How People React to Triumph Motorcycles

How People React to Triumph Motorcycles

I have been interested in the reactions of people to motorcycles in general, and mine specifically, since I started riding in 1967.  Resplendent on my pristine 1965 Yamaha YDS-3 250cc two-stroke, I was astonished to be asked if I were a Hell’s Angel or how I was doing on my “murdercycle, etc.”  For a time, I was determined to single-handedly improve the image of motorcyclists, and that of course, was impossible.  It was not all bad, as people who felt that way about motorcycles would react in fear when they came across one, and strive to get out of the way.  Not bad. Except for the drunk who tried to side-swipe me “for fun,” but that is a different story.

The first really negative reaction came when I was student teaching in the fall of 1968. At the University of Minnesota in those days you did your student teaching in two halves.  Each half was in a different school, and you would teach for half the day and then return to campus for afternoon classes.  One nice fall day I decided to return to West High School for a faculty meeting. I was not required or expected to attend faculty meetings, but I was eager!  I took the Yamaha, and when I walked into the library carrying my white Bell 500 helmet, I had that sense you do when you know something is wrong and have no idea what it might be.  Turns out the Principal HATED motorcycles, and everyone knew it, except me. 

He did not speak to me about it, but called the University and told them he wanted that “dirty long-haired hippy” off his campus, immediately and permanently.  He was evidently talked out of it when it was pointed out that I was not dirty and did not have long hair, but he glared at me every time he saw me after that.

Over the course of 31 years and especially with 14 years in the motorcycle business, I have been able to ride 508 motorcycles, pretty much every model made by every manufacture. I have owned over a dozen paid for with my own money, but the last five, over a span of 18 years, have been Triumphs.  Each of them has garnered different reactions from others.

2002 Triumph Sprint ST.  Beautiful dark green, with hard saddlebags. As I always rode solo, I added the optional seat cowl on the back, which I thought made it truly beautiful.  I never saw anyone else do that.

Motorcyclists knew what it was, and admired it for both it’s appearance and performance.  The older gentleman who purchased it from me came back a week later to exclaim that I had not told him how smooth and composed it was cruising at 120mph!

 Non-motorcyclists ignored it.

2005 Triumph Speed Triple.  I spent three days working the Cycle Barn display at the Seattle Motorcycle Show at the end of 2004, and most of that time I was leaning on, looking at, or talking about the Speed Triple, resplendent in Scorched Yellow.  I fell in love with it and bought it.  Over the years it gained the fly screen, a tank bag, heated grips, Triumph TOR pipes, and for longer trips a Venture rack system on the back, which was essentially a large dual-back pack that slipped over a removeable vertical rack.  I put close to 50,000 enjoyable miles on it, including multiple longer rides to California and one to Minnesota and back to Seattle.  It was often used as a display bike for Cycle Barn off-site events and shows. Fabulous motorcycle.

Motorcyclists noticed it because of its reputation as a “hooligan bike” (not in my hands), although many preferred a less in your face color.

Non-motorcyclists ignored it.

2016 Triumph Bonneville T 120.  Beset by what I thought were permanent issues with my right leg and back (turns out I was wrong), I traded in the Speed Triple for the brand new and just out Bonneville T120. Gorgeous in cranberry red and silver, I added the fly screen in matching cranberry and Cortech saddle bags and rear top bag for longer trips. In four years, I put on 22, 500 miles of great riding.

Motorcyclists knew what it was and appreciated it for its beauty, but most of my friends rode bikes that were faster and more capable, and thus were not all that impressed with it beyond its successful integration of classical looks with modern technology.  A lot of motorcyclists had stories of the Bonneville they owned years ago, or a dad, or an uncle, and how much they had wanted one.

Non-motorcyclists – oh my!  Everyone stopped and stared. At first, people at stop lights or when it was parked would ask what year it was and who did the immaculate restoration, unaware it was brand new. They were consistently gob smacked, and even more so when they found out the reasonable price.  As time went by friends I ride with got used to a several minute delay whenever we stopped somewhere or got ready to leave.  Everybody who saw it had a comment or story or memory to share, and all were positive.

2016 Triumph Thruxton 1200.  This was an ill-fated adventure that took five months and is included only for the sake of being complete.  The plan was that my brother-in-law, who was moving here, would pay for half of it and ride it when he wanted, while it was stored in my garage.  The one I found (long story) received uprated rear shocks, and was immediately impressive, with appreciably less weight, more power, and better sound than my Bonneville due to single wall pipes and more free-flowing mufflers.  Lovely in black.

Alas, due to family politics and some notable cowardice on the part of the brother-in-law, he backed out of his half of the deal, and I sold it, as I could not afford to keep both of them.  Five months of ownership cost me $500, which is not bad for what amounted to an extended test ride.

Motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists: too little data to reach any conclusions.

2020 Triumph Rocket 3.  Earlier this year video reviews of the new Rocket 3 began to surface, and caught my attention.  I had ridden the prior version (known as the Rocket III for you anoraks) and it was certainly impressive. It was also huge, and gave me the impression that if you had an incident you might wipe out a few small trees and perhaps a small house.  I even had a small part to play in a Cycle Barn project that saw a Cycle Barn Rocket III go to the Bonneville Salt Flats and set a world land speed record, two years in a row.

When I learned that the new model was lighter by a lot (70 plus pounds), narrower, lower, and boasted more horsepower and the most torque of any motorcycle produced by a major manufacturer – ever – I was intrigued.

I traded in the Bonneville (a great bike available for a limited time at Triumph of Seattle) for a GT model in the smoke grey and silver, with the optional saddle bags.

Motorcyclists:  massive curiosity and respect.  It is interesting that my riding friends, most of whom are astride large sport tourers or adventure bikes, are all fascinated by the Rocket and think it is very cool.  The two, so far, I have allowed to sit on it, were both shocked at how much lighter and more tossable it appears from the saddle than expected.  The 165-horsepower ranking is somewhat impressive, but the 163-foot pounds of torque is almost beyond belief to the knowledgeable.

Non-motorcyclists.  Wow!  Back to a pause whenever stopping or leaving anywhere. Lots of comments at stoplights, from a police officer who said “That is an awesome bike. Neat!”, to people commenting on how fast it must be.  (They are correct). When parked, people love to have a several minute tour of the specs and features, and to be all agog if I light up the instrument panel, run through some of the configurations and displays, and point out technologies they did not know existed on motorcycles. In their defense, many of them have not previously been seen on motorcycles.

It is a lot of fun and adds a bit to the ownership experience, but it helps to not mind talking to people if you own a Bonneville or Rocket!

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2020                     David Preston

PS: For more essays on all manner of topics, please visit my web site at www.davidpreston.biz

About david

I am a 73 year old motorsports nut who lives in Snohomish, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Rocket 3 (2020) and a 2016 Ford Focus ST. What else would you like to know?
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2 Responses to How People React to Triumph Motorcycles

  1. Eric says:

    Hey Dave,

    I have a non-scientific theory to support these observations about motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists, and the various perspectives from those non-riders.

    For a lot of my solo day rides, I’ll go to a previously-visited-with-my-wife bakery or coffee shop—to pick up some edible and apologetic currency for when I return late in the day.

    When I’m with my wife, driving our old Subaru, we are usually welcomed and treated well at the aforementioned eateries. But when I show up in motorcycle clothing a week later, even when astride a shiny late model $25,000 BMW, I’m treated anywhere from indifference to outright hostility.

    It’s funny that the stigma is still there, even in the 21st century. Good luck with the bike, you need to update your bio photo at the top of the page so we can all have a butchers.

    Cheers mate.

  2. Bob says:

    I’m aghast at how you NEVER mention the tea cozies for that Speed Triple! When someone likes a bike so much as to MAKE tea cozies for the exhaust stacks, that is an honor (and legend) worth propagation!!!!

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