1978 Triumph T140V Bonneville Café Racer
Claimed power: 60hp @ 7,000rpm (est.)
Top speed: 120mph (est.)
Engine: 744 OHV air-cooled parallel twin
Weight (wet/est.): 400lb (182kg)
You might meet the nicest people on a Honda, but Adam Wright will tell you that the coolest café racers are still British. Ask Adam why he picked a 1978 Triumph T140V Bonneville as the foundation for his café racer, and his response is immediate and unequivocal: “As long as I can remember, when I think about a café racer, I think Triumph. Period.”
Ask Adam about the moniker he picked for his café’d Triumph — Hanger Lane “09” — and you’ll quickly learn he built this bike as homage to an era he never experienced, but wishes he had. “It’s all about the history of the café, of the Ton-Up Boys racing down to Hanger Lane and back before the record had finished,” Adam says, marveling at the thought of racing on public roads to the time of a jukebox record.
Record-racing didn’t last, but the Ace Café and the Ton-Up Boys etched themselves into the collective consciousness as images of rebellion, freedom and power. Fifty some years later, both the Ace Café and the café racer culture endure, iconic symbols of a day long gone, yet still invoking many of the same feelings they did so many years ago.
And while the times may have changed, the same need for expression that drove the original rockers remains, adopted by a new generation of riders and builders like Adam, who continue the café tradition of hand-crafted, individualized motorcycles.
Although he wasn’t around for the original café movement, Adam has found himself inextricably caught up in its revival. The idea of building “09” came a few years ago, as Adam watched the neo-café movement gathering steam. A rider since age 8 (“I’ve had some sort of motorcycle my entire life,” he says), Adam, now 37, says the café movement was late to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. “It hadn’t made it here yet when I started this a few years ago,” Adam says. “I wanted to build a café racer, because I think cafés are going to take over the whole bobber and chopper thing.”
With a 1978 Triumph T140V Bonneville as his foundation, Adam started the build on his own, but quickly found himself in over his head. “I wanted more than I was capable of doing with my own hands,” he realized. At first, he couldn’t find anyone who could do the work he wanted, but then he stumbled on Paul Schaller and Mark Cross at WBS Fabrication, a specialty fabrication and restoration shop northwest of Columbus.
Working with Paul and Mark, Adam’s vision of a neo-café racer was realized, and the result is stunning. “Most of the bikes I was seeing were kind of budget cafés or full-on show bikes with lots of chrome, but I wanted a bike that respected the culture of the café racer, maybe a big headlight mounted high, but nothing flashy,” Adam says, adding, “To be honest, when I started this off I was gonna do a tail that was hammered out by hand and not be perfect. I’ve got a Yamaha R5 that’s rough, and I love it.”
Although Adam ended up taking a different, more refined route from the hand-hammered approach, flashy this bike’s not, at least not in the traditional manner. Except for the gas cap and headlamp shell, there’s no chrome on the bike, and the paint, Lotus Gunmetal Grey but with the specified metallic ingredient mostly eviscerated, is decidedly muted in tone. “I’m not a huge show guy,” Adam admits, “I like riding, so I wanted to make it functional and fun to ride, and it is.” Engine modifications have been kept to a relative minimum, with most of the work going into the details that make the bike.
Excepting a 0.020-inch overbore, the engine is mostly stock, although it has been treated to things like black anodized cases and valve covers. “The custom fabrication list on this is long,” Adam says. “With a 1950s-style airplane in mind, we used raw aluminum, hard aluminum rivets, jet nut fasteners and copper oil lines.” Nice touches include the aluminum Kodak film canisters doing duty as brake fluid reservoirs, a Ford Model A tail light, a one-off handmade exhaust system with hand-rolled cones, and of course that cool, big, yellow headlamp.
Most of the running gear is stock, including the original Triumph single-disc front and rear brakes, although Adam did opt for modern master cylinders from a late model Triumph Daytona. The brake rotors were drilled for looks as much as anything, and Paul and Mark relocated the rear brake caliper with a custom trailing arm they machined in-house.
The wheels were built by California-based Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim and feature SUN black anodized rims and stainless steel spokes laced to the original Triumph hubs.
Although he hasn’t put huge miles on it, Adam says “09” makes a great road bike. A former Formula Two open-wheel car racer, he’s as big a fan of reliability as power. “Horsepower’s not the point,” Adam opines. “I wanted something that would be very reliable. I’ve got a Triumph Speed Triple I’ll take and do track days. On this thing, I like to cruise around. It sounds nasty, and I love to listen to it and feel it.”
The “09” part of the bike’s name, by the way, is from Adam’s racing days; his Formula Two car always carried number nine, and he gave up racing after nine years.
Adam, who spends his working time these days running his Columbus-based vehicle graphics company, admits he’d like to build more bikes along the theme he’s established with this first build. “I got into the whole thing. I thought maybe I could be like a general contractor with a house, help with the design process and the whole thing. It’s something I think could be fun, even if I only built one or two bikes a year,” Adam says. That means Adam might build one for you, too. Assuming it’s British, of course. MC
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