I should like to expires my satisfaction and also tender a tribute to the fine workmanship and material used in the building of your famous bicycles. I purchased one of your Triumph Roadsters in May, 1908, and it has been in constant use up to the present day. From 1908 to 1914, I used the machine both for business and pleasure and this includes 4 years club riding with the Lilac C.C, being used also in several road races. I also spent most of my holidays awheel on tour. In the first few months of the war I had the machine with me at St. Albans and Hatfield whilst training and used it in getting to and from London when lucky enough to get leave. While over in France I lent the machine to a friend, who enjoyed many trips on it. Since the War I have again used it for business and pleasure and for the past two years it has carried me to and from business in all weathers.
– Testimonial from the 1925 Triumph Catalogue
From their beginnings in 1886, Triumph bicycles were quality-built innovative machines. The company soon learned the advantages of making components themselves rather than depending on outside suppliers. Apart from reliable supplies, it meant that parts could be of unique design to prevent poorly-made bicycles being passed off as Triumphs. In fact, Triumph bicycles were held in such high regard that the company retained its distinctive design features for thirty years.
Before the Great War, quality bicycles at high prices dominated the market, but after 1920 BSA, Raleigh and Hercules led the market with cheap bicycles for commuters. However, Triumph not only continued to manufacture expensive roadsters, but retained turn-of-the-century features such as optional band brakes and inverted levers on their top of the range ‘Imperial’ model – other companies had moved on to roller levers by 1908!
Like Sunbeam, their main competitor at the top end of the market in the twenties, Triumph realised there was a niche market for expensive quality machines of pre-war design, bicycles that would last forever rather than needing replacement with new model styles. As one customer stated in a testimonial, having purchased his Triumph secondhand nineteen years previously: ‘I think there is no cycle like the Triumph and have never had a better bargain. It would never do for every rider to stick to his machine for nineteen years as there would be no repeat orders.’
Despite their reliance in the 1920s on the styling of the early 1900s, one ‘novelty’ was introduced, in 1919: the ‘Ball End’ fork crown. This unique feature was offered as an option at least until the mid-thirties, by which time (1932) the Triumph Cycle Co had been sold off to Raleigh so the company could focus on more important products, Triumph cars – their very successful ‘Super Seven’ made its debut in 1928 – and Triumph motorcycles, which were among the most popular models in the world.
Having become the world’s leading motorcycle manufacturer during the war, and with well-established distribution networks everywhere in the world, most Triumph bicycles fitted with ‘Ball End’ fork crowns were exported. As few Triumphs of this era now survive, it’s not surprising that the Triumph ‘Ball End’ fork crown is hardly known today.
1921/1922 Imperial Triumph ‘No 30c’ Roadster
with Resilient Forks & Patent Ball End Fork Crown
Frame No 717205
This top of the range Imperial Triumph is an older restoration in superb condition, fitted with a period Dunlop inflator pump and bell. I’ve bought a replacement head transfer (decal).
The 26″ frame was designated Model No ’30c’ (’30a’ was 22″ and ’30b’ 24″). Andrew Heaps, the Triumph bicycle marque expert, comments that 1915 Triumph frame numbers had reached around no 250,000, but post-WW1 Triumphs were numbered from 700,000, although 450,000 bicycles had not been made in the intervening period. The exact age of 1920s Triumphs are not recorded, but he estimates this machine to be around 1921/1922.
Part of the appeal of an early Triumph bicycle is that its appearance is so similar to Triumph motorcycles of the era. But, of course, its aesthetics pre-date the motorcycle: the ‘motor-bicycle’ was built in the image of the bicycle, not the other way round. The stand-out design features of this ‘Imperial’ are the Ball End fork crown and inverted levers with integral cabling. These were outdated by the 1920s, but are so pleasing to the eye that they are not out of place today, 94 years later. This lightweight roadster is ideal for fast long-distance riding and is ready to ride right now.
TRIUMPH INVERTED LEVER RIM BRAKES
Triumph inverted brake levers, fitted to the top models, feature very neat integral cabling. You can see the passage of the rear brake cable, from handlebar via down tube to bottom bracket in the close up photos below.
1925 TRIUMPH CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
Above: head lock disengaged
Below: locked, so you can lean the bicycle without the front wheel swivelling