The Real Story Behind Triumph Motorcycle Company

THUMPERRRR's picture

Created by Germans, built in Thailand, and alive and well thanks to the USA, the British bike has a fascinating past and a glorious future.

Death must be a biker, and a fun-lovin' bad-ass Outlaw Biker at that, because when Triumph Motorcycles hit the wall in 1983, Death decided he didn't think Heaven would want it, and Hell was probably afraid it'd take over - so he sent it back.

A Stitch In Time

That hadn't been the company's first brush with the aforementioned Grim Reaper (maybe we'll call him 'Brian'); Triumph Engineering had already gone bust in 1939, and been forced to sell both kidneys and a lung prior to that.

The most British of motorcycle marques was in fact the creation of a German. Seigfried Bettmann was born in Nuremburg in 1863, emigrating to England at the age of 22. He worked as a translator for a sewing machine company, and a year later founded the Triumph Cycle Company (always with the sewing machines and the bicycles, what is it about motoring pioneers?).

By 1902 Bettmann and his business partner, fellow German Moritz Schulte, had established manufacturing in Nuremburg as well as Coventry in England, and it was in the British plant that the pair first spliced a Belgian-made 2.2hp gasoline motor into a bicycle frame, to create the first Triumph motorcycle. Motorized cycle production also began at the German factory a year later, assisted by investment from Dunlop, who had a vested interest in increasing tire sales, and in 1905 the company began manufacturing its own engines.

By 1907 Triumph was making its mark in the exciting new world of motorcycle racing, producing over 1,000 machines a year.

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Richard Prosser
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