My Speed Triple was bought as salvage in 2006 after a drawn out online bidding war for a bike advertised as a Trident. Me and the other bidder knew what it was and kept bidding a £5 each hour until one of us gave up out of boredom… The bike advertised by the salvage yard had clearly been down the road a few times. I’d only viewed it online and had budgeted for fork & wheel straightening and replacement levers, possible clutch casing replacement and some other bits with the idea being to get it up and running and maybe sell it on or keep it as a summer bike for rallies, commuting and weekend camping trips. But it turned into so much more…
I went to collect the bike from Canvey Island in Essex and was struck by just how much it weighed for a naked bike and, how far back and narrow the bars felt. I got it home in a van and set about stripping the bike to check everything over. Here’s some of what I found:
• Notched steering bearings
• Rear pads worn to the steel
• Rear sliding calliper pins seized
• Clutch and brake fluid black & condensation filled
• Front discs ridged and well below minimum thickness
• Miss-matched and square tyres
• Damping failed in the rear shock
• Swing-arm pivot bearings dry
• Shock linkage assembly dry and seized
• Fork oil black & putrid, pre-load adjusters not connected
• Sprockets hooked and chain worn
• Side stand and bracket twisted
• Sprocket cover oil reservoir holed
• Clutch plates and springs worn out
• One handlebar twisted
• Fuel tank shaped with 1/2 lb of body filler
When I got the V5 from DVLA it showed 15 owners in 12 years with 35k on the clock. It had had a hard life.
After sorting the thing back to a standard state of affairs and filling it with fresh oil, coolant and plugs and stripping the carbs, it fired up… I took it for gentle ride to gain some confidence with it and see if it was going to explode beneath me. It was late at night in the Gloucestershire countryside and wet, but it was summer. I steered it onto a long straight and opened it up… Something deep inside me stirred and I felt a connection to the bike. I was hooked by something… Not on the power, but the sound of it. The bike had Scorpion cans fitted (without baffles) and the air-box had been sawn by someone at sometime (to facilitate its removal and return between motor-cycling’s largest ever spine frame) and a K&N filter fitted. I just loved the induction roar and the exhaust note. I’d never ridden a triple before and to me it sounded part Spitfire and part E type Jag.
The bike was taxed, MOT’d and insured and then ridden around for three years to get to know it better whilst looking like this:
I commuted daily on it, went to the Bulldog Bash, loads of runs through Wales and did a track day at Anglesey and then headed off to the Alps for a week in the summer with some mates. After 2500miles of thrashing it I was 40miles from home on the M4 when the middle con-rod made an impromptu appearance through the front casing:
The hole is a perfect section of the rod.. As I sat awaiting the recovery van my thoughts turned to sourcing a complete motor… which took a while. Eventually an early engine turned up at the right price. In it went and off I went until its sprag clutch failed a few hundred miles later – thank you Triumph for the inspection cover on those early motors.
After putting 20,000 more miles on the bike I felt I knew it well enough to start modifying it to my own taste – I have done the same to my Yamaha winter hack and all other bikes I’ve owned. The plan was initially to turn it into something similar to what I’ve seen some guys doing to 80’s & 90’s air cooled bikes in Finland – perhaps something like this:
Tiger spoked hubs and Hagon rims, bespoke yoke and some upside down front end off of a modern sportster and a retro bubble fairing. I dunno..
But after consulting my better half (who’d decided she found the Yamaha’s seat and leg room more comfortable for pillion journeys) I decided upon a single seat version and some more practical road biased work instead. Besides, the head gasket had just blown on this motor, so it had to be rebuilt anyway. The bike was stripped again..
The rebuild list includes:
• Bespoke Wilbers fork springs and rear shock
• Ducati single seat tail (with 10mm of hard race foam)
• Modified sub-frame
• Air-box discarded – pod filters fitted
• Several chrome items chemically blackened
• Oil cooler fitted
• Bars lowered and pushed forward
• Brembo radial master cylinder
• Renthal medium grips and front fork gaiters
The work unfolded over the winter of 2011/12 and was ready in time for the monsoon season. Or the British summer, post climate change. The bikes first proper shake down ride and day out was to the Hinkley Meeting. It was a joy to meet so many other owners and see their bikes. Mine was bar far the easiest to spot as nothing at all is clean or shiny about it. In case you’re wondering, I do occasionally change my underpants. On the way back from the Hinckley meet I nearly lost one of the cans when a bolt came loose!
But what’s the purpose of modifying a standard bike when a factory makes something that the majority find perfectly acceptable? An indescribable itch, I think. We all fiddle with them in some way, some more than others, perhaps. I knew that I wanted something that handled well enough for British and European roads – which this bike does – and something that I could live with each day whilst touring and understand how to fix if something went wrong. The handlebars were something I’d always wanted to change: I love the look, but I never found the riding position practical for touring or for pushing the bike on a track day – I wanted wider bars with more leverage, but not bar risers and Renthals.
Perhaps the area of most fun was the carburettors and the air-box. Anyone who’s meddled with changing a front sprocket on one of these may also know of the gentle spoken words and charitable thoughts extended toward the Hinckley design team when trying to reassemble a T309 air-box. The bike already had a Stage II Dynojet kit fitted to its Mikuni’s so I set about doing some research. That lead me to online discussions which suggested that Mikuni’s and Dynojets and “pod” filters were together the three horsemen of the apocalypse. I laugh in the face of death…
Tuning these carbs, with pods and a Dynojet kit is actually a lot simpler than it may seem. I disassembled the carbs and checked everything and replaced all worn parts to get a base setting. I then contacted Dynojet and received some excellent advice and help with set up – bear in mind the world had now long since moved on to EFI.. The pilot circuit was good, so only the mid range and top end needed sorting. Whilst “pod” filters may flow more air than a standard air-box and the characteristics of air velocity and dynamics are subject to expert theory and practice… the settings available on a Dynojet kit allow you to find a setting that will work – if you’re patient.
Then it is just about the top end and that’s main jets. As the bike had Dynojet mains already fitted I ordered a range of Dynojet main jets in the “ball park” area of the discussion with them. After three days of fitting and removing jets and adjusting the needles I found a setting that felt comfortable with a good pick up when opening the throttle fast, no bogging or hesitation and no loss of power toward the redline. I then took it to Straightline Racing and had them dyno the bike to be sure – all was fine, although it was burning some oil at high revs…. I knew I should have replaced those piston rings when I had the head off!
Currently I have the head off again and I have replaced the rings. Last “summer” I rode the bike from the south coast up through Germany to Denmark and back through Germany and France and it runs and rides very well for a near 20 year old bike. It doesn’t look like I have ever heard of a polishing mop or that I know what Autosol is because I like my rides to develop the patina that age and use brings. My Yamaha has done over 350,000 miles (albeit on 4 engines) but that’s one of the things I like about this old heavyweight triple – it fills your heart with its character and it’s definitely a “keeper”.
Ride safe – ride free.