As a Brit, it’s only fair that I tout the wonder of Triumph motorcycles!
Of course, the Triumph brand has an air of prestige and quintessential Britishness about it these days. When non-British folk think of the UK, they imagine London buses, red post boxes, fish and chips, scones, and a Triumph – all in the rain.
But it hasn’t always been plain sailing for our illustrious British marque. Like our monarchy, the brainchild of Triumph was actually conceived by a German.
Nuremberg Meets Coventry
Moving from Nuremberg to Coventry in 1883, 20-year-old Siegfried Bettmann began designing and manufacturing bicycles. Motorcycles came later, and the company remained successful despite two world wars.
A few years after WWII, our little brand made it big time in America, when Marlon Brando spanked his 1950 Triumph Thunderbird across silver screens in The Wild One.
All was well. Until the Japanese came along. And then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.
The Decline Of Triumph Motorcycles
As more affordable (and reliable) motorcycles from Japan flooded the market, Triumph took a hit in the UK, much like Harley-Davidson did in America.
Triumph was on its knees throughout the early 1980s, and in 1983, the company declared bankruptcy. It was a sad end to an industrious run.
But little did they know that 1983 was only the end of the beginning. Because this was the year that British Businessman John Bloor bought into the now-collapsed Triumph.
Triumph: A Brand Re-Born
Over the years, Bloor pumped £80 million into the heritage brand before opening the new Hinckley factory in the early ’90s.
The rest – as they say – is history. And Triumph is now the most successful British motorcycle brand to have ever graced the earth.
Makes you smile, doesn’t it?
So if it’s new bike time and you’re thinking about getting something a little different, what about a Triumph?
These are our top 10 Triumph motorcycles (in no particular order) to revel in those weekend blasts!
Triumph Tiger 900
If you’re 50+, you’ll probably associate the Tiger 900 name with the original model from 1993-1998. New riders will associate it with the regenerated model of the present.
To be honest, both are/were fantastic bikes – just in different ways.
Adventure bikes as we know them now weren’t really a thing in 1993 – they would come a decade later. However, the demand for ‘big’ trail bikes was well underway in the ’90s, and Triumph was ready with their Paris-Dakar-Esque Tiger 900.
In essence, Triumph dropped the engine from the Trident into a larger frame and adjusted the components to give it some off-roading ability.
But in reality, it was never really a trails/dual-sport bike. It always served best as a comfortable, long-distance Triumph touring bike.
Fast-forward 30 years, the new Tiger 900 has some rather large boots to fill. Not only those of the original 900 but also those of the outgoing (and hugely successful) Triumph 800 that it would replace.
Of course, Triumph did an excellent job of doing both.
The New Triumph Tiger 900
All-in-all, the new model packs a punch for the money and offers an all-round fantastic package. And if the long-distance capability of the original 900 is what drew you to it in the first place, the same characteristic shines through in the recent model.
In terms of dimensions, expect a 12bhp power bump (up from 82 to 94), and an 11kg drop in weight (209-198.) And technologically, the two are worlds apart!
But whichever way you look at it, if you want a British-bred middleweight, you can’t go wrong with a Tiger 900 – whichever era you go for. And for us, it’s probably the best Triumph motorcycle you can buy if you want a true all-rounder and value for money.
Triumph Rocket III
Oh God, where to start with this thing?! If you’re looking at it thinking, “What the hell is it?,” don’t worry – we all are.
This is, undoubtedly, one of the most intrepid bikes to ever enter the market from Triumph. In fact, it’s one of the most intrepid bikes to enter the market, period.
Back in 2004, the original Rocket III waddled in with its supersized 2,294cc triple engine – producing 150bhp and a gigantic 145 ft-lb of torque.
2.3 litres. In a bike! And all of it slammed into a hyper-cruiser chassis scary enough to make even Joh McClain think twice about crossing it.
Of course, this thing isn’t exactly riddled with toys, goodies, or practicalities. And you’d better be strong because the 2004 model comes in at 320kg – dry.
But none of that matters. Because this bike is about one thing and one thing only. Power.
It’s a middle finger to Harley and to any other brand that ever tried to grace the power bike realm. In fact, I’m surprised the tank badge isn’t a middle finger.
So what’s the point of it? Well, it makes sense (to me) that this bike was developed with the American market in mind. It’s the ultimate power cruiser, pulling away with breath-taking gusto in whatever gear you happen to be in.
Triumph Rocket III: Style, Models & Revamps
The styling has that aggressive, street-fighter look to it. But the torque and comfort suggest this is a comfortable Triumph tourer.
I must admit, I really thought the Rocket would be a one-hit wonder – a feat of engineering to show the world what Triumph can do, only to quietly disappear into the abyss.
How wrong I was! Because over the years, we’ve had various updates and incarnations.
First, we got the Roadster for a squat, meaner-looking version. Then we got the Classic which featured a touch of Americana.
And finally (my favourite), the Touring version, which came with a Harley-style screen, leather saddlebags, and a sissy bar.
If you’ve read this far, the sheer immensity of a 2.3-litre engine in a bike is probably wearing off. So you’ll be pleased to hear that in 2019, Triumph added a second middle finger by upping the displacement to 2.5 litres.
But they also added top-notch electronics, stunning Brembo brakes, and a new aluminium chassis to house the 2.5-litre lump. This resulted in a 10% power increase (up from 150 to 165bhp) and a 10% reduction in weight – from 320kg to 291kg.
The newer Rocket III is still as mental as the older one. In fact, it’s worse – because it’s clever, too!
Remember at the top of this page when I went off on a tangent about crumpets and post boxes? Well, the Triumph that people are picturing in that ‘think of England’ scenario is the distinguished (and frankly unrivalled) Triumph Bonneville.
The odd thing is that the original Bonnie wasn’t a product of the newer English version of the Triumph company. No, it was from the pre-bankruptcy version.
Bonnie versions 1 & 2 from the ’50s & 70’s featured 650cc and 750cc parallel twin engines, respectively. Both of them were courtesy of Mr Bettmann.
And we didn’t see another incarnation of this classic until the early 2000s – nearly 20 years after Bloor breathed life back into Triumph motorcycles.
Featuring a technologically updated 790cc engine and a five-speed gearbox, this newer model was a true update. Power wasn’t great, mind, at 62bhp. But speed was never the aim of the Bonnie.
Triumph Bonneville: 2001 to Present
From 2001 to now, the heritage look of the Bonnie has remained, with only the engines changing for the purpose of additional power and emission regulations.
As of 2017, the base engine of the Bonnie is a 900cc parallel twin, with a larger capacity 1,200cc in the twin-cylinder T120 model. You’ll also find better electronics packages, various rider modes, ABS & traction control, LED lights, and a host of other goodies making the Bonnie a true heritage classic.
But rather than expand on its product line, Triumph has taken its tried-and-true formula of the Bonnie and developed a range of offerings to suit everyone.
From the American-inspired Speedmaster and Bonneville America (my favourite) to the dirt-ready Scrambler and the heritage-influenced Thruxton Cafe Racer, there’s a variant to fit all criteria.
I’ve always loved 600cc Supersports. Whilst the litre bikes hold the blue ribbon events in the professional world, 600s are where the fun is if you’re a regular rider on the twisties.
And back in the early noughties, your choices were pretty limited. You could opt for a reliable Japanese offering, a somewhat temperamental Italian choice, or a British-born Triumph Daytona.
I did my CBT in 2003, so I didn’t have the licence for a Daytona. I was also 3-years too young to own one legally. But I dreamed of owning one – in that iconic Sulphur Yellow.
And to make it worse, someone I worked with had one in that exact colour. He said I could buy it from him when I passed my big bike test, but unfortunately, it had long gone by the time that day came around.
But what people forget about the Daytona was that it was a feat of engineering because it matched the power of an in-line 4 whilst rivalling the torque of a twin. And the design team did such a good job of styling that it looked as good as (if not better than) most Ducati’s.
It churned out more mid-range power than a four, but also more peak power than a twin. It truly was the best of both worlds. Ultimately, the Daytona 650 would squeeze out 123bhp with only 165kg to lug around.
The Daytona Gets Bigger
In the real world, the Daytona made a good option for those who enjoyed weekend tours. For a Supersports bike, it was comfortable.
And because of the slightly larger displacement and 3-cylinder engine, you could drag gears out longer than comparable in-line 4’s – so you weren’t shifting every 3 seconds.
Unfortunately, the end of the Daytona lineage was in 2018, and Triumph made its last hurrah with the 675R. The reason was simple yet true – people were no longer buying 600cc Supersports. They’d already moved into adventure bike territory and were showing no signs of returning.
I’d kept my hopes up with the Daytona, though. Over the last few years, I’ve watched people leave the adventure bike world behind – myself being one such person. Too big, too heavy, too expensive, too everything.
As a result, sales of traditional sports tourers are increasing, and existing 600’s aren’t really noteworthy right now (except for the Aprilia RS660.)
And with the 765 Street Triple causing chaos in the world a few years ago, it seemed a dead cert that a 765 Daytona would be making its way to our dealerships.
We live and hope, eh?
Triumph Sprint ST
When I think of Triumph, the vision that comes into my head is the 1999 Triumph Sprint. The truest of Triumph touring motorcycles.
Why? Because we were entering the era of the sports tourer – and I was just leaving school. It was the bike I most often saw in the streets – and the bike I yearned to ride.
And in my view, it was the Sprint that put Triumph motorcycles back on the global playing field.
If you had the money (and desire to lug around a heavy European bike), you could go for a BMW. Or you could go for Triumph’s closest rival – Honda’s VFR800.
Most chose a side – you either went for the Sprint or the VFR800. I came down on the Sprint side. But the odd thing is I actually bought a VFR800 15 years later – and hated it! I should’ve bought the Sprint.
The earlier 955cc models matched the VFR in most ways. Performance was similar at 108bhp (vs the VFR’s 110,) and it weighed in (dry) at 210kg – vs the VFR’s 208.
But the thing about the Sprint was that it was a proper sports tourer. It wasn’t rapid, but it was fast enough. More than that, it came with a cushy dual seat so you and a pillion could tour for hours in comfort and with a decent fairing to protect against the elements.
Triumph Gives Us The Sprint GT
It also came with removable hard luggage to lug around your stuff on tour, but you could take it off for a weekend blast – and the bike looked good either way.
In 2005, Triumph gave us a few updates and up’d the displacement to 1050cc for more power, a longer stroke, and more mid-range torque.
And that’s where the Sprint stayed until 2017 when Triumph released the Sprint GT – an out-and-out touring-inspired machine.
The GT version offered an additional 20bhp, a longer wheelbase for comfortable pillion riding, and masses of luggage space. The top gear was also longer for motorway cruising.
With the change in dynamics and a shift to a 3-in-1 exhaust, the GT now weighed in at a politely chunky 265kg – making it too heavy for many. Although I have to admit, I’ve ridden this bike, and it doesn’t feel at all heavy when you’re riding it.
The legend of the Sprint ended in 2017 for similar reasons that the Daytona 675 did. People were shifting into the adventure market, and Triumph felt the design and production costs would be better spent on the Tiger.
Triumph Tiger 1200
Whilst I’ve always respected and appreciated Triumph’s heavyweight in the adventure category, I never wanted one. In the same way I appreciate a GS – but don’t want one of those, either.
What disappointed me about this bike originally is that it was clearly in a personal battle with the BMW GS. Triumph was competing with BMW in this field, and it became a willy-waving competition that apparently consumed them both.
Customer needs (for both companies) went out of the window. And it became about who could get the biggest engine in the chassis, who could make the more aggressive-looking bike, and who could fill the entire thing with the most amount of (frankly unnecessary) tech.
And all of this is great. But from a consumer point of view, it does nothing (for most people) except act as a very expensive status symbol. Like a Range Rover.
Yet (also like a Range Rover), most GS’s and Tiger 1200s will never reach anywhere even close to their potential – because the people riding them either can’t get there or the bikes stay on perfectly tarmacked roads.
That’s not a dig at the people buying them. It’s just a fact – and I’m happy to make an example of myself to make a point. Am I able to ride them? Yes, capably, even if I say so myself.
But I am NOT a good enough rider to get the best out of a Triumph Tiger 1200 or BMW GS – on-road or off it.
Tiger 1200: Is Bigger Always Better?
However, over the last few years, we’ve seen displacements of big adventure bikes go from big, to too big, to daft. For years, 1,200cc’s was the ceiling. KTM went to 1,290, BMW followed with a 1,250 GS, Ducati stuck a 1,260 in its Multistrada, and then Harley-Davidson came along with its Pan America 1,250. It seemed inevitable that Triumph would follow suit.
Except they didn’t. Because where the rest of the manufacturers continued down the path of more, more, more, Triumph became Triumph once again.
They listened. Changes were made. And throughout 2021 and 2022, alternative redesigns came to life.
For a start, rather than increasing the engine to 1,250cc, Triumphed dropped it to 1,160. Not only this, but they managed to eek more power out of it – so now we had a smaller engine producing 9bhp more than its predecessor. And it’s lighter!
On top of this, the bike was rebuilt from scratch and now sees a new purpose-built engine, new dynamics, suspension, gearbox, chassis, and electrics.
And the result? Triumph came up with a machine that is smaller, lighter, faster, better off-road, easier to handle, and cheaper (spec-for-spec), whilst being just as comfortable and feature-packed as its chunkier competitors.
Well done, Triumph.
Triumph Street Triple
Okay, I’ll be honest. I hate the way this bike looks! I know many people love it, and that’s great. But for me, it’s up there with KTM levels of fugly. And that’s saying something.
However! That doesn’t stop it from being one hell of a bike. And when you’re sat on it, you can’t see its butt-ugly looks anway, so who cares?
I tend to disagree with many who call the Street Triple a baby Speed Triple. Yes, it looks kind of similar. But that’s really where the similarities end.
Remember the Daytona I was praising above? Well, that’s where the original Street Triple came from.
In 2007, Triumph replaced their outgoing Daytona 650 in-line 4 with the new flagship Daytona 675 triple.
Triumph took the new triple engine from the Daytona and dropped it in the chassis of the outgoing Speed Four roadster.
And thus, the Speed Triple was born. Whilst looking nothing alike, the Street Triple was essentially a Daytona 675 in different clothes.
Yes, the tuning had been altered for the intended purposes of the bike. And as a result, it lost around 18bhp on the Daytona. It also had cheaper running gear and fewer toys, but none of that mattered once you swung a leg over and got moving.
Street Triple: The Ultimate Wheelie Machine
What you had was a 105bhp rampant street fighter in a body that weighed only 167kg and with the burning heart of a Daytona.
Crazy. Stupid. Yet insanely good fun.
It was fast, nimble, and chuckable, with plenty of low-down grunt and a riding position and stance that gave it an unmissable attitude.
As a result, Triumph gave us a bike that couldn’t keep its front wheel on the ground. It was ridiculously easy to wheelie (even if you didn’t want to), and as a result, became the bike of choice for stunt riders across the world.
Since 2007, the Street Triple has seen a fair few upgrades and revisions. And in 2018, we had the big reveal as Triumph released their new Street Triple with a bigger capacity 765cc engine.
As per typical Triumph, they’ve customised a tried-and-true bike to make it available for the masses. So if you have the experience and the cash, go all-out for the 125bhp Street Triple RS.
If not, go one step back, and go for the slightly less powerful R model. And if you haven’t got your big bike licence yet, you can always go for the A2-friendly Street Triple 660.
Triumph Scrambler 900
I’ve always been a fan of the Triumph Scrambler. The originals came around in the 60s when Triumph essentially stuck some knobblies on a Bonneville and chopped the exhaust down.
These days, however, the Scrambler is a different beast entirely. Whilst its name suggests an off-road machine, that isn’t really what it’s all about.
Sure, it’ll do fine on gravel paths and the odd bit of backroad riding. But by and large, it’s a go-anywhere urban ride – styled in that typical heritage way that only Triumph can get away with.
That sounds like a negative. But is it? Well, I don’t think so.
If you commute in and out of the city on two wheels and fancy packing your panniers and going for a weekend adventure, the Scrambler is your bike.
As an urban ride, it’s fabulous in the city. But it also makes it incredibly easy to enjoy the twisties and adventurise off-road when the mood takes you.
It’s comfortable and easy-going, has a high trail-like stance, decent performance, good brakes and suspension, and perhaps most of all… it looks stunning.
The Street Scrambler: Jack Of All Trades
As mentioned above, it doesn’t excel off-road. But then again, it doesn’t really excel at anything. Taken together, it’s a thoroughly decent all-rounder – perfect for the modern-day rider seeking a retro urban adventure bike.
If you want one, go for the post-2019 models, where Triumph up-rated the 900cc parallel-twin to give it a few extra horses and more torque. This brings the power metrics up to 64bhp and 54 ft-lb torque, respectively.
Adding to the nimbleness of this bike is it’s weight, which is a hair over 200kg.
For two-up riding, the bench seat is comfortable and relaxed – above an engine that is equally relaxed, non-intimidating, and easy to handle.
Is it one of the best bikes on this list? No. But that wouldn’t stop it from being near the top of my own personal list.
Triumph Thunderbird 1700 LT
I love the looks of the Thunderbird models released from 1997-2004. But for the purpose of the post, I’m referring to the newer models released between 2014-2018.
If you’re in America and want a classical Americana-style cruiser, the Thunderbird LT is your choice.
The one thing that disappoints me about this bike is that Triumph didn’t colour over the lines enough. There’s a predictability in the way this bike looks – sort of how you would expect it to.
That said, it still looks amazing if you’re into cruiser-style rides.
Jumping aboard this bike, there’s no denying it’s a hefty weight to shift at 380kg. In the words of AC/DC, she’s a whole lotta Rosie. Oddly, it isn’t difficult to handle – it’s stable, planted, predictable, and stays that way even when pushed.
Like many bikes in this category, the comfort levels of the Thunderbird are unrivalled.
Triumph Thunderbird: Torque & Toys
The 1,699cc liquid-cooled parallel twin produces 91bhp. But as always with cruisers, what you want is torque. And the Thunderbird offers it in abundance, with 111 ft-lb of torque as low down as 3400rpm.
Toys-wise, Triumph goes above and beyond. First, the 4.5mm screen is detachable without the use of tools. And you can get it in two different heights to ensure it’s not obscuring your view when riding.
A nice touch.
I also like the genuine leather saddlebags which come complete with waterproof liner bags. Dig deeper, and you’ll come across an integrated 12V socket for charging devices on the move.
Fancy travelling without saddlebags and sissy bars? Fine, these are completely removable. And unlike many bikes with luggage, the brackets are not exposed – so the bike looks just as good without them.
You have to love the Speedmaster simply for the way it looks! In my view, it looks even better than the Bonnie from which it was originally derived.
If you’re going to get one, though, go for the newer model – 2021 onwards.
The old models suffered from the same agonising bench seat that plighted the comfort of many Triumphs before it.
But from 2021, Triumph up-rated the seat to include a plusher comfort seat with 11mm of foam. Add this to the light throttle, feet-forward pegs, and angled handlebars, and it’s a comfortable bike to ride.
If you’re wanting to race around on your weekend trip, the Speedmaster probably isn’t for you. Like a cruiser, it’s designed to be ridden at a more relaxed pace, and whilst it isn’t deficient in power, it certainly isn’t its forte.
We’ll Take Ours In Fusion White
In the corners, it’s surprisingly easy to tip in – to the point where you will catch the pegs. Exiting them, the Speedmaster’s torque activates as low down as 1,800rpm, so you’ll power out of the bends with a decent amount of pull.
Whilst not really made for high speeds, the Speedmaster will comfortably sit on the motorway/highway at 70mph, with the rev counter idling at 3,000 rpm – which makes it comfortable and economical.
Go much higher than 70, though, and things can get a little vibey.
But the Speedmaster isn’t about the specs. It’s about the experience and the looks. Triumph has done an excellent job of taking the styling from an old-school classic and hiding away modern flourishes.
Despite the rear shock, the Speedmaster retains the hardtail styling of days gone by. It features a ride-by-wire throttle, ABS, LED lights, rider modes, and even cruise control.
For us, get one in Fusion White, get comfy, and enjoy the wind in your hair.
Top image: Stephan Louis