The Triumph Cycle Co introduced their first motorised tricycle in 1901, as well a the first Triumph motorcycle (This information has only recently come to light; previously it was thought to be a year later). Within a few years, the company was making motorcycles completely in-house, ie with their own engines. With primary focus on these new-fangled ‘motor bicycles,’ it’s not surprising that the design of their bicycles changed very little between 1900 and WW1. For example, Triumph retained inverted lever brakes for a longer time than any other manufacturer. This may have eventually made the company seem ‘old-fashioned’ by 1914, but nowadays it adds to the charm of the machine, particularly as a Triumph bicycle of this vintage therefore resembles a Triumph motorcycle of the same era. (In fact, the first Triumph motorcycles four years previously were simply bicycles like this with engines added and beefed-up front forks).
Triumph bicycles were some of the most expensive available: they were made to the same high standards as their motorcycles. But by 1905 the company conceded that there was a market for cheaper machines, so they introduced a cheaper range too. Interestingly, they did not advertise their cheaper machines very much: the problem, of course, was that they made them in exactly the same way as they made their top-of-the-range models, with the same components, highest standards and quality control!
The chainwheel on this Triumph shows that it is a ‘Standard’ model, introduced in 1905, and appearing in a supplement to the 1906 catalogue, to compete, according to the Triumph Cycle Co, with ‘…so-called cheap cycles, which are dear at any price, and built for effect and cheapness, without any consideration as to quality or durability, and offered by firms of no reputation.’
1905 ‘Standard’ Triumph Gentlemen’s Roadster
Brooks B85 Saddle
Frame No 72927
This very rare tall-framed Triumph was a ‘barn find.’ The wheel rims were rusty, so we rebuilt the hubs into new rims. One handlebar grip is missing, though I now have a similar one I can fit to replace it. The Brooks B85 saddle has been renovated with a new leather top. Otherwise it’s as it left the factory in 1905. Like the other top manufacturers of the day, every component on a Triumph is unique to the company, to prevent cheap bicycles being made and passed off as Triumph. This makes it impossible to restore such a rare bicycle if parts are missing; luckily this one had all its correct parts. The brakes on this model are not as illustrated in the catalogue for the cheaper ‘Standard’ model, but are the same as those fitted to the more expensive Triumphs. Just as the company offered larger frame sizes to special order, a customer could also choose other options if required. (You can compare the catalogues for each further down the page).
This Triumph is cosmetically unrestored (my personal preference), but has been mechanically recommissioned and is ready to ride. Despite the importance of originality on a historic machine, I make concessions for wheels, tyres and saddle when I restore a bike. I like to ride my vintage bicycles so those items must be in perfect working order. These photos reflect a few of my jaunts on it, along the cliff-top and on the hills overlooking Brighton.