’s opinion. The Rocket 3 was a rather late answer to Honda’s market changing CB750-4, but still the Rocket 3 is an incredible motorcycle.
By 1971 BSA was trying everything they possibly could to sell bikes, sadly this version of a great bike went over like a fart in church. They painted the frame a dull grey, they made the gas tank smaller (you could only go about 75 miles before you started pushing) and it was kick start only…where’s the magic button? and of course, you always knew where you left your bike parked because it marked its spot with a bit of Castrol. Oh and did I mention the brakes? Think of Fred Flintstone? Ok,enough of the downsides, there is a lot of ups to the Rocket 3.
Yes, the Honda CB750 had a disc brake up front, yes it had an electric starter, it could go more than 75 miles on a tank of gas, and yeah, it was comfortable. But…the Rocket 3 was faster, handled better and had a soul that the Japanese four couldn’t match. That soul, sadly, didn’t transfer into sales however.
Over the course of its production run, the BSA went through the ugliest gas tank every put on a motorbike to the one of the coolest set of mufflers ever put on a motorbike (the”Ray Gun Muffler”) and yet still retained the power and handling that made it great.
Interestingly enough, more people are more familiar with the Triumph Trident than the Rocket 3. Same motorcycle, different badges (Triumph was part of the BSA group at the time). If you believe that, you would be wrong. Here’s what made the BSA better. The frame was fully welded versus the Triumph’s ‘lugged and brazed’ frame (Schwinn bicycles use lug and brazed construction), one reason why the BSA handled better. Number 2; The motor was tilted forward in the frame 15 degrees where the Triumph was straight up, this gave the Beezer better weight balance and more responsive handling.
In 1971 Dick Mann won the Daytona 200 roadrace on a Rocket 3. Interestingly enough, he previously won on a Honda CB750. This was the Rocket 3’s swan song.
Given the choice, I would pick a BSA Rocket 3 over a Trident every time (don’t tell my friend Ted…who loves his Trident more than well, more than just about anything?) And, think about this…a motorcycle that I would give up my entire collection for (I’d still have to finance the balance for one…) the Triumph X75 Hurricane, uses the BSA motor.
So, I found a really nice ’71 Rocket 3 on ebay today and it is one of those that has the grey frame and the small gas tank, but hey, I like it. The bike is a semi-restored model, which means it still needs a few bits and pieces, but is a good runner. 11,100 miles on the clock and has the usual oil drips but this is a really cool bike that will be great fun to ride for a long time. You would be amazed at how smooth a well sorted triple really is. I would have no problem throwing a tank bag and a set of soft saddle bags on and heading around the country on this bike.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
This is really one of the coolest motorcycles up for sale now. It’s not so much about the bike, which is very cool indeed, but it’s more about the owner and why it’s being sold.
Customized Bonneville’s are probably more common than stock versions on the road these days. Vintage Bonnie’s and new generation Bonneville’s are perfect platforms for a builders creativity. Cafe’ Racers, Bobbers, Choppers, Street Trackers and genuine racers…the Bonneville is perfect.
The particular Bonneville I found today on ebay belongs to skateboard industry mogul Tony Hawk. I met Tony back in the early 1980’s. I was running a major surf and skate shop in Southern California when skateboarding was huge and Powell Peralta was the hugest of the huge. We had planned a skateboard demo, ‘The Bones Brigade’ in the parking lot of the shopping center one our stores was in. The shopping center, nor we, had any idea how big this was going to be. Hours before the demo was scheduled to start the parking lot was filling up skateboarders, and truth be told, creating all kinds of havoc. You couldn’t get into the supermarket without having to dodge a crazed fifteen year old on a skateboard…or three of them or twenty of them, it was nuts.
When the team showed up…in a pretty stylin’ limo I might add, we had to hustle them into the shop, lock the door and order pizza, like I said this way beyond anything we had planned…it was nuts. Two hours later and a parking lot full of skateboarders surrounded by police, helicopters from local TV stations above and a shopping center manager none too happy with us, the demo became a none event. But it did make the 6 o’clock news! We had to get the guys out one way or another, so it was out the back door, over a wall and into an old, beat up VW van…mine. We all laughed but there was hell to pay later on from all sides.
So what has this got to do with motorcycles you ask, nothing really except for who is selling the bike and why. Tony Hawk is a legendary character in one world, skateboarding, and not really known in our world, motorcycles. But Tony is also known as a philanthropist. Tony has spent a lot of years working with ‘at risk’ kids through the Tony Hawk Foundation. He gets them involved in activities, like skateboarding, to keep them headed in a positive path. This particular Triumph Custom is being sold to continue the work of the foundation.
About the bike, I look at it as somewhere between ‘bobber’ and cafe, it’s minimalistic for sure and everything has been done right. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Mr. Hawk. On ebay, there isn’t a lot of information about the bike so you might want to ask a few questions. I don’t know if it’s a rider or just something you park in your living room, but if it were me…ride it…but, park it in the living room. Of course you would need your significant other’s approval and an oil drip pan…it is English.
Click on the pics below for more info and beautiful pictures of this stunning motorbike. This Triumph is beautifully built, the pictures show more than just art on two wheels, a true craftsman built this Bonneville. Take your time and truly appreciate all the details.
As a side note here, all too often skateboarders have gotten a bad rap and sometimes it is deserved, but I have spent the vast majority of my working life with surfers,skateboarders and motorcycle riders and 99.9% are really good people, Tony Hawk and all the work he does for disadvantaged kids is a great example of what good there is in sub cultures. And…to see great skateboarding, get the movie “the Search For Animal Chin” The Bones Brigade at their best.
The Bonneville was, and actually is again, Triumph’s flagship motorcycle. In the Meriden days was it the best? That is a matter of opinion. The Bonneville was fast, it handled great but, it was a bit finnicky…tuning wise. Some liked the Trophy better because of its single carburetor (easier tuning), better low end torque (friendlier rideability), and it was a bit less expensive. But, The Bonnie was King. As high performance British twins went, the Bonneville sprinted past all others, particularly in sales.
Then ‘The Rising Sun’ stepped into the picture and the British Motorcycle Kingdom was in jeopardy. Other makes just rolled over and went away but Triumph stood firm. However, everything Triumph did was in the classic ‘too little, too late’ syndrome. It’s really sad because the T140 was/is a great motorcycle, but trying to keep up with Honda’s CB750 was a losing battle.
Triumph, over the next ten years, did everything they could to keep going with the Bonneville. They survived a workers strike that shut down the factory for a year or more, then modified the bikes to satisfy American regulations (the left side shift and blinkers) and upped quality control…no more oil puddles under the bike. All kinds of limited edition models showed up on dealer floors including the Queens Silver Jubilee Edition.
Even though Triumph kept working hard at appealing to the American rider, they just kept falling behind and by 1983 they threw in the towel.
I have owned two T140 Bonneville’s over the years and have loved them both. The Bonneville is light, it has a low center of gravity, it handles as though it knows you want to turn before you do. The T140 Bonnevile in all it’s iterations (well except for the TSX model)
was well worthy of more than being a second class citizen in the motorcycling world. Horsepower trumped handling…oh, and so did reliability. English motorcycles could not escape their reputation for leaving you stranded as from home as you could be, not to say that a good number of Japanese bikes were really all that much better.
So, today I found a very nice 1973 T140V (the V stands for 5 speed transmission) on ebay. It is a runner according to the seller and cosmetically it looks good…not great. That’s OK. It has been repainted, looks good in the photo’s. The owner has also upgraded the ignition to a Boyer Branson electronic ignition which makes a world of difference on these bikes and a few other few improvements that help the bike. And, a set of lower handlebars make it just that much more rideable…and cooler looking.
This is a good motorcycle and seems to be selling at a fair price. Click on the pic’s below for more pictures and a bit more info.
Starting a racing career in the California deserts in the 1960’s was great! These were the days that on the starting line were legendary names…Bultaco, CZ, Maico, Husqvarna, Ossa, Penton, Sachs, DKW, Zundapp and probably a half dozen others that I can’t remember right now. But, also were the heavy weights…Triumph, BSA, Norton, even Harley Davidson (yes, the big motors, not the little Italian jobs, even though there were plenty of them as well) and believe it or not once in a while a BMW?! The Japanese were making serious inroads into off-road competition as well, I rode a Honda SL350 for two years in Enduro’s and desert races. And then to add even more fun to these event were the ‘sidehack’ racers. Talk about nutballs!?
This was a period in time where innovation and experimentation ruled in motorcycling. Off-road racing had the Rickman brothers and Eric Cheney building better chassis’ than the OEM, Flat Track had Champion and Track Master, Road racing had their fair share of custom builders as well. This was a time to take a good motor and make it handle better. This may not be considered the ‘Golden Age’ of motorcycling to some, but to my generation, yeah, it was.
I found a cool Cheney Racing framed Triumph on ebay today and it got me to thinking and remembering…and doing a bit of research. My step-dad’s best friend Stan Hughes had a really cool Cheney/BSA single that I thought was the hardest motorcycle in the world to start, I think I’m still right on that one (but I did learn the secret to easier starting…a few years later). I never got to ride the bike very far but I do remember how good it felt. Everything seemed to just fall into place (ergonomics) and the bike steered with almost no effort. And, on top of all that it was beautiful.
There is a good amount of Eric Cheney’s history on the web, he built the frame for British MX Champ John Banks’ BSA, he developed ISDT (International Six Day Trials) for Triumph from 1968-71 and many other racers. Most of his frames were built around the BSA Singles of the time but also built kits for the Triumph twins. A Cheney framed bike was a prized possession.
Eric passed away a few years ago and his son took over the business. You can still get a Cheney frame built to your specs! How cool is that!
The bike I found on ebay is in very good condition, I don’t think it runs but the seller believes it’s an easy fix to get it going (weak spark…Lucas electrics?). If you want an interesting vintage off roader this is a good choice. And the Triumph 500 motor is a blast to ride!
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
In my mind the T100R Daytona is the best motorcycle Triumph ever built. Well, that is until I got my ‘New Generation’ (Hinckley) Daytona, which I love oh so much…100,000 plus miles so much. But I have a good perspective here, I have owned an original T100R Daytona and would love to have another at some point in life.
I actually grew up riding Bonneville’s and loved them but when I picked up a 500cc Daytona and got it running right (thanks to Jack Hately) I knew this was the perfect motorcycle. Then. At the time I was riding a 1972 Kawasaki H2 750 triple, it was blindingly fast and a lot of fun to ride but handling was marginal at best. I wished for the handling of my old Brit bikes but loved the speed of my Kawasaki. When you’re young, speed is king. With the Daytona, I was brought back to reality, Thank you Doug Hele.
A little history of the Daytona is due here. In the 1960’s the 500cc class was the premier racing class, yes Harley Davidson was allowed to race 750’s but that was because they were still using side valve motors…rules that seem to bend their way. Doug Hele at Triumph created the T100T for Buddy Elmore to race at Daytona that year and he and it won! They did it again in 1967. After the first win Triumph put the bike into production (slightly modified of course) and gave it the name Daytona.
The Daytona was a light, quick handling and a fast motorbike. The standard Triumph 500 had good low end torque and power and was easy to ride, the Daytona however was a vastly different ride. Riding a T100R you realize immediately there isn’t very much get up and go at the low end of the RPM range but just above 3500rpm…hang on baby! The 500 went from feeling like an anemic 350 to “find me a Bonneville to chase down, I’ll show him who’s king!!”. A Triumph Daytona brought out the rider in you, you had to be part of the machine to truly ride it like it was built to be ridden.
The Daytona was light (371lbs), put out an impressive 41HP and had a top speed of just over ‘The Ton’ (100mph). It was also very reliable for a high bred machine. In 1969 Triumph upgraded the Daytona’s engine with better engine bearings, a stronger valve train and beefier connecting rods. Later models also got the genuine race cams. The T100R Daytona is one very special motorcycle.
I found a Daytona on ebay this morning that may be a very good bike to have. This bike, according to the seller, has been in storage approximately 28 years, there is no indication of mileage, and he says it would ‘reconditioning’ before riding. Ok, most bikes that have been sitting for a number of years need a little love. Here is what I saw about this bike though. First and most obvious, it has been repainted, the ’73 did not come in plain black, and the side cover / oil tank decals are missing. Second, it’s missing the air filters (no big deal, you can get them on ebay easily), the seat looks to be original but the Triumph logo on the back is not there. I’m nit-picking here a bit but I think the seller should be asked a few questions before bidding on the bike. The good part is that it is a complete bike and the price is very reasonable for a Daytona.
The Triumph T100R is a truly great bike and I wish I had the money, the space and the time to have another one. Like this one.
Click on the pictures below for more info and more pictures
What’s in a name? The Triumph T100 got its moniker because it would go 100 mph, the T110 because it went 110 mph ? Actually, ‘The Motorcycle’ magazine in Great Britain was only able to get it up to 109 mph but some others claim they got it up to 114 mph…so calling it the 110 seems a pretty good compromise. And, the T120 Bonnevillle (next in line) got its name from a T110 (a highly modified T110 mind you) that went 214.17 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats. As legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey would say, “and now you know…the rest of the story”.
The Triumph T110 was first debuted in October of 1953 at the Paris Salon. It was the first Triumph to have a swinging arm rear suspension, (quite an improvement over the plunger rear end), it had a higher compression ratio, different cam and bigger carburetor than its predecessor. The first T110’s came with the cast iron barrels and head but was quickly switched over to the newer, lighter, better alloy head. With all these improvements the new T110 was a great sporting motorcycle. In a few short years however, Triumph brought out the twin carb, lighter, faster Bonneville and the T110 became the ‘red headed stepchild’ in the line. But really, the T110 with its single carb and good (by British standards) reliability, was the better choice for daily riding.
I found a beautiful Triumph T110 on ebay today that is in such a condition that I would not want to change one thing. This particular bike seems to be a bit of a mongrel that came out pretty much right? The seller says it’s a 1955 T110 with a 1959 Bonneville motor and it’s titled as a ’59 T110. It doesn’t really matter, your local DMV will be able to work it out…unless you’re in California.
This Tiger is a rider not a show bike and that’s a great thing. The owner had done all the good services, a bit of upgrading and in general taken good care of the bike. A lot of times I comment that a bike would be a good candidate for the Cafe’ treatment but this particular bike…leave it just as it is. I like the solo seat but the seller also offers up the stock dual seat…nice.
Click on the pics below for more info and more good pictures.
The great thing about true motorcyclists is that they never just let things be. We want our bikes to be faster, different looking, better handling…we want it to be ours. In years past we would cobble bikes together with parts from other bikes regardless of what brand it was, I’ll find a way to make it fit on my bike. If it worked, all the better. It was true creativity. Sometimes it worked and sometimes, well…not so much. Those of us that have cobbled bikes together at one time or another stand back, look at our creation and ask ourselves…”what was I thinking and how much tequila inspired this thing?” But over the years there have been genius designs that really did take parts from here and there and actually make something better than its original design. The Triton, to me, is the best example of making a motorcycle that truly is ‘greater than the sum of its parts’.
The Triton is quite simple really. Take a quick revving, lightweight, reliable and easily hot rodded motor, stick it in the best handling chassis with the best suspension and brakes and you my friend have a perfect motorbike. There is no Triton factory, these are all custom built.
The original Tritons used a pre-unit Triumph motor, a Norton Slimline Featherbed chassis and suspension, the Norton gearbox and occasionally some Manx parts. The beauty of building bikes like this is that you could build it to whatever level you like. Some are elaborate, some are junkyard dogs, it doesn’t matter…they are Tritons. You can still find the parts to build your own Triton or you can buy one that someone has already sorted out.
I found a really beautiful Triton on ebay that, even though it’s price is nearly through the roof, could well be worth the money for a serious cafe racer. Notice I didn’t say collector, there is nothing I find worse than having a wonderful motorcycle that is made to be ridden (and in the case of a Triton, ridden hard) tucked away in someone’s ‘collection’. Ok, off my soap box and back onto this beautiful Triton.
The bike has had a complete rebuild the motor is a 750 Triumph with new high compression pistons, hotter cams,Mikuni carbs, a new front end and stopping power provided by a great (but heavy) 4 leading shoe front brake off a SuzukiGT750. The seller is asking a lot of money for it but this is one of the few bikes I find that is actually worth the money…I just wish I had the money.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. This is a beautiful motorcycle.
<a target=”_self” href=”http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1963+Triton+Custom&icep_item=190772380809&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg”>
1963 Triton Custom</a><img style=”text-decoration:none;border:0;padding:0;margin:0;” src=”http://rover.ebay.com/roverimp/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1963+Triton+Custom&item=190772380809&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER]“>
When I bought my first Triumph T100 back in the early 1980’s I instantly fell in love. I had been riding Bonneville’s for years but all of a sudden the ‘Baby Bonnie’ was for me, the perfect motorbike. It was light, nimble, loved to rev, and was just too much fun to ride. The T100 was everything I loved about my Bonneville’s and less…less being more here.
A good friend, who was also a Bonneville fan, took my little T100 for a ride one day…five hours later he brought it back. He too loved the smaller size and the lighter weight but what got him was how the little 500 loved revving. Tim and I had both ridden Triumph ‘Desert Sleds’ years back and he still had one of his and rode it occasionally but now, he wanted a 500 to ride in vintage races.
A month later, give or take a few days, Tim showed up at my house aboard a pretty ratty T100C, Triumphs scrambler version of the T100R. Knobby tyres, upswept exhaust pipes on one side, single carb and wider bars…looked like a lot of fun to me. Tim let me take it for a ride, I brought it back in less than 5 hours, and was absolutely in love again. The bikes were so different, but so much the same. Both T100’s love to rev but the ‘C’ model a little less so than the ‘R’ but the ‘C’ had more low and mid range power which gave it more of a ‘dual sport’ feeling. The single carb motor was smooth and torquey, and the brakes were almost as good as my Daytona model. The T100c didn’t have a tach but you don’t really need one on this bike, when it stops making power…shift. Simple.
Cycle magazine gave the T100C a good review saying it was equally good on tight bumpy trails and in sand. Tim did eventually strip it down, the bike went from 350 lbs down to a svelte 290 and became a much better ‘sled’ than his 650.
Today while cruising ebay I found a very nice, not perfect but very nice, T100C Trophy Scambler. The bike has 9407 miles on the clock (not too much really), has been upgraded with an electronic ignition, got some tyres and brakes and is a good runner. It really only needs a couple of things…the heat shields for the exhaust and a good cleaning. This is a super fun motorcycle and the seller is asking a very reasonable price. If you want to treat yourself to a nice Christmas present, this is it. Make sure you check it with the wife first. Click on the pic’s below for more info and more pictures.
It’s 1981 and I’m looking for that ‘West Coast’ look, but I want a Triumph. I could buy a new Bonneville and I guess I can do it myself but I only have enough mechanical skills to check the air in my tires, and I don’t enough money in my bank account to have a dealer or customizer to do it for me…what’s a poor guy to do?.
In the 70’s and 80’s we lived with basically three categories of street motorcycles; the standard, the chopper, and the touring bike. Most all of us had ‘standard’ motorcycles and more than likely, the ‘UJM’..Universal Japanese Motorcycle. Some people took the ‘UJM’ to both ends of the spectrum. Choppers were made out of Honda 750’s and touring bikes were made out of that same CB750. It was an era of great creativity. And, great marketability.
During that time period, the aftermarket grew at a pace that hasn’t been seen since and the manufacturers were taking notes. Custom this, chrome that…you could make your bike look any way you wanted. Kawasaki got into the cruiser look right off the bat with the LTD series, even the Brit’s and Euro’s got into the ‘Cruiser’ look.
There are good examples of the bikes from the continent that fit the look but more often they came out as ‘WTF’? Note the Norton Hi-Rider to the left. Triumph Motorcycles America (TMA) started noticing that dealers were doing a lot of customizing in house so, they went to the dealers to find out what they were doing so that the factory could build it. Customers were going after a certain look, the ‘West Coast’ look. Triumph was taking notice that the European market was also adding that look. After all the market research was done along came the T140-TSX.
Take your standard T140 Bonneville, stick on a kinda fat 16″ rear tyre, move the rear shocks back a bit on the swingarm to lower the back end of the bike. Next, bob the fenders some, add a stepped seat, some cool Morris alloy wheels, shorty mufflers and…voila, the ‘West Coast Look’.
The sad part of this story is that just as Triumph was addressing the new look of motorcycling, they went broke. There were other models of the TSX in the works including an 8 valve motor that would have bumped up the performance significantly and kept Triumph in the game. But there is good news for those that did buy one of the few TSX’s…it’s a really good motorcycle and is now worth a lot of money!
I found a really nice example of the TSX today on ebay. It’s a 1983 model (TSX’s were actually made in ’81 and ’82 but as was rather common at the time, bikes were titled when they were sold, not based on when they were made) with only 2691 miles on the clock. This TSX is factory original and in great condition. The seller says it runs and shifts perfectly, it does have the original Avon tyres (which you will want to replace), the owner put in a new battery but I would guess that a good carb clean is in order as well.
The TSX is definetly a rare bike and one that didn’t stray too far from being a Triumph Bonneville at heart. Look at what Triumph has done in its new incarnation Bonneville’s and you can see where the TSX had an influence on the future.
Click on the pic’s below for more info and more pictures. This bike is a bit pricey but considering it is a great example of an era and there are so few of them in the world, it’s worth it. And here is an added little bonus on this bike, the kickstart lever is an option item. Triumph had more faith in their electric starter than the rest of us and they knew it.
This is a motorbike that every Brit Bike lover NEEDS to own at one time in his or her life. The Triumph T100R Daytona, aka…the ‘Baby Bonneville’. The T100R is actually so much more than just a ‘Baby Bonnie’ trust me on this one.
Over the years I have owned a few Bonneville’s; 650’s and 750’s, but only one Daytona 500 and that is the one I miss the most. When I first got my little Daytona I took it straight over to the best Triumph mechanic I knew to get it running and running right…Jack Hately. Because the bike had sat outside for quite a while the carbs needed to be rebuilt, the electrics gone through, tires and brakes replaced. The work on the T100R cost more than the bike!!?? and I hadn’t even considered the repainting yet! One other thing Jack advised was getting a stock Triumph mufflers to replace the JC Whitney models that were on the bike. With complete faith in Mr. Hately I found a set of mufflers in my step dads pile of orphaned parts bikes and handed them over to Jack for the final tune up. Two weeks and a lot of money later, I rode away from Jack’s shop with a huge grin on my face…and a very pissed off wife looking at the checkbook.
Calling the Daytona a ‘Baby Bonneville’ is almost an insult to the T100R. The Bonneville is a spectacular motorcycle no doubt but…the Daytona is lighter, quicker handling, more rev happy and was the first Triumph 500 to push past the ton!! Top speed was right around 110mph…fantastic! The Daytona was the bike that really could say to the Bonneville “anything you can do I can do better” and get away with it. But here was the problem in the USA… we always believe ‘bigger is better’, look at Triumph’s current Rocket 3!? So, the T100R didn’t sell all that well here. Better than the Bonneville? No. Different than the Bonneville, yes. More fun than the Bonneville, without a doubt!
I rode that Triumph Daytona everyday. It started easily, was light (around 350lbs), and would turn on a dime and give you nine cents change. At that time, for me, it was a truly perfect motorbike. Sadly, about three years later, somebody decided that they liked the Daytona more than me and took it from my garage.
I found a nice little T100R Daytona this morning on ebay that would make a very easy winter project. A 1970 model with 22K miles on the clock and really only needs a few things to be perfect. Get the stock mufflers! The bike will run so much smoother and don’t forget the original style pill box air cleaners. Give it a good paint job or don’t worry about the looks and just ride the wheels off it.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.