X-75 Hurricane Review
There are certain motorcycles that capture your imagination as a youngster, and that grasp is never relinquished. For me, the Triumph X-75 Hurricane is such a bike. Ever since I first spied it in the motorcycle publications of the early 1970s, when it was still being presented as a Vetter BSA prototype, I have been captivated by its sleek seat/tank unit, graceful striping, and, most of all, the bouquet of three megaphone-style mufflers on its right side.
At the time, the Honda CB750 had relegated the Triumph Trident and BSA Rocket 3 triples to also-ran status. Four was better than three, and the Honda’s overhead cam underscored the obsolescence of the English pushrods. Styling is a category you would expect the English to work to their advantage, but the graceless breadbox-tanked triples looked dated next to the modernity of the CB750. It took an American, Craig Vetter, who had established a reputation for building quality fairings in the 1960s, to attempt to save the triple-and BSA in the process. Hired to work in secret, and avoiding BSA’s destructive internal company politics, Vetter’s lively design sensibilities turned stodgy into sexy.
Doubtlessly, Vetter’s $12,000 fee ($66,000 in today’s dollars) was well spent, but BSA moved too slowly to benefit. By the time the bike arrived in showrooms in 1973, the BSA marque was mothballed and Vetter’s masterpiece became the limited-run Triumph X-75 Hurricane. I still remember my father taking me to the local Triumph dealer to see the Hurricane. We were duly impressed, as the bike’s visual charisma exceeded that of the CB750, a bike we had made a pilgrimage to the Honda dealer to see upon its arrival a few years earlier.
It took over 35 years to make the move from observer to rider, but I was hardly going to pass up the opportunity to ride the Hurricane when noted motorcycle collector Daniel Schoenewald offered to let me take his out for a spin. Fortunately for me, while in very nice condition, his X-75 is not a museum piece, psychologically freeing me to give it more of a real-world ride.
The first order of business, of course, is starting the engine. The competing CB750 featured electric starting; the Triumph still required the services of my right foot. Tickling the carburetor was necessary with the bike cold, but unexpectedly, a big kick was not.
Far different from kickstarting a modern four-stroke single (about the only k-start bikes left), the triple moves smoothly through its motions as your foot runs through the arc. The lumpiness of a single is not present during kicking, just as it isn’t during running. Make sure the motor is not on the compression stroke; if it is, the kickstart lever will not budge. Clicking into gear and rocking it a bit solves the problem.
The Triumph X-75 Hurricane does not have primary starting-the ability to start a bike in gear, with the clutch engaged-so the transmission must be in neutral when being kickstarted. This is probably a good time to mention that the X-75 follows the right-shift, left-brake orthodoxy.
Once started, the bike settles into a reliable idle with that distinctive triple cadence being emitted through mufflers that are less than fully restrictive. The clutch pull is significant without being intimidating, and I purposefully manipulate the shifter with my right toe and off I go.
Well, that was the plan, but I stalled it. As it turns out, the Hurricane is just a bit weak off the bottom and it needed a few more revs to get underway. Fortunately, once warm, kickstarting the bike is no more difficult than getting my fuel-injected 250cc dirt bike rumbling. Just forcefully push, rather than kick, the lever and the engine returns to life. Amazing!
The ergonomics of the Triumph X-75 Hurricane are wonderful. Older bikes are smaller bikes, and they are simply inviting to ride. The bars have a flattracker’s bend, adding to the unmistakable Americanization of the British machine. The narrow sculpted seat has just the right foam density, and the scalloped upholstery helps keep your posterior in place.
Swooping through hillside neighborhoods, what weight the Hurricane does possess is masked by superb balance; the narrow tank and sweptback bars are comfortable; its steering is light and predictable, despite the slightly extended forks. I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.
The motor is mellow, despite the motorcycle’s aggressive X-75 Hurricane name. Whether you roll on the throttle or wick it open, the triple is going to gain revs at its own pace. I would not call it slow, but it is certainly not quick.
I had heard tales of the Triumph’s weak conical front brake-complete with a racy air-cooling scoop-but I considered the reports to be exaggerated. As I came up to a stop sign at a moderate pace, I rolled off the throttle and squeezed the right lever. Nothing.
Well, okay, not nothing, but close enough to it to pucker my nether regions as I continued on my way toward the intersection with barely a change in speed. My instinct to press down with my right foot was rewarded with the feel of the shifter. I quickly switched feet for some rear brake, which was relievingly effective, and I managed to stop before the white line. Whew!
The rest of my ride was considerably less eventful. I treated the front brake as if it was not there, and focused on my left foot’s newfound best friend. Up to 60 miles per hour, the motor’s vibration has the proper amplitude and frequency. But, run up to 70 and the pleasurable ride quickly turns into a buzzy blur. It is a great city bike, and fun in the canyons if you respect its parameters, but the freeway is best left unridden. There is always a risk in revisiting a childhood memory-great expectations can quickly be dashed. In this case, the risk was richly rewarded. What an unforgettable ride on the Triumph X-75 Hurricane.