Triumph Motorcycles. Better than Harley in every way.

Let’s face it: I have a tendency to spout off great declarations at times. This is one of those times. The only reason to buy a Harley-Davidson instead of a Triumph is if you really like belt drive. Otherwise, Triumph does it all and does it better.

The following is aimed solely at Harley owners that denigrate other bikes with stupid arguments about tradition, heritage, etc. You have bought into marketing bull**** rather than demand an American motorcycle company  we can still be proud of on all fronts. This is for Harley jerks: proof that heritage and awesome bikes and product range are not mutually exclusive. Harley fans that are also accepting and appreciative of other motorcycles are 100% exempt from my ire.

Heritage. The long-standing defense of the Harley owner is the rich tradition of their brand, and that it hearkens back to a simpler era, and the freedom of the open road. Here’s a fun fact: Triumph predates Harley-Davidson by almost 20 years. Golly, it’s almost like Triumph has just as rich a legacy, if not maybe more to brag about. Now, inevitably somebody will point out that Triumph today is not the same company as when it started, but honestly I see that as no different than when Harley-Davidson endured the AMF years or people talking about Indian motorcycles being “back”. Different ownership = different company flying the same coat of arms. While I’m not sure how I feel about it, the fact remains you can’t criticize Triumph without the same applying to Harley. You want “heritage” and “legacy”, Triumph has it in spades.

What the cool kids ride. Did you notice something about that last link? Like, say, Marlon Brando and James Dean? Lots of folks regard Steve McQueen to be the coolest American to ever live and he rode Triumphs! (And Husqvarnas.) These were legitimately cool guys who stood out as the individuals Harley owners claim to be. The most famous Harley riders  were a couple of drug using hippie losers on crappy handling bikes, and Peter Fonda can’t act his way out of an empty cardboard box. As a matter of fact, Easy Rider typifies everything I hate about the time period it was released in, but that’s a post for another time.

Look! Harley guys! And they’re all so unique and different from one another!

Performance. Once upon a time Harley-Davidson had some bikes that were worth owning. Granted, for their Roadracing World Championships they had to use re-badged Italian bikes, but still, they were involved in motor sports. Sadly, much like their desperate cling to to heritage in their bikes, they clung to a dying race series and today only race against other Harleys, giving up on being competitive in AMA Superbike, killing Buell, and selling MV Augusta after barely a year. Harley guys talk about “ride quality” rather than actual handling, and can only point to low-speed maneuvers performed by professionals to help their case. Meanwhile, the Triumph 675 gets rave reviews by being competitive and still distinctly a Triumph with their signature 3-cylinder engine we know from the Speed Triple. Just goes to show that Harley guys don’t know squat when they claim Buell was diluting the “brand”. But how can Triumph do this?

Product diversity. Harley Davidson claim they make something like 30+ models of motorcycle, but that’s a crock. They make four frames (only 4!) and just dress ‘em slightly differently. Harley strapping bags and a windshield to Dyna frame and calling it a whole new motorcycle would be like Ford calling the Taurus a different car when it has a V6 and leather interior. It’s still the same car, and Harley-Davidson only makes four bikes, all cruisers, in various trim levels. It’s pathetic and shameful, when Triumph makes truly different bikes. Want an off-road adventure bike? Try a Tiger. The retro heritage we spoke of earlier is answered by their Classics line. Want a sport bike but don’t like being a cookie-cutter kid on a Japanese bike with no soul? Try the Daytona! Or better yet, the original factory Streetfighter that everyone else is copying: the Speed and Street Triples. They’ve got heavy cruisers and sports-tourers. Triumph Motorcycles have all the soul and individuality Harley tries to tell you they’re selling, with five times the choice in how you want to ride.

Now, let’s be very honest, Triumph isn’t perfect. There are some downfalls to going with a British bike and some stuff Harley does better. For as opinionated as I am, I do try to always be honest so let’s look at what Harley does better and where Triumph needs to improve.

Marketing. Honestly, this is Triumph’s biggest downfall; they need to market the hell out of themselves. Some of the world’s biggest brands (Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Budweiser) are also the heaviest advertisers. I don’t think anybody would really argue that McDonald’s makes the best burgers or Bud is the beer, would they? Of course not! We’ve been sold on the products just like we’ve been sold on Harleys! Triumph needs a marketing blitz and create more desire for their products. I see Harley ads in print magazines all the time (e.g. Popular Mechanics), but I can’t recall seeing 10% the number of Triumph ads outside dedicated bike magazines. Triumph should buy a spot to run an evocative commercial in the previews of a summer blockbuster.

Dealership network. This is honestly the biggest problem, but can’t really be fixed until the desire for the product is in place. It’s supply and demand at work. Harleys can be found literally anywhere in the United States, while here in Las Vegas (at time of writing) there isn’t a Triumph dealer to be found. The guy I know who has a 675 rides all the way down to L.A. for his major service intervals. Iron Horse Motorcycles in Tucson used to carry Triumphs alongside BMW, but now the only dealer there has some generic name and you’ll only find them if you know about and hunt down Triumphs because they’re so far out of town and sell other toys like ATVs and watercraft. (No offense to Performance Cycle Center intended.) If Triumph would tackle marketing, and could tackle dealer availability I truly believe they would eat Harley’s lunch

Parting shot, or, one last reason Triumph is better than Harley Davidson. Harley Davidson is a company that is quite literally kept afloat by selling merchandise like t-shirts and window stickers for pickup trucks, asking the government to intervene, and marketing an image rather than simply selling a good bike. So do you want to buy a bike from a company that thinks aerodynamics peaked in 1969 with the batwing fairing and whose own clientele say the V-Rod isn’t a “real” Harley? Or would you consider a company with even more heritage, way more honesty, and in a poker match could tell H-D, “I’ll see your rich tradition and raise you performance! What’s that? You fold?”

The Triumph Thunderbird was the 2010 Cruiser of the Year. All the rich history of H-D. Less expensive. WAY more individual. Better performing. Just as retro if you want, but better selection if you desire something different.

Triumph Motorcycles: More heritage than Harley and twice the class.

68 thoughts on “Triumph Motorcycles. Better than Harley in every way.

  1. I definitely like the looks of the Triumphs over the Harleys for the most part. Heck, it’s one reason why I like the Suzuki TU250X so much.

    I will honestly say though that who ever is the first to come out with a $4,000 entry level bike (Triumph or Harley) I will put them on a pedistal. Why can’t they make one if the Japanese companies can?

    • As an owner of both, here is my summary:
      Japanese: Fast, Great on paper, Built to a price, plasticky
      Harley: Metal, Leather, Chrome, you have to ride one to know.

      There is a reason why so many people around the world either ride or covet a Harley Davidson.

      Try one and see…..

      • Spoken like a true ‘Harley guy’. No concrete reason why Harley is superior, just metaphysics.

        Metal? Lots of bikes have it. Leather? Lots of bikes have it. Chrome? Tacky, and lots of bikes have it. Hell, my first bike, a budget 250cc Korean cruiser, had chrome.

        “You have to ride one to know. Try one and see…” Why? What reason is there to have a Harley when it is known and has been proven that there are other motorcycles, indeed, other CRUISERS, that are either just as good or superior?

      • Triumph isn’t Japanese, and if you actually look at the trim on (especially) their cruisers it is all metal.

        My rocket 3 gets crowds (literally) of gawkers when I pull into any bike gathering, while the ocean of homogenous Harleys stands relatively ignored. With a proper exhaust, it sounds vicious until you hit 3500 rpms at which point hell itself screams from that thundering 3-cyl engine. For the same money it takes to roll off the dealership lot on a Dyna, I bought the bike, had the engine rebuilt, custom saddle and trim, higher performance suspension, and my baby pumps out 240+ HP at the rear wheel.

        If your goal is to buy into a prepackaged image and blend in with the crowd, Harley is definitely the way to go. You get to sport all the swagger you could ever without any of the burden of earning it, and as an added bonus, you never have to worry about a speeding tickets!

        There is a reason you see so many Harleys parked rather than rolling. It’s not about riding, it’s about strutting to and from the bar. Triumphs are built the love of riding… Try one and see!

  2. Frankly, the very thing that you mentioned, service availability, is the only thing the deters me from getting a Triumph. I will hate to be stranded in a small town waiting for a part while getting burn oil in my face from passing Harleys.

    • There’s a Triumph dealer here in Fargo (where I recently moved) and roadside service is pretty simple. Fuel injection removes jetting concerns in elevation, chain maintenance is the same as any other bike, and valves are easily accessible for 12k miles services. And the twin in the Bonneville is so smooth and it handles so much better than a big cruiser! I’m more convinced than ever this is the bike for me.

  3. I don’t bag on others for what they ride. I ride a Harley. Like the Clint Eastwood line, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” For that reason, I am not going to share mine becuase nobody gives a fuck. Regardless, Harley doesn’t need to make a more areodynamic bike or change anything, because they don’t HAVE to change. People, my self included, buy them for the RIDE not for an image, and certainly not to see how fast we can run a quarter or worried about top end. Hell, another reason a lot of guys ride them is to customize them and make them their own unique ride. I don’t feel like an elitist prick or put my nose in the air because I ride one either. I respect everyone who rides and will wave or talk to any rider. I have a few friends who ride metrics and we ride and hang out together. Its all good.

    • Well sir, I tip my hat to you (or throw a wave, if we’re riding in opposite directions). If you read my intro, than you know you’re completely free of my ire. This post was inspired by a few guys I know that will always ask when somebody is going to get a “real” bike, and I just had to vent. Truth be told, I like the Sportster Forty-Eight, XR1200, and Road Glide. It’s a select few of the Harley riders that drive me away from the brand.

      • Hey Eric, thanks for the post. I too ride a Harley, but hey I love all things two wheeled. I in fact also own a Beemer and would love a garage full of different bikes. I can never understand the “my bike is better than yours” attitude. I bought a harley for me and don’t care what people think. I’m a biker first and foremost. If you ride a bike and you need help, I’ll stop, regardless of the bike you ride, be it a moped or Japanese super bike. Hey y’all. Keep the rubber on the Tarmac and ride safe and long.

    • While I appreciate some of what you have to say, you are sadly/grossly mistaken about guys buying Harley for “the ride” and NOT “the image”. I’ve been riding over 35 years, owned all kinds of bikes, and traded off my Harley of 7 years for a Triumph. I’ve seen the underbelly of the Harley “culture”, it’s often fat, often ugly and VERY VERY much about “the image”. There’s a whole bunch of posers and wannabees out there, especially since Sons of Anarchy hit the television. I could elaborate tons more, especially the fact that Oakland CA Hells Angels founder, Sonny Barger, wrote “F#$% Harley” in his memoirs and said they should have gone with either the Japanese or German bikes when they had the chance in the 70s.

  4. To be honest my friend, Harley’s biggest downfall has always been, and always will be, it’s arrogant customers. Even if you’re not an arrogant Harley owner, a lot of bikers will just assume that you are. I live in Britain, and to be totally honest, I find that Triumph riders are just as bad, as are those who ride classic restored motorcycles. The only difference is they don’t have quite as much stigma as Harley riders. Personally, I couldn’t care less what someone rides so long as they’re nice to me. But it really gets up my nose when someone acts like an asshole just cause I’m riding a brand they don’t like.

  5. My first ride (1969) was on a Honda CB. A few years later, the local Honda shop sponsored a “Intro to motorcycles” aimed towards kids; I learned to ride a Honda 70. I was in love.

    I moved to NC and went to school with the daughters of the local HD dealer and when I saw the HD “1” t-shirt, I asked if an HD was like a Honda. I got “The Sneer”. “If you ain’t a Harley rider, you ain’t s–t!” I opened an Easyriders magazine and saw a swap meet where they were holding a “Bash a Jap Bike” fundraiser for $5 a swing. (Sledge hammer)

    I hate Harley “attitude” and I will always mock them. I ride a Yamaha, a Kawi, and a Triumph Bonnie. Screw HD forever!!!

    • No doubt your always “mock” them to your bitch friends and not to the faces of the Harley owners.

      • WOW!!! You just proved the point about a-hole Harley owners that these other guys were trying so hard to dismiss.

  6. First, you’re a dick. Second, you’re a dick. I’m a Harley “elitist”, and I’ll tell you why…experience. I’ve owned and ridden a lot of other bikes, from a Honda CM400 to a Yamaha Seca turbo. Fact is, NOTHING touches the Harley experience. The feel of a Harley the moment you grap the bars and fire it up is pure “Americana”. Everything feels 20% bigger, heavier….tougher. And that thumping Vtwin speaks volumes over your little British blender. Other bikes have parts that look and feel like chromed plastic. And how “gay” is it that appearance is so important for Triumph that they’d waste time and money putting on fake carbs to hide their step into the EFI market ( that was an innovation HD adopted 6 years ago. They may have parts assembled elsewhere, but they’re more “American” than anything else. And, they hold their value over years of ownership; partly because of the market. Which is why they are the most copied bike the world over. And I got news for you, they’re huge all over Germany and Asia. I can tell from your accolades for the XR, which is very Japanese in style, that you simply don’t like the American cruiser style, it happens to be convenient for you that’s what Harley excels in. And then there’s the “community” behind owning a Harley. While you and your little scarf wearing hipster “bros” have your little circle jerks at the local Starbucks, the Harley community is exponentially larger and more family oriented than you’ll ever know. What good is valuing the competitive racing of any bike when we ride on highways that have speed limits? Its a waste of energy and insults the intelligence. BTW, the government imposed tariff that you mentioned only effected bikes over 750cc and holding the price of Harleys has helped all the other makers since their little plastic copies are in the same pricing now. Fact is, you don’t own or like Harleys cause you have a personal vendetta against Alpha males who make you question your own value as a man. Maybe a Harley guy banged your girlfriend or something. In the end, people own Harleys for the same reasons: status, feel, quality, community; and you can’t stand that your little British blender can’t touch that. PS, nobody gives a shit about J Dean or Marlon Brando anymore. We’ve got pretty much everybody else riding our bikes. And when was the last icon you saw riding yours on the big screen? And as far as “selection” I count half of the Triumph line as throw backs to the 60s and 70s so spare us the bull.

    • LOL. First, I actually ride a BMW (and Ducati before that). Second, you either missed my little disclaimer right at the beginning of the post, or you felt like making my point about Harley “culture” for me through your own low class behavior. So thanks for proving me right, there. LOL.

      Hipsters and gentlemen (without a macho complex or something to prove) are two different things. Just FYI.

      PS- chrome is about the tackiest thing one could festoon their motorcycle with. Thank goodness for brushed and polished metals, instead.

      • Who said anything about best “for America”? What does that even mean. I’m simply pointing out that Triumph’s product line and intangibles like “heritage” or tradition are all superior choices to H-D.

      • Eric I was referring to Steve D. H-D claim they are American as apple pie and we know they ain’t

    • Steve McQueen, James Dean, Marlon Brando, the Fonz – these are all icons of the ‘Americana’ you claim Harley-Davidson espouses. They are all images of America’s golden age and shaped the image of ‘coolness’ that most motorcycle riders aspire to even today. All rode Triumphs. Look through the golden age of American motorcycling and you’ll never find a Harley-Davidson. Frankly, up until recent years they had a reputation for falling apart, the motorcyce equivalent of Fords, Chevies and Caddies.

      Today HD makes some damn fine motorcycles. No arguments there. They’re well made, comfortable and reliable. However, with the exception of their newest designs (like the V-Rod, still not considered a ‘real Harley’), their bikes are decades old. They’re overly heavy and handle sluggishly. Other manufacturers, especially the Europeans, are embracing new designs and new ideas. Even the Japanese, once notorious for simply copying others, are now major innovators. HD is standing still.

      Your claim that half the Triumph line are ‘throwbacks to the 60s and 70s’ is also rubbish. Triumph makes three models in its Classics line – The Bonneville, Thruxton and Scrambler. Beyond that you’ve got the Rocket III, various Thunderbird variants, America, Speedmaster, Trophy, a whole series of Tigers, Speed Triple, Street Triple, and Daytona. All modern. All excellent performers. All fantastic bikes to own. All very cool bikes to ride. And all carrying 112 years of Triumph heritage. You know when you’re riding a Triumph. They feel different from any other bike. Frankly, it’s Harley-Davidson that is now largely seen as a ‘throwback’, which is probably why HD is scrambling to release a hideous new liquid-cooled 500cc/750cc ‘urban cruiser’.

      I ride a Triumph Speedmaster and a Harley XL883L Sportster SuperLow (amazing how much you can save when you don’t have kids, lol), and I can tell you, without doubt, that the ‘Harley faithful’ are a greater threat to Harley-Davidson’s future than any other. Nothing turns people away more than the bad attitude of hardcore ‘Harley-or-nuthin’ riders. These people may be a minority, but they’ve become the stereotype for Harley riders. It’s a huge turn-off. Frankly, it discouraged me from buying my SuperLow. I certainly haven’t regretted buying it and it’s a lot of fun to ride, but I can’t stand the exclusive and elitist culture. I don’t want it, and I reject it.

    • Some of us actually ride bikes for the sake of riding them, not for the attitude, not for icons, not for tradition, not because of where they’re made and certainly not for the “Americana”, especially the huge amount of us who are not from your country. You do realize that not everyone on the internet is from The U.S.A. right? Your whole comment reaks of unjustified arrogance, insecurities and lack of intelligence. Why can’t you just enjoy your bike and shut your mouth? FACT, I’ve ridden many Harleys and NOTHING can compare to the Triumph Rocket 3, not H-D, not Honda, not any manufacturers. This is an absolute fact that cannot be denied, even by people such as yourself. Enjoy your extensive dealer network and overpriced everything, I’ll enjoy my $10,000 2300 cc 140cubic inch beast and not have to worry about my bike breaking down and have to need dealers on every corner. Harleys are beautiful bikes and they have a great sound but they are not as good as you think they are, try a rocket 3 and see for yourself, you’ll never look back. Of course you won’t do this though…

  7. Pingback: Why Police Depts. are Ditching Harley | eric.r.shelton

  8. I love the Harley clowns. I have friends with Harleys and $6,000+ worth of Harley clothing! What a joke. Trailer his bike then dress up like a clown and go drive around in circles somewhere.

    Harley has done a fantastic job with marketing and the world has sucked it up. I bought a Triumph Thunderbird because I like it and it is NOT a Harley. I looked at bikes at every dealership EXCEPT Harley. Too many fools with $6,000 in Harley clothing.

    Many of the old Harley guys now bad mouth Harley because they are not even supporting the older bikes. Want a part, too bad your machine is obsolete! Buy a new machine and some new cloths or go away!

    Someone ask me if I thought Harleys were junk. I said, well, in a modern age of manufacturing I doubt it….But being a good bike or bad bike is irrelevant. I wouldn’t ride Harley because of the people now ridding them nor would I buy a pink corvette no matter how good they are!

    To be honest, most of the Harley’s look the same. The same, the same the same………No thanks!

  9. Triumph should be careful not to be drawn into a H-D lookalike contest. They gotta keep their own identity, and their marketing must by to the young, not old bastards with prostate problems wearing chaps. I know the older blokes a flush with a quid, but the fact remains it’s only the young can keep motorcycling going to the next generation. Try and get them away from computers won’t be easy

    I wonder about the future of motorcycling since the young are less interested nowadays

    Triumph must remove themselves from any fashion that remotely resembles H-D. If they do produce a line of clothing they should remember making a bloke look like a bought and paid for fuckwit ( like Steve D I suspect ) won’t do them any favours. The English mods were a great example of fashion done right. The kids chose the fashion, the parka, brothel creepers, Fred Perry, and the scooter was part of it, not the basis of it

    Triumph should look back to the old fashions or 40s/50s and maybe produce T shirts with traditional logos and designs and a riding coat and that’s it. The helmet should be half face with goggles, not the H-D half face with no goggles and sun glasses. Think Lee Marvin in the ” Wild ones ” The music association is important. Triumph should look to something different to that stupid blues bullshit with aggressive lyrics

    Honestly, the fashion for motorcyclists is crap. Maybe one reason why youngsters keep away

    Anyway, maybe I’m wrong. Triumph don’t give a flying fig anyway

    • I should have said above ” Also ” think L marvin. Sorry to cause confusion. No half face helmets in the Wild ones

    • Hey man I’m 19 and I got my self a ’56 6T last year that I got running after a lot of reading, head scratching, carbon cleaning, valve timing, checking valve clearances, points filing, ignition timing, wiring, amal concentric adjusting and good old spit and polishing. A lot of headaches but I had a blast with it. Sad to say vin numbers had been altered by previous owner and I didn’t catch it but Harrisburg did. She’s gone now, only memories and oil stains left from her presence. But it was a learning experience. Now its onto the next one, I think I’m going to try a unit triumph this time and see how it goes. I’m the triumph guy amidst my Harley friends. Let me just say they did struggle to keep up when I had the little 650 purring away. Haha, and it didn’t leave my brains shaking after a quick ride either. This comment was kind of to the group here too, I just happened to click reply on yours

      • Hi Alex, great to hear from you. What a great piece of history to start with. Pity you didn’t keep it as a second bike. I can imagine all the repairs & mechanical stuff you did. Truth of the matter is English & US bikes were wiped out by the Japs quality wise wise later in the 70s. They have improved now

        You are only 19. So we have hope in the youth. Well done mate. You thinking of getting another Trumpy? If you buy used in the 70s period, remember to put an electronic ignition into it to make it reliable and keep the original parts too

        How about going to to get advice on traditional clothing for a traditional club etc?

        The traditions tend to cone from the clothing music etc, with the bike part of it

        Get a few guys & gals together, with HD Trump, etc and start one of those old traditional type clubs and have a lot of fun. The early Boozefighters club ( not the badly dressed copy running round today ) had AJS, Norton, BMW as well as HD and Triumph and they went some and had fun

        Ride safe

        regards Alan

  10. The book Let’s Ride: Sonny Barger’s Guide to Motorcycling was released by HarperCollins on June 8, 2010.
    “ In terms of pure work-manship, personally I don’t like Harleys. I ride them because I’m in the club, and that’s the image, but if I could I would seriously consider riding a Honda ST1100 or a BMW. We really missed the boat not switching over to the Japanese models when they began building bigger bikes. I’ll usually say “Fuck Harley-Davidson.” ”

    —- Ralph “Sonny” Barger, Hell’s Angel

  11. Sonny says what Sonny says. I think he could give a rats ass about a ST1100 (now ST1300), BMW’s or the like. I’ve had a ST1100 and it was a decent high speed touring (somewhat) bike but it’s not exactly a electroglide or Gold WIng. He was riding a Victory for awhile but he’s about as dyed in the wool a Harley guy as you can get. He likes self promotion.

    I’ve had a few hogs but prefer brit bikes, I LOVE Ariels (Square Fours and Red Hunters mostly), Sunbeams S7s, various BSAs, Triumphs (which in the UK have the same mentality Harley does here), Nortons, and lesser known brands (and some of which are impossible to get parts for now, not that they were easy to get parts for in the US even when new) like Cotton, AJS, Brough Superior (Lawernce Of Arabia LOVED these), Greeves, Vincent, Villiers, ect…

    Then of course the other eurobikes as well.

    Harleys have their own subculture that nobody else has. They might drive a Toyota Prius to work but by God they will ride a Harley on the weekends. When I grew up, me and most other dirtbags rode Harleys. period. I can’t remember any Drs or lawyers on them at the time. It was the AMF era and quality was complete shit. The thing about it is, Harley knows there core market cold. They didn’t want the V-Rod and it was too expensive and slow for anybody else. The hardcore Harley guys I know view it like they did the Aermacchis.

    Like John Deere, Harley makes a shit-ton of moola off branding, shirts, stickers, ect… to people that dont and never will own the bike (or tractor as it were). Not many companies can pull that off. Triumph certainly never will even if they are my favourite bikes (well, Ariel is my favourite, then Triumphs).

    Even old Harleys you can get parts for easily. Not so much with my Bonneville. When something broke on my Ariel, hell, it might take months to find what I needed and a small forture to fix it. Such is life on a 50 plus year old scoot that wasn’t exactly common when new. There’s something to be said for making the same basic product going on forever.

    Royal Enfield is still cool though, made in India or not. Still rather have a British one though…

    Hell, I have a 69 Honda Trail 90 I can still easily get parts for, not that it has much to go wrong. Use it for camping and have going on forever. Honda made that same basic bike until not long ago, one of the longest production runs of damn near anything, ever.

    BTW, some of the Boozefighters DO ride Triumphs (not sure about other brit bikes), the Pagans were formed with guys on Triumphs (and denim vests…) but damn near all the over one percenters (of which the Boozefighters are not, they are a traditional non-outlaw club), ride Harleys of at least 1000cc. Some you can’t ride a Sporty of any size cause even though guys don’t consider them real Harleys. Even the custom bikes either have Harley V Twins or S&S or the like clones in them. What you won’t find in any traditional American club (even the non one percenters) is German or Jap bikes, going back to WWII. Anyway good blog even if I’m late as always to the party.

    • All I have to offer in reply is when you were talking selling branding (and that Triumph never will). Triumph actually has an exclusivity agreement (at the moment) with Lucky Brand Jeans and does selectively license and brand. Lucky Brand skews heavily to the younger, hipper demographic.

      I ride a ’11 BMW R1200R, and if/when I replace it it’ll likely be a Triumph or a Moto Guzzi that next sees the inside of my garage. With the internet being everywhere now, parts for a Bonnie are crazy easy to come by, and the engines are almost bomb-proof- they can be hopped up to ridiculous levels of power. :D

      • you won’t go wrong with a Guzzi. Sporty to get through the traffic would be excellent

  12. No doubt, the Bonneville engines are solid. My uncle has two, both over 40 years old. I’d be more concerned about weak transmissions, electrical gremlins etc… Of course, Brits and Yanks are going to toot their own horns, but I’m Canadian. Thus, I can say impartially and without bias that nothing beats Japanese for peace of mind. I’d jump on my V-Strom and circumvent the globe at the drop of a hat, if I was so inclined. Wouldn’t feel the same about anything from Europe or America.

    • I’m American, but I love the European bikes. They just handle better than anything else. The electrical gremlins of British yore are definitely a thing of the past (I only really advocate newer, Hinckley bikes), and I’d ride my old Multistrada 620 or current R1200R without any concerns of reliability. Having said that, the Strom is an excellent bike.

    • Hell, I’m Australian. I’ll take Japanese or European. Both regions produce fantastic, top-of-the-line motorcycles. Harleys over here are associated with thugs and criminals, which is why I’m thinking about getting rid of my SuperLow. I’ll keep my Triumph though.

      In the end it’s not about which country the bike comes from, but the manufacturer. European (notably Triumph and BMW, among others) and Japanese (Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki) companies have all built reputations for making rock-solid, high-performing and downright delightful motorcycles. Harley-Davidson has been standing still for decades, and Victory just feels like it keeps putting out the same bike with different paint jobs.

      I would feel totally comfortable circumventing the globe on a Japanese or European bike. I’ve heard many stories of people who go on long trips on Triumphs or BMWs with little or no bike-related problems. I even heard of a guy who took an unmodified Bonneville offroad over the mountains in France. The bike came back battered and filthy, but working perfectly. I’ve taken my Speedmaster touring all over Australia. That Bonneville engine cannot be faulted for reliability.

      Hell, the local bike of choice in India for crossing the Himalayas is a Royal Enfield.

      I’d be equally comfortable on a Yammy, Kwaka or Suzie.

      I wouldn’t dream of making any such attempt on a Harley. Even the big toureres are suited only for long highway cruises. I’d rather take a station wagon. At least a station wagon could handle gravel roads.

  13. Interesting article and colored replies. I’d like to post my experience as a “new” rider and bike purchaser.
    2.5 years ago I wanted to try riding at age 39. I didn’t know if I was really going to like it just yet. I intended to ride 80% of the time for my work commute (60 miles a day). My wife convinced me to start out with a new Honda Rebel. It seemed perfect at the time to start out. But within 4 months I quickly grew out of it and fell in love with riding. Not having the money to buy anything else yet, I rode that Honda Rebel for over 2 years with wide open throttle on the California Highways almost everyday.
    Starting December 2012, I sought out what the right next bike was for me. Since I already had a Honda, I obviously looked at Hondas. I thought their Shadow line was too boring for me. I wasn’t sure about shaft drives and radiators either. until I saw the Phantom. I really liked that one. I was convinced that was going to be my next bike. It was only $9000 and cool as hell with good practical specs.
    So, then I went to test ride some HD’s. Wow, I have to say I was blown away. I could not believe how much more you got for the same price. The $9000-ish price tag for the Sportys and the solid feel, the low end torque zippiness. It really felt over-built. Like it was stronger than me. Every part I touched, the shifters, bars, levers, gauges, etc… I then went BACK to Honda to test ride the Phantom. First of all, unlike at the HD dealership where everybody was friendly and didn’t mind if you hang out all day with them, the Honda dealership made me feel like I was intruding or bothering their busy day when I came in. And they didn’t want to let me ride the bike, but I insisted, and glad I did.
    After riding the Phantom, with its sluggish take off, feeling how cheap it felt, all the plastic, and if I stepped on something too hard I felt it might break, I thought to myself no-way will I spend the SAME amount of money on this when I can get an HD that felt incredible to me. It was like comparing a Mercedes Benz car with a Suzuki.
    So, I spent the next several months contemplating which HD was right for me. I had a lot of trouble with this. I wanted a cool looking cruiser, but I also wanted comfort, practicality, and was not interested in customizing anything. The closest model to what met my needs was the Superlow. But even it had an uncomfortable reach to the bars. I wanted forward controls. I wanted 2-up stuff. I was afraid of too much exposed metal parts (I live at the beach).
    Then, some brit friend of mind told me to check out Triumphs. My first reaction was “no-way, I’m sold on HD.” But then I went to a dealership and looked around. The Bonneville-America! There it was. Everything I wanted already there in a bike. No plastic body parts (okay, the fake carb cover), comfy seat with 2-up already, forward controls, a nice big tank, and swoopy bars that are super comfy to hang on to, sexy looks, and a good performer for commuting. And as a bonus, the entire engine is powder coated, so not much exposed aluminum clear coat to corrode at the beach.
    Then, I realized that I would probably be happier with the Triumph because it’s not like everybody else’s Harley. I also went with blue/white as everybody else has a black motorcycle. There’s no local social club to belong to, but you know, when I’m riding to work, I’m usually by myself anyway, whether it be a HD or Triumph, it’s just me and my bike, and I’m VERY happy that I bought the Triumph America.

    • Hi Jonas,

      Gotta agree with you on the Honda Shadow. It looks and sounds the business and, being a Honda, is probably extremely reliable. However, with that shaft drive it loses a good portion of what power its 750cc motor has to friction. It’d be better if they made the bike with a belt drive and bumped it up to about 850cc.

      You’re always going to get a blast from riding a Harley-Davidson. They’re great bikes (for what they are), and they’ve definitely got the ‘attitude’ to make you feel awesome while riding. However, the novelty wears off after a while, and I say that as an owner.

      1) Every man and his dog has a Harley-Davidson.
      2) Most Harley bike designs are decades old. They’re simply outperformed by other bikes.
      3) At least in my country, Harleys are associated with organised crime and outlaw gangs. In other words, they get way more attention from police. Too much hassle.
      4) The culture surrounding Harley-Davidson, espoused in its purest form by the so-called ‘Harley faithful’, is elitist and exclusive. The ‘Harley spirit’ is a marketing ploy.
      5) By buying a Harley you’re automatically ‘part of the club’, whether you want to be or not. You’re immediately lumped with the title of a ‘Harley guy’.

      On the flip side:
      1) Triumphs are uncommon enough that they get more attention from a wider range of people, remain distinctive and hold their novelty.
      2) All modern Triumphs are just that – completely modern, and are capable of competing against and surpassing other bikes in their respective classes.
      3) No one will think you’re part of a gang when you’re on a Triumph, even if it’s a big cruiser.
      4) Triumphs have a distictive quality and flair about them that discourages conformity and encourages diversity. No Triumph riders would make you feel second-rate for not riding a Triumph, and Triumph’s ‘spirit’ is one of personal expression and individual distinctiveness, not a shallow, generic image.
      5) There is no ‘Triumph guy’ label. You buy a Triumph, and that’s it. You’re not defined by your bike’s badge. As a rider you’re defined by where you ride and how you ride, and by the adventures you and your bike share together.

      Harleys are beautiful and comfortable, but they’re not the be-all and end-all of motorcycles, or even of cruisers. I was cautious when buying my SuperLow, but decided to get it despite the baggage that came with it. After a year, though, people were still talking to me as though I were a ‘Harley guy’. Despite how much fun the bike is to ride, there’s just too much stuff surrounding Harley other than the bikes. Others would disagree but I’ve found my enjoyment of the bike being brought down a notch by the hooplah surrounding the brand name.

      I’m selling my Harley but holding on to my Triumph. I ride a Speedmaster (started on an ’06, traded for a ’12) and I love it. It’s basically the same bike as the America but with different styling. It always puts a smile on my face and I don’t need to worry about metaphysical crap because of the badge on the tank.

      Good choice on the America, mate. She’s a beauty.

  14. A sucker is brought in to the world every second,You will find them down at the big bad harley dealer every second of the day.Owner of 08 triumph thruxton,that’s a real motorcycle.

  15. Boy – we get excited by this kind of stuff. Truth is that in some places (like Europe – England in my case) the biking culture is to go fast – this means that brand loyalty is relatively weaker because if the fastest bike one year is a Honda and then Triumph make a faster one, a significant number of buyers will move brands without feeling they have betrayed some loyalty to one brand or another. I ride an old Honda 500 Four out of nostalgia (my first proper bike) a 1963 Enfield bullet, because it’s funny as hell and a modern Triumph to scare the s*** out of myself, because to me, that’s what a motorbike is in my own confused brain. If I was born the other side of the pond I would probably have all sorts of different ideas about what a biker is and do a different kind of riding (very long very straight roads you’ve got over there – wouldn’t want to do them on a super-sports machine). Just ride whatever makes you happy!
    But the commercial concern must be that Harley can’t afford demand to slip because it is already selling a Harley to just about everyone who will ever buy one. Look what happened to BSA, Triumph, Norton – all those famous Brit brands from the 60s – killed in a few years from unbeatable Japanese competition. By all means, keep those big heavy shiny Harleys coming out of the factory – but if the company is going to survive the next 100 years it might be a good idea to spread the brand into some younger, faster gear, just in case the American population eventually gets tempted by the idea of lighter, faster, more powerful machinery. Triumph is relatively tiny but – hats off to them – they make the world’s best 675cc sports bike, arguably the best naked sport machines AND they make cruisers and retro machines. Why in the world would HD ignore the opportunity of selling fast bikes to speed freaks? I would NEVER buy a cruiser – but I used to like those BUELLs, when they were around, and would have been tempted if they were just a few quid cheaper….

  16. Pingback: My Grudging Admission of Harley’s Marketing Brilliance | eric.r.shelton

  17. Britons are shy of brand loyalty due to the companies in the 70s producing rubbish and not doing anything about it. They didn’t care about their customers

    • Neither did Harley.

      The build quality of many things from that era was simply shocking. Bikes fell apart, cars broke down, even houses were built on the cheap. The 70s were not a good time for quality control.

      Today however those issues are things of the past for both Harley and Triumph. Both manufacturers have taken quality control by the horns and are building extremely reliable bikes. Harley has taken its old designs and tightened everything up so their bikes actually hold together against their own vibrations, and Triumph has renewed their entire lineup – the new Bonnie and its variants are bulletproof.

      • yes HD in the 70s was rubbish. I think they were produced by AML or whatever the company was

  18. Harley Davidson is the oldest motorcycle company in the world in continuous production, Moto Guzzi is the second oldest. It ain’t a pissing match it is a selection based on ridership taste, though it was a lot easier to make fun of Harley Riders with the older engines, “hey look at all those knuckleheads over there”, all that being said, I have fun with Harley riders as well as others. Once I parked first spot in front of a whole line of Harleys on an ancient BMW boxer and a guy said “hey that ain’t a Harley”, to which I responded, “that’s a German Harley”, and while he was still stunned (see knucklehead comment above), I went inside and got a beer. For the record I currently own BMWs, Ducatis, and Moto Guzzis, (all early 80’s or older) having sold my AJS twin a few years back.

    • Actually I’m pretty sure Royal Enfield is by far the oldest manufacturer of motorcycles in continuous production, having started building motorised bicycles in 1893. Despite their move to India in the 50s, they’ve been going ever since.

      In a way, Triumph s even older, starting in 1885 as Triumph Engineering, later Triumph Cycle Works. However, they didn’t manufacture their first motorcycle until 1902, making them the second oldest. With the exception of a brief hiatus in the 1980s during financial woes, after which the company was bought out and became Triumph Motorcycles, it has been in continuous production since 1902.

      Triumph has been building motorcycles for a year longer than Harley-Davidson, and has existed as a brand for 17 years longer.

  19. Interesting dialog. I am an anti-Harley , Harley rider, textile no leather, ATGATT, rider. I also ride a 1975 Norton Commando, having 3 other Nortons in varying states of repair, and a 1973 BMW R75/5. Each bike has its own strengths and weakness, and visceral attraction. Love them all. The Harley a 2002 FLHTC is a great touring machine, that has never let me down. I have owned Hondas, a Triumph, a Yamaha and a Husqvarna, loved them all. Ride on everyone, there is lots of road for everyone out there. To quote the famous and much misaligned actor Peter Fonda, “Loose the watch and ride”.

  20. @SpeedyLow..Mate, if I had the opportunity, I would buy you a beer. We have a lot in common and you talk (write) a lot of sense. I was part of the Harley faithful owning three HD’s over a period of ten years, the last being a 2011 Road King. I struggled with the elitist, arrogant attitudes as well however, struggled more with the fact the “one placentas” (as my mate calls them), rode the same bikes. In essence, we were tarred with the same brush. I sold my Harley about nine months ago, bought a Kawasaki ZRX 1200r, a 2007 Triumph Speedmaster, AND had enough left over to go to Thailand for a holiday, (including spending money)..IMO, best thing I ever did, and now I have two cool retro bikes side by side in my garage.

    • One wonders when all this HD elitism, or snootiness started and why. In years gone by in USA, HD was an icon with old and young men alike owning them. A cultural thing. It’s amazing how some things become fashionable and ruined

      Here is a sometimes hilarious look at the HD and owner

    • Cheers mate! *clink*

      The Speedmaster’s a jewel of a cruiser, isn’t it? And an underrated one at that. I only swapped my ’06 for a ’12 for the EFI, bigger tank and because I love updated look.

      The Harley’s gone now, but I’m feeling a hankering for a new ride. Maybe a Royal Enfield C5, just for the pleasure of riding? Or maybe a Suzuki DR650SE for some real adventure riding and camping? Who knows, maybe both?

      Life is good on two wheels.

  21. Everyone has their own fun factor and that is what riding a motorcycle is all about. Dissing someone’s ride just because the logo on the tank isn’t up your alley is kinda small minded and isn’t ‘motorcyclist’ at all. Believe me I know it – I own and ride a lot of classics- a total of 21- including a WLA ( which is kinda agricultural but fun to ride) and at the cost of sounding biased I have to say that there are no modern bikes out there that leave you vibrating all over, with that big ol’ silly smile on your face when you get off after a long ride.

    The way I see it is that Harleys are old skool like Royal Enfields, they hark back to classic bikes but with a load of hype attached to them.and chrome of course ( the 2014 Bonneville is no better when it comes to the bling factor!). Triumph is aping Harley with it’s range of clothing and accessories (over priced) and of course along with it’s owner group and club rides.

    The modern Triumph is a bike manufacturer in it’s own right and a damn good one too. In my opinion it does not need the it’s Triumph heritage of old to sell it’s bikes. First off, the Triumphs of today are nothing like the classic Triumphs-well maybe the allusion to the namesakes in it’s range of bikes and of course the cosmetic lookalikes in it’s ‘classic’ line up,but it ends right there. The engines on their modern ‘classic’ range are so stifled due to having to conform to today’s emission standards that they seem to lack ‘soul’. Once these bombproof engines have been customized with some after market kit to breathe better, exhausts changed out and the fueling re-mapped to compensate for the modifications they are a blast to ride :-)

    Since I collect bikes, I buy and sell a lot of rides but hang onto the exceptionally few. The Jap & European rides are great for speed, handling and reliability They are incomparable as far as adrenaline rushes go as well. As you would have guessed there is no brand loyalty involved just RESPECT! For the bike and the guys involved in setting it up.

    I like riding alone, being one with my motorcycle and the elements- the countryside, the wind, the rain or sunshine. It helps to clear my head and puts things in perspective.It makes me feel free and everything else is just incidental.

    • British Customs sells kits that turn the Bonnie engine into a whole new beast. Those CO2 sensors are evil. Get rid of them, rip out the airbox, install some new air filters, add some new pipes and get the EFI remapped and you’re in for a treat.

  22. it’s all good 2 wheeled fun, owned by lot’s of different, good and bad people. but, people know a Harley is a motorcycle, and not mistaken for a motorized bicycle.

  23. Hi there, well I have to say I agree with you 100%. It doesn’t help either when you see you tube reviews from so called experts, who are there to help new buyers decide what to buy. They write for magazines who’s income is payed by the adverts from the selected few. This is where there wages come from, so to say it’s a bag of shyt! Never happens , the honesty is dead. To make things worse there are a few American pricks who say and I quote…if your not to concerned about brand image then go for the triumph. He sure knows his stuff! But maybe that’s your point all along……Harley is a great brand….if only there bikes were as good ! Let’s be honest no mater the image and I include cars here. Take a good jap curser say 10k…a Harley comparison 20k…show me 10k s diff ie where it is and I will buy it. Finish my arse! That’s a cop out. Honda finish trumps about everyone . It seems to me the richer you are the more dim you must be..justifying getting screwed by Harley for an extra 10k for nothing….but it’s the brand….it must be good? Maybe Harley could sell the yanks a new burger? Wow….60$ a pieces???the brand???I bet mc Donald’s would shit it self! hahahaha. Then all the Harley idiots can justify hey my burger has diff coloured sauce….that’s why it’s costs more …..after all it’s a Harley burger! I rest my case. Have fun, ride cool….ride a triumph!

  24. Thanks a zillion mates for all your comments.I own a couple of small motorcycles,like the Ninja 250R and the RE C5. im looking to get me a heavier bike and have been visiting the Triumph and HD showrooms in Chennai,India(I’m a 60 year young Indian)after going thru all your comments,i’ll probably go in for a Triumph Bonneville T100 or Thruxton.
    Wish you’ll “Happy Trails”

  25. I loved my shaft drive Honda. Never wanted to be lumped into the tattooed black leather world. Though many of my friends do. Rode a jittery fat boy for awhile, fun, but never as smooth as my Honda.

  26. Quite possibly the most illuminating (and entertaining) thread I’ve come across…thank you! As a proud owner of a Royal Enfield Bullet Sixty Five (which I ride every day here in Brunei: it’s the only one on Borneo) and a Bonneville 790cc (which I ride back home in Scotland), I’d like to say that real chaps are those who like what they know and know what they like and appreciate similar in others. The real problem (it seems the world over) in both the UK and Asia is that there are far too many weenii who buy in to the over-advertizing of HD and take it (small) penile lengths. The real problem lies in HD’s marketing. Less BS, more respect from the phlegmwad franchise is needed I suspect. Decency, not dickheadery please!

  27. I realize this article is a few years old now, but I am commenting anyway. As a Harley and Honda bike owner who is also looking at a Bonneville for his third bike, I approve of this article. When it comes to vintage, I go starry eyed for anything on two wheels. ANYTHING! I love Harleys, but the culture of morons that are into them is their biggest downfall. To me, Harley’s can be just a bit too Axl Rose at times, whereas a Triumph Bonneville is hot like 60s era Nancy Sinatra ;)

  28. Ok, I also realize this article is a few years old. I ride because I love to ride. Its that’s simple. I don’t dress up like a pirate or put on my Quadrophenia cloak to ride or dress like a clown to ride my CBR. I just bought my t100 to have a simple ride, clear my brain and just enjoy the wind therapy. Its a great bike. I have a dolled up Heritage that looks like a 60 Duo Glide. That’s my hiway miler, beach cruiser, bbq attendee. Also a great bike. I just sold a Honda Hurricane 1000. Only reason – my 50+ year old back and knees can no longer enjoy the riding position and I don’t need to have my eyeballs a blaze with performance riding… I guess my point is – 2 wheels is 2 wheels regardless… My old “small bike” was an XL1200c which I also loved…

  29. The hatred comes from a time when Harley had no quality control and the Japanese were kicking all the old names out of business. Harley and Triumph were committing suicide with their horrible quality control. Triumph tried new ideas and ran out of cash before they could come back. Harley found new investors post AMF and the Tariff gave them time to regroup. No one likes it when the home team is losing. Triumph came back aiming at the Japanese Sports Bikes. Harley hung on by fit and finish (essentially making Cadillac Bikes). I hate they kicked Eric Buell to the curb as he was about to raise Harley into the next century and into a real American Sports Bike. Harley hated him using Rotax engines. Before the 500 and 750 Street HD considered rebadging Hyosungs and putting them on the floor. Would have went over like a lead balloon. Triumph has the edge because they have a bike for every rider. HD has a bike for 2 types of riders (Bar Hopper and Slow Comfort Cruising). I hope Eric Buell Racing becomes the American Triumph.

  30. All this Harley kick-back over Triumph…just don’t get it. Have had an HD Heritage out here in the the desert that damned near burned my thighs off during the hot months. I’ve got a little Kawasaki 900 Lt now that did just fine, but the lines and specs on the Triumph Thunderbird LT are just too irresistible…and duel exhaust…fine looking machine. The wife is going to be pissed, but tomorrow guess what will be pulling into the garage, and no it will not be a Harley because of the negative posts listed above! Harley drivers…really fat guys with way too much money and time on their hands would be my guess; I disagree about the “arrogance” because they’re just too ugly to be very arrogant about anything at all.

    Best regards all. Ride safe whatever you straddle.

    Las Vegas, NV

  31. Maybe with HD, we are dealing with history of the old clubs. eg the Boozefighters, 13 Rebels, Yellowjackets etc. Although they ape the outlaws with the dopey 3 piece patch, HD owning for them is down to club history, along with bikes made by ww2 allies in some cases. So we are dealing with historical requirement rather than efficiency

    They’ve never forgiven the Japs for Pearl harbour lol

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