I’ve never sat astride a Norton Commando, or a BSA Lightning, but I’m sure either one of those would have felt like a Bonneville. British vertical twins pretty much felt alike, which is to say, orgasmic.
So when I found a 1972 Triumph Daytona 500 for sale in the paper, I snapped it up for $750.
It was sweet. The original owner had installed a set of high-rise handlebars, but I quickly replaced those with a set of Magura flatties. Probably as bad as the high rises, but at least I didn’t look like a dork, or so I thought.
In town the Daytona was sweet. The straight-through exhausts were well behaved until you punched it and then, all hell broke loose. Torque up the butt and one of the best sounds evah! No, the Daytona wasn’t the icon that the Bonneville was, but if you weren’t careful and dropped a gear changing lanes it was liable to pull a wheelie. Proud to say I did that on the Southwest Freeway on my way to Amtrak one morning in DC. It would run 14.5 quarters. Not particularly quick today in the bike world, but it looked better than any of the rice burners today.
Loved that bike.
THE most underrated motorcycle Triumph has ever made. It revved better than the 650’s, put out almost as much power, could hold with the Bonneville up to 100, and only finally lost out in out and out top speed.
And, best of all, it didn’t have the Umberslade Hall mandated updates that completely killed the ’71-72 Triumph’s and BSA’s, and essentially gave the motorcycle market to the Japanese. To its dying day in 1974, the T100’s kept the late 60’s frame and seat height. And brakes, thank God.
That should have been a long-term keeper, as the American market got totally hung up on the Bonneville, almost completely ignoring everything else Triumph made during the ’60’s and ’70’s.
And it’s still drive some squid on his 600 nuts. The secret is that you pick the road, and don’t give the opposition any straights to use their horsepower. Damned few squids can actually ride those race reps, and if you know your Triumph well, you can humiliate them.
And there is nothing more deflating to a 20-something than to be put down by a guy who’s old enough to be somewhere between his father and grandfather, riding a bike that’s twice his age. I’ve done it on a few occasions, and its incredibly satisfying.
The 72 Daytona replaced my 1st bike, a 67 BSA 441. I paid $650 for a 3 yr old 500cc that also had those ape hangers. I took it directly to the dealer and had it put back to stock. Fond memories commuting to work on that sweetheart of a motorcycle.
MOAL: Moustache of a Lifetime! I am envious.
As much as I love the idea of British Twins, I just can’t bring myself to own one. Having owned a Triumph car I just can’t do it.
The bikes: Same problems, but easier solutions. I’m the opposite. Having owned Triumphs for 35 years now, I’d really love to own a TR-6 (car) but am afraid to.
Still, I’ve owned a Small Heath 750cc Trident. The cars can’t possibly be any more aggravating than that.
500 is about my favorite size and weight. I agree, IMO, all the brit twins felt the same till you twisted the grip. Think Norton was my favorite. Rode a lot more variety than I owned.
I think BSA and triumph were so close that I can only see one reason they marketed both after the merger/acquisition. To feed another chain of dealers.
What say you Syke.
While I’ve ridden a couple of Triumph 500’s, and owned a BSA 500 (A50R Royal Star, not even playing in the same ballpark at the Triumph), I’ve never lived long term with the T100’s. Imagine a slightly lighter, more responsive, Bonneville; actually a better bike for around town bar hopping, but a bit more tiring on the long haul than the 650’s.
And no Triumph was really good for 300-500 mile days until the combination of the 750cc upgrade and the oil-in-frame chassis was perfected. 74-79 were the best of that breed.
Triumphs and BSA’s were really different motorcycles until about the mid-60’s when the commonality of parts started taking over. The biggest difference was that the BSA had a much weaker bottom end on their vertical twins (they used ONE main bearing – and a bushing – on the crank). And while BSA made a full range of go-to-work-plodders to full bore sport bikes, Triumph was almost totally a sporting motorcycle company.
This really was driven home the decade I had my A50R – while it looked identical to the A65 twins: Lightning (two carbs) and Thunderbolt (single carb), it actually was BSA’s top of the line go-to-work-plodder, putting out a whole 22 horsepower with a top speed of about 60mph. On a downhill.
Being housed in the same frame and tinware as the A65’s however made it the best exponent of the classic “its more fun to go fast on a slow bike than slow on a fast bike” philosophy. The handling was good enough that you just caned the hell out of the motor, and the low compression and horsepower was something that the weak bottom end could live with. I miss that bike. Greatly.
In comparison, the T100 Triumph’s were all designed as junior Bonnevilles. They were flat out sport bikes, albeit tractable enough for daily use.
And in America, the dealers HATED each other. Triumph vs. BSA in the 60’s was the successor to Harley vs. Indian in the 40’s and early 50’s. The closer BSA/Triumph brought the bikes, the more problems it caused with the dealers. And wasn’t helped that management in England openly favored BSA (the clusterf**k that was the ’71 frames is a prime example), while the American market was greatly biased in favor of Triumph.
The dealer rivalry was good for sales, by the way. Really motivated the sales staff.
The plain bearing on the drive side of the Beeza was their downfall once it starts spraying out oil its done but you can or could get a full roller bottom end kit high compression slugs and other kit parts to make the A65 really fly
Yep. Which I’d do if I ever wanted an A65. But I still like the Triumph’s better and they’re less work.
There was a great shot of Mike Hailwood racing an A65 Spitfire where he wore out the sides of his boots and you could see his toes.They were a real vibrator though very fast
Never having heard of the Triumph Daytona before, I learned a lot from your description and reminiscing. I always was fascinated by British bikes, but having started riding in the early/mid 90s, I was a bit too late to experience them when they were common used bikes. If I ever look for one, I will pay attention to any Daytonas that appear.
The original Triumph Speed Twin having been 500cc, it makes sense that the 500cc Daytona would continue to hit a sweet spot in power and balance.
Find yourself a modern used (Hinckley) Bonneville. Having owned about half a dozen of the vintage Meriden bikes, I was really impressed the first time I rode a modern Bonnie. The Hinckley factory really got the bike right, it handled very close to my (now gone) ’69, and despite being a somewhat heavier bike still felt almost the same.
I can’t recommend a modern Bonneville highly enough. You get the feel of the vintage bike without having to go thru the blood, sweat and fettling.
I took a very hard look at the Hinckley Triumph lineup 10 years ago and was close to buying one on two occasions. A leftover 2003 Thunderbird from the last year of production was very tempting, and I was close to making the dealer an offer when I decided that two cylinders and air cooling would be preferable, even though the Thunderbird with its liquid cooled three would have been a great ride. It came down to a 2004 Bonneville or a 2004 Sportster, the first of the rubber mounted engine generation, and the Sportster won narrowly. It came down to the Sportster’s maintenance free belt drive and far more extensive dealer network, the nearest Triumph dealer being over 30 miles away.
The Sportster has been a great bike and I still have it 10 years later, but sometimes I wish that the Sportster were smaller and lighter, and at those times I wish that I had gone with the Bonneville.
Absolutely fantastic! I love old Triumphs, I hope I can own one someday.
$750 ?! when was this , 1982 ? . =8-) .
I had a ’67 T100C for a while and yes , Triumph twins are unlike anything else on earth .
It was in 1975. The bike was three years old.
That’s a hell of a stache.
That man don’t drive no RAV4.
That’s a ‘Rollie Fingers’ ‘Stashe…
We had our own stacheros. Dennis Lillee sporting what has become a great tradition in cricket, as further exemplified by Mervyn and Mitchell.
The Triumph unit twins were some of the best looking British bikes of the period, especially alongside the rather clunky looking BSAs. The tendency to self-disassemble is a bit offputting though, especially compared to my 78 BMW that has only lost one bolt due to vibration in over 20 years of riding it.
I hear you on that one. Back in the 1980 I owned both a (bought new) ’79 Bonneville and a (I think) ’75 R90/6 with the six gallon tank. That BMW taught me just how laid back and reliable a high performance motorcycle can be . . . . . but . . . . . . . I still preferred the Bonnie for the handling, enjoyment and sheer thrill of riding. Even doing long distance. And that rear end jacking up and to the right of the Beemer every time I nailed throttle just drove me nuts.
Locktight is your friend on a British bike.
My riding bud bought a new ’78 R90s which I got to ride occasionally. The Bimmer was very competent, rode nicely, was fast, and reliable. It was like a handsome woman who wore sensible shoes. But when I rode a bike, I wanted to ride a Babylon Whore, something that felt good between my legs, and barked like a dog. The Triumph was perfect.
That’s some tache,you’d put Tom Selleck & Sam Elliott to shame!I rode my brother’s 63 Triumph T100ss quite a bit in 78/79 and really liked it.It didn’t vibrate anywhere near as bad as his BSA A65 or Bonneville.The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the puny 6 volt lights.The T100 had a lot of success on dirt tracks and road racing especially in the hands of Gary Nixon against the much bigger Harley Davidson flatheads.
ALL good comments here ! .
Dan Dan bought an unloved but *very* pretty 1978 Meriden T140E and began rebuilding it , I watched and helped when I could , in time he stopped counting the $ when it passed $10K (no paint !) and bought a brand new orange Bloor three cylinder (? Daytona ?) to ride while still fiddling with the old Trumpet ~ when it was finished he still rode the Bloor and allowed me to ride the T140E occasionally , leaving my old BMW R75/5 SWB in is garage , boy howdy that Trumpet was everything it was supposed to be , I loved riding it .
He was an aircraft mechanic and so hated oil leaks , weeps or seeps , no matter how much Hylomar he used , it always managed to weep out oil , somewhere .
I remember riding the M37 BSA FAST Auto Wrecking sold for $150 back in the early 1970’s , they’d bought a few hundred of them as scrap metal every one was fully rebuilt in the late 1950’s and had stamped tags saying so .
It was a fun bike , well suited for plodding along over wet cobblestones but as mentioned , the bushing crank bearing meant short life on America’s high speed (55 MPH) highways .
In 1999 0r 2000 , I bought one of the very first Kawasaki W-650’s in America , a nice Moto that looked like a Trumpet and sounded and rode about the same as a ’67 Bonnie but never leaked , squeaked nor dropped any parts as one rode along .
They even copied the ” Upholstered Brick ” bench seat *perfectly* ~ a ‘RoidBuster DeLuxe , after two hours you *needed* to dismount and walk around a bit .
Naturally I stupidly rode it to Death Valley a few times and was bow legged when I got there .
By the way, modern Hinckley Triumph’s are capable of leaking. My ’95 Trident has started dropping a few dots of oil and coolant on the garage floor if I let it sit, untouched, for at least a week. Been doing so for the last 6-7,000 miles.
Of course, that bike has 115,000 miles on it now. I suppose I can forgive a leak or two.
Funny how older bikes will leak if they sit a while, but if ridden regularly, they’re fine. My dad’s (now mine) ’82 Gold Wing will drool coolant if it sits for more than a week or so, especially when the garage temp drops below 50 or so. One of the fork seals will weep too if out of work too long. Can’t complain too much about a 32 year old bike with over 80k miles that always starts and will run all day at 70-75 in comfort though, can I?
I had a 1970 Bonnie. I loved it but still traded it for a 73 Norton Commando. I missed the Triumph so much though that I sold the Norton to a friend of my older brothers and bought a new 75 Bonneville. After that I went Japanese. The last bike that I ever bought is a 79 RD 400. I still have it and, although I haven’t ridden it in over 30 years, I just can’t let go of it.
Sweet! Everytime I see an old Triumph it makes me want to grab one off of craigslist. But then, I look over at some haggard overweight dumpy mom weaving in a filthy minivan while screaming at 5 kids and facebooking… *sigh*
In an odd twist on the CC effect, I just saw a matching – maybe even bigger – moustache on the TRE train I am on. (I am in Dallas for work today.)
Haha, I just logged in to post a comment on that magnificent moustache, but I see many great minds thinking alike have beaten me to it! I’m not a motorbike man, but I do appreciate the existence of these classic Brit bikes. My Uncle had at least one Norton and possibly a Bonneville in the early 70s. He’d just left school to be a farm worker on a large farm. One of the other workers asked for a lift up to the cowshed on the Norton, he wasn’t hanging on when my Uncle opened the throttle up, and ended up horizontal…his legs and gumboots swinging up under my Uncle’s armpits were the only things that stopped him falling off…! Ultimately the Norton made a terrible farm bike, so my Uncle bought a Honda XR500 instead. When you’re getting the cows in, too much power is far better than not enough, but I bet the cows missed the style of the ol’ Norton.
I have had my 72 Daytona for about 20 years, will keep it and ride it hard untill I can’t kick it over anymore. I ride it about 150 miles a week and it has never failed to get me home. My wife has 4 bikes, but the Daytona is my one and only!
Hi All just brought a 72 Daytona Basket case to go with my 57 thunderbird and 1967 Saint ,all to rebuilt back to original over the next few years love em and would like to see them around for many years to come, have owned a lot of trumpys over the last 50 odd years even a 2006 bonny a 1992 Daytona 1000 a 2007 triumph American , but one of the best ones was a 1968 Daytona back in the day nothing could catch that bike it had Holden grey motor pistons turned down and fitted to it shit it could go. I am looking for parts or complete bikes if you have any laying around cash paid.0419904278
I bought a 79 Bonniville Special new in 81. My best riding memories are from that bike. I SO wish I still had it. The only satisfaction I have is I sold it to the moef a wonderful guy and a hero of my Jr. high school days. You might have heard of him, Dick Mann. Ride on!!