The roads are west of Calgary, AB, Canada


  . . . . This shot was taken about 7:00 one summer evening on a road leading west out of town. The exact spot is about half an hour from the center of town.
. . . . Heading west for about 25 minutes can put you on the road you see below, which is heading as shown pretty much south but
  swings west at the bottom of the hill to put one deep in eastern foothills of the Rockies and onto a seasonal road known as The Powderface Trail.
. . . A beautiful drive any time of the year it's not closed for the winter.


.Dial. It. On.


  . . . . A factory shot of the last bike I owned, a 1969 BSA Rocket Three. At the time I was all of 19 and spinning wrenches for the local Harley, BSA, Ducati dealer; the Triple was the second one in Calgary. 0 to 60 in 3.9 secs, in second gear, man did it haul. To 100MPH it was the fastest thing in town, past which the major Mopar iron took it.
. . . . The troubles with these machines had to do with there not being enough brakes by half, a diabolical proclivity to oil leaks and very heavy clutch action.

. . . . The oil leaks I fixed by tearing down the brand new engine, before I ever put it on the road, the clutch action taught me to get good at clutchless shifting and on a machine that in 1969 did 130mph out of the crate the brakes were terrifyingly inadequate.

. . . . My best pal worked for the Triumph, Yamaha dealer and so bought the Trident version of essentially the same bike and between us we had a ball . . .


  . . . . Here's the Rocket Three two years later, I always thought they screwed it up. They certainly destroyed the utterly magical exhaust sound of the old "Buck Rogers" mufflers. I never did understand why those funny looking, three pipe things sounded the way they did until I had to pull one apart.   . . . . The three exhaust tubes extended well into the body of the muffler and were tuned to different frequencies that IM-d and beat to produce perhaps the most musical sound yet heard from a two-wheeled machine. None of the rice rockets I hear screaming around these days sounds anything like that old '69 Rocket.

  . . . . Shots of yours truly above and my buddy Chuck below about to embark on a little 220 mile, high speed Saturday   morning road trip into the mountains, then on to Banff for coffee . . .

  . . . . It's hard to tell from the Rocket pic above but the frames on these two otherwise very similar machines were very different, with the BSA having a far stiffer twin, front-downtube frame whereas Triumph was only a single tube.   And it flexed, badly; to the extent I was nearly tossed right off thru a high speed corner, laid down hard. One of the momorable 'war story' moments all bike riders accumulate.

  . . . . A shot of the venerable, Army issue Triumph TRW, a 500cc sidevalve training bike. It produced a whopping 16hp at its 5,500rpm redline and as geared from the factory would do all of 60mph.
. . . . While this isn't the one I put on the road in 1965 it's identical to the ones my Dad bought me thru Crown Assets Disposal here in Canada; along with which he bought a complete set of British Standard Snap-on combination wrenches and 3/8" drive sockets and the shop and parts manuals.
  . . . . He said to me, "Here you go, the shop's in the basement so let's get them down the stairs and have fun," and he left me pretty much to it.
. . . . A year later I put mine on the road looking exactly like the one above, less the pin stripe work on the tank. A remarkable resemblance really.

  . . . . After collapsing under the Japanese onslaught and being off the market for a few years Triumph bounced with this brilliant reincarnation of the 750cc triple. This, from Wikipedia:
. . . .
. . . .
"When Triumph Engineering went into receivership in 1983, John Bloor bought the name and manufacturing rights from the Official Receiver. The new company's manufacturing plant and designs were outdated and unable to compete against the Japanese, so Bloor decided against relaunching Triumph immediately.
  . . . . Initially, production of the old Bonneville was continued under licence by Les Harris of Racing Spares, in Newton Abbot, Devon, to bridge the gap between the end of the old company and the start of the new company. For five years from 1983, about 14 a week were built at peak production. In the United States, owing to problems with liability insurance, the Harris Bonnevilles were never imported.
. . . . [. . . ]"

  . . . . What's there to be said about this classic that hasn't been said a thousand times already


"Oh," says Red Molly to James, "That's a fine motorbike.
A girl could feel special on any such like"
Says James to Red Molly, "My hat's off to you
It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952.
And I've seen you at the corners and cafes it seems
Red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme."
And he pulled her on behind and down to Boxhill they did ride

"Oh," says James to Red Molly, "Here's a ring for your right hand
But I'll tell you in earnest I'm a dangerous man.
For I've fought with the law since I was seventeen,
I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine.
Now I'm 21 years, I might make 22
And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you.
And if fate should break my stride 
Then I'll give you my Vincent to ride."

"Come down, come down, Red Molly," called Sergeant McRae
"For they've taken young James Adie for armed robbery.
Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside.
Oh come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside."
When she came to the hospital, there wasn't much left
He was running out of road, he was running out of breath
But he smiled to see her cry 
He said, "I'll give you my Vincent to ride."

Says James, "In my opinion, there's nothing in this world
Beats a '52 Vincent and a red headed girl.
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeves won't do,
Ah, they don't have a soul like a Vincent 52."
Oh he reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys
Said, "I've got no further use for these.
I see angels on
Ariels in leather and chrome,
Swooping down from heaven to carry me home."
And he gave her one last kiss and died
And he gave her his Vincent to ride.

Richard Thompson
two letter words, © 1996 Richard Thompson

Click here to play the MP3



Richard Thompson