Rider, racer, musician, mechanic and all-round good bloke Donny Little has been a familiar face, and nearly a permanent fixture, here at the Bike Shed since we opened. Now residing in Philadelphia we don't get to hang out all that much so it was a nice surprise that there was just enough time between UK tours for Donny to join us at the Café Racer Cup last month. The nice man at Triumph sent a couple of bikes down to Lydden Hill for the day and we thought it a good idea to see what Donny could do on a machine with half the horsepower of his closest competitors. Here's what he thought to Triumph's Street Cup. Donny is Scottish so for this story to be enjoyed to the fullest read in your head with a gruff Rab C Nesbitt or Begbie from Trainspotting accent.
found me drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes in the 'Shed a few weeks ago...
“Fancy riding at the Café Racer Cup”?
“I don’t have a caff racer mate”
“I’ll sort you a bike”
“What’s the catch”? There’s always a catch.....
So it came to pass that I found myself a week later at Lydden Hill race circuit in Kent, in the rain, bolting together picnic tables and humping slabs of beer. Told you there’s always a catch... For a bunch of self spannering bikers who can fettle flat-sides and dismantle Desmos (some of them at least!), the picnic tables proved particularly challenging. The beers, not so much.
Early next morning, (there are two five o’clocks, apparently) I was once again at the circuit doing my best to look competent and confident. It’s been a while since I wobbled round a track, a combination of nerves and a hangover doing their best to remind me why.
Serious looking bikes turned up in serious looking vans and the club racing vibe started to build. The racers signing-on all turned out to be smiling and friendly though so maybe I’d be fine. A lad behind asks what I’m riding. I have no clue....
Over to scrutineering to meet the bike. I still have no clue. Coincidentally the same guy (Kane Dalton from Bike Social) from sign-on is the custodian of my ride for the day. It’s a Triumph Street Cup.
This is a bike that since it’s launch has flown beneath my radar. The ‘Shed is littered with the things and hence, invisible to me. In bright yellow paint and waspish seat hump it certainly looks the part though, albeit on the cuddly end of the café racer spectrum. I eye up my new buddy’s ride, he’s also on a loaner from Triumph. It’s a Thruxton 1200R. Öhlins this, Brembo that, sticky Super Corsas, twin front discs and rear-sets. Arse!
The Street Cup has none of these things and suddenly any confidence I had, has evaporated. I just got challenged to a gun fight and handed a spoon. Leathers on, boots on. Left glove first. Always. I have no idea where this superstition came from but it’s worked so far. Jump on the bike and off to the pit lane to head out for some sighting laps. Sitting in full leathers seems a little odd on the Street Cup. Like going out in a gimp suit and your date turns up in Laura Ashley.
Despite the wardrobe incongruity, first impressions are good. The relaxed pace of the sighting laps ensure an easy introduction to Lydden and the little Triumph. Lowish bars, high-ish seat. So far, so café racer. No surprise on the power front either. It’s not got much but it’s delivered easily enough, the brakes work and the steering.... steers. Confidence is returning. It feels good to be on an unthreatening bike and no one has fallen off yet which is a good sign.
Sighting laps over, it’s time for practice. Two warm up laps and I’m ready to push on a bit. This is where it starts to go all wrong. The first right hander sees knee and peg grinding the tarmac already. Hang off more, stand the bike up more. Head down full gas and I’m wondering what’s happened. The party police are all chiming in. First the rev-limiter on the straights. Then the ABS into the corner, then the traction control wants to join in on the way out. I can’t figure out how to turn it off. It’s driving me nuts. I’m riding like an idiot, cutting people up and getting in the way. My date is not going well. I’m frustrated until I check the times. I’m third fastest in that session! No one is more surprised than I am. Despite our initial mismatch we’re getting on well it seems.
The rest of the date is spent learning how to ride the Triumph quicker. Smooth is fast, fast is smooth and other such bollocks people tell you in the pub. Turns out they’re right. A little less effort, a bit more patience and the Street Cup makes more sense. We get faster but so does everybody else. The pilots of more powerful bikes are getting more confident and we start to get swamped by the fast boys and girls. Having said that I’m still having a ball. Dicing with Ducati Supersports ,BMW R nineTs and even a Laverda, from behind the chrome clocks on the Triumph is something wonderful and unique and I’m gutted it has to end.
I’ve got a previous engagement so I have to leave before the climax. It’s a shame. Once you get to know her, she likes to party, just not as much as me.
Back on my filthy Fireblade (top right in above pic) on the long ride to Devon all I can think about is stickier tyres, (Pirelli Phantoms are not track friendly) more brakes, more ground clearance and firmer forks. But then it wouldn’t be a Street Cup. Forget the spoon thing, maybe more of a finely honed letter opener. Perfect bike for the perfect day? Probably. It reflected the spirit of the event as much as is possible with a factory built machine. A whole grid full of Street Cups would be an absolute riot and I’m confident it would make for close racing.
Now I’m sure I saw Triumph 675 in a caff racer suit somewhere. That’ll do nicely thanks.
Top image by Will Broadhead and the rest by Craig Callum
And as you can see Donny is pretty handy with a quill too so he'll be our US correspondent while we setup Bike Shed LA remotely from this side of the pond. If you want to hang out, drink beer, talk bikes or ride something cool somewhere decent then drop him a line here.
To see what we thought of the Triumph Street Cup on the worldwide press launch click below for Ross' Ride Report.
___________________________________The bearded one