I grew up hearing the raspy burble of English engine noise and at some point it became part of my DNA. While other kids lusted after American muscle cars and Italian exotics, I just wanted my dad’s ’69 MG. I wanted to buy a left hand drive Mini from Germany and somehow smuggle it into the country. In my adult life, it was the modern MINI that got in my blood. British motors always do, somehow. I’ve loved that car like a child and once I started riding two-wheel machines, it wasn’t long before Triumph bored it’s way into my blood like a parasite. I didn’t even like the idea of motorcycles, yet the Thruxton and the Speed Triple kept whispering to me from the pages of brochures and websites. Come to us. We’ll have lots of fun.
Eventually I gave in. After a full winter of ogling Triumphs down at Moto Primo, I got to demo a Bonneville. It was my first motorcycle ride and I couldn’t even begin to evaluate the bike because I was mostly just hanging on for dear life. There were other bikes I’d like to demo, but it just didn’t seem like a good idea. For example, Triumph’s Tiger fits me like it was made for me, but I didn’t dare ride that 1000cc monster with so little experience. I’d also been eyeballing the then newly introduced Street Triple — a bike that weighs about the same as my Vespa GT but with nearly 100 more horsepower. I’ve come a long way since then. As of today, I have about 10,000 scooter miles behind me and about 1,000 miles on my Honda CB650. I’m hardly seasoned in motorcycles, but I actually know how to ride a bike now. So when I got a marketing email from Triumph that a demo ride event was coming to the Triumph dealership in Belle Plain, MN I knew I had to attend.
I arrived at Belle Plain Motorsports a little before 10:00 and was sad to see that they were only allowing two rides per rider per day. There were five Triumphs I wanted to demo: the Bonneville, Thruxton, Speed Triple, Street Triple and Tiger. With opportunity for only two rides, I decided on the Thruxton and the Tiger because as cool as the Triples are, I’m going to actually buy either a Thruxton or a Tiger (or both) in the future if I can swing it. Beyond that, I wanted to really complete that Bonneville ride I’d taken so long ago. In the end, I was able to score a third ride on a Street Triple R because nobody was riding it that demo session. Score!
I signed the waivers and listened to the pre-ride safety briefing. The way they organize these events is pretty ingenious. Triumph provides about two dozen demo bikes — one or two of everything in their lineup. Those bikes are lined up in two columns that make up two separate demo groups. The dealership provides local ride escorts to block the ride groups, and those blockers then take a line of demo bikes and riders on about a 20 minute backroad power cruise. The course for us here in Minnesota was 14 miles of perfect blacktop including some somewhat aggressive curves, elevation changes, and a handful of desolate stop signs. It was nothing difficult or technical, but it was definitely a lot more fun than some long stretch of straight highway would have been.
I’m going to write about the three bikes I rode in separate posts, but I want to say a few things about Triumph in general. Firstly, everything I rode was a solid, well-engineered, finely detailed machine. None of the bikes ever felt cheap or sloppy. Secondly, all three bikes had amazing brakes on them. Thirdly, their stable of inline twins and triples are so torquey they just about don’t need gears. Just twist the throttle and off you go. This made their bikes not simply powerful, but easy to ride powerfully.
Lastly, I was really impressed with this event. Obviously, the dealership had their hand in it too, but I learned some really interesting things from one of the dealership guys who happened to also be a ride blocker. He told me that Triumph puts on these traveling demo events across the country instead of wasting money touring with the International Motorcycle Show. I’ve been to the International Motorcycle Show. Its only real value is that it’s in the dead of winter and gives all of us cabin fevered petrol heads somewhere to go and nerd out about bikes for an afternoon. What Triumph has done is brilliant, if you ask me. Instead of getting to sit on a Triumph, which I can do at the dealer whenever I want, I actually got to ride several of them. If my calendar had been more open, I could have attended yesterday and rode even more. It would be possible to ride almost one of everything they make. Does Honda do anything like that? Does the local Harley dealership have one of everything available for demo? More than that though, this was a decidedly bullshit-free event. All I had to do was sign a waiver, wear my gear, and show up with a valid motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license. No credit card information needed. No taking down my insurance info. No hurdles. No bullshit. Triumph was there for the express purpose of me riding and evaluating their machines. They’re proud of them, and they should be. The whole event communicated clearly to me that Triumph is genuinely interested in my business. Well let the countdown begin, ’cause I’m buyin’ me a Triumph as soon as I can swing it. The tricky bit will be deciding which one. More on that to come. Stay tuned.