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Triumph Chopper : Class of ’69

There’s no place like home—especially if you can bring back parts for the design
of your dreams via a Triumph chopper.

Triumph chopper right side

Custom chops don’t come much more Old School than Carol’s Triumph. Its classic lines and spare aesthetics echo right back to Easy Rider days, when less was more and simpler was better. But what inspired her?

Carol comes by her passion for custom bikes honestly. In 1975, she was living in the London suburb of Harrow and one evening stopped by at the Six-Five rock ‘n’ roll club. Outside was a group of bikers telling lies and kicking tires. Carol was drawn to the gang and started hanging out with them. And that’s where she met her now partner, Ian, who was riding a pre-unit Triumph chopper with rigid frame and springer forks.

“Ian was into chops, so that was my first foray into actually being on a motorcycle—on the back of his chopper,” says Carol.

It wasn’t long before Carol decided it would be more fun up front. She learned to ride on a BSA Bantam, then moved up to an ex-police Triumph TR6P. But her tastes leaned toward American bikes. 

“When I was in England I used to go into the local Harley dealers and look at Sportsters and think…one day,” she says.

Triumph chopper tank close upSo when Carol migrated to Canada in the mid-1980s, she saved up and bought a black Harley Sportster.

“A Hugger: that was the model, I think. Pullback bars and button seat.”

Even so, Carol maintained a hankering for another Triumph, and came across a basket case 1969/71 Bonneville 650 on Bowen Island, BC and stole it for $200. “Just boxes of bits,” she says.

The inspiration for her Triumph custom came partly from Ian’s 1970s chop.

“Ian was always riding around on chops. So it’s a throwback to what I was first introduced to…and what was going on in the 70s,” she says. “I just really liked that style. So…it’s a take on that, pared down a bit…and more drivable. One that I’ve always wanted…and finally did get around to building.”

It took Carol a couple of years to finalize the design of the chop, which in the end used little of the basket case Triumph. 

“Part of the frame and the engine, pretty much,” says Carol. “It takes a long time…collecting pictures, looking at other bikes, and trying to decide exactly what we wanted to do. And then getting all the parts.”

Triumph chopper engine close up

Carol did have strong ideas about what she was looking for in the finished bike. First, she wanted the bottom frame rails to be parallel with the ground, so the frame had to be completely re-configured, then modified again to accommodate the wide WM6 rear wheel.

“The whole frame had to be reworked because it was single downtube before,” she says.

The Harley-Davidson rear brake master cylinder she used was “aesthetically pleasing,” but needed further modification to work right. Ian, a trained mechanic, did most of the engineering work.

The engine came in for some serious tuning, including Morgo 750cc barrels and pistons, MAP billet rods, Black Diamond valves with Kibblewhite springs and Megacycle cams. 

A NEB primary belt drives the stock four-speed transmission. Many of the parts Carol and Ian used came from England, bringing many of them home from trips back to UK. 

Overall, Carol’s pretty happy with the result, though there may be some more painting later on, especially the gas tank. She’s also considering changing the handlebars and seat and maybe adding a sissy bar. 

How does it work on the street?

“Well it’s actually very rideable,” says Carol. “The (forks) are only six inches over, so it’s quite manageable. It’s really low to the ground, so a low centre of gravity. And it’s so light compared to my Harley and even the stock Triumph.”

How about the rigid rear and narrow seat?

Triumph chopper seat close up

“It’s actually surprisingly comfortable, and it works for me. And I like mid controls. I don’t like forward controls. It’s really a lot of fun. Everything on it is period ‘70s. (Pretty much) the only non-Triumph things are the tank and the Bantam tail light. Everything is Triumph.”

Triumph chopper right sideTriumph chopper seat close up

“This was my dream, and I’m going to keep it for a while. I just think it actually all came together exactly how I hoped it would. It took a long time, and lots of fine tuning. Trying to put that back wheel in that frame and that configuration was a bit of a challenge, but the lines are exactly how I wanted.”

By Robert Smith Canadian Biker Issue #326

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