Motorcycle Classics

Triumph Bonneville Bobber Build, Part 3

We’re not professional bike builders, and we don’t claim to be. But we’ve sure had some fun building this custom Triumph.

Since day one of this magazine, editor Backus had been itching to do a full-blown motorcycle restoration project. Our Project Café Honda CB500 was the first realization of that dream — but where to go from there?

We brainstormed. We planned. And then we got an offer to use a bone-stock, brand new 2010 Triumph Bonneville for a build. As much as we love restoring old motorcycles bikes, this presented a unique opportunity for a project any of our readers could do. It’s not hard to find a new Bonnie — as long as you’ve got the dough — and most of the changes we made here are simple bolt-ons. The rest, mainly the paint and the building of the custom seat, were projects we handed off to local businesses right here in our town.

Bobber build-up

In our last installment we highlighted the lowered rear suspension, the lower drag bars, the upgraded D&D Performance exhaust, the gobs of trick dress-up pieces from Joker Machine and the custom instrument bracket from D9 Brackets.

We also bragged about the cool new paint job, and then we didn’t really show it to you. Well friends, here it is in all its yellow and black glory, a scheme designed and applied by Travis Charbonneau at TC Concepts in Topeka, Kan.

A gorgeous yellow/gold first used by Triumph in 1964 and updated in the last 10 years as “Scorched Yellow,” it’s a shade now used on Triumph’s modern Daytona 675 sport bike. The yellow/gold is offset with gloss black and flat black stripes, and as the new design is symmetrical, Travis moved the fuel filler neck from its stock offset position on the right of the tank to the center. The welding work is perfect, and you’d never know it hadn’t come that way from the factory.

The bright paint work drew loads of attention at the Heart of America Motorcycle Enthusiast Show in Kansas City, Mo., in June, and even more attention at the Road America Vintage Motorcycle Classic near Elkhart Lake, Wis., in July.

Details, details

Though we’d displayed the bike at a couple of events, there were still a few details to finish. First on the list was wiring up some very cool LED blinkers from Joker Machine, plus adding a side mount tail light/license plate bracket from Omar’s, powder-coated gloss black, of course. We also took the headlight apart and had the bucket and the trim ring powder-coated gloss black.

We had ordered a mini rear fender with LED tail light from BellaCorse, and though the rear fender wouldn’t work with our bobbed rear frame, it did have a slick tail light. So we swiped that and used it on our bracket from Omar’s, as it was smaller and a better shape than the light that came with the Omar’s bracket.

As mentioned last issue, we handed our stock seat to Tom Smith at Tom’s Upholstery Plus here in Topeka, Kan. Working with Travis, they shortened and modified the plastic seat pan to give it a minimalist shape and a lower profile.

Though we had initially envisioned a saddle-type single seat, the shape of the frame plus the under-seat battery and electronics made us look for a simpler option; relocating or trying to hide all of these pieces would have been another big project. Instead, Tom used thinner yet firmer foam on the pan with a custom-stitched black vinyl cover, complete with a tuck-and-roll-style top panel. It’s understated yet classic, and we love it.

Fender bender

With our new seat installed, it was time to consider the last piece of the build: what to do for a rear fender? To be honest, we hadn’t worried about it a whole lot, as we’ve seen loads of bobbers that look right with no rear fender at all. But with our new seat in place, we quickly decided the rear of the bike needed something to look finished. We already knew the BellaCorse fender wouldn’t fit, so we mentioned our plight to Travis, who’s nothing if not creative. The next day he came by, cardboard in hand, and started mocking up a tiny “duck bill” rear fender that would bolt to the bottom of our seat pan. He trimmed and bent the cardboard around until he had a shape he was happy with, and then went to work. Three days later, he dropped by the office with a hand-laid fiberglass duck bill fender painted to perfectly match the paint scheme of the rest of the bike. Three screws later and our fender issue was solved. Yeah, we’re just a little jealous of Travis’ skills, but very happy to have him as a resource!

Fire it up

Through this whole process, the gas tank had been sitting without a drop of fuel in it. During the show in Kansas City, the local Triumph dealer, Engle Motors, had remapped the computer for the exhaust system, so the bike was ready to be started. Just days before this issue shipped to the printer, we checked all of our electrical connections one more time, hooked up the fuel line, added some gas and hit the button.

Not only did it fire right up, but we caught the whole thing on video, and you can watch and hear just how friggin’ cool our Triumph looks and sounds! It sounds fantastic, as the exhaust note is much deeper and throatier than it was with the restrictive stock pipes. We haven’t had a chance to really ride it yet, but there’s no question the new fuel mapping and the freer-breathing exhaust transform the bike from quiet and mild-mannered to large and in-charge, and without being obnoxious. MC

Bonneville Build Suppliers

BellaCorse — Joker Machine products, custom hardware
D&D Performance Exhaust — Faux titanium exhaust
D9 Brackets — Custom instrument bracket
Joker Machine — Custom headlamp ears, counter sprocket cover, ignition switch relocating kit, scads of cool billet pieces
Motorcycle Superstore — Drag bars
Omar’s DTR — Custom tail light/license plate bracket
TC Concepts — Custom paint, graphics and tank fab
Tom’s Upholstery Plus — 785-235-2061: Custom seat fabrication
YSS Racing Suspension — Rear shocks, custom fork springs

  • Published on Aug 6, 2010
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