• Evidently the recipient of a high-quality restoration
• Cosmetically flawless and runs beautifully
• MoT until August, 2022
Every so often, some bright spark wonders why motorcycles can’t be more civilised. There then follows an attempt to civilise the motorcycle, which usually ends in failure.
Remember the unloved BMW C1? Prior to that, other efforts included the Velocette LE and the Ariel Leader. These bikes featured fully enclosed frames with windscreens and leg guards, the idea being that the rider would appreciate the extra weather protection and enjoy not having to think about the oily parts. Unfortunately, the bikes’ performance was affected by the weight of all the extra metal and, really, anyone who wanted something more refined than a motorcycle could always buy a microcar.
Triumph, thank heaven, got it right. When the Twenty One was introduced in 1957, it didn’t look all that unlike Triumph’s other handsome offerings, and with a 349cc twin, it was never going to be slow. Like all the best Triumphs of the ’30s to the ’50s, the design was the work of Edward Turner. It had occurred to Triumph that no matter how attractive leg guards and windscreens might seem on paper, the reality is that if you’re riding in the rain, you’re still going to get soaked.
It therefore took weather protection only as far as good sense permitted, and presented a bike which was immediately identifiable by its enveloping front mudguard and rear ‘bathtub’ fairing, plus the enclosed nacelle which gave the electrics a bit of extra protection. The Twenty One did not make any pretence to protect you from the worst weather, but it did make a difference when riding on wet roads and was still light enough to perform most agreeably.
Interestingly, the Twenty One name has been the subject of some dispute; enthusiasts still debate whether it denoted the 21st anniversary of the Triumph Engineering Co. Ltd. or the 21 cubic-inch engine size, to which reference would have been made in the American market.
Sadly, there is little history with this Norwich-registered bike, and we only know that it was bought by the vendor from Classic Motorcycles Ltd. of Northwich, Cheshire, in June, 2015.
It was the starting point for the vendor’s small collection of classic motorcycles, all of which he kept in concours condition. Its condition testifies that it has evidently been the recipient of a high-quality restoration at some point in the recent past. It is with some regret that he has taken the decision to sell his collection, although not too much as the reason is to make room for a Jaguar XK120.
Besides the V5, the Twenty One comes with its sales invoice from Classic Motorcycles Ltd., a current MoT plus certificates from 2015 to 2017, a SORN certificate from 2015 and a Footman James valuation certificate of £4700.
There are no two ways about it – this Twenty One is presented in the most fantastic condition in every possible respect. We could not find a single fault in the soft metallic gold paint, and the seat appears to have been upholstered relatively recently and presents flawlessly. Though there is not as much chrome on this bike as on some others, what there is superb and shows no signs of deterioration. Only the ‘Triumph’ tank badges show some signs of age, but it is only very light and would be more appropriately termed ‘patina’ rather than ‘wear’.
The wheels are absolutely superb, and all in all this bike could almost have been driven straight off the showroom floor. Unfortunately, we did encounter a crack in the rear light lens without which we would not hesitate to call the bike perfect.
From what we have seen of this bike, its outstanding mechanical condition is a fitting reflection of its equally wonderful cosmetic state. It ticks over with a strong and steady idle, suggesting that it has all been kept in the best mechanical health. The engine is remarkably clean, unspoilt by unsightly oil drips or anything else that might be a cause for concern, and the front brake drum could serve a dual purpose as a mirror. Usually, we’re satisfied with brakes as long as they’re capable of bringing the bike to a stop, but if you can eat your dinner off them, so much the better.
We would draw particular attention to the gorgeous chrome exhaust pipes, which are typically prone to discoloration the more the bike is run. Bidders will note that the bike has 66,000 miles on the clock, and yet the pipes look as good as the day they were first chromed.
The fact that the bike has very recently passed an MoT with no advisory notes tell us that is a safe machine to ride, in addition to its many other positive attributes.
The 1950s gave rise to some of the very best-looking motorcycles in history, and the Triumph Twenty One reflects that. While it may not have passed into motorcycling lore in quite the same way as the likes of the Thunderbird, Tiger and Bonneville, because it was not built expressly with performance in mind, it was nevertheless a very good-looking and capable offering offering from the more niche field of ‘weatherproof’ motorcycles and it succeeded at what it set out to do.
Although it attracted the tongue-in-cheek ‘bathtub’ nickname in period, we think the enveloping metalwork has aged wonderfully. Though its purpose may have been weather-protection, its smooth contours are suggestive of streamlining and give it something of a Modernist touch. The Twenty One must be one of the most underrated classic motorcycles, in addition to being one of the most usable.
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