Bike of the Month
1973 Triumph X75 Hurricane
Built for the USA, Loved by All
Previously published in “Triple Echo” the magazine of the Trident & Rocket 3 Owners Club.
Part 1 – The Build - Interview with Worth Mathewson
I have been riding motorcycles for many years and had a good number of BSA 441 which I have been riding in western Oregon both off and on road. In the early 2000s I bought a few triples, a 1971 and a 1972 BSA Rocket 3, and a 1971 Triumph T150, but the bike that I enjoyed the most was my Triumph Hurricane. Sadly, it was lost in an accident in 2002 and was sold for parts.
I knew of another Hurricane, TRX75KH00104, which was owned by someone in another small Oregon town and in 2014, after about 12 years of courtship, I was able to buy it. The bike was running but was in poor shape and I wanted to restore it, so I had to set it aside for a few years until I was able to attend to it.
Initially I was planning a partial overhaul, but in late 2016 I got in touch with Jerry Liggett and we decided to perform a full restoration. The frame was powder coated, the chrome parts were re-chromed, and the Aluminum parts were re-surfaced, the fasteners were all replaced but plated in Cadmium to have the original look. The engine was rebuilt to standard specifications (the crankshaft had to be ground, and pistons are a size larger now), new valves, new guides. To alleviate the tendency of the top and bottom yokes to crack, a modified set was sourced from Baxter Cycle. Tires are Dunlop K70s. The only part that was re-used as is was the wiring harness which was in good shape. The ignition was left as the original system (points). The bike was repainted with BSA badges because this is how the bike was meant to be marketed.
The project took over two years with the actual work taking about six months. The bike was completed around April 2019. It was presented at the Oregon Vintage Motorcycle show in Corvallis in May 2019 and won first place in the British bike category.
Part 2 -Riding it
So far it has been ridden about 400 miles over a span of a week, both to get it through the break-in period and also to find minor adjustment items.
What is it like? Well... I have witnessed the most experienced Triple rider that I know answer the same question. He said, in a Black Country accent, well it's shite (spelling? language?). I am not an experienced rider but every one of the rides that I took since I got my motorcycle endorsement in 1992 has been a blast. The great, late, Lou Reed was asked (in 1996 if memory serves) what is it like to write another rock song (after an active career of 30 years). His answer was that it is like drawing a circle in freehand, every time that you do it, it gets a little better... I didn't look for the quote, but this is how I remember it, so, paraphrasing on it, every ride on a vintage bike is like drawing that circle. In my case it isn't always better (it usually isn't), but when the bike runs right, when I feel that I am shifting correctly (especially with my right foot), when I am cornering just at the right speed and powering through the curve, I feel content! So maybe I am subjective... but I can't say that the bike is shite.
There are some points that my friends who always ride modern bikes may bring up:
1. The sensible range of about 70 miles, this is especially tough when gas stations are 40 to 50 miles apart and one is trying to get maximum, points on the Doug Hele centennial riding program.
2. The need to undo the two screw-on knobs in order to check the oil level on an engine that is known to consume oil.
3. The squeaky body work.
4. The Single mirror.
5. The lack of turn signals, some prefer it this way, but I am of the opinion that it is to my advantage to signal my intention to the drivers around me, while hoping that they are not busy texting.
6. The front brake can and should be better.
John Proto said "the Hurricane? I had one. It was hard to turn right, because of those silencers". But John is a racer, even with a 20-mph allowance over the speed limit, I don't have a lean angle issue. And this bike is a grin generator, once I get going, I just can't stop smiling....at least for the first 50 miles. The engine that Jerry built is strong and smooth even while limiting the engine speed to 5000 rpm (which is where the fun should begin). The wide bars allow for an effortless steering both in town and on a mountain road, the combination of those (them, as we say) bars and the geometry of the bike give that blissful feeling of a radical lean angle despite being a law-abiding citizen on a public road. But after 40 or 50 miles, the seat, rear shocks and the wind resurrected an old sensation in me and it took a good part of that 150-mile ride for me to figure what it was, but I did. This is exactly how I felt when I was riding BMW’s R9T Scrambler. It was brilliant for shorter rides and effortless around town but a little demanding on a long ride. So, I gave a call to my friends at Sierra BMW and asked for a photo shoot of the X75 next to the R9T Scrambler. They didn't have one available so I had to settle for the Pure version, but I hope that you can see the resemblance as well. I kept the R9T for a little under a year but decided that I can’t love it. A lot of this has to do with the other great offerings that one can get from Sierra BMW and the type of riding that northern Nevada offers. However, the connection with the X75 was immediate and it was easy for me to see how one can find room in their heart and in their garage for such a bike.
Craig Vetter certainly created a bike designed for the US market.
Photo by Jeff Weeks