A Brief History of Triumph Motorcycles


Triumph Motorcycles and Parts for Sale 


Triumph logo reproduced with kind permission of Triumph Motorcycles Ltd.

In 1884, Siegfried Bettmann emigrated to England from Nuremberg, Germany.

Siegfried was a well educated man who spoke several languages fluently enabling him to work as an import export agent in London.
By 1885, Siegfried had established his own import export company, S. Bettmann and Co. whose original products included English bicycles exported to Europe and sold under the Bettmann brand name.
He also distributed sewing machines imported from Germany.

In 1886, Bettmann decided to concentrate on the bicycle business and chose the more universal name of Triumph for his range of bicycles.

The company became known as the Triumph Cycle Company.

In 1887, Bettmann recruited another German native, Maurice Schulte to help him run the business.

A decision was taken to start producing their own bicycles rather than just using the Triumph brand name on bicycles manufactured by others.

With financial backing from their families, Bettmann and Schulte moved to new premises in Much Park Street, Coventry where they became a limited company after meeting businessmen Albert Friedlander and Alderman Thomson.

The New Triumph Co. Ltd. now had additional financial backing from the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company.

They began producing the first Triumph branded bicycles in 1889.

In 1896, Triumph opened a factory in Nuremberg for bicycle production in Bettman's native city.

In 1898, Triumph decided to extend its own production to include motorcycles.

By 1902, the company had produced its first motorcycle. Like many machines of the era, this was a bicycle fitted with a Belgian Minerva engine driving the rear wheel by a rawhide belt.

In 1903, Triumph began motorcycle production at its unit in Germany, initially basing its designs on those of other manufacturers.

To distinguish between Triumph motorcycles produced at Coventry and at Nuremberg, the German motorcycles were named as 'TWN' (Triumph Werke Nürnberg).
The correct German spelling for Nuremberg is Nürnberg.

In 1904, Triumph began building motorcycles based on their own design, this time using a three horse power Fafnir engine from Germany.
Other models featured the British JAP engines.

In 1906, a prototype 450cc model was ridden at the Dashwood Hill Climb by Frank Hulbert where he broke the previously held record.

In 1907, Triumph opened a larger factory in Priory Street, keeping the Much Park Street factory as the service and competitions department.

Triumph had also formed a subsidiary company, Gloria Cycles where they produced Gloria cycles and sidecars at Much Park Street.

In the 1907 Isle of Man TT Races, Jack Marshall rode a 475cc single cylinder Triumph to second place in the Single Cylinder Class.
Frank Hulbert rode another Triumph into third place.
Two other Triumphs were entered but did not finish the race.

Jack Marshall returned to the Isle of Man TT Races in 1908 where he won the Single Cylinder Class, with other Triumphs achieving third, fourth, fifth, seventh, eight and tenth places in the same class.
In 1909, the capacity was increased to 499cc and Triumph motorcycles came in third, fifth,eleventh, fourteenth and fifteenth places at the TT Races.
Around 1910, Maurice Schulte had started to experiment with a French vertical twin cylinder engine and around three years later, Triumph had their own 600cc side valve twin cylinder engine in prototype form.

With the outbreak of World War I, production was switched to support the war effort.
Around 30,000 motorcycles were supplied to the allied forces.
Amongst them was the 550cc single cylinder three speed Model H Roadster that became known as the 'Trusty Triumph'.

After the war, Bettmann and Schulte went their separate ways within the company as Schulte decided he wanted to concentrate on motorcar production whereas Bettmann had decided to stay with motorcycles.

In the 1920s, Triumph purchased the former Hillman car factory in Coventry and formed the Triumph Motor Company.

As most chain driven motorcycles of the day had fairly harsh transmission, a coiled spring shock absorber attached to the clutch was designed and featured on the 1920 Triumph Model SD (Spring Drive).

In 1921, Harry Ricardo produced Triumph's first overhead valve engine that was fitted to a frame similar to that of the Model SD.
His machine was called the Model R and was often referred to as the 'Riccy'.

At the same time, Triumph was also working on a 498cc side valve machine.

By the mid 1920s, Triumph was one of Britain's largest motorcycle and car manufacturers.

In 1928, the company found its first motorcar success with the Super Seven.
Shortly after, the Super Eight was introduced. 
By 1929, the links between the Coventry Triumph motorcycles and TWN were severed. 
TWN continued to produce small two stroke motorcycles until 1957.

In 1932, Val Page joined Triumph where he designed a 650cc parallel twin.
He had previously worked at JAP and Ariel.

Siegfried Bettmann retired in 1933.

In 1936, the company's motorcyle and motorcar divisions became separate companies.

The motorcycle division was acquired by Jack Sangster, who also owned the Ariel motorcycle company.
Sangster formed the Triumph Engineering Co Ltd.
That same year, the company began its first exports to the United States.
Overseas demand for Triumph motorcycles was high and export sales became a primary source of revenue.

Edward Turner was an ex-Ariel employee who had designed the Ariel Square Four engine.
He joined Triumph where he designed the famous 490cc 5T Speed Twin engine which was released in 1937.
This parallel twin cylinder engine became the basis for all Triumph twins until the 1980s.

However, this was not Triumph's first parallel twin. Val Page had previously designed one in 1932.

Page's engine later resurfaced, somewhat modified, as the BSA A10.

In 1939, the 498cc Tiger T100, capable of 100mph, was released.

The motorcar side of the business went bankrupt in 1939 and was acquired by the Standard Motor Company.

During World War II, much of Coventry was destroyed during air raids. The Triumph factories were no exception.


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Triumph logo reproduced with the permission of Triumph Motorcycles Limited.


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