As a teenager, I was fascinated by Triumph motorcycles. I remember reading catalogues from Triumph Ltd in
and staring at the beauty of those classic motorcycles.
In the Fifties and Sixties the Triumph motorcycle was the ultimate symbol of cool, outshining even Harley-Davidson as the postwar epitome of style, freedom and rebellion.
Triumph has had a recent resurgence, thanks in part to Tom Cruise riding one in “Mission Impossible” and Evel Knievel flying his Triumph Bonneville over the fountains at Caesar’s Palace.
I was at the tail end of my twenties in 1969 when I bought my first Triumph motorcycle. I bought it in
I had just sold West Coast Publications, a publishing company I owned in my twenties, and I had a few bucks. The guy who handled the printing for my company and I decided to travel
on motorcycles. A meeting place, date,
and time were set.
I flew into Frankfurt and took trains and ferries up to
Denmark. There was a method to my madness. I chose Denmark because their sales tax was
100% at that time, but it didn’t apply to exports. Consequently, I bought a new1969 Triumph 650 in Copenhagen
for half price - the sales tax of 100% was deducted since I planned to export
the bike to the states. Bad deal for the
Danes, but great for an “exporter.”
After a quick trip to
headed down to southern Germany,
where I was scheduled to meet up with my friend at the famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich.
I waited and drank good German beer for hours at the Hofbrauhaus, but, alas, my friend didn’t show up. Months later I learned that he had discovered a warm bed, heated by an German girl. He chose his ride. Who could blame him? All I knew was that he didn't show up in Munich, so I hit the road alone.
I traveled through nine countries on that great Triumph 650 experiencing a variety of interesting cultures as well as a variety of adversities. Week after endless week, rain or shine, I rode over cobble stone roads, through the beauty of the Alps, along the rugged coast of the former Yugoslavia, and through the beautiful green hills of Salzburg in Austria where the "Sound of Music" was filmed. But the ugly contrast of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany was shocking and one of the most depressing things I have ever seen. But back to bikes...
Steve McQueen actually made the Triumph name. He owned dozens of them. He raced a TR6 and did his own stunts in the movie, “The Great Escape.” Who can forget the scene where he jumps the fence on that bike?
Triumph marketed a line of clothing highlighting their association with celebrities strongly connected with the Triumph marque such as Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, James Dean, Elvis Presley and particularly, Steve McQueen,
Here are a few of the famous people who rode Triumphs: Marlon Brando rode a Triumph Thunderbird 650 in his movie, “The Wild One.” James Dean rode a Triumph TR5 Trophy. You may not believe this, but Buddy Holly and his band, The Crickets, all owned Triumphs. Clint Eastwood rode a Triumph Bonneville. Of all people, Bob Dylan rode a Triumph Tiger and crashed it ending up in the hospital. Even Elvis was a Triumph guy, riding a Bonneville T120.
Many others either rode Triumphs or at least posed for photographs on Triumphs. The long list includes Ann-Margret, Anthony Quinn, Henry Winkler (The Fonz), Warren Beatty, Jean Claude Van Damme, Tom Cruise, Carrie Anne Moss in “The Matrix,” George Clooney, Sonny Bono, Ewan McGregor (an avid rider), Paul McCartney, Prince Harry, Hugh Laurie, star of “House” on TV, Jay Leno, Antonio Banderas. Even Rita Heyworth was photographed perched on a Triumph, but I can’t picture her leaning into a curve on two wheels.
It’s been roughly 45 years since my first Triumph and I still have two in my garage, including my old classic 1969 Triumph 650 and a 2005 Triumph Speedmaster. I’m probably too old to be riding around on two wheels, but until I need training wheels, I’m going to smell the pine trees, feel the wind, and absorb the scenery of the
range from the back of a Triumph motorcycle.
I’ll wait until tomorrow to grow up. What's the rush...?
Triumph photos I'm sure you have seen before.
|Some time in 1969 and somewhere in Yugoslavia on the 650|