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Triumph 3 1/2 hp

1913 Triumph 3 1/2 hp

Triumph's pioneering 3 1/2 hp (500cc) models did more than any othe machine to influence the mass acceptance of the motorcycle. Certainly Triumph were one of the first to undertake mass production on a really major scale and the reliability of their early models led to their later bikes becoming known as Trusty Triumphs.

By 1907, Triumph's solidly engineered 3hp singles had gained the company a good reputation as makers of reliable bikes with a fair turn of speed. Part of tha treliability came from the Triumph's intergrated design and in keeping with their principle of controlling all elements of the design, Triumph developed their own twi-barrel carburettor and a magneto system which they fitted for the 1908 season.

It was also around this time that the Trusty Triumph nicknam first appeared. Although belt drive was still used, Triumph also offered a new transmission system using a Sturmey-Archer three-speed rear hub similar to that used on pedal cycles. It was fitted with a clutch incorporated into the hub. More models joined the range, including the 225cc two-stroke 'Baby' and sporting variants aimed at the large number of riders who wanted to take part in motorcycle competitions. Triumph's own efforts had paid off with a win for Marshall in the second TT of 1908 and places in 1909 and 1910. Although Triumph bikes failed to place in 1911, the marque's endurance had been proved by en epic Land's End to John O'Groats run undertaken by Ivan Hart-Davies, who rode 886 miles i njust over 29 hours, the last time such a record run was permitted.

By 1911, the flagship of the range was the 3 1/2 hp model. Developed from the earlier 3hp bike, it carried many detail improvements, while the capacity had been increased by some 163cc. More new models followed, until the range embraced a direct belt-drive Roadster, a de-luxe version with a pedal-operated clutch, a sporting TT Roadster and a full TT racing model.

Such bikes were capable of high sustained speeds - a TT racing Triumph could top 75mph - while Alfred Catt proved the 3 1/2hp bikes reliability with a phoenomenal ride of over 2500 miles in six days, on roads that in the main were little better than cart tracks. His own health was permanently affected but the Triumph earned a place in motorcycle history.

Another development would soon ear the company an even bigger place in history, with a larger 4hp (550cc) version called the Model H, just before World War I. The motorcycle mainstay of the war effort, some 30,000 of Triumph's Model H were built, staying in use for many post-war years.

Triumph 3 1/2hp (1913)

  • Years in production - 1906-14
  • Engine - single-cylinder side-valve four-stroke
  • Bore and Stroke - 85 x 88mm
  • Capacity - 499cc
  • Carburettor - Triumph twin-barral
  • Tyres - 2.25in x 26in
  • Top speed - approx 55mph