Triumph Legend


I found the latest addition to my ever increasing collection (or addiction) to Triumph/BSA triples resting in a garage near Northwich. This bike started life in 1975 as a T160 and was converted in 1988 to a Legend, from ‘88 to date the Legend had covered only 2900 miles with its first owner.

The story behind this motorcycle is a bit convoluted, so stay with me (though if you bail before I finish I won't blame you). It's called a Triumph Legend, and in the strictest sense it is a "tuner" bike because Triumph didn't officially build it. However, the man who did build it, Les Williams, was a key engineer and race manager for Triumph from the 1950s through the 1970s. He (along with thousands of other folks) lost his job when Triumph collapsed in 1976, but he immediately started a "spares" business in England to support all the BSA (Rocket 3) and Triumph (Trident) triples that were made between 1968 and 1976. The business, called L.P Williams, not only supported existing triples but set about building "hop up" parts (like dual front disc brake kits and Mikuni carb conversions) to keep the triples competitive with other bikes of the time period. Williams also used his many spare parts to build race replicas of Slippery Sam-- the most famous British triple of all time and winner of five Isle of Mann races from 1971 to 1975.

In between running the spares business and building Slippery Sam replicas Les Williams decided to build a completely new version of the Triumph Trident. Instead of creating a race-oriented motorcycle like Slippery Sam, this was to be the ultimate Trident for the street. Williams always felt BSA and Triumph "mucked up" the production versions of the Rocket 3 and Trident with bizarre styling and misguided ergonomics (like foot pegs that were too close to the ground, limiting the triples' otherwise capable handling).

So in the early 1980s he built himself a Trident with a stylish, swept-back tank, rear-set foot pegs, low "clip-on" handle bars and dual-disc front brakes. Basically, he built the best Trident he could using his experience as an engineer and race manager, and taking advantage of the best components available at the time (like electronic ignition and modern switchgear). He called it the Triumph Legend.

Of course once he built a prototype for himself you know what happened. His friends and customers saw it and implored him to do a full production run. Williams agreed and started taking orders, which poured in by the hundreds. Between the years 1984 and 1992 he managed to build only 60 Legends (he still had a thriving spares business to run, don't forget).

My bike is number 28 of the 60, The bike was stripped down to the last bolt and everything was rebuilt -- engine, suspension, transmission, electrics, brakes. It's really quite bizarre to ride because while the engine's power delivery and exhaust note sound like a Trident T160, everything else feels like a modern sport bike. For instance, it actually stops when you hit the brakes. And all the lights work. And the foot pegs don't grind into the asphalt when you lean it into corners. It's very cool, but very weird.

John Abram

The Vintage Motor Cycle Club
North West Section
© VMCC NW 2016