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Triumph Bringing Back Cub Single

1965 Triumph Tiger Cub

The global economic downturn hasn’t been kind to the motorcycle industry, but you wouldn’t know it if you were in India. That nation’s burgeoning middle class wants all the things the middle class wants anywhere, including the symbol of economic prosperity, personally-owned transportation—and a motorcycle is the most affordable ticket. That’s why Triumph India—a wholly owned subsidiary of Triumph Motorcycles UK—will debut a line of single-cylinder motorcycles in three years, according to an interview with Triumph India’s Managing Director Ashish Joshi that appeared in India’s Business Standard newspaper.

Joshi has since left the company—maybe for speaking out of turn?—but he revealed much in the interview. Triumph India is focusing on the small market for premium motorcycles, assembling “Completely Knocked Down (CKD)” kits to circumvent tariffs to offer bigger models like the Bonneville and Rocket III. When the Indian plant is set up, it will be assembling 10-14 bikes a day, a drop in the bucket for a nation of over a billion. But there’s not much demand for million-Rupee motorbikes with 100-plus mph top speeds—as we wrote earlier, Indians buy motorcycles and scooters in staggering numbers: 13.44 million in 2011, with almost all the models under 500cc. A small company like Triumph only needs a small slice of that huge pie.

The new models are code-named “Street,” and will use a liquid-cooled, four-valve head and displace between 267 to 350cc, according to a story in Motorcycle Sport and Leisure. We can imagine the engine would be installed in a range of different styles, mirroring the bigger models—a retro-styled classic, an adventure tourer (and it would have to be called a Cub, no?) and a naked roadster like the 675cc Street Triple.

These models would almost certainly be manufactured and sold in other markets—Thailand and Brazil, certainly, but given the popularity of smaller sportbikes like Kawasaki’s Ninja 250R and Honda’s CBR250R, the idea of a budget-priced 350cc Street Single in the USA makes plenty of sense. Triumph’s American dealers lack an entry-level machine (unless you consider the $7699, 495-pound Bonneville “entry level”), so this would seem like a perfect way to get those who crave a Triumph entry to the Triumph brand.

If you want even more idle speculation, expect more bikes like this from all the non-Japanese brands. Both Piaggio (parent company of Aprilia and Moto Guzzi) and KTM have facilities in India, and KTM is already selling its street thumper there. Ducati would do well to trade on its history of single-cylinder motorcycles, too. Even Harley-Davidson has a plant in India, and has no shortage of small-bike names. Updated Sprint anyone?

Times have been relatively difficult for companies banking on expensive, large-displacement models, but we could be entering a Renaissance of fun, light, inexpensive one-lung models.

45 Comments

  1. randy says:

    My wife’s little Wolf 150 has 2,000 miles on it now – all from 100+ mile rides through the Sierra Mountains and Mojave/Death Valley. The Wolf is a little physically small for me, a 54″ wheelbase 250-350 single would be a better fit. I would probably buy a TU250 but these aren’t sold in Kalifornia.

    I think Triumph would have a retro hit if they could keep the weight off and price not too high.

  2. MrCrashHappy says:

    Who the hell cares about a peanut like this? Maybe if you license sixteen-year-olds? This is DOA in the USA.

    • sliphorn says:

      MrCrashHappy, I disagree. The 250 Honda and Kawi sell like hotcakes and so would a Triumph. Heck, in my neck of the woods the little SYM Wolf 150 sells like crazy.

      I really like the idea of a 350cc single cylinder Triumph. It’d be the perfect city bike.

  3. Harry says:

    No, you don’t get it.

  4. Harry says:

    A new Triumph, and it isn’t a direct rip-off of a BMW model. Wow, pretty ballsy there, Triumph.

    • Scott in the UK says:

      I don’t get it Harry – BMW stopped making triples years ago…and they started parallel twin production a few years ago……surely BMW following Triumph??

    • Dave says:

      I don’t get it either. When did TRiumph make overweight, under powered boxers? BMW’s are great at what they do but hardly comparable to Triumphs. Guess I’ll need this angle explained to me…

  5. soi cowboy says:

    In Asia scooters are only used around town while in North America trips are longer.
    You need bags and a windshield for highway use and enough power to maintain 60 mph; therefore, you need a 500 twin minimum.

  6. HalfBaked says:

    Motociclismo Online from Brasil is showing the new “Cub” to look almost nothing at all like the 1965 model. http://motociclismo.terra.com.br/index.asp?codc=1112#

    • John Bryan says:

      Marketing-wise a mini Speed Triple makes more sense than something nostalgic. Though, if Triumph follows their past practice, a “classic” style version might come along later…

    • Gabe says:

      Who said it would look like the 1965 bike?

  7. HalfBaked says:

    Some off-road oriented dual sport models for the US market would be nice.

  8. Ron Gordon says:

    My wife’s new TU250 Suzuki has @1000mi on it now and brings me back to the 60s when I started to ride and enjoy what I had feared up to that point. With Eric Buell hooking up with HERO we may soon see small machines coming to the USA and getting agressively marketed.

  9. MGNorge says:

    Remember that for all their attractive simplicity back then, they also did not have to contend with emissions regulations which today often means F.I., liquid cooling and a big ol’ charcoal canister to hang somewhere. Then you also have to make room for an enlarged muffler for noise control and to wrap around a catalyzer.

  10. clasqm says:

    Not only India, but China and SE Asia in general would be a good market for a single-cylinder Triumph. But I can’t see them entering into a such a race to the bottom. Surely the lesson of the last decade has been NOT to go directly into competition with the Chinese? Triumph has succeeded precisely because they have capitalised on the historic prestige of their brand and backed it up with pretty good machines. People are prepared to pay extra for that.

    They’ve been working hard for the last two decades to position themselves as a top-end brand, a BMW competitor. Now they are going to make millions of little bikes that others are always going to match or beat on price? Where’s the upside in that?

    But a range of 350/500 big singles, now that would make them stand out in the market … Hmmm, who owns the BSA brand ATM? Manganese Bronze Holdings, according to wikipedia. If Triumph pays them a million quid to use the name, expect to see a BSA Gold Star in the showroom.

    Well, I can dream, can’t I?

    • Dave says:

      The market size of China and India eclipses everything else they do today. It’s where the real volume and money is. Leadership in those markets would be a huge prize for any western brand. Besides, going after that market wouldn’t have any greater effect on their brand image in the west than Honda’s presence in those markets do.

      As a bonus, it could yield some neat stuff for our markets that would never happen if they were done for the western markets only.

  11. Bob says:

    Cub with a radiator? Count me out. Liquid cooled motorcycle engines are just plain ugly. Give it an air cooled motor and retro styling and I’d buy one in a second.

  12. johnny ro says:

    Me again. Sorry to say it but my favorite Triumph is a Kawasaki.

  13. Al says:

    I owned a Cub back in the late ’60′s. It was pretty slow but it was good transportation that got great mileage (an important consideration in my impoverished state back then). I really like the styling of brit bikes from this era and currently own a 1968 BSA Shooting Star. I would love to see an updated Cub with modern components but with that lovely (to me) styling. I’d buy one for sure.

  14. GP says:

    Hooray! I am patiently awaiting the resurgence of small, simple motorcycles in the US. Note that this does not mean that they have to be dull, slow, and unexciting (See Suzuki TU250X)! The Honda CBR250, and their CRF250L are good examples of what we should see more of and they owe it all to Kawasaki, who kept the Ninja 250 in their line up, never gave up on it. A 350/400cc market would be great to see! I have a daughter who started on Ninja 250, but there is no good “next step” for her. 2-stroke dirt bikes go 65, 85, 105, 125, 200, 250, 300, 500. Street bikes go 250, 600. Fill the gap, Please!

    • todd says:

      there are the 500′s. That seems like a logical step up from the 250′s what with only having 50% more power but being sized closer to the 650′s and 600′s. What’s a shame is that there are no more 125′s. A fully faired 250 is pretty intimidating to a new rider. A Hero 125 ish is not. America experienced its greatest motorcycle growth when the entry level bike was a 90 or a 125.

      • GP says:

        What 500′s??? The Kawasaki Ninja 500 is gone. The Suzuki GS500 is gone. Honda? Yamaha? – None. There are no 500′s!

  15. John says:

    And, Triumph, I STILL want to see a 530cc twin based on the new 800 engine for use in …….

    1. Tiger Cub 530 DP mini-Adv bike.

    2. Tiger Street sport tourer (with shaft drive, thanks!)

    3. Super Moto 530 twin

    for starters. With the power of smaller engines going up, and gas prices going up, why do motorcycle engines keep getting bigger and bigger?

  16. Ayk says:

    Suzuki started this trend a few years ago with the TU250X. Seen one lately? Small bikes may catch on here again some day, but it’s going to take a while. The CBR250F is a step in the right direction, and now Honda has leveraged that motor into a dual-sport. A Triumph built in India for Indians is unlikely to generate enthusiams here. Royal Enfields are a nice blast from the past, but you don’t see many on the road.

    • joe says:

      i have a royal enfield and it it alot of fun on the backroads. on the freeway it gets the job done but it is more of a job. at 70mpg it is hard to beat.
      with these new triumphs i wonder if they will show up in california, the suzuki didn’t.

    • Dingerjunkie says:

      How much marketing have you seen or that TU250X? Remember how hard Honda had to market the Rebel to get it going (the “Ridin’ on a Rebel commercial series on regular TV)? Making a bike is different than marketing a bike. Small bikes would sell in this country if the manufacturers would actually TRY TO SELL them…that includes training their sales staff on how to move them, instead of allowing sales people to push new riders to 600-Supersport models.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Making a bike is different than marketing a bike. Small bikes would sell in this country if the manufacturers would actually TRY TO SELL them…that includes training their sales staff on how to move them”

        you know that’s an EXCELLENT point, but it begs the question… what’s the ratio of cost to train/market vs. profit margin…? one thing we don’t have to guess on is p/m… it’s JACK SQUAT…! yet the cost of doing business doesn’t ratchet down in any appreciable way just because one’s hocking a single cylinder vs. a multi…? for example, sport rider’s cost for a single page full color ad, is what it is…? now what you choose to decorate that page with is YOUR problem.

        see, there’s a hidden benefit in the “high cost” (a relative term btw) that everyone complains about regarding multis… A MULTI AFFORDS THE MANUFACTURER A PROFIT MARGIN. more specifically a profit margin in the context of the number of units that a manufacturer can REALISTICALLY expect to sell. repeat, “a profit margin in the context of the number of units a manufacturer can REALISTICALLY expect to sell”. these profit margins then go on to “finance the future”.

        as ayk eludes with TU and the enfield… no profit =’s no future. sucks, but better we be aware of all this, than ignorant to it.

    • zuki says:

      I also mentioned the TU250X early in the morning yesterday, but for some reason my comment is still awaiting moderation. :/

  17. BirdeyeDrew says:

    I would buy one that looks like that – right now! …, if it had 25 hp (+/-), modern single-sided disk brakes up front and rear; modern suspension, tranny, electrics, tires – with vibration at least somewhat under control. I think it would be a blast to ride!

  18. John says:

    I can see multiple uses for such an engine in a Triumph.

    1. Street Single street fighter.

    2. 350 SuperMoto

    3. 350 Cub Classic.

    4. Tiger Cub 350 DP trail bike

    5. Cub Scrambler

    6. Daytona 350

    I’d be forced to buy at least two, though most likely a Cub Classic for around town scooting and a Tiger Cub for off road excursions.

  19. Norm G. says:

    re: “Triumph India is focusing on the small market for premium motorcycles, assembling “Completely Knocked Down (CKD)” kits to circumvent tariffs to offer bigger models like the Bonneville and Rocket III.”

    rocket III…? knock down kit…? more like a “knock you down” kit…! that’s some gross tonnage to try and assemble.

  20. zuki says:

    Strange why Suzuki’s little single is ignored so much – http://www.suzukicycles.com/Product%20Lines/Cycles/Products/TU250X/2012/TU250X.aspx

  21. Gary says:

    I never owned a Cub but I worked on them and had several friends who bought them. Even back on those days it was a total turd … slow, non-brakes and prone to breakdown. Being a Triumph fan, I trust the new version will be much better.

  22. skybullet says:

    In the 50′s and 60′s the Brits had some of the cleanest and best looking purely functional designs. A return to that look (and not Triumph’s near miss vertical twin styling of late) would probably appeal to new and old riders as well. What do I mean by near miss? The vintage gas tanks and engines had beautiful lines, the new ones look like a poor imitation. Yes it is a challenge to incorporate modern engineering and vintage styling. Kawasaki has done a much better job in my opinion.

    • Tim says:

      I don’t mind the current gas tanks but could not agree more that the motors on the modern retro Triumphs are really bulky and ugly. Those from the 60′s looked like fine art.

  23. Reinhart says:

    Don’t get too excited, it’s most likely not coming to the USA.

  24. Kurt says:

    I would personally love it if it looked like the beautiful Cub in the picture, but no, it will probably look like some insect or a transformer with the Cub moniker slapped on. Cant it look like this but have modern brakes tires and suspension? Maybe a four valve head with dohc? 25-30hp? 70 mpg? The cafe racer guys and gals would go nuts for this, as would others. Hey Triumph, Honda already makes a great 250 for $4k. Give us the same relative performance for $4k, but styled like this ’65. THAT would be brilliant. Offer as an accessory a small cafe fairing. Kick arse in the 250 class.

  25. johnny ro says:

    I would probably buy one, but it wont look like the one in the picture. I like 25-40 hp machines.

    I might buy that if I ever saw one out there. The 1965 Cub is a very pretty machine.

  26. Mark says:

    I remember the Cub from the 60′s. Would be nice to see a retro, and ride an updated Cub
    with a single lung. YES, I WOULD BUY ON IF; Quality, looks like a Retro Cub and parts availablity. The marketing is right on. The industry Needs more entry level machine to attract young eager to ride buyer’s. Agree’d, A sport bike today is very expensive for a young person.

  27. mickey says:

    Very cool. I’d buy one of those in a heartbeat. Looks perfect.