I considered starting with a 60′s Triumph or BSA as the donor bike but after much deliberation I ended up with a 2001 model Triumph Bonneville. I clearly remember the day that I traded my Aprillia RS125 for the stock standard Bonne, I think the salesman at the Triumph dealership though I had lost my mind, especially when I told him that I was intending start some reasonably serious modifications immediately. In fact many people gave me a long list of reasons why I shouldn’t do what I was planning but to be honest comments like that only strengthened my resolve to push on with the project.
I rode the bike straight home from the dealership and parked it in the shed, it would be almost 18 months later before the bike turned a wheel in anger again. I must admit the original plan was to have the bike finished in about 3-4months but one thing led to another and eventually the mods ended up being a little more extensive than I first thought.
With the bike stripped back to the bare frame/motor and a rough sketch stuck on the wall I started to experiment with tank and seat shapes using sections of foam board taped to the bike. With the proportions roughly set I started to fabricate the plugs for the seat and tank moulds. I used a combination of balsa wood, foam, fibreglass and body filler to build the plugs. Many hours were spent cutting sanding and tweaking the shape until it was symmetrical. With a pair of clean plugs the tank and seat moulds and parts were made. In amongst the composite fabrication I had been hard at work stripping the frame of all un-needed lugs and brackets, the stripped frame was sent away for paint and returned in a beautiful high gloss black finish a few weeks later.
I got to work on designing a set of rearsets using CAD, and had those machined out of 6061-T6 aerospace grade alloy. The next challenge was the electrical system. I deliberated for ages as to the best way to deal with the wiring and in the end I chose to completely discard the existing loom and designed and manufactured a new one from scratch. I relocated most of the electrical system components, drew up a clean new wring diagram and rewired the entire bike. The end result was a much simplified loom with almost all the wiring hidden. I must admit I was pretty nervous the first time i turned the key but luckily everything worked as expected with the exception of the indicators. I took a bit of head scratching but eventually the error was located and we were ready for the first engine start. It was a pretty exciting day, I jerry rigged up a fuel can and fired it on open headers – the sound was incredible!
With the wiring complete and the sound of the engine ringing in my ears I had more motivation than ever to get the bike finished up and on the road. I painted the tank and seat unit flat black, chopped about a foot off the stock headers and mounted a set of short reverse cone mega’s. I moulded a seat pan directly onto the tail unit and padded it with closed cell foam, a local motorcycle seat upholsterer then did a great job of covering it in black vinyl. A visit to Triumph Performance USA whilst on a holiday in the states left my wallet significantly lighter, I grabbed a set of Ohlins rear shocks, a 6 pot Berringer front caliper and a pair of Keihin FCR39′s. All these parts were designed specifically for the Bonneville and bolted straight up with no problems at all. A set of woodcraft clipons from ebay and a Nissin radial master cylinder (and matching clutch lever) took care of the controls.
The final touches included a set of mini indicators from Hein Gericke, a LED taillight from eBay, a chain guard that I fabricated from brass tube and 6061-T6 aluminium plate and a heap of other small details. The finishing details seemed to drag on forever but eventually the bike was ready for a test ride. I must admit I was pretty damn excited the first time I rolled down the driveway, after a quick spin around the block and it was clear that I had a bit of work to do on the setup of the FCR’s but everything else felt great. I dialled the Carb’s in as best I could by feel but had a feeling that things still weren’t 100% right. A visit to the guys down at Redline Motorcycles, a few runs on the dyno and a couple of jetting changes later and we were good to go.
THE RIDE: The bike has turned out to be everything I wanted it to be, it has an incredible exhaust note, is surprisingly comfortable and is an absolute blast to ride. The FCR’s are sensational and worth every cent. I had read lots of reports about how difficult they are to setup and how temperamental starting can be but I would have to say that I have had none of those problems. The throttle response is super sharp and the motor pulls hard right through the rev range. The Berringer front calliper is a monster and has never left me wanting more in the braking department, equally impressive are the ohlins rear shocks which have sharpened up the handling dramatically. I have clocked up heaps of K’s on the bike over the last 12 months and have loved every minute of it! Now for the next project….