The Triumph Bonneville is probably the world's most famous classic bike. RC writer Matt has produced a splendid book on the subject...
There are a lot of books about Triumph twins, in case you'd not noticed, but Matthew Vale's mighty work is a little different. It includes all of the historical material which you would expect, as well as a decent technical breakdown of the bikes themselves, ranging from the first of the unit construction 650s up to and including the last LF Harris machines. So far, so normal.
RealClassic readers who have been following Matt's Commando rebuild series in the monthly magazine will be unsurprised to discover that where his Triumph twin book differs from the rest lies in his unusual approach to learning about the subject of his books: Mr Vale buys an appropriate bike and rebuilds it. We approve of this, not least because you learn loads about a bike by working on it. You get a real feel for the engineering, you develop an understanding of the production and cost compromises which are unavoidable in the manufacturing process and at the same time you develop a rapid familiarity - an intimacy, almost - with your chosen machine. This shows clearly in the copy, and should prove very helpful to anyone contemplating a Triumph rebuild of their own. Matt chose a 1970 T120R Bonneville for his project, and demonstrates many of the hurdles and pitfalls which a typical owner might find with any of these machines.
Running alongside the rebuilder's view of the Triumph twin is an owner's view. For this, Matt Vale went and talked Triumph with folk who ride then; and it is instructive reading, not least because owners' views are almost always more in-depth and informative than a chat with a fellow journalist.
Another surprise (well, for this reviewer at least) was a chapter discussing the relative merits of Triumph's twin compared with the unit construction engine from BSA. I must confess that I was highly entertained by this! Not least because my own conclusions are pretty much opposite to Mr Vale's (but you should read it and form your own opinions).
So this hardback covers Bonnevilles, Tigers, Trophys and Thunderbirds from 1963 through to the late 1980s; the unit-construction 'B-series' bikes which includes T120 and TR6, 6T and TR6R, T140 and TR7R plus all manner of special editions right to the Devon-built Harris Bonnies. The chapters cover model development from 1963 to 1970, and then from 1971 to 88; the swansong models for 1983; the anti-vibration bikes; a short and sweet competition history; detailed technical description plus engine and frame numbers, recommended suppliers and such.
'Triumph 650 and 750 Twins' runs to nearly 200 pages and every spread contains full colour photos which are carefully captioned with plenty of detail, plus original brochures, cut-away drawings, workshop illustrations and so on. Full technical specs for all the major models are easy to find in shaded panels, and each chapter is sub-divided into easily digested chunks of text. The publisher, Crowood, has been producing this series of books for over a decade now and they have the format just about sussed.
This is a good book. It's a good, cheerful read, and it is packed with Triumph material. Even if you already boast a row of Triumph books on your shelf, this would be a worthwhile addition. Although Matt Vale does not appear to agree with me that the last of the Bonnies - the one built in Devon - is the best of the Bonnies. But no-one's perfect...
Reviewed by Frank Westworth
TRIUMPH 650 & 750 TWINS by Matthew Vale is published by Crowood, ISBN 978-1847971203, RRP £19.95, available discounted from Amazon
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