Being awesome since 1967
The legendary Triumph 3TA celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year! A good reason to share this awesome classic motorcycle by writing this post. First, a short introduction and a piece of history about the former Dutch army bike. The 3TA came to existence in 1957, under code name Twenty One. The number referred to the 21 years existence of the Triumph Engineering Company as well as 21 American inches which equals the 350 cc engine size.
The very first 3TA models featured the famous bathtub rear frame covers, but the army bikes were stripped down until only the ‘nacelle’, the headlight unit, was left. Not only did this save on weight, it also made the 3TA cheaper to produce. On some of the prototypes, even the upper frame tube was replaced by the gasoline tank! A mistake Triumph restored quickly, as the original frame was already struggling with the incredibly strong 18 (!) horsepower engine.
Epic roadtrippin’ through Europe
My dad and four of his mates bought their 3TA’s in 1993. They planned to use the bikes for traveling. The top speed of the 350cc’s lies around 100 km/h, going any faster and it’ll explode. So the bikes had to be put on transport towards a nice destination in Europe where the weather’s good and and the roads are winding.
But still, riding long distances wasn’t the 3TA’s thing, so the group of friends thought of a new way of traveling. Instead of bringing the Triumphs back home to The Netherlands every year, they decided to leave the bikes behind. There was always a local farmer who had some space in a shed, or a transport company with an empty corner in the warehouse where the bikes could stay for a year.
It’s a matter of trust
In this way, from 2003 onwards, my dad and his friends have travelled from France to Spain, to Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Greece, Albania, Macedonia and so on. They even tackled the Top Gear famed Transfagaras route in Romania. If you don’t know what i’m talking about, check the episode on this bucketlist-worthy road here. This epic road trip lasted about 10 years time, leaving the bikes behind every year. Talk about good trust in humankind, as these bikes are army bikes, they have no keys nor an engine immobilizer, so everyone who has some basic technical knowledge can start these bikes and take off. Luckily this never happened and the guys were able to take these vintage bikes through the majority of South- and East Europe. In 2013 they brought the old veterans back to their homecountry. A welcome home party was organized, and an article in a well known Dutch motorcycle magazine was published. The article can be found here (Dutch). Check out some pictures of the epic trip below.
The 3TA’s retirement
After the big trip ended, some of my dad’s friends sold the bikes, as they knew they would not be using it anymore. My father thought it would be a shame to sell a motorcycle with such a story to tell, and I fully agree with him. So nowadays the 3TA is enjoying his old days in the garage at the house in Tourrettes, South of France. The Provence area bursts of endless winding roads through ancient villages and towards mountains and lakes. In other words, a perfect area for the good old Triumph veteran to enjoy his well earned retirement.
The 3TA still needs to work hard every now and then when I visit and take the 3TA for a spin, but that keeps it young and flexible! The olde English bike features all the classic bike clichés, like the wobbly frame, lack of proper suspension and of course; spitting oil. Like my dad always says, if you’re wearing a fancy white outfit, stay at least 3 meters away from the Triumph, as it will literally spit oil towards you! Another piece of advice; when there’s no oil dripping from the bike, it’s about time to start worrying. The 3TA will always leak oil, especially when you have been pushing it to it’s limits. It’s mainly the gearbox oil that will leak, so it needs to be refilled every now and then.
What’s it like to ride the 3TA?
Another typical olde English tradition is that the position of the rear brake and the gear switch are reversed. Meaning that you shift through the 4 gears counting gearbox using your right foot and you operate the rear brake with your left foot. This takes some time to get used to, but after a couple of kilometers it feels natural. I always have to think twice when slowing down for the first roundabout, as a clutch-less gear drop will slow you down a lot less subtile compared to some light rear breaking! Once used to the stubborn Olde English way of doing things, it’s a lot of fun riding the 3TA. Probably only 10 of the original 18 horses are still with us today, but there’s still plenty of torque coming from the 350cc twin. It’s no crutch-rocket however the good old veteran grants you a big smile every time you kickstart it and you hear the typical brave and loud two cilinder Triumph sound. Happy anniversary Triumph 3TA, may you rock on for another 50 years!