2007 Triumph Cruisers Press Introduction
Triumph's Long Journey Home
What were you doing in 1967? Personally, I was not yet born, but those of you who had more consciousness than a zygote may remember a time when Triumph Motorcycles, ltd. was one of the best-known brands, well known for comfort, handling and leading-edge performance. In that year, the Meriden, England-based company sold 28,500 units in the US. Triumph died a quiet death in the early `80s, but just a few years later it was acquired and reanimated by real estate mogul John Bloor, who was determined to restore the firm's reputation -- and profitability -- to its former glory. After 20 years, and well over 200 million dollars later, the Hinkley, England-based Triumph Motorcycles, ltd. is well on its way. It's profitable at last, and in 2006 there were more than 12,000 Triumphs sold in the US.
Todd Anderson, Triumph Motorcycle ltd. (America)'s VP of marketing, firmly believes they will make their goal of beating the `67 sales figure within five years, making them the fifth-largest seller of street motorcycles in the US market and the biggest European brand once again.
You may scoff at this; Triumph's marketing history since their reentry into the US market in the mid-90s has been a mixed bag. Although the bikes quickly acquired a deserved reputation of being good-handling, reliable machines, they were uncompetitive -- on either price or performance -- with their Japanese peers.
It was only when Triumph started aggressively introducing new models -- two a year for the last three -- that played on the marque's strengths did sales start increasing. Models such as the Speed Triple 1050, Sprint ST, Scrambler, and MO's favorite, the 675 Daytona, have created thousands of new customers by both satisfying the needs of traditional Triumph fans as well as those who crave cutting-edge performance and technology. For 2007, Triumph has just a few changes and upgrades to their cruiser lineup, but they invited MO on a press intro for the first time in many years so we could re-acquaint ourselves with their cruisers.
Was it worth the trip? Power and style is what Triumph brings to the table for US cruiser buyers. You've met the 2300cc of excess that is the Rocket III in prior MO stories, but we written much in the last four years about their Bonneville-based cruisers, the America and Speedmaster. All three of these bikes have received a few updates to make them better and more appealing, and I got a chance to really ride them on some beautiful roads. However, press intros aren't some kind of paid vacation; there's at least an hour of work at the dreaded technical presentation, where glassy-eyed journos struggle to stay awake though an interminable PowerPoint presentation long enough to get to the bar.
Fans of this new feature (recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for creative journalism*) are probably very excited; Triumph is the closest motorcycle manufacturer to Scotland, the only place where whiskey is made. Other places, including Ireland, the US, Canada and even Kentucky make foul-tasting and smelling liquids** that cleverly approximate the color and bottle shape of The Water of Life, but can result in severe injury or death if accidentally ingested. So of course I expected the lovely Inn at Morro Bay's bar to serve us only the finest whiskey after our long day's ride.
I was not disappointed. When asked to recommend a single-malt, the bartender held up a 10-year-old bottle of Laphroaig. Whilst visiting MOron "Evo" Don Crafts last year for our Milwaukee Iron shootout, I had a glass, but as it was halfway through the sampling of Don's dangerously complete Scotch collection, I had only a fuzzy recollection of what it was like. "Pour!" said I, instantly winning the bar staff's approval by specifying it be served with a splash of water and no ice, of course. Scotland is cold enough.
Aside from having a name that reads like a pharmaceutical product, Laphroaig is exquisitely crafted. It has a beautiful amber color, and tastes even better. You may recall I've been moving more towards the Speysides, but this Islay has a more subtle flavor of peat, rather than the overwhelming Hickr'y Pit avalanche of smoke some Islays hit you with. It's also slightly sweet and rich, perfectly combining what I like from Islay, Speyside and Highland malts in one beverage. In fact, Laphroaig is so balanced it could almost pass for a very expensive blend. I liked it a lot, and that was just the 10 year bottle. I'll bet the 15, 30 and 40-year-old bottles are incredible, but this isn't the Robb Report.
But even the 10 year is a great whiskey, and would you expect any less from a Triumph intro? The Hinkley company's marketing department has been busily exploring all kinds of cross-promotional and cross--marketing opportunities, but I think they should consider purchasing a whiskey distillery and slapping a Triumph label on a bottle of single-malt. After all, they are both hand-crafted products with years of tradition behind them that provide excellent, cutting-edge performance.*** And the brand they should buy? They could do worse than Laphroiag (attention Laphroaig marketing people: please email me for shipping address).
**I realize this will generate a tremendous amount of hate mail, but I don't care! Substandard liquor makes my liver hurt. The fine people of Kentucky should stick to making things that are better if they're low quality, like banjos and banana pudding. Please send hate mail to this address.
***All kidding aside, please note that I did my Scotch tasting after the ride. Although Scotch can be a healthy addition to a well-balanced diet, drinking and riding may hold numerous unhappy consequences that greatly outweigh the warm sense of well-being riding drunk temporarily imparts. If you feel I have been irresponsible in advocating alcohol use, please direct hate mail here.
Apparently, Triumph has big plans for the US market, with a goal of increasing sales to their 1967 high (not that kind of 1967 high, Peter Fonda) of 28,500 within five years. Although Triumph does well with their standards and sport tourers, any company looking to grow in this market needs cruisers, cruisers that satisfy the desires and needs of American cruiser customers. At the small end of the Triumph cruiser lineup is the Bonneville America. This uses the eight-valve, air-cooled, DOHC parallel twin engine from the standard Bonneville, but with a 270-degree firing interval. For 2007, Triumph makes the bigger 865cc motor that first appeared in the Thruxton available across the Bonneville range.
For now, twin CV carbs with a throttle position sensor perform fueling duties -- expect fuel injection in the very near future -- and the 54 claimed BHP (Triumph claims 51 foot-pounds of torque) go to the rear wheel via a five-speed gearbox, a wet clutch and an X-ring chain.
That motor is contained by a tubular steel-cradle frame that places 65.2 inches of wheelbase between the two bias-ply-shod (and new for 2007) cast wheels, with a 110/90-18 front tire and phashionably phat 170/80-15 rear. Suspension is a pair of preload-adjustable chromed coil-over shock absorbers in back and a pair of non-adjustable 41mm forks in front.