Let me begin by saying, I appreciate all two wheeled machines no matter who made them. However, we all have our favourites. Not that I’ve ridden or owned one…yet, but my favourite is Triumph. They have such an interesting history as a company and have produced some of the most iconic motorcycles over the last 116 years.
I wanted to do a little on the history of Triumph here, but its a little bit complicated, with renames and various companies getting involved with production so I’ll try and stick with the interesting stuff. Like all the best motorcycle companies, Triumph began by producing bicycles. In 1889 the first Triumph branded bicycles were sold with the first motorcycles coming along in 1902.
The proceeding years were a bit of a roller-coaster for Triumph. They struggled financially and in 1932 actually sold the bicycle arm of the company to Raleigh. After that they did, more or less, alright and produced many of the motorcycles people still love today.
However in 1983 Triumph Engineering Co, as it was then know went into receivership. A man named John Bloor then bought the name and continued production and set up a brand new factory in Hinkley, Leicestershire.
I recently paid a visit to the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience here in Hinkley. So here’s what to expect if you are thinking about going.
This first thing to look out for, which is easy to miss, isn’t even inside the factory. Its on the path outside. The main walkway up to the entrance have stone slabs engraved with the names of great people who have made an impact on the Triumph brand…and The Fonz!
Once inside there are new bikes that the public are welcome to sit on. A new Bonneville Speedmaster and a Speedtwin. Then a display of some very special tanks. One as special recognition to Dick Shepherd as most of the bikes that are displayed here come from his collection. There is also a tank that commemorates the opening of the visitor experience when it was opened by the Duke of Cambridge in 2018.
Then on to the displays. A whole gallery of bikes from Triumphs history here. From the very first “Triumph no.1” from 1902 to the very famous “TR6 Trophy” from the great escape. Then upstairs to see some of the newer models of today.
After that, we meet for the actual tour of the factory. A nice chap named Danny was our tour guide. There are about 15 people to a tour and we are all kitted out with a high vis vest and a little radio, apparently it can get loud. Sadly the factory wasn’t in production on the day I visited.
No photographs allowed. What happens inside the factory, stays inside the factory! But what I found most interesting inside is that the pin stripping of the Triumph tanks is still done by hand. Mostly by one man named Gary, who is apparently on his third retirement! Only 6 people across the whole company are trained to do this, Gary trained all of them. Truly amazing. This also means that every tank has a custom paint job, no two would ever be the same.
The tour lasts between one and half to two hours, its a bit of a walk too. Fortunately, there’s the 1902 cafe to recuperate. A nice cup of tea and a sandwich finishes the day off nicely.
Words and pictures by Craig Willis