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A Century of Motorcycles

One hundred years is a long time, and a lot happens during that time. Just ask Triumph. Spanning more than a generation, Triumph has been in the business of making motorcycles and, at the same time, history. From the first Triumph motorcycle in 1902 to the present, the ups and downs of the Triumph motorcycle company has created a rich and colorful legacy which looks to be as healthy now (thanks to John Bloor) as it was in the 60s and early 70s.

On June 30th, 2002, Triumph concluded its Ride Across America event, started to help commemorate its 100th year in existence. Riders from all over America participated in the event, riding their Triumph motorcycles. Some participated in part and others did the whole route, which started in North Hampton, N.H., and visited various Triumph dealerships along across the country, finally stopping Pasadena, CA. for the closing ceremonies. A concours was setup, and featured many current and older Triumphs and BSAs, street machines and racing machines alike. Some were ridden to the show, others brought in vans.

Recounting the Ride Across America event, and providing an interesting recap of Triumph’s history was Lindsay Brooke, who along with David Gaylin, have authored a book called “Triumph In America”, which is a historical chronology of the marque that includes many obscure and interesting facts about Triumph’s history in America.

Many important personalities who have made a difference in Triumph’s history were in attendance. Some are listed below.

Mike Vaughn, a key speaker for the closing ceremonies, who also happens to be the head guy for U.S. sales, marketing and advertising.

Don Brown – Former editor at Cycle magazine, and the tip of the spear for Triumph coming to western America.

Bud Ekins – Remember the Steve McQueen movie “The Great Escape”? Urban legend has it that Steve, an avid bike nut and accomplished racer, made the jump himself. Although certainly capable, Steve sat this one out, the film makers not wanting to risk injury to the film star and delaying the completion of the film. Stunt man stand-in Bud Ekins did the famous jump over the barbed-wire fence aboard a TR6 to escape the Nazis.

Ed Mulder – Another famous actor, Clint Eastwood, was also portrayed on a Triumph motorcycle in “Magnum Force”. The jumps made across the Navy aircraft carrier ships were made by Ed Mulder and the jumps spanned 125 ft – a distance not planned for, but occurred because of a tidal shift. Crusty Demons of The Dirt, take note . . .

Craig Vetter – Remember the Windjammer fairing, and it’s creator, Craig Vetter? He also helped design the Hurricane, a redesign and Triumph re-badge of a BSA triple. He was there eating the fine catered cuisine.

Gene Romero – Triumph also enjoyed success in many disciplines – trials, ISDT, Bonneville Salt Flats, Isle of Man, etc. At Daytona in ’75, rider Gene Romero rode to victory circle a Rob North Triumph triple, tuned by Pat Owen. Gene also holds the highest average qualifying speed around the Daytona Speedway, at slightly over 156 mph, during a time when qualification for the 200 only used the tri-oval and had no chicane on the back straightaway.

There are many web sites and books dedicated to documenting Triumph’s history. Take a little time to check them out to see where this company came from and then keep tabs on them now to see where they are going. A lot of history was walking around the parking lot that day, people and names I recognized while growing up and it was a special day for me to be there to be witness to such a milestone.