Relaunching a famous motorcycle brand might sound easy, but it's anything but. When UK industrialist John Bloor bought the rights to the Triumph brand back in the 1980s and set about relaunching that most revered of brands, he really had his work cut out.
As well as owning just the name, Bloor was also up against a tide of ill feeling towards British bikes in general - a hangover from the days when they were poorly built (and ultimately killed off by the Japanese brands).
In the end, Bloor succeeded, mainly by building a pretty darn good bike. The sports and naked models were seen as a bit derivative, but one model, the Speed Triple, became an instant classic. It's now collectible, so if you want one, get it now.
On the road
An early Speed Triple isn't the fastest or the best handling naked bike around, but it's definitely one of the toughest looking. Available in either black or orange, the muscular looks were helped by a gorgeous inline triple engine that had some of the top-end of a four-cylinder, some of the bottom-end grunt of a V-twin and loads of personality. The power was smooth and instant and even when you weren't going for it, you knew you were looking cool just by swinging a leg over the Triumph.
Steering wasn't exactly quick, but the Speed Triple was stable and reasonably comfy for longer rides if you could handle the seat, which was a bit on the hard side. The sound from the standard twin pipes is bettered only by the three-into-one stainless system Triumph offered as an accessory. Smaller people complained that the Speed Triple carried its weight high, which it did, but if you're taller, that won't matter for a moment.
What to look for when buying a used Triumph Speed Triple
The reborn Triumph factory knew it would only get one shot at relaunching the brand, so it had to be right from day one. So the whole Speed Triple is over-engineered. That's good now as the engines are unburstable and apart from a timing chain every 80,000km or so, they seem capable of racking up huge miles.
The one to find now is the very last of them from the 1996 model year. The big improvement was a six-speed gearbox (the original had five) and better brakes. You'll spot a 1996 model by its gold disc carriers and calipers and they're worth the extra money every day of the week.
Model: Speed Triple
Years: 1992 - 1996
Engine size: 855cc
Fuel system: carburettors
Standard transmission: 5/6-speed
The Final Verdict
+ Cool, tough looks
+ One of motorcycling's great engines
+ Surprisingly useable
- Early models had just five gears
- Seat is a pain ... literally