On the move with the BMW R 5 and Triumph T 100 Tiger


On the move with the BMW R 5 and Triumph T 100 Tiger

On the move with the BMW R 5 and Triumph T 100 Tiger

Greetings to the modern age

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No more gigantic, jagged displacement giants: slim 500cc twins from BMW and Triumph paved the way for the modern sports motorcycle from the mid-1930s.

D.he very first BMW is said to have been made in 1923 because the angry chief designer Max Friz wanted to show everyone else how to use a boxer correctly. In just a few night shifts, he turned the BMW engine, which had previously been sold exclusively to manufacturers, by 90 degrees at his drawing table, attached the gearbox and cardan shaft to it, and gave birth to a success of the century. Splendid. It’s ready for a movie, and that’s why we just believe that there are a few other motorcycles besides the R 32, the birth of which was at least initiated by the lavishly sparkling flashes of genius of a brilliant individual. It would be a shame if our big dreams – regardless of whether they are called the Honda CB 750 or the Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, Vincent Black Shadow or the Yamaha RD 350 LC – were solely based on business considerations.

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On the move with the BMW R 5 and Triumph T 100 Tiger

On the move with the BMW R 5 and Triumph T 100 Tiger
Greetings to the modern age

Tiger and had it brought to Munich, which hums so happily through this photo series. Competitive comparison, even then. Even a report folder should still exist in the BMW archive, but unfortunately it cannot be found at the moment due to renovation.

The reason for the purchase was certainly the enormous success of the Triumph parallel win presented in 1937. Until then, typical British athletes had made well-made, but somewhere limited singles. Now Edward Turner, who has been the big boss at Triumph since 1936, has opened a new barrel. The Londoner, born in 1901, had previously developed the Square Four at Ariel under Jack Sangster and had lasting impressions. From then on, Turner didn’t touch anything that couldn’t be manufactured as efficiently as possible. In addition – very unusual for a designer at the time – he placed great emphasis on styling and skillful marketing. After Turner had prettified the very useful single-cylinder found at Triumph, invented by Val Page and put it on the road to success with the nickname Tiger, he cleaned up further up: he thought the twin of the 6/1, also designed by Page, was stupid.

It may be that old bills were settled here, because just like Friz and Schleicher, Page and Turner cultivated their friction. They still knew each other from Ariel. There, too, Page had played very good singles, but they didn’t really cash in until after his departure to Triumph thanks to Turner’s talent for marketing and rationalization, for example the eye-catching Red Hunter. Then Ariel boss Sangster bought the Triumph motorcycle division. Page had migrated on to BSA, but the motorcycles developed under him remained. The 6/1. The twin with which rival Turner had come before. Fortunately for Turner, the heavy part was actually only enjoyed by the team driver, and the accounting department cursed the 650 for its insane number of gears and the high production costs.

So Turner made everything new. And sporty, that’s what the zeitgeist dictates. Because an overhead camshaft was also not possible here for cost reasons, two lower camshafts are used, as is the case with BMW, each supported in two bronze bushings in front of and behind the cylinder base. Compact tappets and short bumpers allow the desired high speeds, two valves each are at a 90-degree angle to each other, and both cylinders share one carburetor. The three-part crankshaft rotating in two ball bearings has a 360 degree crank pin offset, the synchronous rotor vibrates like a single and needs a lot of flywheel, but ignites twice as often. This results in a very good response behavior at low engine speeds and impressive sprinter qualities. The 63 millimeter bore corresponds to the dimensions of the 250 single cylinder, so you could use its pistons, rings and bolts. Turner had really become thrifty. Instead of gears as in Page, a chain takes over the primary drive to the clutch, from there the power goes into the separate Triumph four-speed transmission.

Because the whole thing turned out to be very compact, Turner was able to use the chassis of the single-cylinder Tiger 90. The telescopic fork was also an issue in England, as was the rear wheel suspension, both of which the Triumph boss did without. He was involved in the profit and preferred to attract customers with an attractive price. The announcement was 75 pounds, just four more than for the largest single-cylinder. Sales started in the spring of 1937, and after a few positive test reports, the Speed ​​Twin baptized new product went away like nothing. Especially for sporty drivers, and so what had to come came – it was tuned.

Which, for once, did not bother the sports contemptor Turner, because the great strategist saw the niche in the market for another Tiger. However, the performance cures often caused cracks in the cylinder base, which is why it was held by eight instead of the previous six bolts on the housing. A bigger tank came in, new silencers and more flashy colors. To get more power, the crankshaft and connecting rod were polished, forged slipper pistons with higher piston heads were used (compression ratio 7.8: 1 instead of 7: 1), the intake manifold changed and a larger carburetor added. Result? Instead of the respectable 27, the T 100 Tiger introduced in 1938 now produces 33 hp. Poor BMW.

How, poor BMW? Motorcycling is not a numbers game. 24 against 33 hp, that doesn’t mean much. A wonderful Allgau May morning invites you to enjoy driving, after a manageable starting procedure the engines grumble warmly, please take a seat. Very relaxed seating position on the Triumph, sportier and mildly forward-oriented on the BMW. With a bit of a crunch here (Triumph, right, first below) and with a slight crash there (BMW, left, first above), the gears snap into place, then you leave the yard. Immediately the energetic acceleration of the Tigers is noticeable, a little later their equanimity towards low engine speeds: If you like, you can drive almost everything in last gear apart from switchbacks. Your twin has no swallowing problems, quickly accelerates to idle and starts hammering away from medium revs. It’s great, it turns on and that can make you wild: Turner’s masterpiece doesn’t need 20 kilometers to reveal its potential, and anyone who isn’t completely blunted understands why it has been copied so often. Small country roads, hedge paths even with the right-angled curve sequences that are so popular in England fit perfectly with such a drive. Expressways probably less so because, due to the design, they can still feel significant vibrations at constant speeds.

In comparison, the BMW doesn’t run as smooth as silk. But with a noticeable effort. A highly civilized engine, in every speed range. He refrains from eruptive performance development, probably believes that constant growth is more cultivated. The best drive is someone who adapts to this elegance and lets it run. Shifts more often than on the Triumph, more often uses the engine speed reserves. And the clear advantages of the famous telescopic fork, which simply guides better and conveys more feeling for the front wheel than the trapezoidal fork of the Tiger, which is difficult to adjust in terms of damping. Exuberance in undulating curves both acknowledge with funny rear wheel hops, but the necessary comfort – especially on today’s roads – is ensured by the well-sprung wide saddles.

So, and now, in addition to the missing rear wheel suspension, we also leave out the modern, decent, but absolutely lousy brakes. For a few kilometers only, on winding and less winding country roads. We have long been familiar with the operation, every handle fits naturally. We cleverly use the braking effect of the engines when cornering, turn slightly and casually, always find our course exactly and keep it steadfast. We look forward to every road worm with full confidence, until first the BMW driver and shortly afterwards the Triumph driver register that these two motorcycles can never be 80 years old. No, the subtle homogeneity of the R5, the lusty explosiveness of the tigers must come from eternity. The best of their guild strive for it to this day, and skilled motorcyclists will always be enthusiastic about it. That’s what you call a classic. 

Data at a glance


  • engine: Longitudinally installed two-cylinder boxer four-stroke engine, two chain-driven, lower camshafts, two rocker arm operated valves per combustion chamber, bore x stroke 68 x 68 mm, displacement 494 cm³, compression 6.7: 1, output 24 hp at 5800 rpm 
  • Power transmission: Single-disc dry clutch, four-speed gearbox, cardan drive
  • landing gear: Double-loop tubular steel frame, rigid rear wheel guide, hydraulically damped telescopic fork at the front, wire-spoke wheels with steel rims, tires front and rear 3.50-19, 200 mm simplex drum brakes front and rear
  • mass and weight: Wheelbase 1400 mm, dry weight 165 kg, tank capacity 15 l
  • Mileage: Top speed around 135 km / h

Triumph T 100 Tiger 

  • engine: Transversely installed in-line two-cylinder four-stroke engine, two gear-driven, lower camshafts, two rocker arm operated valves per combustion chamber, bore x stroke 63 x 80 mm, displacement 499 cm³, compression 7.8: 1, output 33 hp at 6500 rpm 
  • Power transmission: Multi-plate wet clutch, four-speed gearbox, chain drive 
  • landing gear: Single-loop tubular steel frame, rigid rear wheel guide, mechanically damped trapezoidal fork at the front, wire-spoke wheels with steel rims, front tires 3.00-20, rear 3.50-19, simplex drum brakes, front Ø 203 mm, rear Ø 178 mm 
  • mass and weight: Wheelbase 1397 mm, dry weight 175 kg, tank capacity 18 l
  • Mileage: Top speed around 160 km / h

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