Comparing the Triumph Trophy 250 with its primary 250cc competitors, the Ducati 250 Scrambler and Suzuki TC25 Hustler.
The 1970 Triumph Trophy 250 as shown in a contemporary ad.
Triumph Trophy 250
Years produced: 1968-1970
Power: 22hp @ 8,250rpm (24hp @ 8,250rpm/1969-1970)
Top speed: 90mph (approx.)
Engine: 247cc air-cooled OHV single
Transmission: 4-speed, chain final drive
Weight/MPG: 285lb (dry)/75-85mpg
Price then/now: $695/$1,500-$5,500
In the late 1960s, the adventure motorcycle was still a decade away, so if you wanted to play in the dirt with a road bike, you’d choose from the street scramblers then on sale — like something from Honda’s CL range, for example. These were by no means serious dirt bikes, just street machines with a high-level exhaust and maybe braced handlebars.
Triumph’s entry into this market was the TR25W Trophy. Intended to replace the 200cc Tiger Cub in the catalog, the baby Trophy was essentially a BSA Starfire 250 with “Triumph” on the gas tank, high bars and a high exhaust. It represented one of BSA-Triumph’s last desperate attempts to keep their superannuated quarter-liter singles relevant. The 1971 B25T and B25SS “Gold Star” was their swan song.
At the heart of the Trophy was BSA’s overhead valve 4-stroke single, developed from the unit-construction C15 of 1957, and pumped up from its original 15 horsepower to 24 horsepower for 1969. And while mid-1960s BSA 250s had a built-up crank with a roller bearing big end, this was changed to a plain bearing and split connecting rod for 1968.
The Trophy’s 67mm piston ran in an iron-lined alloy cylinder and drove a one-piece crankshaft with bolt-on flywheels and a 70mm stroke. The main bearings were roller on the drive side and ball on the timing side, with drive to the wet multiplate clutch and 4-speed transmission by chain. The pushrods were lifted by a single camshaft, and the rockers had eccentric shafts to adjust valve clearance. A 28mm Amal Concentric fed fuel and ignition was by battery, coil and contact breaker, with automatic advance.
The drivetrain fitted into a single downtube frame similar to that of the contemporary Victor, and also shared its BSA hydraulic fork, paired coil spring/damper units and 7-inch single-leading-shoe drum brakes. The high level header pipe was on the right side in 1968-1969 and on the left for 1970. The gas tank (and side panels) were also unique to the TR25W — fiberglass for 1968, and steel for 1969-1970. Other changes during production included a compression boost to 10:1, and an upgrade for the front brake to twin-leading-shoe for 1969.
Two factors weighed against the success of the TR25W: build quality and reliability. First, it was built not by Triumph, but at BSA’s troubled Small Heath plant, with its chronic industrial relations issues. As a result, assembly quality was “downright shoddy” and the “250s were notorious oil leakers, even for the period,” wrote Lindsay Brooke and David Gaylin in their book, Triumph Motorcycles in America. Hermy Bayer, then a dealer in Port Clinton, Pennsylvania, remembers that of a delivery of Trophies he received, none would run past a sputter: “Everything you could imagine was wrong with the engine,” he says. Bob Leppan, then a dealer in Detroit, Michigan, remembers a batch of 250s with their pistons installed backwards! But when the engine issues were sorted, the Trophy’s performance was “peppy.” Alas, it was also “fragile at sustained high revs,” which was where most of its power was to be found. The pursuit of performance sacrificed reliability.
The engine problems were unfortunate, because the Trophy shared the 441 Victor’s frame, forks and brakes, all tested and proven in competition. But it was still no match for Yamaha’s new 250cc DT-1, Suzuki’s TC250 Hustler and the other Japanese and European street scramblers then arriving.
A cosmetic makeover for 1970 did nothing to cure reliability issues. Wrote Brooke and Gaylin: “Though US Triumph dealers sold thousands of TR25Ws between 1968 and 1970, the bike some dubbed ‘BSA’s revenge’ did more damage to Triumph’s reputation than good. When it came time to trade, plenty of TR25W owners opted for other brands instead of moving up to a Triumph twin.” MC
1967-1974 Ducati 250 Scrambler
Years produced: 1967-1974
Power: 19hp @ 7,000rpm/78mph
Engine: 249cc air-cooled OHC single
Transmission: 5-speed, chain final drive
Price then/now: $729 (1967)/$900-$3,000
The Ducati 250 Scrambler was a perfect example of what Triumph was up against. For about the same money, Joe Biker could buy a high-tech, far more reliable overhead cam-engined 250 with a 5-speed transmission. The downside? The usual Italian electrical and cosmetic issues from that era.
Introduced for 1967, the “wide case” 250 featured a bevel-drive, spring-valve overhead cam unit-construction engine with alloy cylinder and head, and gear drive primary. Dell’Orto provided carburetion until 1973 (27mm SS or 26mm VHB), replaced by a 27mm Spanish Amal for 1974. Ignition was battery and coil with a 6V/70W Marelli generator before Ducati switched over to electronic ignition in 1973. The power unit slotted into a single downtube open-loop frame stressed through the engine, with 35mm Marzocchi forks, 3-way adjustable Marzocchi rear shocks and 3.5 x 19-inch front and 4 x 18-inch rear tires. The wheels were steel up to 1972 and Akront alloy after that. Final models used engines from Spanish builder Mototrans.
With good mechanical reliability and nimble performance, the Scrambler was perhaps what the TR25W aspired to be.
1968-1970 Suzuki TC250 Hustler
Years produced: 1968-1970
Power: 29hp @ 7,500rpm/104mph (period test)
Engine: 247cc air-cooled 2-stroke twin
Transmission: 6-speed, chain final drive
Price then/now: $650/$1,100-$3,500
Presenting a different take on the quarter-liter scrambler was Suzuki’s TC250 Hustler. Essentially a high-pipe version of the X6 street bike, the TC250 used an all-alloy, air-cooled, piston-port 2-stroke twin with dual Mikuni 24mm carburetors and Suzuki’s Posi-Force lubrication system, with a gear primary driving a wet multiplate clutch and 6-speed transmission.
The dual downtube, full cradle frame ran on 18-inch wheels with an 8-inch twin-leading-shoe front brake, a telescopic front fork and three-way adjustable dual rear shocks.
But the TC250’s distinguishing characteristic was performance. With 29 horsepower and more than 20ft/lb of torque, the TC250 ran the standing quarter-mile in about 15 seconds and went on to over 100mph, according to a Cycle World test.
Any criticism was mainly aimed at the “uncertain” gearshift (which featured a positive stop for neutral) and “jerky” clutch operation. But the Hustler’s sparkling performance, finish and value made it a success at the time and now a collectible classic.