Then you saddle up a bike you did way back when and all these amazing ingredients serve up a balanced view of the bike that, with the benefits of 20-20 vintage vision, means you can properly sum up a bike in a way that you probably couldn’t back then.
Now, I’d best set my stall out and say how much I’m a big fan of early Hinckley Triumphs. I guess it’s because my first foray into motorcycle journalism came at a time when they were only a few years out of the starting gate and as I was way down the pecking order for bikes at the weekly paper where I worked, I often got the ‘off-cuts’. At first these were unloved bikes, the keys of which would lay dusty in the office key cupboard. My early rides were the likes of an MZ250 and a Suzuki DR350, both not the best tools for 310mile round trips for a weekend visit home. Other keys lurked in that cupboard and many had the name TRIUMPH on them. It seemed that for some elite journos of the time the modular Triumphs weren’t ‘all that’, as some scribes said to me back then Triumphs were almost ‘Kawasaki copies that are using old technology almost a decade old’.
As a newbie who wanted to ride anything and everything I didn’t care a jot and lapped it up. Triumph keys went through my hands quicker than fivers at the pub on a Friday night: Sprints, Trophies, Daytonas, Speed Triples, Tigers, even a special Speed Quattro and tuned Daytona 1000; I couldn’t get enough of them.
For me the Daytona 1200 was a great bike to ride. I had one for a few weeks and loved every ride. Of course, I’d listen in on what those more experienced would say about it: ‘It’s too top-heavy to handle like an EXUP,’ some would say, or ‘That motor is no ZZ-R1100 beater…’ to the likes of ‘It’s slower than a ZZ-R and the GSX-R1100.’ Now, these people were experienced riders, but my feeling was that the Daytona 1200 was just a great bike.
Even today I feel the same. It’s sometimes best to take a bike in isolation when you ride it and today we can add some history, too.
With 147 claimed horses, the Triumph Daytona 1200 gloriously stuck two fingers up at the EU’s supposed ‘gentlemen’s’ limit of 125bhp way before Brexit was even heard of. Of course, those 147 horses came from the original Trophy 1200’s motor with some modifications, including revised cams, ignition timing, inlet porting, updates to the valves (shorter guides, new angle for the inlets), uprated pistons and a compression ratio raised from 11:1 to 12:1.
If you couldn’t see these changes, you could see some in the paintwork. This was where Triumph began to have a laugh with the paint and make some striking looking single-colour machines. Back at the time it was said that Triumph had invested in a new paint shop at the factory and that the paint on the Daytona 1200 was four, not two layers thick. Colours were Racing Yellow, Pimento Red, Barracuda Blue and, later, a Butch Black.
Saddling up the Daytona today and I’m instantly transported back 25 or so years. It’s like sitting on… well, it’s like meeting an old friend. The cockpit has a racy look, with minimalist fairing inners and exposed stays. Then there are those clocks: cool and classy and in brilliant white. Simple idiot lights, a mechanical trip adjuster and then there’s that speedo. Yup, the one with 200mph on it… Which was all a bit of ‘gamesmanship’ from Triumph as, really, the so-called 147bhp was at the crank, meaning you probably had no more than 125 back at the rear wheel and, to be honest, the thing was effectively geared for 160mph. A number of magazines fiddled with the gearing to go crack 170mph, but all failed.
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