Many years ago I had a three cylinder Triumph Trident pass me by with the rider giving it some serious stick. I have never forgotten the sound it made as it flashed by me—and I’ve wanted one ever since. The exhaust note reminded me of the first time I heard an Austin Healey 3000 go past or an early Jaguar XK-E—the sound is truly memorable. Our TR-6 makes a similar sound—guess it has something to do with the sound of a long-stroke British six cylinder engine.
Early in 2011 I drove to Oatman to look at a low mileage Trident and after some negotiating, I ended up bringing it home. In hind sight I probably shouldn’t have bought it as it was in truly sorry shape, but I have a weakness for old orphaned British machines that need some love and care. And I could tell the owner was never going to get it back on the road. This bike was advertised as having 8900 original miles on it. It turned out the only thing on it with 8900 miles was the replacement speedometer. I gave it a bath and after a thorough examination, I decided it needed to be restored. It needed everything—paint, wheels, seat, handlebars, tires, chain, and I had no clue about the condition of the engine—only that it hadn’t run since 1985.
So here we are some 5 years and many dollars later and the bike is nearing completion. It reminds me of the old adage—“restorations usually take twice as long as you expected and end up costing twice what you budgeted.” And I can certainly relate to that. So it was with a great deal of excitement and a certain amount of trepidation that I called Pilar to the garage to witness the first time the ignition key was turned on in many, many years. Remember, this bike is vintage 1971 and the last time it was on the road was in 1985. But, with virtually everything on the bike being brand new—including a new English wiring harness—my expectations were running pretty high. After all—we’re not talking about re-wiring a new Jaguar. It is a relatively simple three cylinder motorcycle. And so with Pilar’s camera in hand to record the moment I turned the key to the ignition position—and got exactly nothing. Bupkis. No tail light, no headlight, no warning indicator lights—nothing. Worse yet, I had very weak connections and no power to other parts of the electrical system. Flip side, of course, was there was no smoke pouring out of the electrical system which made me feel a little better. Pretty discouraging. So I did what most people in my predicament would do and that was to walk away from the bike and go have a beer or two. Just get away from it for a while and think about the next step.
Luckily, I ride with folks in the Brit Iron Rebels group and some of them are more knowledgeable than I am about 12 volt electricity. Chris Nichols finally took pity on me and showed up this past Sunday with multi-meter in hand. Within an hour he had rectified the several issues needed to restore power to all circuits. A couple of additional ground wires solved the problem. And having the wires on the right ignition switch terminals helped a lot too. I now have juice to both ends of the bike’s lights and to the ignition system. By the time you read this narrative I hope I can report that the bike has been started and is back on the road. Running again—after a 31 year nap.
It is hard to express the joy derived from being able to bring something like a 45 year old motorcycle back to life. Or an Austin Healey. Or a Triumph TR-3. But it is a magical moment indeed when a couple of good friends turn that ignition key to the on position and see lights spring alive. It is a magical moment.