The Sunday best: Old Triumph

I'm too young to love old bikes. So what
Published February 26, 2012

So cold I couldn’t feel my fingertips nor the snot soaking my mustache, but he looked unfazed in jeans, tan moccasins and an open-faced helmet as he sipped a cigarette and rode in on a old Triumph that at some point during the day likely didn’t run.

Severe clip-ons evidence resentment for practicality

“It needs a lot of attention, on an almost daily basis,” which I’d already guessed by the tell of a screwdriver tucked into a crevice behind the transmission. The screwdriver adjusts the bike for varying air conditions, a concern I’m glad to not share for my motorcycles.

The frame’s a 1965 Triumph but according to the owner, who’s been its custodian for 11 years, that’s about the only part of the bike that’s original. The motor is a 650 twin, though at one point the frame housed a 750. It’s hard to guess what originally lived in that space.

Too nice to qualify as a rat, too ratty to be adored as a classic, the Triumph embodies motorcycling cool and carefree nonchalance. Logo stickers on the tank look older than me, and severe clip-ons evidence a deep resentment for practicality. No old analog instruments, just a pair of digital readouts clipped on the yoke for revs and speed. Mileage? The owner guesses north of 100,000, assuming we’re talking about the frame. As so many parts of the bike come from other motorcycles, I bet the miles done by all parts in their former lives amount to one helluva story life’s story. If steel could talk.

A half dozen jesters surrounded the Triumph, each pointing out enchanting details to the others, cracking jokes about spilling oil, and deeply admiring the machine before them. The owner emerged when most others had scattered. “I get a kick that people pore over it.” He kicked it to life in moccasins and rumbled off with a cigarette dangling from his lips.