Ask a lot of people who ride bikes and usually their first touch point with motorcycles started out with their good ol’ dad. The smell of an oil and petrol filled garage often brings back memories of dads tinkering, restoring (and probably often, breaking) motorcycles. That’s definitely true for Roz, who grew up with a Brit bike obsessed pops who hoped that one day she’d get the old brit bike bug. Luckily for her dad, Roz did get the bug and she has been breathing in petrol ever since.
After almost 2 decades of riding, Roz has decided that it is about time to move her amateur career forward from not only a rider of bikes, but also a reviewer of bikes. But because she's a nobody and VC is not a famous motorcycle review blog, we decided to shun fancy brand new bikes for her to review. So she's pulling out any old motorbike from her dad's garage (mostly old British bangers) and talking us through those instead. She will look at what makes these the best (and also sometimes the worst) kind of bike to own, alongside using extremely strict rating criteria, such as coolness factor, quirkyness factor and likelihood of breaking down and needing rescuing factor, amongst many others! Be prepared to be overwhelmed, underwhelmed and possibly just whelmed. These are mostly British bikes after all!
1969 TRIUMPH TROPHY T25
Purchased in Whaley Bridge (wherever that is) in about 2007/8, for £1800.
This is a really nice little bike which I rode quite a bit when I first passed my test. Dad had a couple of years when he went completely mad for 250 singles; acquiring this, plus two or three BSA B25s in very quick succession. This was probably the best of the bunch, and was a good runner (and looker) when dad first got it but I wasn’t super keen because it lacked indicators, mirrors, and was a bit high for me (all very important things at the time).
I suspect dad’s craze for 250s was partly due to my passing my test and dad wanting me to have something to ride (and to indoctrinate me by providing only British bikes to ride). He also had a 1968 BSA Starfire (sadly recently sold) which was quite rough and ready, and I rode that much more than the Triumph - it was a bit lower and I wasn’t so worried about dropping it. I pootled about on it quite a bit, even triumphantly managing the 17 miles all the way to work once; however, it stubbornly refused the return journey and I ended up needing dad to come and rescue me. I think this might have been a pivotal moment in my relationship with old British bikes…
Needless to say, after filling the garage with little bikes, and starting a number of grand projects involving putting bigger engines into smaller frames (some of which even moved beyond dad’s protracted ‘theoretical’ phase), he got bored and they were all mothballed in a barn up the hill. I suspect this might have had something to do with my leaving to go to university, but up in the barn they all remained until 2018, when I gently suggested that we reacquaint ourselves with what he had hidden up there.
It looked a bit of a mess when we got it out, which was sad because it really was in quite good condition 10 years ago. However, dad had the wherewithal to at least put it in the barn instead of abandon it outside: this particular fate he reserved for the Honda CB250RS and BMW R65, which I can only assume was because he considers anything Japanese or German able to withstand all the elements at all times (actually not the case, and they both had water in the carbs and engine to prove it).
We brought it out and I gave it a good clean. 8 years or so standing hadn’t been super kind to it - it had lost all of its oil and petrol left in the tank had done something weird to the cap and completely knackered the petrol taps - but I washed it and got to work with some autosol and it looked really quite attractive after a polish. Dad was obviously quite excited and within a week or so had ordered new bits and bobs and actually got it running. It does seem to now be operating with a total loss lubrication system, which is slightly problematic. Dad can’t quite figure out where the oil leak is, so I wouldn’t recommend going on a long ride on it in its current state, or leaving it anywhere and trying to ride home because you won’t have any oil to ride home with.
If you do a bit of research into T25s you’ll see that the bike itself isn’t really stock, but it did have the stock 19 inch front wheel and ugly cowhorn bars when dad bought it. The larger front wheel is one of the reasons I couldn’t get both feet down comfortably, but dad changed this to an 18 inch at some point, and switched out the handlebars to flatter clubman style bars so it looks cooler and is easier for short people like me to get their legs down. I wish he had done this when I was first riding it! It’s nice and light, which always gives me confidence when riding around, and it handles well because of its short wheelbase.
One of the good things about these little bikes is that Triumph made absolutely shitloads of them, so if you are looking to get into old bikes, you can easily find parts. The same goes for a BSA B25, which is a very similar bike (later T25s are actually B25s with a Triumph badge), lots of bits are interchangeable, and it’s easy to personalise the bike to fit your own specs - for example, changing the bars, wheels, shocks, exhaust, mudguards. You can fit a 500cc BSA or Triumph engine into a T25/B25 frame (dad has one, an early Triumph 500 in a 1969 B25 frame), which dad informs me is because then you can combine the increased power of the larger engine with the superior handling of the smaller wheelbase frame of the T25. Prices for 250s have definitely increased in the intervening years, but you can probably still pick up a project for less than £1500, and even a runner for about £2K (check out this B25 sold in the April 19 Stafford auction, and this T25 sold in October).
1:Total Loss Lubrication system - you fill it with correct amount of oil, go for a nice ride, put the bike away and then the next day all your brand new fresh oil has exited the engine, and is now all over the floor. Most British bikes seem be be affected by this to a small extent, but this T25 has a particularly acute case.
IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC STATS COMPILED BY ROZZY:
COOL FACTOR: 7/10. Moderate to very cool in my opinion - dad put better bars on it, and the high exhaust isn’t stock, which gives it even more of a street scrambler vibe. I’m a big fan of fork rubbers, and street scramblers in general, and prefer the fact that this T25 has chrome mudguards (stock ones matched the tank). It loses points because it’s a bit too small for my personal liking, BUT, it’s got nice late 60s/early 70s vibes. I should also note that dad hasn’t managed to put a horrendous carrier on the back (a terrible fate inflicted on most of his bikes) so that is a major plus. Though I haven’t ridden in London, I have ridden it in the local ‘urban areas’ and it’s light and nifty, and pretty easy to kick start if you stall at the lights. Plus, the exhaust isn’t obnoxiously loud, just loud enough to hear you coming.
HANDLING: 8/10. These bikes were known for handling well, and this bike does its job. If you were going to ride it a lot, I would put some new tyres on it. Dad seems to pride himself on having ‘original’ tyres on lots of his bikes (sometimes 50 years old) - the general consesus is that this is not safe AT ALL.
LIKELIHOOD OF BEING KNICKED IN LONDON: 6/10. These little bikes aren’t worth a lot, so hopefully that would put people off stealing it. It’s a 1969, so no problems with the ULEZ, but it does look nice so make sure you lock it up to something (remember it’s light so you can easily pick it up, and there’s no bells and whistles like a handlebar lock). And being British, everything rusts in a heartbeat, so owning a dry garage is advised.
LIKELIHOOD OF NEEDING DAD TO COME RESCUE ME: 7/10 - post sojourn in the barn, it’s developed some ‘quirks’: namely, inability to maintain oil level.
KEY TOOLS FOR A SUCCESSFUL RIDE:None really, just don’t go too far because all your oil is slowly draining out of the engine while you’re riding, spraying all over your lovely boots and leaving an oil slick in your wake.
VIBRATIONS WHILST RIDING FACTOR: Low - it’s quite a small engine, and I think dad has put some extra rubbers on the bars because it’s not bad at all.
IDIOSYNCRASIES: The front brake will kill you. Use with caution. Easy to lock the front wheel. When I ride dad’s old bikes I try and get a feel for the brakes on a quiet road before I venture out into proper traffic, but this is the only bike with anything approaching a decent brake.
RESTORATION LEVEL: 7/10. It was quite a good restoration when it was first bought, but it’s suffered in the intervening years - however, this has mainly affected the bike’s function, and not its looks. It has got a good level of patina, and it looks like it’s ridden.
Factory stats (yawn), some of which don’t really apply to this bike anymore
Rear Wheel: 18 inch
Front Tyre: 3.25-19
Rear Tyre: 4.00-18
Fuel Tank: 13.5litres (3galUK - 3.56galUS)
Length: 2,108 mm (82.9in)
Width: 711 mm (27.99in)
Seat Height: 813 mm (32in)
Wheelbase: 1,346 mm (52.99in)
Dry Weight: 145kg
Fuel Tank: 9litres (2galUK - 2.37galUS)
Configuration: Single OHV
Capacity: 247cc (15.1cu in)
Bore/Stroke: 67mm / 70mm (2.64in / 2.76in)
Compression: 10 : 1
Max. Power: 22.3PS (22bhp - 16.4kW) @ 8000rpm
Front Wheel: 19 inch