We list down 10 of the best Triumph motorcycles of recent times.
This week, we decided to celebrate the famed British motorcycle marque known as Triumph. Founded as Triumph Engineering Co Ltd initially in 1885, the brand enjoyed some stellar success in the 1960s.
However, as the 1970s rolled in, trouble loomed with the arrival of modern and highly reliable machines from the Land of the Rising Sun. At a time when most other British bike brands were shuttering, Triumph persevered through the decade, but the inevitable came in 1983 when the firm went into receivership.
Triumph’s saviour came in the form of businessman John Bloor who bought the marque in 1983. Having renamed it to Triumph Motorcycles Ltd, Bloor opted not to re-launch the brand immediately and took the time to rebuild the brand first.
After what seemed like an endlessly long, uphill battle, Triumph eventually flourished under Bloor’s leadership. Not only did he keep a celebrated name alive, Bloor also brought the marque into the modern era. With that in mind, here’s our list of the 10 best motorcycles churned out by House Hinckley since its revival and why they are loved by fans worldwide.
1. Speed Triple
We start off with the first new bike Triumph released under Bloor’s ownership, the Speed Triple. Inspired by the Speed Twin from the late 1930s, the Speed Triple was first released in 1994. Soon, its popularity would simultaneously shape the modern streetfighter genre as we know it today.
Starting out with a carburetted 885cc iteration of the Triumph Triple engine platform, the Speed Triple underwent plenty of evolutions towards becoming the powerful and intelligent 1,050cc machine we know and love today. What changed here too was its design, namely its distinctive twin headlamp cluster.
Regardless of generation, the Speed Triple’s ethos remained unchanged, that being the offer of a light, agile and powerful naked bike that had the killer looks to match. Simply put, Triumph wouldn’t be what and where it is today had it not been for the success of this iconic streetfighter.
2. Street Triple
Next comes the Street Triple. Though the larger and more powerful Speed Triple garnered legions of fans, there were an equal number of those that wanted the same package, only smaller and lighter, resulting in Triumph’s decision in creating the Street Triple.
First released in 2006, it was dubbed as the ‘baby’ Street Triple thanks to the similar styling it had, not forgetting the smaller 675cc offshoot of its sibling’s 1,050cc three-pot. It didn’t take long for the Street Triple to replicate the successes of the Speed Triple, this time by shaping the modern middleweight streetfighter genre instead.
Even with a smaller engine and subsequently lower output, the powertrain was just as perky as the larger sibling’s 1,050cc version. More importantly, the Street Triple’s lower weight made it equally as agile, and thus allowed it to garner just as much fans as its bigger brother.
Under Bloor’s leadership, Triumph attempted to enter a number of segments such as cruisers. Triumph’s first attempt here came in 1995 with the Thunderbird 900 model. It featured the 885cc version of the brand’s signature Triple engine that was packed into a classic cruiser design and frame.
The original Thunderbird 900 also spawned a racy Thunderbird Sport model in 1997. It had more power and an aggressive styling inspired by the 1970s era Triumph X75 Hurricane model. Though not as popular as its rivals, the Thunderbird 900 and Thunderbird Sport stood as left-field favourites until production ended in 2004.
The Thunderbird name was revived once more in 2006, this time with either a 1,600cc or 1,700cc parallel-twin mill paired with a belt final drive setup instead of a chain type as used by its predecessors. It was still rather left-field, but the Thunderbird quickly garnered acclaim for Triumph in a segment largely dominated by American and Japanese contenders.
Another area where Bloor’s leadership boldly brought the revived British brand into were sports bikes, and this was done through the marque’s Daytona series. The first of which was the Daytona 955i that arrived in 1997 featuring a revolutionary 955cc triple-cylinder powertrain that was designed by Lotus.
The Daytona 955i was a left-field alternative against the crop of litre-sized in-line four-cylinder bikes produced by the Japanese brigade as production lasted until 2006. Triumph then tried its luck in the supersport segment in 2005 when it released the Daytona 650 model.
Success finally came with the Daytona 650’s replacement, the Daytona 675. Released in 2006, the Daytona 675 was more compact and featured a 675cc triple-cylinder powertrain instead that proved to be world-beater when paired with the model’s lightweight chassis.
Not only did it obliterate rivalling Japanese 600cc four-cylinder machines, the Daytona 675’s handling prowess earned its top spot amongst trackday warriors worldwide. This really is the supersport bike that could outperform any litre-sized or bigger rival, especially on technical courses that favour handling over outright speed and power.
5. Rocket III
The plucky British marque then went completely bonkers in 2004 when it released the gargantuan known as the Rocket III in an attempt to create the ultimate cruiser for the American market. The Rokcet III arrived with larger-than-life looks plus a massive engine to match.
This behemoth is powered by a huge 2,294cc triple-cylinder that offered big servings of torque channelled to the rear using a shaft drive setup. Despite its size, the Rocket III was still available in a variety of guises from classic roadster, to bagger to semi-streetfighter in fact.
Though not a commercial success, the Rocket III instead became a cult favourite. The winning draw perhaps lied in its gigantic size and looks plus the car-like engine, with all of which commanding lots of attention wherever it goes.
6. Tiger Sport
First introduced in 2007, the Tiger Sport can trace its roots back to the Tiger 900 and Tiger 955i models that preceded it. The ethos remained the same in all three, that being the adoption of Triumph’s signature Triple powertrain into a go-anywhere dual-purpose package.
The Tiger Sport received a major update earlier this year where its unique 1,050cc triple-cylinder powerplant was significantly updated. Nevertheless, it still offered the perfect balance between performance and versatility and, unlike its predecessors, a very stylish design to boot as well.
Though it lacks a Paris-Dakar Rally win in its life, it still stood as a very sound left-field alternative against the segment’s usual suspects.
7. Tiger 800
Triumph really got its dual-sport mojo going when it introduced the Tiger 800 series since 2010. Heavily revised for 2015, the Tiger 800 boasted impressive abilities and versatility yet again when compared against segment-leading bikes like the BMW F800GS.
The Tiger 800 is offered in two main variant lines starting with the road-focused XR series followed by the off-road-ready XC line. All share the same 799cc triple-cylinder heart that’s now complemented with a bevy of intelligent electronic wizardries such as selectable ride modes and ride-by-wire.
For the avid overland adventurer, the Tiger 800 ticks all the right boxes as far as middleweight dual-sport bikes go. Its rapid rise to popularity in its segment truly showed that Triumph was a versatile marque.
8. Tiger Explorer
The flagship Tiger Explorer introduced in 2012 stands as the marque’s ultimate expression of what adventure tourers ought to be – the Triumph Tiger Explorer.
The firm clearly had the BMW R1200GS Adventure in its crosshairs, explaining the model’s adoption of a unique 1,215cc triple-cylinder engine paired with a shaft drive. After being updated for 2016, the Triumph Tiger Explorer was refined yet again with enhanced performance and electronics.
Though it still hasn’t given its German rival a run for its money, the Tiger Explorer again stood as the perfect alternative to it, making it a hot favourite amongst the world’s elite adventure riders.
9. New Bonneville
No list of greatest modern Triumph bikes is complete without the inclusion of the all-new Bonneville range. Essentially, Triumph extensively updated one of its most iconic and longest-running production models for the modern era with plenty novel new bits.
Highlights include a new range of liquid-cooled parallel-twin powerplants with displacement ranging from 900cc to 1,200cc – a huge leap forward over its predecessor’s classic air-cooled unit. With its new heart, Bonnie, as many fondly referred to it, now offered greater performance and enhanced fuel efficiency as well.
Also noteworthy was how the new Street Twin and Bonneville T120 had their modern ancillaries blended in without ruining its classic feel and appeal. Highlights here include the ride-by-wire suite, multiple ride modes, LED lighting, as well as the all-important underseat USB charging port that each variant gets.
Simply put, the Bonneville finally got the replacement it deserved, and its brilliance as a hip modern retro bike is perhaps second to none.
We’ve saved the best for last and it comes in the form of the original café racer bike itself, the Thruxton. In Bloor’s era, Triumph unleashed the Bonneville-based Thruxton 900 in 2004 that came with an air-cooled 865cc twin-cylinder powerplant underneath its stylish retro exterior.
This was also another cult favourite model, especially amongst retro bike enthusiasts worldwide. Things got even better in late 2015 when the New Bonneville was revealed, spawning the new generation Thruxton R that packs a brand new liquid-cooled 1,200cc heart.
As far as café racers go, few have stood to shape and define the genre, with the Thruxton R being one of it.