< AllMoto's Motorcycle Investor mag


allmoto logo

Motorcycle Investor mag

Subscribe to our free email news


Triumph T160

(by Ian Falloon, Mar 2022)

Triumph T160


This one bike summed up the Brit motorcycle industry of the 1970s

If any one motorcycle sums up the troubles and tribulations of the British motorcycle industry in the early 1970s it is the Triumph Trident T160. The T160 epitomised the dubious British motorcycle manufacturing tradition of continually updating of existing designs instead of designing something new.


With genetic DNA harking back to Edward Turner’s Speed Twin of 1937, it was Triumph’s last gasp before sliding into oblivion in May 1977.


Although BSA/Triumph was taken over by Norton Villiers in 1973 the British motorcycle industry, and indeed British industry as a whole, was in deep trouble. With the Conservative government seeking economic salvation through encouraging exports Norton Villiers devoted their attention to developing the Triumph Trident and Norton Commando into US-friendly motorcycles. Basically this meant incorporating an electric start, left side gearshift, and quieter mufflers.


With the Honda 750 setting a new benchmark Triumph had been experimenting with an electric start on the Trident since 1969. But the stumbling block was always the lack of room above the gearbox. Using the inclined cylinder block of the BSA Rocket 3 solved this problem nicely, and the Lucas starter motor sat comfortably above the five-speed gearbox.


A new frame was required to accommodate the larger battery and although Triumph did consider a more conventional duplex style frame, ultimately the T160 ended with a traditional Triumph single downtube frame. A longer swingarm, and shorter front fork kept the wheelbase to a moderate 1470mm.


The three-cylinder engine was much as before, with a 67 x 70mm bore and stroke displacing 740cc, a 9.5:1 compression ratio, and a bank of three 27mm Amal concentric carburettors. A larger moulded airbox with paper filter element ensured the intake roar was more subdued, and the new quieter exhaust system included annular-discharge silencers.


The exhaust header pipes were also quite different, a central Y-manifold splaying the front downtube to look like four pipes. The quieter intake and exhaust apparently didn’t hurt the T160 as the maximum power of 58 horsepower at 7250rpm.


New for the T160 was a left-side gearshift using a crossover shaft, and a duplex primary drive chain instead of the previous triplex unit. Not so new was the ignition, which was still by a trio of contact breakers and three six-volt coils powered by a ballast resistor.


Although the overhead valves were still operated by pushrods and rockers a new tappet adjuster (copied from the Ducati 860) incorporated a captive ball and obviated the need for a bent feeler gauge to check valve clearances.


Other modern updates included a rear 250mm disc brake, the same size as the front and with an identical Lockheed caliper, a more modern warning light panel between the Smiths instruments, and a traditional teardrop fuel tank.


There was no denying the T160 was a handsome beast, with performance and handling to match. Still rolling on vintage style 19-inch wheels the T160 may have been a little heavy at 229kg dry but it was surprisingly good handling and nimble. It also had a fair turn of speed; topping out around 200 km/h.


Fuel consumption wasn’t a strong point. Considering the oil crisis of 1974 was still in recent memory this was another nail in the coffin for Triumph.


Ultimately a nimble, good-looking, electric start Trident with disc brakes wasn’t enough to ensure its success, particularly in America, Triumph’s traditional export market. The T160 still suffered quality issues and by 1975 a 750cc pushrod triple was an anachronism in a world of double overhead camshaft fours.


Although NVT considered a 1000cc four-cylinder Quadrant, and a Trident engine in an Isolastic Commando chassis, by May 1977 the Trident was history.


The rights for the Triumph name were sold to the Meriden Cooperative, and when forced into closure in 1983 they sold the manufacturing rights to Triumph enthusiast John Bloor. The Triumph triple was resurrected, but that is another story.

See the T160 in our shed


Falloon on Facebook

Falloon website

More features here

See the bikes in our shed


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

allmoto logo

Try our books...

Travels with Guido

twitter allmoto








Email newsletter


News archive


Our Bikes stories

Travels with Guido columns


About AllMoto

Email me