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History of the Triumph Motorcycle

Posted by Mike Rosenfeld on

With design classics showcasing distinct character, Triumph Motorcycles have been building a rich history since the 1900s. Just as the rest of the British motorcycle industry, Triumph went out of business by the 1980s. But in the 1990s a British industrialist named John Bloor recreated the brand. Since then he has built a line of sport bikes and throwbacks.
The history of Triumph begins in 1883 when Siegfriend Bettmann moved to Coventry, England from Germany. A year later he starts an import-export company that imports German sewing machines and sells bicycles under the name " Bettman". Just three years later in 1887 Bettman changes the name of his company to New Triumph Co. Ltd. only to be changed later to riumph Cycle Co. Ltd.) The main investor happens to be John Dunlop who holds the patent for the pneumatic tire and the fisrt to successfully commercialize the invention. During this time Mauritz Schulte joins the team and convinces Triumph to design and produce its own parts.
To begin production in 1888 the company buys an old factory in Coventry and sets up to start making bicycles. Seven years later Schulte imports one the first motorcycles to study. Triumph wants to manufacture their own under license but complicated English law discourages them and they do not start making motorcycles. In 1902 the laws change and Schulte designs his own motorcycle, the No. 1- A bicycle fitted with a 2-hp Minerva engine made in Belgium. The following year a subsidiary is opened in Germany to build and sell motorcycles. In 1905 the first in-hose Triumph is produced, powered by a 3-hp engine reaching top speeds of 45 mph.
By 1907, annual production has reached 1000 units and a new 450cc motor make 3.5hp. A year later a variable pulley is introduced to help with inclines. 1910 brings the first practical clutch, and 1911 brings foot pegs only. The 600cc vertical twin prototype is built by Schulye in 1913. During WWII Triumph is chosen to supply the Type H motorcycle for Allied military service and sells 30,000 over the course of the war.
From 1920 - 1923 Triumph produces the 550cc Type SD (Spring Drive ) featuring a chain driven rear wheel, bicycle-style rim brakes are replaced with drum brakes, and the 350cc Model LS-the first Triumph with an oil pump driven by the motor is made.
Triumph really starts to improve toward the end of 1925 and production hits 30,000 units, Two years later the stock market crashes and Triumph sells it German subsidiary. In 1930 Bettman is deposed as head of the company.
The 500cc Model P is affordable and a commercial success – at first. Triumph sells a heck of a lot of them, but owners are disappointed by poor build quality and the company’s reputation is harmed. Towards the end of the year, Triumph improves things. Many new improvements are made in the 1930s including; several new motors, a foot change gear shift, a twin that has power over 90mph.
During the 1940s Triumph opens a new plant in Meridan, England and sells 50,000 motorcycles to the military. They produce three new models, the Tiger 100, the Speed Twin and the smaller touring 349cc 3T all with a telescopic front fork. This decade all brings in the off-road 500cc TR5 "Trophy" and 649cc Thunderbird.
In 1950 Triumph sells more bikes in the U.S. than any other market and a year later Triumph is sold to BSA for £2.5 millon. The rest of the decade produces the 149cc OHV Terrier, The Tiger 110 and the T120 Bonneville 650 . In the 60's motors are revitilized and the T120C “TT” will become one of the most sought-after Triumphs. The The 750cc Triple is introduced but quickly loses attention when Honda introduces the 750-Four.
The 1970 and 1980s proved challenging for Triumph and eventually is merged with Norton. By 1990 Triumph unveils six new models; the Trident 750 and 900 Triples, the touring Trophy 900 Triple and 1200 Four and the sports-oriented Daytona 750 Triple and 1000 Four. In 1994 the Speed triple is introduced and in 1995 new triumphs are being exported to America.
The 2000s bring on new bikes like the Rocket III with over 2000cc, and the Daytona 600 to 650cc. The 675cc Triple is a coming of age for Triumph. The Mini Speed Triple is introduced in the Street Triple and the Thunderbird cruiser is launched, powered by a 1600cc parallel-Twin, the largest production engine in the layout. Also, the Tiger 800 featuring a bored out Daytona 675 engine is produced.

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