Behind the scenes on the Triumph factory tour
In a small industrial estate off the A47, there is a factory. Doesn't sound that exciting, but this one is different. Most of the surrounding buildings are old and rotting away under their manky grey paint, whereas this one is a clean, white and has a familiar logo that lets you know exactly where you are.
This is the Triumph motorcycles factory in Hinckley, Leicestershire. And you can visit it. The Triumph factory visitor experience has been running for just over a year now, the 1st of November being its first birthday. I went down for the day, to see what it was all about - It was the next best thing as I didn't go to the Scrambler launch the week before *sniff*.
Information will be the end of this article so you also can visit the factory tour yourself.
When you park up...
You are met by the Avenue of Legends, listing great names of riders with a link to the Triumph name throughout the years. This leads you to the entrance for the experience. To your left is the exhibition and to the right is the 1902 cafe. The exhibition is free to wander around, covering two floors with history and motorcycles of great importance - such as the original TR6 Trophy used in the Great Escape by Steve McQueen.
Without giving too much away, they also show you the production process in two ways. The first way is by showing you all the parts that make up a modern Triumph and explaining everything in the upper floor of the exhibition, even down to the clothing they design for riders.
The second part, well, is more secret.
The factory tour
No filming or photography is allowed inside the factory walls. The tour costs £18 each, it lasts around 2 hours and you go in small groups of 15 or so. Normally the tour sells out really fast so book well in advance for this, trust me. Now I can tell you a little about the tour, but I don't want to spoil it for you, where's the fun in that?
You start off with a small chat about where in the world they forge, create and ship to. Then with your high-vis jackets on, mobile phones and bags stored away, you start your journey.
You are taken around goods in/out, it's basically just a giant room with boxes of bits in it and some bikes for good measure. Every part in that room is important, even down to one nut and bolt – that is for someone's bike.
The storage room for built bikes spans most of the factory. You could easily get lost if you don't know where north is. Each bike is made to order, so all different bikes with VIN numbers sit in order of production, they are so close to building their 1 millionth bike since 1991. Hopefully, I can ask nicely and can buy that bike! They send out 400 bikes a day at the factory, all going to dealerships for orders.
Wandering around on the path, you are shown where they cast and refine the camshafts and crankcases for their engines. A tricky but amazing process that is fundamental to the whole bike. The Research & Development department is hidden away from prying eyes behind a 30-foot-high black wall. Danny, the tour guide calls them bike torturers, 'you can hear them pushing engines to their breaking points and smashing cars into them' he said.
The assembly line was the most intriguing part for me, seeing all those small parts, boxes and metal lumps come together. Even if they are busy, all the workers are tinkering away at a smooth speed, everything is done properly and not rushed. They try not to cause the line to stop, because it costs a LOT. £21,000 per minute to be correct. You don't want to drop that nut and bolt then do you?
The tour ends by seeing those finished bikes waiting for the final check over – after all, you can't send a bike with a scratch in the metal work – it's destined to be someone's baby. Testing on rolling roads, a full check of bodywork and electrics is all done by hand. That's the great thing about Triumph, it's mostly under the control of the human being. I even got to see the last Daytona ever made and the first of the new Scramblers waiting to go to their respective homes.
To finish the day off...
There is also a cafe and shop for all your needs on site. I was pleasantly surprised how good the coffee was, I would go back just for that if I am passing. The shop is a host of t-shirts, books and biking gear - down to glove, leathers and boots in stock.
And just to make your day with Triumph that little more memorable, you can have a personalised VIN keyring. My fun day out, seeing all the magic behind doors and I wish the Triumph Factory tour experience a happy first birthday!
When can I come back?
If you want to go on the factory tour or even just to see the exhibition, check out the link here.