A Personal History of Hinckley Bikes – Sidecar Steve


This is my current Hinckley – a Street Triple R, but going back a few years –

Around 1990 when Hinckley was just starting up I was riding Harley Sportsters because that was the nearest thing  to Brit bikes at the time (without the tassels )  The first Hinckleys were big machines, heavy and expensive and did not become a serious consideration for me until the first 900 Thunderbird made an appearance.  I have a vivid memory of Kevin Ash riding one of these for MCN and describing it as Triumph’s brilliant Thunderbird.  So the Sportster was traded.  A visually stunning bike it attracted attention everywhere it went.  Lovely to ride but not without a few problems,  these being inlet rubbers and the rattling alternator shaft fixed under warranty.  20,000 miles later and after a few tours the new Trophy Mk2, a dedicated touring bike with great reviews was next.  Even now I think these are great bikes.  My wife and I had some great holidays on this bike and saw much of Europe and almost all of Scotland and Ireland.  At the time, these machines were were serviced every 3000 miles and after 50.000 miles of touring it was still as good as new.  The only engine problem was spitting a plug out which was fixed under warranty.

The new 790 Bonnie appeared and the attraction now, of a bit less plastic was there.  The Bonnie was selling out and part ex. value on the Trophy was poor, but another Thunderbird got a much better deal.  This Bird rode brilliantly, for a short time, then it started running on two cylinders, popping and banging.  Back it went, but no real problem was found.  Back it came and the problem reoccurred.  Back it went to be fiddled  with and back it came with unreliable running.  Back it went and a new CPU unit was put in.  Fetched it back and it broke down on the way home. back it went in the van for another CPU unit.  Back it came but still it was not totally right.  Enough of that.

The new TT600 was having a bad press, mainly because it was a track bike on the road not because it was a bad bike. It was reprogrammed and with new cams for softer running and very heavily discounted, it was worth a look.  I had never had a sports bike, so for not too much dosh, I had one.  The only problem it had was a burned out alternator lead, replaced under warranty.  I loved this bike, reliable and comfortable.  The Thunderbird I sold for cash, glad to see the back of it., and a friend of mine bought the the TT, a few years later, and I bought a used 955 Sprint ST.

The 955 Sprint had a known history and was 100% reliable. A very useable bike with an an excellent range and decent sized panniers.  Around this time I became fascinated with outfits, and I knew that  Hinckley triples had more than enough grunt to pull a chair, so I started making enquiries.  To properly convert the Sprint, the cost was prohibitive, so it was a matter of finding one.  Eventually I did, a Thunderbird Sport with Watsonian GP. so the 955 went to finance that.  Outfits can be tremendous fun if properly engineered.  They are nothing like  a bike and nothing like a car.  The best tour we did with this was the antrim coast of Northern Ireland right around to Londonderry.  it was also good for one or two Dragon Rallies.  I kept the outfit for about six years, always with a solo as well.

I have always wanted a Triton bit never managed to own one, however the factory were now producing something in that realm, the Thruxton.  Irresistable.  Brilliant.  Great motor. Clip ons, arm pump, but it has to be clip ons.  Put up with it.  That’s what I thought anyway.  I did manage a tour of Scotland and had enormous fun, best fun on any bike so far and never a problem.  But now the 675 Daytona popped up.  Why not a modern day sports bike. ? The bike press were raving about it, so I had to have a test ride.  It was the sound of the underseat exhaust that sold it.  How could a standard road bike sound like this?  Quite simply, the faster it went the better it was, but keep an eye out for license loosing territory.  I used this bike for many things including commuting and eventually the neck pain in the daily traffic won out and I spotted a heavily discounted brand new 1050 Sprint.

Oh dear, for me this was simply wrong.  I thought it would be like the 955 or an improvement, but for me it just didn’t work. It was an ABS bike with non ABS clocks in it so has to go back.  There was nothing wrong with it, it was reliable but for me just a bit awkward.  Lesson learned – always test ride before  you buy.  For most people it was probably a fine bike.  Another lesson I learned was about the silly costs of repairing fared bikes.  One day while cleaning the back wheel and putting it on the centre stand, it bounced off the stand and fell over.  Cost of repair, £1300.  What? WHAT? For falling over?

Following the 1050 Sprint was a 790 T100 Bonnie.  Totally reliable, but not much puff in standard trim.  A jet and air filter change  with free flowing pipes makes the difference, a must with these older generation 790 Bonnies.  This was later traded for a 1050 Tiger which was lowered about one inch.  A beautiful looking bike  in my opinion.    Gleaming black and absolutely stunning.  It must have been at about 15000 miles that the motor became noisy.  They rattle anyway, but this was more than that.  A cam chain tensioner was replaced under warranty but the rattle was still there.  While at the dealers I loaned an 865 T100 which I loved, so decided to go back to a Bonnie, this time an SE with ally wheels.  An all day useable (as long as you put a touring seat on) bike, good for anything.  The bare aluminium needed care though but always looked good when polished.

One day at a dealer visit, I looked at one of the new 1600 Thunderbirds, looked at the price tag and asked why the discount?.  We just want to move it, they said.  OK, move it to my garage then.  I had read about these in some detail and previously had test ridden one.  Without doubt, these machines had the finest build quality I have seen.  Thick paint and chrome.  Brill to ride, a pain to keep clean.  for me that was a problem I did not really want as I am not a fan of polishing.  These bikes are good in storms though as they are so heavy they do no budge in side winds.  Anyway with the low price I paid it could trade it for very little loss .  I considered long and hard about the blacked out storm 1700 version, but non of these were discounted anywhere so it would involve a big chunk of money.  For anyone considering a bike this heavy I would say – get an ABS version.

I ended up with the best all round bike in the world, bar none.  The Tiger 800.  It even doesn’t look too bad when it’s mucky, After saying that it’s not exactly pretty when it’s clean, but none of these adventure things are anyway.  It does everything at a level of competency. I would give it a minimum of 8/10 for whatever you can think off.  Might go back to a Tiger, they really are that good .

As I said at the start I currently have a bonkers mad Street Triple R.  It had to go back for a replacement fork leg, and I complained about overly stiff steering, but was told that is how they are, they are all like that.  3000 miles on, the steering has loosened a bit and after setting the suspension at factory comfort level, it is brilliant suspension on the road probably the best I have had.  If you decide on one of these, trust me on this, you want a quickshifter.  Yes you do – don’t argue.  I must try the Daytona version.

So where now?  probably not down the retro route as I have a Meriden, and that Streety is one difficult bike to follow it is sowwww good.    I might just keep it

These comments are purely my own and not that of the club.

Sidecar Steve