Hinckley's latest Bonneville is nice. But back up a few decades and Triumph's definitive twin had nothing to do with nice. You could meet those people on a Honda 50. The Bonne-ville at the top of its game was the quintessential badass, whether you turned it into a café racer or a desert sled or a dirt-tracker. Especially a dirt-tracker.
If you recall nasty old Bonnevilles more fondly than nice new ones, so does Richard Pollock of Mule Motorcycles. Pollock has carved out a niche for himself by carving exceptional, hard-nosed street-trackers out of ordinary motorcycles. Creating the Streetmaster was expensive and complicated, but its conception was relatively simple.
Richard Varner loves Triumphs enough to own all eight 1970 models, including a rare '70 Trident and an ultra-rare 750cc T120RT twin. What he really wanted was a rapid, reliable British alternative to the typical contortionist supersports that fit his 6-foot-2 frame. "My first thought was to find an old Trackmaster frame and have a quick, streetable engine built," he says. "But kick-starting a high-compression Triumph twin didn't sound like fun. Plus it's a 40-year-old engine, and it leaks."
What about a Hinckley Bonneville? They're nouveau-retro, oil-tight and start with a button. Perfect.
Classic Bates footpegs are the only off-the-shelf parts used in these custom rearsets. Eve
The first order of business was finding someone to wrap a motorcycle around one. "After several false starts I met Richard Pollock at the 2007 Long Beach motorcycle show. I suggested the Triumph and he jumped right in," Varner says.
"RV wanted a traditional Triumph flat-tracker look," Pollock says. Previous Triumph 'trackers built on the stock frame were too bulky, so Pollock went to work on his own steel skeleton to keep this one compact. "After a handful of sketches and some arm wrestling, I convinced RV that we could take two tubes from the steering head down to the front motor mount and stop there," says Pollock, "From the side, it looks like a double cradle and lets us tuck the pipes in really tight. Varner also wanted a motorcycle that weighed 300 pounds ready to ride, which is tough when the engine alone weighs almost 200.
How do you build a 100-lb. rolling chassis? Clear your schedule for the next couple of years. Then sit down with a mountain of titanium fasteners and a digital scale. Weigh every nut, bolt, washer, bracket, screw and spring. Give the flabby bits another turn on the mill or find something lighter. Anything super-fluous or redundant has to go. The 45mm Speed Triple fork is heavier than some but prettier than most. O-ring nipple seals in the Jupiter wheels save 3 lbs. by letting the Goodyear dirt-track tires run tubeless. Look closer: The battery is a stock Suzuki DR650 bit. Otherwise? "Almost nothing can be bought off the shelf," Pollock says. "The calipers are heavily re-worked Wilwood sprint-car units, with hardware that's been replaced or re-made in titanium." Shocks are custom Penske units. Woods Racing doesn't make these stainless-steel dirt-track bars anymore. Pollock transformed a tangled heap of titanium sportbike headers from Lee's Cycle Service in San Diego into the graceful exhaust system you see here with a torch and $140 worth of titanium welding wire.
From the valve covers to the drain plug, nothing on the 790cc Bonneville twin escaped Rich
Racetec built the aluminum Trackmaster-style tank, adding about 2 inches to the rear sect
Meanwhile, Varner's vintage Triumph Trident specialist Charlie Barnes was busy pulling another 25 horsepower out of Hinckley's underachiever. He sent the head to Branch-O'Keefe in Long Beach for a little upper-respiratory therapy. It came back sending 25 percent more mixture from those 39mm Keihin FCR carbs through eight big valves cued by South Bay Triumph cams. After shaving a full 13 lbs. from the crankshaft, Barnes designed a billet primary cover that controls the clutch with a KTM slave cylinder-no more cable. Sending 75 horses to the rear Goodyear on pump gas sounds pretty good. "This thing likes to rev and I mean right now," Pollock says. "Turn the throttle, lift the front wheel."
Pushing about 4 lbs. with each of those horses, the Triumph accelerates "like a scalded cat," says Varner. He and Pollock are pretty happy about this Streetmaster thing (www.streetmaster.net). Happy enough to build four more, applying lessons learned on the $75,000 original to drop the price into the $30,000 ballpark if enough buyers are interested. They figure aspiring Bonneville owners might be interested in some of the sexier bits, like that billet primary cover.
We hope they're right.