Three-cylinder motorcycles have been around for decades and the list of manufacturers who have created “triples” is impressive. For some, like Triumph and BSA, the threat the four-cylinder cb750 presented in 1968 justified the creation of the Trident T150V and A75 Rocket Three respectively. Little more than a twin with an extra cylinder grafted on, these machines allowed the UK big bike manufacturers to limp on for a few years while performing remarkably well on track.
That’s not to say a three is a bad idea, the smoothness compared to a twin-cylinder engine is palpable while, logically there are less parts and a more narrow architecture than with many four-cylinder engines. Being “different” was also a lure.
That is exactly what Kawasaki identified when they dropped their two-stroke A model twins to debut the fearsome Mach III 500 in 1969. Other “Kwaker” triples followed from 250cc to 750cc. suzuki followed suit with the GT range of air-cooled 380cc and 550cc triples plus the iconic water-cooled GT750.
Yamaha were late to the 4T party – making a false start with the TX750 - but the XS750 four-stroke DOHC won acclaim thanks to great looks, shaft drive and the character that only a three-cylinder engine can deliver; a basic spec later adopted by the BMW K75.
In terms of current standout bikes, we have saved a classic until the end, the Honda NS400R. Part of the GP replica craze in the mid 80’s, the NSR is an exotic V3 configuration owing much to Fast Freddie’s GP racers. Lighter and more manoeuvrable than the road-going RG500 and RD500, the diminutive triple lasted a little over three years and is highly sought after now.
CMS is constantly searching the globe for OEM triple parts, so if you are restoring or even refreshing one take a look at our website to see if your part is in stock and enjoy the enduring allure of a triple.
issued: Saturday, February 04, 2023
updated: Tuesday, February 07, 2023
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