MY BRIEF AFFAIR WITH TINA
Motorcycle sport – May 1993 – Ken Craven
Throughout motorcycling history the manufacturers have dabbled with the idea of producing a bike for Everyman. Something light, small and uncomplicated that would persuade the world on to two wheels. A few have translated their ideas into steel. None with great success. Not even Mr Honda. In March 1962 Edward Turner’s Triumph Tina – under 100cc, under £100 – entered the lists.
My first acquaintance with Tina was at Brooker’s Motor Cycles in summer 1962, when I delivered a batch of panniers for Triumph twins, Brookers being north London agents for that make. (For the benefit of the very young, I was involved in a motorcycle luggage business which was then known world-wide … how quickly is history forgotten!) There it was, an appealing, pretty little scooter. Its proportions were just right, putting it ahead of its rivals. I made a few approving noises to Bill, gaffer of the Brooker establishment.
“Would you like to take it out, give it a whirl? Now?”
After a few brief instructions I was away, bUZZing round the back roads of the area. My only previous experience of a scooter had been many years previously, in Italy, testing
one of the very first Vespas out of the factory. Then I’d found the method of changing gear, by turning the left twistgrip, to be slightly unnerving and I’d wobbled every time I did so. The Tina, however, had no gears to change, and no clutch. From tickover you gently opened the throttle, and the thing gently rolled forward. From then on it just went to command, automatically adjusting engine revs to load and gradient by means of belt transmission operating through an expanding pulley on the engine shaft.
There can be few addicted motorcyclists who do not have their fantasies. One of my favourites, on a powerful bike, was that I was astride a Pegasus rushing across the road surface. The Tina was cenainly no fiying horse, more an enveloping coracle which you slipped into rather than onto. Granted, it was fast, for a coracle. It was willing, and
quite enchanting. My brief run impressed me and I agreed at once with Bill that it should prove to be a bestseller. “But as usual,” he went on, “the manufacturers seem to have ignored the need to carry things on a bike.” (A comment that helps to explain the prosperity of my company in that era.)
” Now what do you think? Could you produce a carrier and maybe find ways of attaching a set of your panniers?”
The dealers and the makers themselves were helpful in providing us ‘with the latest models, to enable us to design new equipment. We, in tum, were well equipped to work to meet demand ‘with little delay. Thus it was that then and there I set off with the little bike in my van. It transpired that our smallest pattern glass-fibre pannier would be highly satisfactory for use on the Tina, but we would have to produce a completely fresh pattern of carrier and evolve some unusual means of attachment – and without the need to
drill holes in the machine, this being something we always tried not to do.
Despite the problems we managed to produce samples in just over a working week. I was pleased with the result and so was Bill. Yet, as always, I was reluctant to start producing such drastically modified equipment without first giving it a proving test. Such testing I liked to undertake myself.
Accordingly, I rang Ivor Davies, the delightful advertising & PR man at Triumph, to see if he could arrange the loan of a Tina together with a Green Card to provide essential insurance cover, for use on the Continent – only the owners of the vehicle involved could arrange this. Ivor then referred me to Pliil Cross, advertising manager of the BSA
motorcycle group. It will be remembered that the BSA empire extended well beyond motorcycle manufacture. Phil hummed and ha’d, wanted to know wliere I proposed taking the Tina. When I told him I liad in mind GarrnischPartenkirchen in Gennany, scheduled to be headquarters for the ISDT in September that year, he told me outright
that I must be bonkers, this being the new ‘in’ word, meaning imbecilic, and he’d have to refer to others before he could let me know. He came backsurprisingly quickly but managing to sound reluctant, to indicate it wasn’t his decision: Yes, they had a demonstrator available and would I please not be away for long, as this particular bike was in
We had a few days’ grace before the bike could be picked up, during which time I was able to persuade Reeves to provide a sample pigment to match the Tina’s pale lilac, and we were able to produce a pair of our Safari panniers. Not only that but we were able to evolve a small windscreen which fitted to clearance holes in the handlebar mountings for clutch and brake levers, presumably designed for just such a purpose. When the little bike was fittedout it looked a treat and I took an apditional day to fit brackers behind the
front panel to retain a couple of tins, one for two-stroke oil, the other for reserve petroil mix. Time was short. The Six Days had already commenced by the time I caught the midnight ferry from Dover for Dunkerque.
It would be necessary to cover a lot of miles in quite a short time so I set a course over a familiar route, heading some 275 miles to Chaumont. This had been a frequent first-night stop on the group tours organised by spouse Mollie, when the distance proved just about right, allowing for stops for petrol, refreshment and chatter sessions.
Dawn was still a promise as I rode out of the port and it was not yet fully light as I passed by the slag heaps of Bethune. Coal miners appeared in clusters on pedal cycles or motorised phut-phuts, some actually wearing their helmets on which the lamps glistened brightly, providing their illumination. The Tina’s lighting was direct, no battery, operated by flywheel magneto/generator. As I cannot remember being inconvenifnced, it must have been adequate for the bike’s “There was an obstacle, the Oberalp Pass at
6,706 ft. I kicked the snow to judge depth, looked at the slush. A car fitted with tyre chains came down to the road, to begin the mountain climb. What the hell l I’d give it a try.”
sustainable speed. My intended schedule was three days to Garrnisch, close on 700 miles, which I reckoned was ambitious enough with only 98cc to push me along. Sustainable best speed was between an indicated 40/45mph with only little variation over average terrain. Fuel consumption was hardly impressive, below 60mpg, and 50 I
had to stop every two hours or just under. Whenever possible, I selected petrol stations which had adjacent cafes and loos for personal intake and autpuL all to save precious minutes.
Cyril Ayran, who pm me on to fe\i\i.ng this swry (recem ankles about the ISDT brought the occasion to mind), asked me what occupied my thoughts over countless miles at slow speeds. Well, first of all you get the impression of travelling fast when seated doser to the road surface, low down rather than perched high up on the nonnal motorcycle, and the urgent burbling of the Tina’s exhaust made it sound fast. Of course, actual speed was such as [Q allow morc time to contemplate the changing scene of rural France. It was an undulating landscape of woodlands, of pasmre with grazing cattle and aucndam farmhouses. Each village larger than a hamlet had a church with spire and adjacent churchyard crammed \vith stone angels, saints looking heavenwards, hands pressed together in prayer, huge inscribed urns and headstones; monuments to a past bourgeoisie still vying to establish order of importance.
Although the Tina transmission was automatic and infinitely variable it was not quite so automatic as to produce peak performance at a fixed throttle position regardless of gradient or wind velocity. The failing of any type of automatic transmission is that it cannot anticipate; it will not build up revs on the approach to a rise but delays until the
actuality. So, if seeking peak performance there is scope for fmesse and judgement with the twistgrip, enough to relieve boredom. The only occasions when it was dvantageous (Q use full bore was during initial take off or after slowing right down. In general, the engine developed its peak at around threequarter throttle opening; and the same applies to most of the motorcycles I have ridden.
Even though I had been keeping check on distance covered it still took me by surprise when 1 passed the sign indicating I was entering Chaumont. It meant that 1had been averaging close on 40 miles an hour between stops. almost as much as I would expect to achieve with a fast bike ridden prudently on single-lane highways. This indicates just
how much time is usually dissipated in built up areas or in resnicting speed at intersections. situations in which the Tina did nor have (Q be curbed to any degree. Anival at my usual hotel was only JUSt after 1pm. After riding all morning with little human contact it gave me a warm feeling to be made so welcome by the proprietor brother and to be invited to lunch as their guest. They seemed genuinely disappointed when I said I would be pressing on after a break. As usual, at the principal hotel in a market town the set lunch was of several courses and included a carafe of wine. It was a warm afternoon. Comentedly replete, it was inevitable that I should doze off where I sat. I was awakened by a waiter clearing my table when all the other diners had depaned.
Ah, happy daysl It is my good fortune that I come of a long-lived family. I reckon I was in my prime then, at 51. with a faster rate of recovery than in my 20s. My snooze was all that I required to feel fully refreshed, and I was away, headed for S\\itzerland. just after 3 o’clock. Hills were becoming steeper and longer yet my miniature steed was still churning Out better than 35mph up [Q the Swiss frontier. After the usual delays of those times, checking papers and answering inane questions. and in the shortening September day. it was night rime when I arriyed at Basel, 140 miles onwards since lunch. I had Hule inclination to stay the night in a large hotel in a city so I carried on, alert for a gasthaus in a small community. In Mumpf (only those who haye been there will know of it) I spotted JUSt the right sort of cosy inn of the type I had been seeking. The proprietor was a jovial fellow who was not pur off by a biker in a Barbour suit, as frequently happened in Britain at that time. Yes, they had a single room and he then followed me outside to collect my luggage, the quickly detachable panniers. His eyes went down to the scooter then up [Q six feet of me and he laughed with real mirth to realise
that I had been conveyed on something so small as the aptly named Tina. When I told him that I had come from Dunkerque that morning, 440 miles by the odometer, around 700 kilometres, he was aswunded – and actually so was I, after putting it into words. Surprisingly, toO, I did not feel at all tired, as I would have done on one of my road·bumers. On the Tina 1 did nOt have to restrain speed with frequent application of brakes and changing gear down and up again. Nor was I subjected to hurricane air pressures and turbulence. All in all, the little bike was a relaxing and undemanding vehicle to handle, with few thrills but equally free of tensions. So far so good, while the weather had been kind.
I enjoyed a good dinner in the cheerful tavern and was persuaded to stay up much later than I intended, to watch the LaSt Night at the Proms on television, this being transmitted live from London by the wonders of new technology. The
Albert Hall crowd went wild by tradition as they joined in with the robustly bosomed contralto singing Land of Hope and Glory accompanied by banner waving. “This proves that the British are entirely mad” our host announced in English and Swiss German, gesturing in my direction as he switched off the television. The other guests raised their glasses to me with smiles.
I am not an enthusiastic early riser but I >,.vas now keyed up in a competitive frame of mind. By advance arrangement I let myself out by sunrise before anyone else was about. I even forwent the comfon of breakfast and it was not until Wintenhur, 45 miles onward on a crisp autumnal morning, that I found somewhere open for coffee. This was really a cake and pastry shop, the sort of place to appeal to elderly ladies for a morning break. I pointed to the least
offensive looking pastry [Q accompany my cofTee but on biting into it I found it powerfully laced “ith kirsch. To me this is repulsive firewater at any time of day, and even more so for breakfast! One cannot be entirely selective about what the mind recalls after 30 years. But I remember that my tummy was sending up powerful messages, and it was a moment of biuer disillusionment, a poignant memory which I can now revive, with amusement. From now on the road weaved in and out of Ausrria and Gennany. The usual frontier fonnalities were suspended. I merely had to slow down at each frontier crossing to be signed on after a cursory scrutiny. On entering Garmisch 1 was left in no doubt about where to go. At every intersection there were posters of leaping motorcycles and directional signs to the Sports Stadium. Here the grounds had the atmosphere of an international fair, which is what it was. Banners and signs
displayed the names of petrols, oils, tyres, chains and the leading makes of motorcycle. My arrival at the British compound caused quite a stir, as reported in the motorcycling press.
Among the first to greet me was Harry Louis, editor of The Motor Cycle. “Surprise, surprise! I would never have expected to see you arrive on – er -one of these. When did you leave home?” “Oh, I left yesterday”. I deliberately
intended to cause astonishment. And I did! Technically I was telling the truth, for the ferry had sailed at 12.15am the previous day.
A small crowd had gathered round when Harry infonned me that my rear tyre was looking very soggy. He was right. I had a puncture. Within minutes a team of expert mechanics was rounded up and the rear wheel removed. Hany himself ran me round on the pillion of his BSA to the Dunlop depot bearing the wheel under arm. Here, to the glee of their people, the inner tube, not a Dunlop, was found faulty. A small spot of undissolved carbon black used in manufacture had blown through. They galvanized on a parch and added another one ro cover another suspect spot. Luck had been very much on my side. If the failure had occurred anywhere else in my travels I would have been in dire trouble as I was totally unequipped to deal with tyre failure.
Next morning I returned to the stadium in time to see many of the teams departing for their gruelling day’s ride. The British were not doing well, having lost several poims. The Czechs had suffered no penalties and, in fact, went
on to win the main, Trophy, competition. From initiation in 1913, the International Si..'( Days Trial was intended to be the ultimate test for motorcycles in production and available for sale to the public. Accordingly, all entries had to be basically standard models with only a few permitted modifications. The regulations by 1962 were lending to favour the lighter-weight two-strokes being churned out in eastern Europe. Britain’s competitiveness was funher
compromised; we had emered an era of shoddy workmanship and unforgivably inept direction from on high, as will be seen as this Story unfolds.
Having reached my first objective so spectacularly, I decided to cut my stay short, ro tackle an Alpine rome for my return lap. I set out after lunch headed for Switzerland via Austria, seen off by a number of outriders, including my old friend Roger Maughfiing, who had been my parmer on an earlier crazy marathon with an outfit towing a caravan. They left me at the first frontier, where dark clouds were building up ahead. Most of my recollections of Austria are of pouring rain, and this nip was to be no exception. It was a grim, miserable night as I approached the next brightly lit frontier posts which raised my spirits. I was waved past the Austrian side, to be stopped by the next guard in, oh dear, Italian uniform! He was amused bur not surprised that I had missed the turning for Switzerland a shon way back. He let me in without fonmaliry long enough to go to the nearby cafe to relish a cup of their unbeatable expresso and to add Italy to the countries I had visited on this journey.
It seemed a long evening before I found haven in a picturesque village in Switzerland. There was a welcoming fire, the dinner was hot and savoury. Sadly, there was no wine available, only beer. In other respects it was very civilised. I remember being in a comfortable bed and the rain thundering on the roof. I became slowly conscious with the dawn. Ah, blessed mercy! I could no longer hear rain. Yet it penetrated gradually that there was an unusually bright reflection on the ceiling. I leaped up hurriedly, fully alert, and looked out through the window. Silently, surreptitiously, snow had replaced rain settling on roofwps and the road surface. I am unable to retrace the exact route I followed on the recent map now available to me, so much have the roads been altered in 30 years. There were no autoromes as yet projected and many other roads have been upgraded. I can only assess now that it must have been
around 50 miles to Anderman from whatever town I had been in. In Andermatt I had another favourite hotel where we had stayed with our groups and where in wimer I had added a little drama by breaking a leg while anempting to ski beyond my potential. I reinforced myself with breakfast before making a decision and was fully prepared to make a move out when I kicked the snow to judge depth. There was a slight obstacle. I would have to ascend the Oberalp Pass,
6,706 ft, if I went ahead. I looked at the sky, which was clearing, with bright patches of blue appearing. A car fitted with eyre chains came down the road to the mountain. What the hell! I’d give it a try.
Over hard packed snow or slush the scooter behaved quite astoundingly well. The fat little rear tyre provided adequale grip, the weight distriburion and geometry of the steering seemed perfect. On steep sections it churned our unfaltering power, seldom falling below 30mph, and at no time did I have any word that it mighl stall. Where a normal motorcycle mighl have proved a handful, constantly requiring concentration in these conditions, I could relax, suffering few tense moments. I really enjoyed the challenge even when ascending the last winding sections to the summit in snow flurries under heavy cloud. It was exhilarating on the steep descent and I was breaking through to sunshine when, suddenly, I was spun round and dumped into the snow alongside. I had had no warning that this was going to happen; I had been a bit over confidet. I suffered no damage, and there was just a small chunk broken from the front plastic mudguard, but I did have to rock the bike backwards and forwards to free the belt ransmission before I could kick start the engine back to life. It failed to occur to me that the seizure could have been the cause and not the result of the spill.
My stay in Anderman for a clean up and snack was brief, despite an invitation to spend longer. I had planned for a longer leg in the afternoon, with two major mountain passes. The first of these was the Furka and I paused long enough
with a snow and slush background to photograph the sign at the summit indicating 2,630m, 7,972 ft, altitude. It had been a long hard slog for such a tiny steed, and if I sound anthropomorphic it is because I had established a dependency and affection for her.
More demanding miles still lay ahead, followed by a swift run down hill all the way from Manigny to Geneva. I stayed at a fairly posh hotel on the outskirts overlooking the lake. Why not’ My company could afford it and anyway all
the expenses were legitimately tax allowable. In the morning I called in to the Triumph agents and when I left their showrooms I had an order from their principals for a a pair ofTinas specifying they be fined with our panniers. In four days of travel, with three night stopS after leaving Dunkerque, the Tina had conveyed me 1,044 miles to four countries across the high Alps in atrocious weather conditions. I reckoned I had done enough, and returning the rest of the way by road would achieve little. So I caught the afternoon Channel Air Bridge flight from Geneva to Southend airport conveniently located close to my then home in Hertfordshire.
Whatever happened to those wonderful vehicular air ferries? You did not have to be excessively rich to be able to afford them. I arrived back feeling pleased with my achievements and wrote in unsrimed praise of the scooter. Phil ross was delighted and they issued a poster for distribution, “Over the Alps on a Tina”, with a reproduction of my photograph at the Furka. As final confirmation of my approval, I bought the Tina from Triumph And then I learned it had been one of three that had been used in a publicity stunt by the RAF for a scrambling exercise. I bought all three at the knockdown price of L55 each. One went to Mollie for her own use, the other to my elder daughter for her daily run to work at the May and Baker laboratories somewhere quaim in Essex. The Other one I sold-ar cost to a pan time audio typist who worked for me at her home.
It was not long before I learned to regret my enthusiasm. With continued use, things became loose and lost adjustment, causing problems with engine starting. Bits and pieces broke, some fell off. This, and worse still!
Here was a model starting to come off a production line designed for 1,000 a week output, using the most advanced machine tools, presses, forgings, injection mouldings. With an impressive after-sales service and beautifully illustrated spares list as a follow-up. Only one aspect had been neglected by those on high and it was a vital one. Here was a model which was new from end to end, yet it had not been comprehensively tested on the road!
Testing is an expensive aspect of deSign and manufacture which calls for subjecting a number of samples to an average lifetime of mileage in every known condition. It is likely to involve a team of riders and a back-up of engineers and designers to eliminate bugs as they crop up, and then further to test such modifications as might be proved necessary. All this means delay, which is expensive in itself as a massive capital outlay is tied up, and unproductive,
probably incurring massive bank charges. Yet surely it should have been known that you can’t short-cm the ultimate test of actually using the product?
Perhaps Triumphs kidded themselves that there would only be minor in perfections, which could be sorted out in the course of time and by rectifying failings under terms of guarantee. But a catastrophic fault kept cropping up seizure
of the belt in the expanding pulley. The total locking of the back wheel, particularly when wet, could have serious consequences resulting in injury and worse. When these seemed likely to end in litigation production was suspended. By now the Tina had acquired a disastrous reputation. Production was never restarted, and it was the end of a gallant little vehicle with great potential. It was yet another tragic episode that never should have happened, one more step leading to the
demise of an industry.