Triumph Speed Twin – Daisy's Diary Part I

Daisy the Speed Twin has carried Graham Ham half around the country and has become more than a little bit famous in the process. But just how did their adventure begin?

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Picture this. The air is heavy with neglect. Not the deliberate, uncaring neglect of a lazy person, but the neglect that comes with years of inactivity.

Peering into the darkness, we can make out the forlorn shapes of once active, once proud but now long forgotten machinery, whiling away the time under the ever-settling dust. Bright edges have become dulled and lifeless, once slick oil has turned to thick unforgiving toffee, shiny surfaces fade slowly under the oppressive carpet of grime and time… which passes slowly.

Shards of lazy yellow light stab through the murk, in thin upright sheets, leaking around the door and through the odd crack, briefly highlighting the dust motes, swirling gently around in the murky interior, before settling to add their own weight to the already heavy layer of years on a forgotten, once proud example of one of Britain’s finest.

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Days, which became weeks, then years, lay heavily on all within and everything slowly fades to grey.

Suddenly, this small dark corner of the world is flooded, once again, with light. The full, sorry picture, suddenly exposed, can be seen clearly. But a decade of grime cannot hide the beauty that has rested here, patiently, awaiting a new dawn…

…A new owner…

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…A new lease of life!

But we have leaped ahead; this is a year away yet and we need to fill in the events that lead up to it, as there’s a story to be told — a story that continues and, with luck, will continue into the future.

I’m Graham. I live in the far south-east corner of sunny Kent. Married, mortgage, kids, dog and hamster. The whole nine yards. And just like many others, my story is familiar.

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It’s a wrench to think back to that day, in the early 1980s when I parted company with Ruby, the 1955 Speed Twin that had seen me through courtship, early working life and the arrival of the first of our children. It was time for a car and finances didn’t allow for both, so Ruby had to go. Both Diane, my wife, and I were more than a little emotional that day, and I made a promise. Once we had got through the lean years, established our family and achieved financial stability, then a Speed Twin would once again become part of our lives. It would be a 1955 just like Ruby, and she would be for keeps!

And so life went on and, as is the way of life, the promise was forgotten amidst the hustle and bustle. Two careers were built and lost, another child came, I started a business which grew most satisfactorily, followed by bigger house, bigger car, the dogs and the hamster (I’m fairly sure there was a goldfish or two in there somewhere as well). The kids grew, as did the mortgage and the bills, and the goalposts moved with ’em. There was always a hundred and one things to keep my mind occupied and my wallet straining.

Right, that’s quite enough of that. The story now jumps forwards to July 1999 when fate intervened, saving me from myself and a future of conformity and average-ism. I was browsing the Internet, looking for hotels in Wiltshire for a family get-together. The third or fourth link on the second page was entitled ‘For Sale, Wiltshire. 1955 Triumph…’

The rest was not displayed, but something, somewhere, stirred in my mind. ‘1955’ was the obvious trigger of a long forgotten promise — so I followed the link.

YES! It’s a Speed Twin! It’s for sale! It’s a 1955 bike!

I couldn’t believe my eyes, and it was immediately apparent to me that I was going to own it. Today if at all possible. Tomorrow at the latest. No doubts at all. I reached for the phone, all thoughts of the family get-together forgotten. I called the number, sweating with anticipation as I asked the dreadful question; ‘Have you still got…?’

He did, it was, I did, and we did! The deal was done.

The owner seemed confused and tried persuade me that I might not want it. I patiently fended off his concerns. No, I didn’t want to see it first. No, I didn’t care about the bits that weren’t original. No, I don’t care about matching numbers and, no, I’m NOT a bloody tyrekicker!

And so we took the family Espace, freshly stripped of seats, straight down to Wiltshire, bright and early next day. On arrival it was plain why the owner had pressed me on details – what I gazed at was a sorry state indeed.

She was tatty. She was oily. She was a bitsa – wrong tank, forks, front wheel.

She was quite simply the loveliest sight to my otherwise sensible but temporarily crazed eyes. She was about to be mine and that, really, was that!

I hastily shoved a pile of green wedge at the bemused owner (clearly he had expected to haggle), checked the log book (I’m not TOTALLY stupid), and in short order loaded my prize into the Espace via the scaffold plank I had bought with me in an unusual fit of sensible forward thinking. On the way home, I christened her ‘Winnie’ for reasons which I cannot adequately explain, and therefore won’t.

Splendid. An engine with room to breathe.I stopped in a lay-by, phoned my office and issued orders. Get onto the insurers, said I, get me insured, here’s the model and reg number – no, stuff the cost, just make sure there’s a cover note on my desk in two hours! Next I peeled off into a town, searching for leathers, helmet, gloves. It was a Harley dealership – which meant it was expensive. I didn’t care. Give me that jacket, that helmet, those gloves – thanks and bye-bye,

MoT? Tax? Stuff it – that can wait – I simply HAD to ride her. That day!

That first but long-awaited ride lasted exactly 30 seconds. Down the road, wobble wobble, ooh-er, first bend, brakes on and EEEEK!

The front forks were too short. The mudguard jammed against the frame, a very scary experience and very nearly a very painful one! So we went back to the house, carefully, disappointment screaming inside my head, and surveyed the problem. Measurements were made, phone calls followed to the first supplier I found on the Net – Tri Supply of Honiton, Devon. The problem was quickly identified – the forks, wheel, mudguard and tank are all 5TA, unit, and totally wrong for Winnie.


That initial setback didn’t deter me. I set to work over the following weeks, scrabbled together all the bits (it all came back, the fun of autojumbling, the search for those elusive bits and bobs, the thrill of the find), parting with large heaps of the green stuff like confetti. The new front end was duly cobbled into place, and the great day arrived when I ventured forth once more.

How on earth had I given this up – and for so long ? How had I come to forget the sheer joy of blasting along on a big twin, throaty roar in my ears, wind in my face, oil on my boots?

Oil on my boots ? Ah.

Bugger! Again!

More jumbles, more bits, a re-bore while I’m at it, more green-backs heading for new owners… Oh blimey, a new carburettor as well, and now the tank’s sprung a leak. Ahh — the joy of classic motorcycling.

Seven months and the wrong end of £1200 later, including the forks and tyres, she was finally right. Oh yes she was!

Definitely not Daisy, but a very close relative. But, as Graham found with Winnie, you can't just go swapping spares willy-nilly. or even Winnie-Ninnie.

We settled down to a daily routine and started to clock up the miles. Quite simply, life had never been so good! It’s funny, but a regularly used classic attracts quite a bit of attention. So now we jump forwards to June 2000, when a particular person noticed Winnie and presented me with a real quandary.

I found this particular person when I returned home one day from work. He was in my porch, peering through my letterbox. I approached with caution and from a safe distance enquired as to whether I might assist. The poor man nearly jumped out of his skin but, recovering magnificently, he pointed at Winnie and asked; ‘Is that yours, then?’

‘Yes,’ said I, relaxing a little. (He didn’t appear to be holding an axe). ‘Why?’

‘Well,’ said he; ‘do you want another one? Only I live just down the road, and well, I’ve got one just like this, it’s years since I’ve ridden it, but I’m sure you would soon get it running, and you’d make a good owner for the old girl.’

I ran his statement around in my mind for a few seconds. I blinked and looked away. I looked back – he’s still there – so he must be real. I recover my own wits and respond in a clear, off-hand, don’t really care sort of way.


It’s a bit surreal this, I thought, as we walked down the road all of 300 yards to his garage. And now we’re back where we came in at the beginning of this story — picture this:

He opened his garage door. Light flooded in. And there she was – a 1948 Speed Twin, all original, complete with Mk1 Sprung Hub. Last run nine years before. She’s been waiting patiently in the dark all that time – for me. I was Smitten (note the capital ‘S’) despite the layers of grime. Absolutely. Hopelessly so. She was going to be mine. Very, very shortly. He named his price. I agreed, I think, without even listening.

I was far more concerned with the fact that, after Winnie and her fettling costs, I had absolutely promised Diane that no more money would go on bikes until I had furnished her with a new bathroom. The funds for that project currently nestled in the building society and represented all our available capital. I knew that if I asked first then the answer would be the wrong one.

So, I thought the best thing to do would be to buy the bike, say nothing, and wait for an opportune moment to sneak the new arrival up the drive, park it just so and then go indoors, look meaningfully out of the window, and pronounce something like; ‘isn’t she pretty?’

I felt absolutely sure that Diane couldn’t fail to agree.

Winnie and Daisy. Triumph must have bought *a lot* of that maroon paint...

I won’t go into the messy details here, but I can assure all that I’m still paying the price for that rash leap of faith!

Anyway, Daisy came into my life. Daisy? Well it’s appropriate, as it’s a good name for a cow. You work it out, but it’s to do with her handling characteristics!

She cleaned up just fine (as seen here), after a good few attempts and I can’t claim any credit other than for elbow grease with the washy stuff and waxy stuff. Her engine was in poor condition, and I actually effected a total replacement early into our association. And then I’ve used her. Long distance, hard terrain, not mention the daily grind and regular business trips. She manages around 20,000 miles a year so far.

I have discovered an altogether new level of enjoyment with Daisy, and we have travelled far and wide. She is my first choice of travel, and Winnie has been handed onto my father for safe keeping, as long as he promises to ride her regularly (which he does!). Some of Daisy’s travels have been written up elsewhere than these hallowed electronic pages – but I have agreed, on this very site, to hand over the full chronicles known as ‘Daisy’s Diary’ – both existing and those yet to be written…

And now you’ve all been introduced, I can only hope that the paltry efforts that will follow bring some small degree of pleasure, and maybe a wry grin or three. If you still can’t work out what I’m blathering on about, then don’t worry. Look out for the first Episode of Daisy’s Diary and read it!

All will become clear, or at least firmly cloudy…

Daisy after a good clean. Note the matching Speed Twin Egg on the right of the picture. Should be ready for hatching soon.

*Daisy’s original Diary first appeared in Nacelle, the monthly magazine of the Triumph Owners’ MCC. It’s a grand club and an excellent magazine and if you own a Triumph and haven’t already joined then you should rush along to:

Bike Names? Tell us!

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