Sunday, April 20, 2014

Triumph Visit - A Fantasy...

Last month I wrote about how I hoped to visit Triumph's Hinckley facility when I visit England. As long as I'm fantasizing about it, I may as well fantasize about how it could play out.

Day 1 - Hinckley
I arrive at the Hinckley Triumph building on a cold, drizzly morning, much like Spring days here in Seattle. But the sun is breaking through the clouds. The entrance to the Triumph plant looms ahead, a cultural icon along the lines of Admiral Horatio Nelson's ship the Victory, the Royal Shakespeare Company or Westminster Abbey. Pure British Brilliance. My family watches as I slowly walk towards the entrance, stunned at my good fortune. A stray sunbeam shines down on the door JUST as I reach it.

Stepping inside, I give my name to a polite, cordial receptionist, who looks remarkably like Kate Winslet. She phones the kind person tasked with showing me around the plant. As I wait there in the lobby, Superbike champion Carl Fogarty breezes through the front door, there to consult with the company about some secret corporate development plan. He is used to greeting overwhelmed fans and so interprets my inarticulate grunt of greeting as the "It's an honor to meet one of the world's greatest motorcyclists. So exciting to see you here!" and responds as if I had actually uttered something polysyllabic.

A little while later, I am escorted inside and have the once in a lifetime experience of seeing a location where THE best motorcycles in the world are built and to hear some super secret plans for improving their 1050 cc engine. How do you improve the best motorcycle engine ever designed? Do your worst, use any torture, from the rack to Justin Bieber music....I'll die before I tell.

My visit to the plant is nearly over and we are making our way back towards the lobby, when suddenly an irate Foggy comes storming down the hall, muttering curses to himself. "Bloody Hell," he exclaims, cursing the brilliant but ill-timed good fortune of a member of his team of riders, who eloped with the REAL Kate Winslet just before a planned raid into Germany. He continues his cursing and suddenly sees me being escorted out.

"Oi! Mumbling American guy! I'm short one man. Can you ride? Can you actually maintain balance on two wheels without falling off or riding into a wall? WHAT ARE YOU MADE OF?" I mumble assent and am swept along with his plan as a spare rider, Foggy's desperation becoming my big opportunity. It's off to Germany in the morning.

Day 2 - The Nürburgring
Early morning sun shines down on a Nürburgring that is relatively dry, yet still cold. A local Trabant enthusiast's club has just finished a couple leisurely, breakdown-filled laps around the track. They pull off to top off the oil they have been leaking on the track, smoking ill-smelling f6 cigarettes. Six of BMW's official test riders, clad in lederhosen and just having consumed a breakfast of sauerkraut and Bavarian beer, mount their Gelände/Straße motorcycles and begin making their sturdy, agricultural way around the track.


The rearmost rider has just settled into his groove for a couple comfortably complacent laps around the track, when he realizes that there is strange sound growing in the distance. It is an unsettling sound, one which nearly unmans him and sets his hair standing on end. It grows louder, this howling, manic sound like Bruce Lee howling out his aggression as he leaps into the air to kick 3 people before touching down to Earth again. It is the sound of pure, focused aggression and it is coming relentlessly his way.

And then, looking back over his shoulder, he sees the first Speed Triples rapidly getting closer, like a pack of wolves running down their prey or a squadron of Spitfires hunting for Messerschmitts.



The BMW riders struggle to maintain composure as they are, one after the other, brutally passed and left in the dust. The final Triumph rider seems a little slower but as his helmet radio rings with Foggy's curses and then "Hey, mumbling guy! Give it some welly and the first round is on me tonight," he brazenly twists the throttle and leaves the BMWs foundering and dispirited in his wake.

Later, sitting at the Ace Cafe with my new mates, I sip a beer and we swap stories about how we shattered the confidence of BMW with one brutal raid. I try to look like this:


Even if I look more like this:



But meditating on the fact that I have barely managed to add my name to the Triumph legacy, I smile and say to myself, "We few, we happy few..."

"...we band of brothers," finishes Foggy and we raise our glasses together in salute of a deed well done.

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