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The little-known fact behind Steve McQueen’s Triumph stunt bike

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 2017-10-03 David Booth

There's a reason why the Triumph stunt bike, featured in Steve McQueen's The Great Escape, has six inches worth of padding on the seat. © David Booth, Driving There's a reason why the Triumph stunt bike, featured in Steve McQueen's The Great Escape, has six inches worth of padding on the seat. I

n one of the most widely known secrets in Hollywood, we all know that Steve McQueen didn’t actually jump the fence in The Great Escape. His buddy, mentor and bike builder, Bud Ekins, did – mainly because the studio was worried Steve might hurt himself. Obviously, they hadn’t gone dirt riding with him.

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But here’s a real, little-known fact. One of the modifications Ekins insisted onto the Triumph TR6 that was to emulate the side-valve BMW flat twin — yes, we know how odd that is, too — was an extensive seat redo, the cloth-covered perch covered with about 5 times more foam than normal.

The reason?

Well, according to Ekins, the jump was about sixty feet long, the fence about eight feet tall and, well, he didn’t want to hurt his gnads. Yes, you read that right – the most important modification Ekins’ made to McQueen’s desert sled was a testicle-friendly seat sporting about six inches of padding between his most private parts and the bike’s frame rail. Yes, foam seat to protect what a Girling shock couldn’t. Men were really more real back then.

We know this McQueen’s exact bike — and its oversized seat — take pride of place in Triumph’s new Visitor Centre/Museum at the head office in Hinckley, England. Oh, Tom Cruise’s Speed Triple from Mission Impossible 2 is also on display, as is the very first Triumph manufactured in 1902. Other highlights include a 1919 “Trusty’ Model H — so named because it was the most reliable of British WWI dispatch bikes — along with an almost as rare Vetter-designed X75 Hurricane and the original 1994 Speed Triple, the bike that put modern Triumph on the map. There’s even a few neat prototypes of the new Bobber upstairs complete with data-loggers and hand-welded appendages.

Oh, yes, Triumph insists that I mention the 1902 Café where hipsters can get a latte or a double-double moccachino and contemplate when men with three days’ worth of facial hair were unshaven mainly cause they had been out in the desert racing.

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