TRIUMPH TRIDENT AND BSA ROCKET 3: THE COMPLETE STORY
Author: Peter Henshaw
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This story is like something out of Hollywood. In the mid-1960s, BSA/Triumph learned that Honda was to launch a 750cc motorcycle that would clearly outclass its 650cc twins. Luckily, Meriden's top two designers – Bert Hopwood and Doug Hele – have been toying with the idea of a 3-cylinder 750. Could it work? The prototype is fast and intoxicating to ride, but delays mean the Triumph Trident and BSA Rocket 3 have only been on the market a few weeks when the smoother Honda 750 comes along. The British bikes might be fast, but they lack sophistication, and no one loves their oddball styling. Sales are so slow that production is suspended for eight months. BSA/Triumph fights back with a factory race team that sweeps all before 1971, including a 1–2–3 at the Daytona 200.
While BSA collapses, Triumph struggles on, launching the factory custom Hurricane and updating the T150 Trident with a 5-speed gearbox and front disc brake. The Meriden factory sit-in stops Trident production, but bikes are rolling off the line a few months later at Small Heath, and the electric-start T160 is launched. To no avail – the odds were against them, and in early 1975 Trident production finally stopped. But just as in Hollywood, that's not the end of the story. Les Williams and Norman Hyde keep the Trident flag flying through the 1980s and beyond. The Trident and Rocket 3 Owners Club is formed, bringing together enthusiasts for the iconic triples. And in 1992 (and again in 2020), the reborn Triumph company launched 3-cylinder bikes that carry on the Trident name.