The Triumph T100
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But in the early 1970s, the world of motorcycling looked completely different from the heady days of the T100R Daytona introduction. Once praised for its power and smoothness, the same motorcycle was condemned by Cycle in 1974 as a sluggish vibrator when compared with the same year’s Yamaha TX500. The Yamaha was faster, smoother, had five gears, a disc brake and electric start, with all these components “integrated, coordinated, paneled, modularized, self-contained and muted.” The Triumph, on the other hand, looked “like the drawing of a small boy learning things mechanical.”
Time had caught up with the T100, as well as with the BSA-Triumph group — but there is a postscript. In November 1972, Triumph introduced the TR5T Trophy Trail/Adventurer (see Motorcycle Classics, January/February 2010), essentially a T100C drivetrain mated to BSA B50 Victor oil-in-frame running gear, combining the bulletproof twin engine in up-to-date cycle parts. It’s now a sought-after rarity, and according to British motorcycle guru Frank Melling, “… one of the best bikes ever produced by the British motorcycle industry … if only it had arrived seven years earlier.” MC
Half-liter rivals to the Triumph T100 Twin
Suzuki T500 Titan
• 47hp @ 7,000rpm
• 492cc air-cooled piston-ported 2-stroke parallel twin
• TLS drum brake front (disc front 1976)/SLS drum rear
• 408lb (dry)
• Price now: $1,400-$3,000
In the case of the Suzuki T500 Titan, conventional wisdom said it was impossible to build an air-cooled 2-stroke twin of more than 350cc. The problem: how to prevent the engine seizing from expansion of the piston and cylinders through heat buildup. Modern metallurgy was the answer.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. Early T500s earned a reputation for excessive fuel consumption, pernicious vibration and unstable handling. These issues were mostly addressed by the time the MkIII arrived in 1970.
By 1974, with the speed stakes firmly in the grasp of the new Superbike generation, the T500 was marketed as a mild-mannered tourer at a very competitive price point. A disc brake finally arrived in 1976, along with a new designation: GT500.