allmoto logo

Motorcycle Investor mag

Subscribe to our email news

From Motorcycle Trader mag, issue 281

Triumph T160

Triple Bomber - Triumph T160

(by Guy Allen - for Motorcycle Trader mag #281, March 2014)

With some leaks and wobbles, it was time for Guido’s Triumph T160 to visit the workshop.

Dammit. Why is it that just about every used motorcycle I’ve bought in recent years has demanded a new set of fork seals? When totting up the real cost of a purchase, I now allow for seals as a matter of course.

In this case, I shouldn’t have been all that surprised. Though it has only a couple of thousand miles under its belt, the T160 is nearly 40 years old, which means most things have been sitting idle for far too long.

Within seconds of the seals letting go, I also noticed the weirdest shimmy from the front end. Yep. The front wheel bearings (the original open ball bearing type) were also on the way out. You wouldn’t think just sitting quietly in shed could wear out a motorcycle, but it can.

The good news is parts are plentiful and cheap. However I’m relatively inexperienced when it comes to Meriden Triumphs and went scuttling off to Phil Pilgrim of Union Jack Motorcycles, knowing he’d have the resources to do the job quickly while I hovered around and tried to learn something.

Changing fork seals is one of those jobs that (with a few exceptions) takes patience rather than high-end skills. However there are the inevitable tricks or traps for the unwary.

In this case, Phil said we could go for conventional seals, but he prefers a floating type – distinguished by being held in by a large press-fit metal washer. The payoff is better sealing, though your fork legs need to be in top condition. In this case they were – no pits or rust.

Disassembling the front end presented no great dramas, requiring the removal of the front wheel, plus shifting the handlebars so we could get at the fork tops. Keep an eye out for the small parts, particularly the crucial small washer at the bottom of the slider.

Shifting the damper valve can require the use of a long screwdriver, but not always. Phil had a monster on hand, which was perfect. Speaking of odd tools, he also had a hand-made front stand for the bike – nice and solid and very useful.

While we were in there, we checked the condition of the O-rings on the damper valves. We also ditched the stock springs for some new progressive items. They supply a more supple ride and the old ones were probably past their use-by date.

Reassembly was straight-forward enough, with Phil adding a measured amount of auto transmission fluid (a common option for forks of this era). Instead of replacing the original scrapers on the top of the sliders, we opted for a pair of Norton gaiters, which will protect the legs from stone damage. It suits the period and is a no-brainer when it comes to minimising maintenance.

We also ended up tackling the wheel bearings. The rears were fine, but the fronts had got notchy, possibly from standing around too long. Phil had (another) special tool to remove the covers, though you might get away with a pair of right-angle circlip pliers. The bearings are a different size to each other – one narrow and one wide – and we opted for modern sealed units.

In all it wasn’t a massive job – about two-and-a-half hours of labour. Springs cost around $70 for the pair, seals about $45, bearings around $30 and $25 for the gaiters. Pilgrim’s view is these are “a good honest bike” that is simple enough to do regular maintenance on.

Somewhat frustratingly, we also noticed the front rim is out of alignment. Some judicious spoke-tightening has pulled out the worst of the wonkiness but I think I’ll be taking it to a wheel builder to get it properly trued.

At some stage it will almost certainly have the original ignition points taken out and replaced with a solid-state timing set. It’s fine for now, but the stock system is fiddly and not all that reliable. A similar conversion on a T150 I owned a couple of years ago did wonders for it.

I’m writing this on the first of a four-day run around the countryside, starting at the national Vincent rally in Marysville, Vic. Early signs are the bike is good on the highway, with plenty of power. Braking is only so-so but is respectable by classic motorcycle standards.

It seems the decision to go with the narrower than standard front tyre was a good one. Stock, the T160 had the same size front and rear. No doubt that made for interesting production economies but to me the stock steering felt a little muddy and I wasn’t a fan of the way it looked. Now it’s a little more precise.

The oil seal behind the gearshift has sprung a leak and I’m closely watching the old-style non O-ring chain. Oh, and the range of the American small tank is marginal, so I’ve slung a spare fuel container on board.

By far the biggest risk is jumping on a machine that’s seen so little use over the decades. Phil is a believer in doing a strip and check before recommissioning a motorcycle that’s been standing for years and he’s got the experience to back it up. However I’ve decided to take the risk and see what happens.

Wish us luck…

Triumph T160 fork seal replacement


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

Type: 5-speed constant mesh
Final drive: chain

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

Dry weight: 229kg
Seat height: 794mm
Fuel capacity: 20.5/11lt (UK/USA model)

Max power: 58hp @ 7250rpm
Max torque: Not stated

Surprisingly civilised
Decent performance

Not so good
Not very robust

(From Motorcycle Trader mag, issue 281, April 2014. Words & pics: Guy Allen)


Produced by AllMoto 61 400 694 722
Privacy: we do not collect cookies or any other data.

allmoto logo


Try our books...

Travels with Guido book


Facebook feed


YouTube feed

Email newsletter


News archive


Our Bikes stories

Travels with Guido columns


About AllMoto

Email me