Triumph T160 Trident: Our bikes

Date 08.1.2014

Presented by
  • Motorcycle Trader

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Triumph T160 Trident

>> Watch the video here

LAST OF THE 3-POT SCREAMERS

It was proof that muggins can’t be trusted with cash. I’d just sold a car but wasn’t actually looking for a bike. And if I was, I had in mind a first-model GSX-R1100 – it was a mistake to sell the ‘H’ model we had a while ago. Then, during a casual cruise through the online classifieds (iPads should be banned), this rather nice 1975 T160 popped up, dead original and claiming just 2100 miles from new.

It was listed by Central Motorcycles in Melbourne, a whole 10 minutes from our office. The inevitable happened: Greg from Central started the monster, it sounded good, we haggled, and next thing you know it’s being loaded onto a trailer for the trip home.

The T160 was in fact the classic bike Spannerman always said I should own. According to him, it’s big, comfortable and relatively straightforward to ride. Of course, since then I bought the sodding Sunbeam S7 (1947 – the difficult, early version), a 1973 T150V (predecessor to the T160) and a 1947 Indian Chief. Everything but what he advised, with mixed results.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

No matter, we got the T160 home and had a closer look. The first things to go would be the 40-year-old tyres, one of which was on the wrong way round – from the factory. The Meriden factory was going through some traumatic times, so an improperly fitted hoop was entirely possible.

Oddly enough, this series wears the same size rubber front and rear, namely a 4.10 x 19-inch. The fronts never looked right, so we took a punt and went for a slightly narrower size, which has transformed the steering from that I recall on the T150V. Much lighter and sharper. The rubber is a replica of the original, a TT100 Dunlop pattern.

Next on the list were those bloody silly high-rise handlebars. This is an American import and there seemed to be a period in history when you could not sell a machine in the US without them. It’s a job I’d normally tackle myself, or give to British classic specialist, Phil Pilgrim, at Union Jack Motorcycles, but since the machine was already in Stafford’s workshop it was easier to leave it with them.

In any case, Pilgrim had all the bits I wanted, including English-style flat handlebars, shorter cables and hydraulic line, plus air and oil filters. There was a bit of a fiddle getting the clutch cable in right – again something that hadn’t been done properly at the factory, either.

More importantly, the bike was running badly once it got a bit of exercise. We discovered the fuel cap breather was blocked (Union Jack had one of those in stock, too), the air filter was disintegrating through age and the carburetors could use a clean.

Age had also got to the electrics, most notable the inside of the switchblocks, which needed the old grease cleaned out and a general lube. That also fixed all the weird electrical issues which had been popping up.

THE FROG AND TOAD

With that lot sorted, we finally got out on the road. What’s it like? It’s heavy at near enough to 230 kilograms, with the weight carried fairly high. There are some big differences between this, the last of the Tridents and its predecessor, the T150V. It carries the BSA Rocket III version of the engine, in that it has the cylinders canted slightly forward, rather than dead upright. There is electric start, a very different fuel tank, plus the gearshift has been moved to the left as US authorities were no longer accepting right-shift imports.

The result is a machine that feels a little bit modern to ride. This is a revelation to classic owners – for example my Sunbeam has a one-up, three-down right shift, the T150V had a right-side one-down, four-up pattern, while the Indian has a three-speed hand shift and foot clutch!

You can actually walk up to the T160, tickle the carbs (okay, so not everything is modern), turn the choke and hit the starter with a fair degree of confidence it will fire up. Once aboard, all the controls are more or less where you expect them to be.

Performance is respectable. We’re talking about 60 horses, which is enough to do modern road speeds without stress. The engine has a distinctive three-pot growl, a pretty linear delivery, while the vibration is most apparent through the footpegs.

Handling is pretty good, so long as you can cope with the tall seat. The suspension has a decent amount of travel, while the steering, aided by the tyre swap, is quite sharp. Brakes are okay in the dry and somewhat alarming in the wet. Typically for 1970s chromed discs, they need to be dried a little before they bite! English and Japanese bikes of the late ’60s and early ’70s, with chromed or stainless steel discs, were notorious for this.

CAUTION IN THE WIND

My biggest fear with this machine is the engine seals and bearings might not hold up. Pilgrim warns that ultra-low mileage machines like this need to be treated with a bit of caution, as the lack of use over the years means some critical parts can literally rot over time and fail soon after the bike is recommissioned. He has been known to do a quick rebuild in some cases, rather than start it up as-is.

I’ve decided to take the risk and will just have to be philosophical about it if it doesn’t pay off.

Though we’ve yet to cover a lot of miles, early indications are this will be a very enjoyable rally bike. It’s noticeably more civilised to ride than my T150V, which left me a little ambivalent about Tridents. As Spannerman predicted, the T160 is a different basket of ferrets.

It also represents the last hurrah of the Triumph factory, which ceased operations months after this machine was built. In fact the whole NVT parent company (Norton Villiers Triumph) went down in a screaming heap.

As luck would have it, MT’s classic guru, Ian Falloon, is currently finishing off a Norton Commando 850 MkIII, the last of that marque. ‘Plan A’ it to get the two machines together in the very near future for a bit of a compare, albeit 40 years too late! Keep an eye out for it…

THUMBS UP
– Surprisingly civilised
– Decent performance

THUMBS DOWN
– Heavy
– Not very robust

SPECIFICATIONS

1975 Triumph T160 Trident

ENGINE:
Type:
Air-cooled in-line triple with two pushrod valves per cylinder
Bore and Stroke: 67 x 70.5mm
Displacement: 741cc
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Fuel system: Amal carburettors

TRANSMISSION:
Type:
Five-speed constant mesh
Final drive: Chain

CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR:
Frame type:
Single downtube steel
Front suspension: Conventional 35mm fork
Rear suspension: Twin Girling shocks, preload adjustment
Front brakes: Single 254mm twin disc
Rear brake: Single 254mm twin disc

DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES:
Dry weight:
229kg
Seat height: 794mm
Fuel capacity: 20.5 litres

PERFORMANCE:
Max power:
58hp at 7250rpm
Max torque: Not stated

*****

More reviews:

>> Watch the video here

> Classic bikes: Triumph T160 here