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Discussion Starter #1
Guys,

Bear with me a little. Triumph and BSA went out about when I started riding. Dirt bikes, Yamaha's, Kawa Z1, many years. Started with Triumph in 1999. Riding Big T-bird now.
My question, as I didn't ride them back then. Were the old tigers ever used off-road? How much difference is there between Trophy and Bonneville? I know the names were used again for tradition, just wondering. My friend bought one of the last BSA victor/Goldstar and had terrible problems with it back then.

thanks

Dan
 

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Back in the day all off road bikes were four stroke

Do you mean Tiger as in 650? As in a single carb Bonnie?
Then yes

Steve McQueen liked triumphs in the 60's and triumph made more of an enduro than mudplugger 750 in the 80's
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Dave,

Thanks for the reply. So the tigers were dirt bikes. Were the ISDT bikes special build? Or could you get Bonnie's as off-road.

Dan
 

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Tigers were single carb versions of bonnevilles

There were road or off road depending on market

It isn't helped by the term trophy /tiger being used for 500's and 650

ISDT is a specific build for a specific race type ( international six day trial)
 

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Hi Dan,

Firstly, welcome to the Forum.

With all due respect to Dave, he's trying to summarise a catering-size can of worms in too few lines. :)

"Tiger" in relation to Triumphs was originally coined by Edward Turner when he was put in charge of the newly-formed Triumph Engineering Company in 1936. The desperate need was to sell bikes, he inherited fairly mundane 250, 350 and 500 singles, he hit on the idea of chroming a few parts like the tanks and calling 'em "Tiger 70", "Tiger 80" and "Tiger 90", the numbers alluding to the bikes' top speeds.

Turner had his iconic 500 cc "Speed Twin" ready for 1937, followed a year later by the "Tiger 100".

Following WW2, Turner essentially enlarged the 500 twins' bore 'n' stroke to create first the 650 cc "Thunderbird", followed by the "Tiger 110".

In a separate development, Triumph decided to support a factory team in the ISDT - International Six Days Trial. This was more long-distance riding on unsurfaced roads rather that what GB calls "trials" - getting motorcycles (and cars) over impossibly-large obstacles at very low speed.

When the Triumph team won the ISDT, an off-road version of - at first - the 500 twin became part of the range - called the "Trophy", a 650 version soon followed.

So, thus far, for a given engine, "Tiger" was a 'sporty' road-going version while "Trophy" was the off-road version ...

For '57, Turner developed a new 350 twin, having the engine and gearbox 'in unit' - in the same crankcase castings rather than the gearbox being separate from the engine. The following year, the engine was enlarged to 500 cc and took over from the pre-unit "Speed Twin"; another year later, the "Tiger 100" was part of the same unit-construction engine range.

Before '59, the top-of-the-range road-going 650 had been the single-carb. "Tiger 110"; '59-on, it was the twin-carb. "Bonneville" - its model code was T120.

For '63, the 650 range was redesigned with both unit-construction engines and new frames. There was still the twin-carb. T120 "Bonneville", a single-carb. road-orientated model (TR6R) and a single-carb. off-road model (TR6C) but they were both called "Trophy" ... and another a single-carb. road-orientated model, slightly differently-styled, called "Thunderbird".

In the 1960's 500 ranges, it's even harder to be precise about which name was applied to a given version - e.g. in '65 in the US, the road-orientated T100SR was called "Tiger Road Sports" and the the off-road T100SC was called "Tiger 100 Competition Trophy" ...

At the end of '66, Triumph dropped the "Thunderbird" and "Speed Twin". From '67, the twin-carb. "Daytona" became the top-of-the-range 500; "Tiger" was the single-carb. model - off-road in the US (T100C) and road-orientated in the ROTW (T100S).

In '69, the road-orientated single-carb. 650 (TR6R) became "Tiger" again ... Triumph dropped the T100S at the end of '70 and the two off-road versions - TR6C and T100C - at the end of '71. So, when the 650 twins became 750's in '73, the "Tiger" was a single-carb. road-orientated model; there wasn't another off-road "Tiger" 'til '82.

So the tigers were dirt bikes.
Uh-uh; in most years of Meriden's history, they're road bikes, and always single-carb.; "Trophy" were dirt bikes in more years, also single-carb.

Were the ISDT bikes special build?
Yes.

could you get Bonnie's as off-road.
Yes. Between '64 and (iirc) '67, T120C and T120TT were twin-carb. off-road versions available in the US.

Hth.

Regards,
 

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I confess that when I read questions like this I tend to sit back and wait for young Stuart to reply. His replies are generally far more detailed than I can manage and once again he has not let me down.

However, describing the T120C/TT models as off road versions is not entirely correct. It's not quite that simple. The model was created for TT and Scrambles events, for 63 and 64 the bikes had high pipes but for 65 the iconic TT tucked in low pipes were introduced. For 65 only both versions were available with the high pipe version known as a Competition Sports Scrambler and the low pipe model referred to as the TT though still stamped C. For 66 the high pipe version disappeared leaving just the low pipe bike, these pipes would have made the bike useless (out of the box) for off road use. Only the first batch of 66 TT bikes kept the C stamp with the TT stamp used from then on to indicate the bikes intended use in TT (Steeple Chase) events.

I'm pretty sure there is more to it than that even.

Rod
 

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Back in the day all off road bikes were four stroke

Do you mean Tiger as in 650? As in a single carb Bonnie?
Then yes

Steve McQueen liked triumphs in the 60's and triumph made more of an enduro than mudplugger 750 in the 80's
UK number plate on McQueen’s bike, there is a bigger story behind this picture!
 

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Hi Peg,

UK number plate on McQueen’s bike,
Quick answer is "B" indicates the bike was first registered during '64, the ISDT wasn't held outside Europe certainly between '64 and '73 so a British reg. vehicle wouldn't be a problem?

If you've a copy of The Triumph Trophy Bible, it likely has a more-detailed explanation. Or I'll look in my copy when I return ...

Hi, ho, Silverrrrr ...
 

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Discussion Starter #11
thanks guys,

Thankyou Dave for the pic's. Notice the dent in Steve's pipe from kick-starting. Guess the race team configured the pipes for competition a little (too quick). Like maybe they had to do it overnight. Great stuff.

Dan
 

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My eye was instantly drawn to the dent in Steve's silencer too, I have one on my bike too.

Were the early yellow eighties Tigers called Tiger Trails? There was a 750 and 650 both had single carbs, the 650 used the engine also used in the TR65 Thunderbird. Both were styling efforts more than off road bikes but I think they are quite funky.

If I could find a TR65 Thunderbird I'd buy it, my mate had one in 1986/87 when I was at college it was super smooth, oil tight and very reliable, an underrated bike. I had my 76 Honda CB200, it was like a moped in comparison.
 

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I also feel there's an issue with the original question - starting in the 70s bike manufacturers started producing specialized lines that really were engineered from the ground up for off-road use, until you get the hyper-specialized machines we have today. But in this timeframe, while lots of Triumphs were used off-road, wasn't it really the end user who was making the major modifications to make them actually good in the dirt? Sure, Triumph produced some high pipes and some different gearboxes, but I'm under the impression anyone seriously riding in the dirt (or hell, the street riders for that matter) tended to modify the bikes like crazy. Even the Yamaha lines in the 70s (like my beloved DT1) still got stripped down. I have boxes of parts guys pulled off and tossed in the bin.
 

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Hi Danr620, You mentioned what it might be like to ride the old bikes off road.

My grandmother lived in Richmond CA USA, close to the Richmond Ramblers Motorcycle club house & riding area. They had hills with narrow trails, a dirt oval track, possible an asphalt or concrete oval. They had a lot of touring riders in club also.

I used to watch with great envy the guys on bikes. Mid 50s to mid 60s. Lots of Triumph & BSA twins, singles. Lots of Harleys also. Mostly 45 flat heads & a few Sportsters set up for dirt. Later a few Honda 305 scramblers. Pretty much no 2 strokes. The area is now closed to riding, but Club House & club remain.

The hills were quite steep. However nothing like what the hills are in the modern off road motorcycle parks. These are so steep it's hard to stand on, if at all. The new bikes go up them with ease.

We cut our teeth on Hondas & Suzukis modified for off road use in the early/mid 60s. When Yamaha 250 single came out we got those. 305 scramblers we had a lot of. Bultaco & Husky were too costly.

I got a 1970 TR6C 650 in 1971. (Trophy 650). I rode this bike on all the same trails as I did the lightweight dirt bikes. The bike is kissing 400# wet. However it rode light. Until you fell. Then the weight showed itself big time. For what would be considered mild single track now days the twins are super fun. The suspension is not much, but at lower speeds good enough. The twin leading shoe brake is good enough for long steep down hill pitches. It would run circles around our modified early 60s Japanese bikes. I had a very hard time keeping up with Greg's Yamaha 250. The Bultaco & Husky guys could ride circles around me. However some of the uphill trails under the power lines are very steep, smooth and could be a few miles up non stop. The power of the Triumph really paid off here. Basically 2nd gear & control your speed with wheel spin using throttle gently. The 305 Hondas just didn't have the power for this. The Yamaha 250 didn't really have the power, but did very well. Bultaco & Husky would outrun me no problem.

We often had to ride the street to the off road trails. The Triumph twins had no problem on the pavement. This is where the Yamaha 250 really fell short. 100 miles at 65 mph seemed to be hard on the motor. Honda 305 was fine on freeway, but didn't really have the power for the big steep hills like the 650 does.

From the bikes you had, my hunch is you'd think Triumph twins are a big heavy bike off road. But like I said, with the right mindset & moderate trails they are super fun. I did lots of 100 mile days all dirt. I commuted to work every day on same bike, freeway most the way. 50 miles a day. This bike was very trouble free & durable. My current '73 Tiger has been very trouble free & mostly durable until 30k miles. Now it's getting tired. I put 30k on the TR6C, then sold. Was more trouble free & more durable.

Regarding real life riding difference between riding Bonnie and 650 Tiger/Trophy is minimal. They are basically the same bike, but Bonnie has 2 carbs. Both in perfect tune a Bonnie is slightly faster & may pull a really steep hill faster at full throttle at high speeds.
However in real life the single carb bike is plenty powerful enough. I know several guys with Tigers & they don't wish for more power. The big advantage of single carb is it costs half as much when worn out as you don't need to carbs. I got burnt out on dual carb maintenance & since I was commuting I preferred single carb. Also a bit easier to adjust intake valves.

750 twin might have a tiny bit more power than 650, but on club rides they seem fairly similar in real life. They feel different to ride, but similar in many respects. Bore 1/4" larger, rods 1/2" shorter than 650. I think the best riding bike I know of is '70 Tiger with Morgo 750cc kit. It's a single carb. To me this is best combination.

You haven't mentioned purchasing one, but just in case, my recommendation is buy the bike you think looks best or you like the best.

The cost of Tigers has gone up in my area, pretty much equal to Bonnies. TR6C models tend to cost more than Bonnies in my area.

Interesting trend going on now. Old guys with trailer queens & nice old bikes are taking them out and riding them. I guess before we get too old to ride.

Several guys in the club have modern Bonnies. A great bike, I've ridden them, but lack the soul of the old bikes. The real challenge of the old bikes in my experience is getting quality spare parts. That is a fight! For a trailer queen it doesn't matter. But if you actually want to ride it long distances, quality parts are a must! Genuine Triumph NOS is very hard to come by. Much NOS on eBay is LF Harris reproduction NOS parts, not genuine Meriden Triumph made.

If you ever get the chance to ride an old Triumph, do it! I've never ridden Triumph 500 twin or 750 Triple. I'd jump at the chance! We swap bikes on rides all the time, but still waiting for those.
Don
 

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Back in the day all off road bikes were four stroke

Do you mean Tiger as in 650? As in a single carb Bonnie?
Then yes

Steve McQueen liked triumphs in the 60's and triumph made more of an enduro than mudplugger 750 in the 80's
I have to disagree with that assumption as, in the early 1970s, two strokes were prevalent in trials (Bultaco,Ossa,Montesa usually). Scrambling (now called Moto X) were becoming two strokes with CZ and the start of the Japanese bikes. CZ had a lot of success in enduro. There was a MZ 250 Six Days enduro bike which was very good.
I remember going to the Welsh Two Day Trial (which was enduro in reality) in 1975 and two strokes were very prominent.
 

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Hi Rod,

I confess that when I read questions like this I tend to sit back and wait for young Stuart to reply. His replies are generally far more detailed than I can manage and once again he has not let me down.
Thank you. I try. Swmbo says I'm very trying ...

However, describing the T120C/TT models as off road versions is not entirely correct. It's not quite that simple.
:agree I got the (hopefully correct) impression from Dan's posts that he was hoping to identify Meriden Triumphs' different original 'purposes'(?) from their model names, along the same lines as a Hinckley "Trophy" is a tourer, a Hinckley "Tiger" is an "adventure bike", etc.? Dan being in the US, my intention was really to show that - between Meriden and the US importers, particularly through and after the 1960's - there doesn't seem to have been an overall strategy to identify a particular model or version's niche by its name? Or, if anything, with the early 1970's model versions rationalisations and reductions, especially the "Tiger" name more identifies an on-road-orientated 'touring'/'economy' twin?

Otoh, my identifying the T120C and TT as "off-road" was more intended as a quick way of differentiating them for Dan's, "could you get Bonnie's as off-road" question, as I'd already alluded to the "Bonnie" itself being a road-going model.

As I say, "catering-size can of worms" ... :D

Regards,
 

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Hi,

Were the early yellow eighties Tigers called Tiger Trails? There was a 750 and 650 both had single carbs, the 650 used the engine also used in the TR65 Thunderbird. Both were styling efforts more than off road bikes but I think they are quite funky.
"Tiger Trail" :nod However, 650 version - T65T(?) - while I remember the Co-op announcing them, were any actually produced after the prototype(s)?

TR65 - missed opportunity or would a sub-600 cc. "TR60" have been really horrible? For mystified overseas readers ... through the 1970's, the vast majority of British riders were insured by one company - Norwich Union - thanks to its "Rider Policy", that allowed the insured rider to have as many bikes as he or she wanted up to a specified cc. limit, and ride any other bike up to the limit. Initially those limits were 100 cc., 225 cc. (the British learner limit was 250 cc.), 350 cc. and unlimited but NU subsequently inserted a 600 cc. limit between 350 and 'unlimited' (when many riders were still riding 650 cc. Brit twins ...).

The TR65 was created (pretty-much?) simply by shortening the 750's stroke. Initially, the TR65 was supposed to be an 'economy' model - no tacho., idiot lamps and ignition switch in the ex-tacho. mounting, 2-into-1 black exhaust, yadda, yadda. However, the owner of the north-west London dealer I used at the time (the sadly-departed Roebuck Motorcycles :() told me that most TR65 buyers asked for most of the missing bits to be added before delivery ... And the following year, the TR65 had most of the previously-missing bits and chrome ...

So, at least in theory, the TR65 cost as much to insure in GB as any 'big' bike, including a Triumph 750 twin, and the Co-op was roundly castigated for not making the TR65 600 cc.; and, had the '84 range been produced, there would've been a 600 cc. twin.

But, if the 600 cc. engine was produced by simply further shortening the stroke, I do wonder what it'd have been like in real life? Short-stroke engines generally have to be revved more for more go. Many who come to a Triumph 500 from a bigger twin remark the Daytona has to be revved more, and that's allowing for it's a 40-plus-year-old bike. Buying a 600 cc. short-stroke 360-degree twin without a balancer brand-new in the 1980's, I do wonder how many owners would've been happy?

Oh, and NU's Rider Policy? Having been told for several years that there were major actuarial flaws in the policy and having had all the good risks creamed off by other companies with similar policies but tighter conditions, NU announced at one year's national motorcycle show that they'd discovered they'd always lost money on it ... :jawdrop no more new business with immediate effect and no renewals as policies expired ... :rofl

Regards,
 
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