FTR writer and author of Asphalt & Dirt, Aaron Heinrich, spotlights the motorcyclists keeping the two-wheeled tradition alive in the heart of Detroit.
Detroit, Motor City, might seem an unlikely place to find a bunch of gearheads and aficionados who love British bikes, and Triumphs in particular. After all, this birthplace of Ford, Chevrolet and Chrysler screams ‘made in the USA’.
But 35 years ago that didn’t keep a determined and passionate group of eight Detroit-area Triumph owners from starting the Metro Triumph Riders.
“Our members are guys and girls who either grew up on Triumphs or it’s the bike they always wanted when they were younger,” explains Carl ‘Cal’ Norman, club president. “Now we’re seeing more of them attracted to the newer bikes and some of our people own both.”
The group meets… even when the snow falls
That small group of passionate Triumph owners has grown to around 140 active members. On average, 40 will show up to their weekly Sunday rides… even when the snow flies and the temperature drops well below freezing, they still meet up. Members run the gamut, from 30-somethings to old 60s bikers, and include investment bankers and Ford engineers.
“We’re seeing younger riders show up, guys interested in the classic Triumphs and who might be looking for parts. We also work with the local dealer to offer a free club membership when people buy a new bike. It’s not as easy as it once was to attract new members, but we’re determined to keep at it,” says Cal.
Peter Geferra, club secretary and a 20-year member, chairs the club’s signature event – the annual Battle of the Brits (BOB). It’s a bike show and swap meet held on the second Sunday of each September that gives Triumph and other British bike owners an opportunity to show off their restored and original bikes.
“We generally get about 200 bikes, and with the involvement of the Detroit Triumph Sportscar Club, we also get more than 200 cars. This may be the only time of year you’ll see some of these incredible machines.”
The club has held the BOB at a number of locations over the years, in 2016 they landed at Camp Dearborn. Located less than an hour north-west of Detroit, its idyllic setting, cabins and golf course means the BOB becomes a weekend getaway for riders and exhibitors.
We’ve found renewed interest in both the new and old Triumphs
With classic bikes the focus of the Metro Detroit Riders membership, the contents of Cal and Peter’s garages are no exception. Cal owns a 1973 Triumph Tiger and he’s working on a 1970 Tiger cafe racer. Peter’s collection includes a 1955 Triumph T110, a 1966 Triumph T100, a 1970 Triumph Bonneville and a 1970 Norton Commando.
Both believe the new bikes Triumph is producing will be pivotal in helping the group grow and keeping the younger riders coming through. “The club is very healthy right now with an active membership, but as Triumph Motorcycles has surged to success, we’ve found renewed interest in both the new and old Triumphs and it’s proving an opportunity to start attracting younger members to help ensure future growth,” says Peter.
But you can’t have a club that’s all show and no ride. While the weather limits riding in Detroit to a five-month window – roughly April to September – the area is not without some great roads.
“Since our members are scattered throughout the area, smaller groups will ride closer to where they live when we don’t get together as a club. Go north, south or west of Detroit and it doesn’t take long to get into some great roads that have everything you’d want – twisties, curves, hills, you name it,” Peter adds.
And what about east of Detroit? Well, that’s Canada and a whole new world of opportunity.
So if you find yourself in Detroit and spot a cluster of Triumphs, chances are it’s the Metro Triumph guys and girls.
Give them a thumbs up if you feel so inclined… or check out their Facebook page.
Let us know a few details about your Triumph riding group in an email and the For the Ride team will be in touch.