Motorbikes have undergone a lot of changes over the years and the 1950s were no different. The ‘50s spawned Rock ‘n’ Roll and this inspired a counterculture generation called the Rockers. They wanted to ride a motorbike that was fast, sleek and personal to them. This led to the creation of a hybrid machine called the cafe racer. One of the best known cafe racers was the Triton, and we’re looking into the history of this iconic motorbike.
A merging of Triumph and Norton
The Triton was a combination of the Norton Featherbed slim-line frame and a Triumph Bonneville engine. The name merged Triumph and Norton together and referenced a Greek god. Triton was the son of Poseidon and he carried a twisted conch shell. He blew the shell to calm the waves and the sound was likened to a wild beast. This is a good description for the Triton motorbike.
The Triumph 650 cc parallel-twin engine made the motorbike powerful and reliable. It was easy to tune and vibrated less than other engines. This stopped it from being destroyed completely if it was over revved.
The Norton Featherbed frame proved to be a good match because of its handling, which isn’t surprising considering it was designed to compete in the Isle of Man TT. Putting the Featherbed frame on the Triumph engine required conversion plates. There are several designs that can affect engine placement and handling. An engine that was mounted low achieved the best handling from the Norton frame.
The Norton’s suspension and brakes were usually retained. Many Tritons used a Norton AMC gearbox, but a Quaife five speed gearbox was a good alternative.
The Triton provided excellent handling and enough power to exceed 100 mph. This was referred to as ‘The Ton,’ and you’d become a member of the Ton Up Club in the 1960s and 1970s.
Building a cafe racer isn’t easy and it takes a lot of skill to fit and align all the mismatched components. Custom motorcycle builders are to be admired and the Triton is one of the greatest cafe racers of all time.