Select Page

The Triumph Cafe Racer

So here we go again. The second official build from the TripleB stable.

It’s been over 2 years since my first ever bike build, and so much has changed since. From 45 years without owning or riding a bike, to now having bought and sold around 30+ bikes in the space of 2 years, it’s fair to say that I have fully immersed myself into the biking lifestyle.

The first build, The K100, really has paved the way for my personal bike style. Over the past few months, I have purchased a few modern newer bikes, including a Triumph Street Triple R and more recently a Triumph Speed Triple 1050. The plan for the Speed was to be an all bells and whistles full custom build. New subframe, new analogue gauges, custom made spoked wheels, new seat, LED lighting and so much more. But, although I loved the performance of the bike, certainly compared to all the bikes I have currently owned the power was on another level and extremely addictive, but the bike never really got under my skin like the older bikes I have owned. There is just something I like about the older style bikes. I can’t say exactly what it is but I just prefer playing with the older bikes.

So after much debate, I have purchased a 1996 Triumph Thunderbird 900. It was down to 3 bikes, a Honda CB750, Yamaha XJ1300 and the T-Bird. I really wanted a CB750, because they are such iconic bikes and to be honest is an easy bike to make your own. The XJ is still on my list and will perhaps be the next build.

The Bike

Another Copart purchase this is a 1996 Triumph Thunderbird 900.

On the surface, it looks really tidy, with quite frankly shamefully insignificant damage to class it as a Category N.

After closer inspection, all that was required to make the bike roadworthy and get through an MOT was a new footpeg (£60), 2 spokes on the front wheel replacing (£20 fitted), and a headlight bracket (£5 for a temporary one, or £60 for a Triumph original). So for around £200 including a mini service and an MOT, it could safely be back on the road. Not quite sure how some of these insurance companies justify writing off vehicles so needlessly. That said, more on the condition of the bike shortly!!


Why the Thunderbird?


The bike was going to be either a sympathetic restore, cafe racer or scrambler, and yep Cafe Racer it is.

Once I started dismantling the bike it was quite clear that one or more of the previous owners had been lacking in the DIY department. Some of the electrical wirings leave much to be desired. I’m not one to call out on other peoples work, but there is more electrical tape on this bike than at an electricians convention.

The Design

I am going to try and build the bike as quickly as possible (work & life ‘stuff’ permitting) and also intentionally build it on a budget. It’s not going to be a show-stopping work of art that I don’t want to take out at every sniff of rain, it’s going to be a scrambler after all, so it’s going to get dirty, muddy and probably gain a few scratches and dents.

I plan on keeping the original bike’s style and theme. So all the chrome is staying and going to be polished up and repaired where necessary. The frame looks to be in great condition so again that will just be buffed up. The tank, well that is going to be sanded down, and see if it has had any knocks or repairs. If it is good, then it will be smoothed out and clear coated. If it had some filling then I will see if it can be pulled out, if not then I will have to choose a colour for it.

I have already started to fabricate a scrambler seat, which will be a combination of aluminium and fibreglass.

I have a set of Pirelli MT60 RS which will be going on tomorrow. Options were VERY limited for the bike due to the wheel sizes of the bike, along with a style of tyre to suit the Scrambler theme. Hopefully, the Pirellis will do. Find out tomorrow!

Updated 4th June 2019


Pirellis On.

5th June 2019

I managed to get out of work today and nipped the wheels up to my local tyre fitter (Watling Tyres) and they put on the pre-ordered Pirelli MT60RS  shoes. The tyres were a bit of a compromise, as they wouldn’t be my first choice, but these were the only matching pair I could get for the wheel sizes, 18″ front and 16″ rear. But I think they will compliment the style of the bike once its all finished.

I spent a bit of time cleaning up the front wheel. Although the chrome is pitted all over and only a re-chrome could resolve it. But it has come up very nicely with a 30-minute polish. I will have another go over it at a later date with some more intense cleaning and I’m sure they will come up amazing.

I forgot to mention. The front wheel needed 2 new spokes as they were snapped. not quite sure how that happened, but I took it to be repaired at Kents ‘goto’ spoked wheel guru, Paul at PW Wheels. Fantastic service, and extremely knowledgeable about everything wheels and spokes. He did point out that the wheel has been respoked at some stage and most probably has a different hub. The spokes appear to have been spoked wrong as they are very slightly bent as they look to be placed in the wrong holes. this could explain the broken spokes, so I will keep an eye on it in the coming months.

Weekend 1

Well, thanks to the great British Summer I couldn’t get as much done as I wanted as it p***ed down all day, and I don’t have the luxury of a garage/shed. So it was mostly polishing and sanding today. The bargain £5 purple handlebars I picked up from the Romney Marsh Autojumble were first to be sanded. Clearly, the bars are cheap and cheerful, but they are strong enough to do the job and are the perfect style I want. A good sand down then a polish and they look the part.

Next to be sanded was the handlebar mount. This is exactly why I love older bikes. The Triumph logo stamped on the bracket brings that touch of nostalgia. its that kind of touch you don’t find so much on modern bikes. Most of the chrome and stainless on the bike is pitted, marked and or scratched which is to be expected. All I intend to do is polish up as best I can. The handlebar mount has a lacquer which is heavily marked and scratched so I used some 380 then 1200 grade sandpaper to smooth it off. Then went at it with a polishing wheel. I then painted in the Triumph logo and it came up a treat. I then gave it a coat of ceramic resin. I will see if it holds up ok. If not I will give it a couple of coats of lacquer.
Next Job was to start on the forks. At some stage, they have been painted, and I believe they were polished steel from the factory. So I applied a couple of coats of paint stripper and the paint slid off. Again, the metal is quite pitted so it will require quite a lot of fine sanding before it starts to look good.
Week 2

A frustrating weekend was had with the bike and not much was completed at all.

One of the biggest issues I have always faced is the lack off workspace and no suitable bike lift. So I use what I have or make something and just get on with it. This means some tasks take that bit longer along with the occasional shouting for the better half to assist when the bike is about to fall off my homemade stands!

So this weekend was supposed to involve removing the belly pan to take a better look at the oil leak(s) coming from below. There is a leak coming from the drain plug, and it looks like the threads have been cross threaded, so the sump will need to be rebored. There is also another leak but I have not been able to get under the bike and have a proper look yet.

So it didn’t take long to see that there is one bolt that is obstructed by the frame/centre stand/rear shock. All of the other bolts seem fine but it is just the one bolt that will stop me from removing the sump. So after a few enquiries, it seems that I can remove the rear mono shock assembly which should provide room to remove the bolt. Seems like a big design fault to me but there you have it. So that is going to be next weekends job.



Triple Tree

Next job was to remove the Triple Tree. I knew that one of the bolts has snapped inside the tree, so will need to be drilled out. The problem I have is that the ignition barrel needs to be removed to be able to get the tree off. This is all part of the security setup to make it more difficult to steal the bike and replace the ignition.

The ignition has 2 sheer of bolts which need to be drilled out. The 2 bolts are directly under the ignition and fairly difficult to get at, especially with a drill, so I decided to use a Dremel and managed to slice through the bolts. Far from the ideal way of doing it but job done.

After spending way to much time on this i decided to hand it over to some guys with the proper kit, to remove the sheered off bolts, giving me more time to work on other parts of the bike.


Weekend 3

As per normal, life and other stuff have gotten in the way of the build, so I haven’t had anywhere as near much time working on the bike, so the completion date is well and truly out the window.

But as is always the case it’s not what you know its who you know. So when collecting the triple tree from Lee at Motoworks, we had a chat about the bike and he gave me the details of a local company that specialise in metal polishing. And as I have been spending a big portion of the time sanding and polishing countless parts of the bike, I decided to hand over a big portion of the bike to GS Polishing. These guys polish parts for Satellites. Satellites that go into space! So if they are good enough for them, they are definitely good enough for me. This will save me a bucket load of time to concentrate on the rest of the bike.

SO this is where I am currently at.

  • Triple Trees, Forks, Clutch Cover and Crankshaft Cover away for polishing.
  • I have started to sand the tank to assess if it has had any repairs, then decide on finish depending on condition.
  • I have removed the mono-shock, refurbished and mounted back on the bike, while I source an upgrade.
  • The sump has been removed, cleaned and sprayed black.
  • The front brake master cylinder and brake calliper have been refurbished and sprayed gloss black.
  • The hacked off remains of the centre stand have been removed
So this goes to show what 25 years of experience and being bloody good at what you do can produce. Here are the polished pieces that came back from GS Polishing. Have to say I am over the moon with the results. I could have spent countless weekends on them and still would never have come anywhere near to these results.

Only trouble is, that these parts will make all the other parts on the bike look awful, so I guess this means I will have to go full-on shiny shiny.

The Thunderbler Gallery