My desire to open a motorcycle dealership dates as far back as standing around a keg in college. All I needed was the right timing and the right opportunity. The stars aligned with Triumph and I have never looked back.
As Triumph returned to the market in Europe, I followed their progress in the magazines with a keen interest. In 1995 the local seacoast Harley shop signed up as one of Triumph’s early US dealerships. I had some friends there and stopped by to demo some bikes. That was when I first rode the Speed Triple. My more sporting rides at the time were a Moto Guzzi and a BSA, so the new Triumph absolutely blew my mind. This motorcycle was redefining the sport street bike.
A Window of Opportunity
The local Harley dealer carried Triumph for about a year and a half and then dropped it. I really felt Triumph should be represented on the seacoast and thought this might be my opportunity to open a dealership. I was working for a large multi-national company at the time and was going through the seventh merger of my career. I really needed a change.
Sitting in a cafe in Amsterdam with my wife, she asked me what I really wanted to do. I said, “open a Triumph dealership”. She said “Ok, then you should do that”. I wasted no time. I contacted Triumph immediately, wrote a business plan and by late 1998 I had left my corporate job and was working on opened Great Bay Motorcycles.
Triumph was a great brand to start with because they had a broad product line and a visionary eye toward the future. In the early years the bikes were modular in construction. They had a very sorted engine and used it on a variety of platforms. They started with traditional, liquid cooled, three cylinder motors in configurations from cruisers, full touring, and super sport styles. Triumph didn’t start their comeback with the Bonneville because they wanted to establish themselves as a modern brand before they released the classic models.
A Spotty History
Old Triumphs were legendary; not always for the best reasons. The new owners were determined to change the reputation Triumph gained in the 1970’s of leaking oil, Lucas electronics, and old technology. Triumph’s driving desire was to build bikes that had no flaws. So, everything from their paint work, to their engines and braking systems were the best quality they could make, they spared no expense. In fact, they built one of the most technologically advanced factories in the world.
I can attest to the fact that those bikes were way overbuilt. They did it because they wanted people to know that these were enduring motorcycles that would last a lifetime, people would still be proud to own them in 20 to 30 years time. I believe the quality-focused approach they started with made the company viable. Had they not overcome the perceptions that were prevalent at the time, I don’t think they would have survived.
That over-engineered design philosophy continues to this day; Triumph clearly recognizes this as a key to their success. On every Triumph model you’ll find braided stainless brake lines, powder coated engines and frames, lustrous clear coat on the gas tanks, hand painted striping, and rock solid motors. Everything from the suspension components to the fit and finish is superior to most bikes on the market. They do a lot of things that aren’t actually necessary, but they do them anyway. It’s very unique in this day and age.
Different countries and cultures have different engineering sensibilities. Triumph is definitely centered on function. Their philosophy is akin to a Jaguar or Rolls Royce where quality is paramount but, they’re design sensibility is uniquely their own. They aren’t concerned in the least with making their bikes look like everyone else's, and they certainly don’t.
I think over the years we have seen so many examples of Triumph taking design risks. Case in point, the Rocket III, Street Triple, Daytona 675, and the bug eyed headlights. A unique company doing things their own way. They hearken back to tradition on the classic models and yet they are fully forward thinking on other models like the Daytona, Sprint, and Tiger.
As uniquely suited as each model is to it’s niche, they all share certain characteristics and attributes. The braking systems are outstanding, the engine management systems highly refined, rider comfort is exceptional, position of hand controls is sensible, and the levers are adjustable. All are characteristics of the Triumph brand. You get performance, quality, unique design, nice heritage, all from the oldest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.
They Know What They Want
Triumph customers? They’re as diverse as the product line. Some of the young guys, who are rockers, are attracted to our Bonnevilles and our Thruxtons. They wear it on their sleeve and ride with half helmets and pudding bowls like I formally did. They convert their bikes into cafe racers and do the whole Ace Cafe thing from the late 1950’s, early 1960’s.
We go from that customer to the ‘super tourer’ who wants to get on a Rocket III and chase the horizon. Now we have the Tiger adventure tourer, which is a different crowd all together, into both on and off-road riding. From there we have the guys who want to cruise with their wives or girlfriends on the weekend on their Thunderbird, America, or Speedmasters. And, we have a growing community of women riders that you’ll find riding any one of these bikes.
It’s a wide ranging customer base and the one thing I can say for certain is that all of these people are unique; they really march to their own drummer. They’re not choosing a Harley, they’re not choosing a Japanese bike. They recognize quality. They understand heritage. They are successful and far enough along in their life that they can choose to buy what they want and don’t have to compromise.
It Keeps Getting Better
Walk into our showroom today and it reflects Triumph’s vision; an incredible breadth and depth of products. The new Triumph’s sentiment is European style, high-quality, high-performance motorcycles, no matter the category. The brand’s heritage almost sells itself.
In a challenging financial market, Triumph continues to aggressively execute on their vision: The Daytona 675 has been named “Master Bike” for the last 4 years, the Tiger 800 is currently bike of the year, as is the Rocket III. The Thunderbird was bike of the year for two years running.
Triumph have a lot of successes they can hang their hat on, as evidenced by the kudos they regularly receive from the industry and the press, and as revealed in their sales. They have been the fastest growing brand in the United States for 7 consecutive years. They have equally impressive goals for the future, so keep you eye on Triumph, they’re just getting started.
That’s my short story with Triumph, I was so impressed with the motorcycles and that first ride on the Speed Triple, that when the opportunity presented itself to create and open a Triumph dealership, I jumped right on it. Triumph is an enduring brand and we’re proud to represent them on the seacoast. Stop by Great Bay Motorcycles and experience the Triumph heritage for yourself.