Over the years, author Lester Morris has ridden some of the world’s rarest, most expensive, and highly exotic motorcycles and written comprehensive road tests on them. His latest book, Classic Motorcycles 32 Great Bikes and their Road Test Reports, compiles updated road tests of some of the most interesting bikes.
When I got in touch with Morris about the book and found it included his road test impressions of the 1970 Triumph Bandit prototype, that was it, I wanted to get a copy. Of course, I knew I’d be interested in the other 31 classic reviews, but the saga of the DOHC 350cc twin that was to have been marketed as the Triumph Bandit and BSA Fury is a story I’ve been interested in for some time.
Indeed, I wrote about it here six years ago in “The Sad Case of the Triumph Bandit/BSA Fury 350: What Might Have Been.” When I wrote that article, I knew of only two period reviews of the pre-production prototype—one by Bob Braverman in Cycle Guide and the other by Bob Greene in England’s Motorcycle Sport Quarterly. Then, in 2019, a comment from none other than Mr. Morris himself appeared below my article, informing me that he also wrote a retrospective review of a Triumph Bandit 350 that was published in 1984. Here’s what Morris had to say in that comment:
I carried out a carefully detailed road test report on a prototype 350cc DOHC Triumph Bandit for the Australian motorcycle magazine ‘Two Wheels’, the report published in 1984. I found the small machine to a be a mini-rocket ship (for a 350, it must be remembered), with great handling and powerful brakes – yes, including the rear anchor – but also suggested the gear change lever’s travel was far too great, but the riding position was perfect for my diminutive size of just on 1.6M (5′ 3″). The rockerbox covers fouled the top frame rails, and the gearbox filler could not be used unless the carburettors were removed, but both these problems, in particular the ‘long travel’ gear change, were minor quibbles and would assuredly have been attended to before production began. It was a monumental tragedy for Triumph that its senior management were too dumb not to have the little bike’s enormous potential. It would have blown its Japanese competition sideways. How sad it all was, how very sad!
So, it turns out that Morris—a noted moto-journalist who actually got to ride a Triumph Bandit—came away with the same feeling that I had about the positive impact the bike might have had on the long-term fortunes of the foundering BSA-Triumph company.
In his review of the Bandit, Morris goes into great technical detail on the design and workings of the machine, its performance on the road, and how it did in some play racing against