Saturday, 23 January 2010


In the nineteen sixties, the British motorcycle industry was utterly decimated by four Japanese companies.Suzuki, Kawasaki, Honda and Yamaha.

They offered the customer a cost effective machine, that was well engineered and reliable.

The great names of British motorcycling disappeared one by one.

BSA, Norton, Greaves, Ariel, HRD , Triumph and many many more.

Growing up in Stevenage, I particularly remember HRD, which manufactured the Vincent Black Shadow, the worlds first 1000cc motorcycle.

It was an HRD machine that broke the 200 mph barrier on Utah salt flats, ridden by a Stevenage lad called George Brown.

In later life George had a motorcycle shop in the town and the bike concerned, called 'nero' was proudly displayed in the shop window.

As we know the industry in Britain died, old fashioned bespoke engineering was replaced by high quality Japanese mass production.

Then in the late 1980's, along came an Englishman, called John Bloor, who bought the rights to the Triumph name.

John had and continues to make a fortune from house building.

He hired ex Triumph engineers and sent them to Japan, to learn how to build high quality machines, in a cost effective way.

His view was that Britain produced amazing engineers, but failed in the production process.

As a result his design team came back with the knowledge to create advanced motorcycles, that would be able to compete with the Japanese.

Little by little the new Triumph company started to encroach on Japanese market share.

Today their market share in Britain has continued to increase and they have recently overtaken Kawasaki.

The company now sells in excess of 50,000 machines worldwide, most of which go to North America and surprisingly Japan.

The iconic brand is going from strength to strength!

Triumph produces the largest and most powerful motorcycle in the World, far outstripping any machine produced by Harley Davidson.

If one remembers the classic movie, Hells Angels, starring Marlon Brando, you will know Triumph Motorcycles.

This iconic product has learnt from the Japanese and is now probably the finest example of motorcycle engineering in the World.

If you are looking for a machine over 500cc, then look no further. It will perform and you have the added benefit of gravitas!

Today Triumph Motorcycles are comparable with Japanese machines, in terms of quality, but exceed them in innovation.


  1. When I was much, much younger, my then boyfriend had a BSA and a Norton, inherited from his father. I was the envy of all the girls!

  2. Simon -- Our USA news is now panicking over Japanese 'encroachment' on the excellence of Microsoft, literally a drive away from my home.

    Normally, I don't think in terms of economics, but since the late 1970s, America has been faced with the gutting of its industrial 'hegemony', and after a short, angry moment, came to honor the Japanese for their dedication and elegance of approach.

    That would go for WWII, as well, in retrospect, not true? Their soldiers were not exactly 'cream puffs'!

    I believe a friend of mine had a BSA back in the 60s and took me for a 'sprint' that scared the bejeezus out of me! The name 'Triumph' is golden in my mind -- not that I've owned anything by that name.

    My (second?) cousin Charles used to ride me around in his green MG roadster -- great memories.

    Brando's 'chopper' film, here in the US, anyway, was called The Wild One? (My 'imdb' says that wasn't released in the UK until 1968?)

  3. Thankyou for reminding me of the film's name, I couldn't think of it at the time.It seems a sad fact that far too many Western manufacturers have curled up and died.
    I think John Bloor is an example they should follow. He owns 100% of the company and so no-one can sell it out from under his feet.
    The British sports car industry is another example of engineering collapse.

  4. I too used to appreciate the Vincent 1000. I had a Norton twin, a lovely bike. What the Japs did for our motorbikes they also did for the british printing Press. i used to sell the Thompson Crown Press made in Manchester and at shows the Japs would come around with their cameras and photo everything. They then went back and made their own machines with all the benefits we wanted to include but could not afford. I like your site and you raise some cracking issues.