Showing posts with label 1960s British Sports Bikes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1960s British Sports Bikes. Show all posts

Dresda Triton

Dresda Triton 1960s British classic motorcycle

It has doubtless been discussed - in refreshment rooms around the world - which is the greatest café racer ever made. Dave Degens could be forgiven for making the case for the Dresda Triton. His company - Dresda Autos - was based in west London. As well as a race engineer, Degens was a rider of high repute. It followed, then, that he would be on the lookout for high-performance tips and techniques. A logical way to go, in that regard, would be to take a well-sorted motor - and install it in an equally well-sorted chassis. Which is exactly what Degens did. Indeed, since the mid-'50s, two-wheeled tech-heads had been bolting Triumph engines into Norton frames. The hybrid fruits of their labour were dubbed Tritons. Triumph's powerplants were the most potent around, at the time. And Norton's Featherbed frame rewrote the rulebook when it came to firm, but flexible geometry.

In the mid-'60s, Triumph's parallel-twin engine layout was cutting edge. The 650 unit was kicking out 50bhp - at 6,500rpm. Top speed was 120mph. Do the café racer math - and that exceeded 'ton-up boy' requirements by 20%! And all from an air-cooled four-valve twin. But - as Dave Degens knew only too well - horsepower is only half the equation. Handling, too, needs to be factored in. Cometh the hour, cometh the Featherbed! Norton's steel twin-cradle frame had excelled on both road and track. Norton's TT rivals could vouch for that! Put it all together - and Triumph engine, plus Norton frame - equalled fast and fluid motorcyling.

By the end of the Sixties, the Triton 'brand' had gone beyond its geeky beginnings. The dream ticket - courtesy of Triumph and Norton - now ate a substantial slice of the Brit bike pie. But, 'mass-production' for the Triton held a sting in its tail. Downmarket, if not dodgy deals increased - both in parts and build quality. Of course, Dresda Autos - with Dave Degens at the helm - never lowered its standards. Even now - decades later - they provide bespoke bikes to discerning buyers. A legend in the specialist motorcycle world, then, the Dresda Triton took on - and beat - all comers!

Norton Commando Fastback 750

Norton Commando Fastback 750 1960s British classic motorcycle

Unlike some of its 'Brit bike' brethren, the Norton Commando Fastback 750 was a smooth and comfortable ride. Well, by 1960s standards, anyway. That was due, in no small part, to Norton's proprietary engine-mounting set-up. Made up mostly of rubber, it was dubbed 'isolastic'. The Commando's motor was a parallel twin - not a layout synonymous with seamless power delivery. The isolastic system, though, duly dialled out the worst excesses of the inherent engine vibrations.

Norton had long prided itself on its bikes' handling prowess. The Commando turned out to be no exception. In '73, the bike was taken to the toughest road test of all - the Isle of Man TT race. Norton's road-holding claims were upheld. Peter Williams - the Commando's rider - took the Formula 750 trophy.

The road-going Fastback's performance was almost as impressive. Its 745cc motor put out 58bhp. And with the Commando weighing in at just 418lb, that meant a top speed of 117mph. With so much all-rounder status in its pocket, the Commando was bound to sell well. Sadly, though, not well enough to save Norton from its date with financial destiny. For its uncommon blend of style and substance, however, the Commando Fastback 750 will be forever revered by classic bike enthusiasts!

Velocette Venom Thruxton

Velocette Venom Thruxton 1960s British classic motorcycle

Velocette was a stylish name for a motorcycle manufacturer. But, it did build sleek, sophisticated products. The Venom Thruxton was one of them. Venom aptly described the ferocity of the bike's tuned engine. Thruxton was, and still is, a racetrack - near Andover, England. That, too, was appropriate - since the circuit's free-flowing layout is tailor-made to give race bikes their head.

The Thruxton was first and foremost a roadster. That said, it was easily converted to Clubmans spec. As a production - or 'proddy' - racer, it provided the best of both worlds. Along with its potent motor, it boasted rock-solid suspension, light-alloy wheel-rims, and a twin-leading-shoe front brake. On the open road, the Thruxton cruised at 90mph. That was good going in '65 - especially from a single-pistoned machine.

The Thruxton was purposefully styled. Finessed features were a fishtail silencer and ventilated front drum brake. The Venom's jet-black paintwork was moodier than Marlon Brando - on a bad day! The cursive script of the Velocette logo set off a sweetly-shaped tank, to a tee. A combination, then, of rugged good looks and raw power, the Venom Thruxton spat two-wheeled poison. Best not get too close to it ... and the alluring aroma of its Castrol R oil!

Triumph Trident T150

Triumph Trident T150 1960s British classic motorcycle

Not even its most ardent fan would claim the Triumph Trident T150 to be the best-looking of bikes. Especially in the curve-conscious USA - where the Trident's straight-line styling was not to every taste. True - the Trident's 'ray-gun' silencer was Batman-flash. But that alone was not sufficient to rescue a somewhat staid design. Ergonomically, too, things were decidedly conventional. Particularly the 'sit up and beg' riding position. This was a British-built bike, after all … not a cool American cruiser. Styling-wise, it was more stiff upper lip!

On the performance chart, though, the Trident's spikes were higher. It made steady progress up to a top speed of 125mph. And there was high-quality handling, to match. Unfortunately for the Trident, the timing of its '69 launch was not great. The Honda CB750's release was just around the corner. And the Japanese machine's four-cylinder engine would usher in a new dawn for motorcycling.

Not that that mattered at the racetrack. The Triumph Trident would be etched into the annals of sporting history - by the legend that was 'Slippery Sam'. Percy Tait took the Trident-based racer to production TT triumph - from '71 through to '75. At Stateside circuits, too, Triumph triples blazed a trail. In large part, that was thanks to their Rob North frames. In '71, Gene Romero finished second at Daytona. His Triumph looked suitably resplendent in its blue-and-white fairing. A mixed review, then, for the Trident. While it was cheered to the echo at the citadels of racing, design-conscious road-riders were not always as rapturous. But if the Triumph Trident T150 was ever thought of as a tad dull - that was before its throttle was twisted!

Triumph T120 Bonneville

Triumph T120 Bonneville 1960s British classic motorcycle

The Triumph T120 Bonneville must be among the most iconic motorbikes ever made. Indeed, its name alone is liable to induce weak knees in its devotees. The Bonnie - as it was dubbed - invokes visions of a time when the material world was made out of metal. Plastic, back then, was but a brittle blip on the horizon. Now, it goes without saying that the future of the planet comes before that of classic motorcycles ... well, it does, according to non-bikers, anyway! That said, the petroleum and oils of yesteryear had a 'spirit' - which today's sanitised synthetics singularly lack. Such 'aromatic' products were an essential part of the design icon that is the Triumph Bonneville.

It is ironic that a bike that so epitomises Sixties Britain should reference the US. Utah's Bonneville salt flats have long been the snow-white setting for many a piece of high-speed history. In '56, for example, Johnny Allen climbed aboard a Triumph Streamliner - and proceeded to gun it up to 214mph. The Triumph Bonneville roadster was good for just over half that. Still, 110mph was more than enough for most 'ton-up boys', at the time. Indeed, it allowed them 10mph leeway ... in case of headwinds, perhaps - or less than clean carbs! Bonnie aficionados spent so much time in the saddle that it became a virtual part of their anatomies. And that was pre-computer games!

In Triumph's glory days, the Bonneville was the beacon for the brand. Some quarter of a million Bonnies passed through the firm's Meriden factory gates. On the Isle of Man, a Bonneville won the Production TT - in '67. Two seasons later, and a Bonneville set the first 'proddy racer' 100mph lap of 'the island'. Those ton-up boys must have been in seventh heaven! And even on less celebrated roads, the Triumph T120 Bonneville was a legend in its own landscape. So, when the rockers decamped to the seaside, that infamous day in the Sixties - to do battle with the mods - it is a safe bet there was many a Bonnie blasting down to Brighton beach!