Real Life Wrenching: Triumph Bonneville Restoration Update

| 7/2/2012 3:00:48 PM

Editor's note: This blog was originally posted in October 2010 in the Real Life Wrenching blog at 

Me and my 1972 Triumph Bonneville. 

In 2010, my father, an avid Triumph enthusiast, finally gave me one of his prized motorcycles. However, he wasn’t about to let me ride off on a running, restored vintage Triumph. If I was going to have one of his bikes, by God, I was going to learn something and build it myself (such a Dad move!). So I packed the entire bike, a 1972 Triumph T120 basket case, into my compact car and drove it home in boxes. 

Four months later, I’ve spent every weekend and evening possible wrenching away at my restoration project, trying to get to the next step. I have to admit, it’s becoming one of the most addicting hobbies I’ve ever had. As a newcomer to the world of motorcycle restoration – or bike mechanics at all, for that matter – delving into a project like this hasn’t exactly been easy, although I can’t say it’s been all that difficult, either. It’s time-consuming, expensive, at times frustrating, and generally slow going, but it’s always rewarding. And I’m barely halfway there. I’ve said it a million times already, but I know I’ll shed a tear when I finally fire her up.

My first order of business was to get the chassis together and rolling. The frame had already been powder-coated, so the wheels came first. If you’ve restored a bike before, you have to know how valuable a bead-blaster and polishing wheel can be. And in mid-summer, polishing aluminum gets really hot, really fast. But it works after you’ve slaved away for hours, and the hubs cleaned up beautifully. One of the original rims I cleaned up and saved, the other I replaced, and then, to many a furrowed eyebrow, laced and trued my wheels. Knowing how mission-critical wheels are, I decided to take them to an expert to fine-tune them in the end, but got to go through the whole process quite successfully, nonetheless. Then, I installed the bearings, put on new tires, reassembled the disc breaks, and poof! My wheels were done. (This step took me at least two months.)

Then, it was on to rebuilding the forks. I decided to powder-coat the fork stems for more of a café-look and to get around the fact that they were looking pretty grimy, and I’m quite happy with the end result. In the beginning, the plan was to go completely original, but I am making this bike for me, so I’m taking some creative license without sacrificing the soul of the bike’s original form. The forks were simple enough to rebuild again, with highly recommended Progressive fork springs and new tubes. Installing them into the triple tree was another matter all together. We “encouraged” them to go in with some gentle force, lots of WD-40 and the help of a friendly local police officer who likes to take “breaks” by stopping by the garage to hang out with the bikes. It turns out, cops do more than protect and serve from time to time! At the end of the day, I had my rolling chassis complete, and a big fat smile on my face.

Andy Towers
12/9/2012 6:13:02 AM

So, my gf just today picked up a bike that she used to own from the person she sold it to for the price of the head work that was being done to it at the time she sold it... $230. 1972 Boneville I believe. Basket case. It is now at my house in Sacramento, but she picked it up today in.... wait for it... San Jose. Then she sent me the link to your blog. The first question is, "What ever happened with this build?" The next wouyld be, "Can I pick your brain?" I've never done any work to speak of on a Triumph, and now I have a baket case IN my house! andymon at gmail dot com

Dan Wineinger
7/20/2012 5:21:07 PM

Great job Jennifer. That is the best way to invest yourself into your ride. Nobody will understand your Triumph quite like you will and it becomes more than just a project. I have a couple of Norton Classics sitting in the shop waiting on me to get the proper motivation, or the money, to proceed with their restoration. Like you I plan to ride these MC's, so museum quality is not on the agenda. Maybe a hand built 750 in the featherbed frame and modern suspension....

7/8/2012 6:43:38 AM

Well done you , i was just browsing through the old bike stuff , a kinda virtual trip down memory lane and i found this , truly insparational , its kinda got me fired up to do something simalar myself , thankyou & best of luck , G.

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