This concept café racer doesn't come from Triumph's deservedly famous in-house design studio, and it's not the work of a custom bike builder. It's a project by two young English designers, Roy Norton and Tom Kasher, based on the Triumph Bonneville - and that's a story by itself.
Norton and Kasher came up with the idea - and the first sketches - for “a bike taking retro themes in a modern direction” during their final term at Northumbria University; it was actually their thesis project, and the final renderings were good enough to land them an internship at the Xenophya motorcycle design studio.
FULL-SIZE CONCEPT BIKE
But first prize was still to build a full-size concept bike, so they contacted Triumph product manager Simon Warburton, who was so impressed with their proposal that he wrote a brief asking for “a bike based around our 865cc air-cooled parallel twin, styled to appeal to younger riders.”
What he wanted, he said, was to see “the bike the Bonneville might have evolved into, in an alternative universe”.
He not only gave them a Bonneville as the basis for the project, he had the Hinckley white-coats help them create a 'digital tape' - an image of the bike from the side that allows the design to be checked against physical parameters such as seat height and ergonomics (will it be rideable?), fuel tank capacity (will it have the range to get from one fuel pump to the next?) and physical constraints (will the engine fit?).
TRUE CAFE RACER STYLE
Norton and Kasher said the factory “provided huge amounts of support and guidance through the design stage,” to make sure the resulting bike would be feasible, that it would run and even that it could be made street legal.
The standard Bonneville frame was chopped off and a whole new rear cradle and subframe (very short and cobby in true café racer style) was fabricated and welded into place, at the same time creating an upper mounting point for a monoshock rear-suspension conversion.
The front suspension was also ditched, this time in favour of a modern take on the old-fashioned girder fork, all sleek, tapered lines and crisp edges, with a single, central damper and very short links.
The seat and handlebar grips are finished in waterproof fabric (supplied by British bikewear specialists Barbour), while the fuel cap and instrumentation were specially made for the bike.
LEARNING NEW SKILLS
Then the basic mock-up, with its furniture made mostly from polystyrene foam and clay, was moved from the university workshops to Xenophya, where it was shaped, moulded, smoothed and spraypainted into what you see here, complete with Firestone tyres, Triumph Thruxton brakes and 1930's style inverted levers.
Everybody has been pleased with the result; Warburton said: “The bike looks great and there are some elements of it that may have an influence on some of our future projects.”
Kasher feels they've achieved what they set out to, “and we've learned new skills”, while Norton said working alongside Triumph had been a fantastic experience.
“It has given us an insight into working within the motorcycle industry at the highest level.”
Xenophya were also impressed; Norton and Kasher are now working there full-time, so we can look forward to seeing their fresh thinking and elegant engineering on future projects from this young design house.