Like Bond and Aston Martin, Senna and TAG Heuer, the male brand bonding between Steve McQueen and Triumph Motorcycles is a match made in heaven.
What’s more, the venerable English marque can add such style icon pillars as Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, James Dean and even Elvis Presley to their pedigree team of superstar riders. Now if that doesn’t make a boy want to get on a bike, I don’t know shit from clay.
In fact, so enamoured with the brand was McQueen, that he even had Germans riding them in his 1963 WWII classic, ‘The Great Escape’. You didn’t know that? Look closely. Triumph didn’t seem to mind this historical faux pas either. They even celebrated it with a limited edition Triumph Bonneville, released in 2011.
One of the oldest brands in motorcycle history, the first Triumph motorcycle went on sale in 1902 and continued until 1983 when, like so many stalwart European brands, they were overtaken by the rush of Japanese machines like Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki.
Reborn in 1985, the company remains 100 percent UK-owned and by all accounts is riding high with its superbly crafted, retro-styled and customised machines that channel both the extensive history of the marque and the trademark styling of their ‘60s classics, particularly the big twin Triumph Bonneville.
Joined by riding pal, Keith, who can truthfully say he rubbed shoulders with the Kray twins in ‘60s East London, we met up with Triumph sales manager at BikeBiz Granville, Wade Lanham. The showroom floor at the busy Western Sydney dealership carries the full range of Triumph machines through touring, adventure, naked, sports and cruiser.
“The big ‘Bonnie’ (T120) only came out last year and is already selling well,” says Wade, “likewise with the Street Cup.” The T120 sold almost 300 units in 2016 from an April start. About the same as the Ducati Scrambler and Honda CB500 did for the full 12 months. 2017 has seen it take off, leaving both those rivals for dead and selling close to 100 units in Q1, helping Triumph to the #5 spot on the list of ‘Australian Road sales by brand’, between Kawasaki and BMW.
The Street Cup to which Wade refers is Triumph’s other ‘16 release that employs the 900cc Triumph Bonneville engine in an immaculate ‘cafe racer’ chassis complete with all the stylish accoutrements like bullet seat, tiny ‘flyscreen’ windshield and bold paintwork to match its ‘racer’ silhouette. Six foot-plus Keith threw a leg over the big T120 while I easily installed myself on the Street Cup as we set off for a blast around the industrial streetscapes around Rose Hill.
Both bikes deliver plenty of satisfying, silky smooth acceleration in an easy-to-manage, neutral-handling package that is a breeze around town and just as exciting on the open road (so I’m told). The T120 is a big, bare-chested 1200cc brute that suited lanky Keith to a ‘T’, all of which was confirmed with confident nods of the helmet. The smaller (900cc) Street Cup, just felt fast in an ‘old school’ understated manner without the grotesque modern and luminous fairings that seem to typify today’s sport bikes (whose sales are tanking BTW).
For a couple of misty-eyed, greying old(er) lads, it fairly warms our cockles to see the young chaps of today embracing enduring, classic style at a time where the passing fads of Insta-fashion flash past faster than a Trump tweet.
Triumph Bonneville Street Cup $15,600 +orc
Triumph Bonneville T120 $17,200 +orc
Test bikes supplied by BikeBiz Granville.