Not a Desert Sled: Street-legal vintage Triumph motocrosser!
In 1963, the Triumph T120 Bonneville received an all-new 650cc unit-construction engine — it was lighter, stronger, easier to build/maintain, and remains one of motorcycling history’s best-looking engines. These “Unit-Construction” Bonnevilles replaced the “Pre-unit” models of 1959-62 and lasted until the advent of the “Oil-in-Frame” machines in 1971.
These days, most of the dirt-centric vintage Triumphs we see are desert sleds, built in the tradition of Steve McQueen, Bud Ekins, and other California desert racers of the 1960s. However, our new friend Duane Cannon of Roseburg, Oregon, decided to take a different tack with the ’67 Bonneville Scrambler you see here — and we’re damn happy he did. Duane and his friend Kevin Barrett set out to build a true motocross bike from an old Triumph, working out of Duane’s home garage:
“We tried to keep it AHMRA vintage motocross legal, with a focus on simplicity. It’s street legal, adding to the challenge. Between us, we came up with this.”
Duane’s buddy Kevin for not only helped with the build itself, but also the design. The pair really wanted the bike to be as period-correct as possible, with a focus on simplicity.
It was a full frame-up restoration, stripped down to the bare necessities. A nickel-plated stock frame, single-carb head, Husky triple clamps, Tomaselli levers, S&W shocks, custom stainless exhaust, custom skidplate, and zero chrome:
“BRG [British Racing Green] tank is the only color, everything else is either black or polished. Custom seat pan and upholstery, lots of custom fabrication bits. Built like a true motocross bike, we wanted to avoid the standard desert sled look. Strictly business.”
Duane says the build took 2.5 years and way too much money, but was worth every minute and every dime. The bike is light for what it is and handles great, which leaves only one question:
“The show bike quandary; do I ride it or not?”
We say, “Ride it, Duane!” Below, we get the full details and specs on the build, as well as more gorgeous shots from Duane’s daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Larew. And, if you want to see this beauty in person, Duane’s just learned that the bike has been accepted into The One Moto Show this coming April 30 – May 2 — congrats, guys!
Triumph Bonneville 650 Motocross: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Duane Cannon, and I live in Roseburg, Oregon. I work out of my garage, just as a hobby. I like interesting old bikes, and bringing them back to life. My latest project is a 1981 Honda CBX1000, which I had to do mainly to hear the sound of an F1 engine howling underneath me. I’ve had too many bikes to list, but a couple of my favorites were a 1997 Moto Guzzi Sport 1100i, and a pair of early Honda trials bikes. Even had a Yamaguchi once.
The Triumph and the Honda share the garage with a 2006 Porsche Boxster S, and a friend’s Norton Commando lives out back in a shed with my Honda CRF250L.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1967 Triumph Bonneville 650.
• Why was this bike built?
This was just a personal project. I’ve always wanted to build a show bike and I like old Triumphs, so here we are. It took me 2 ½ years, and way too much money. Worth every minute and every dime.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The goal was to build a true motocross bike out of an old Triumph. My friend Kevin Barrett helped with the design and kept the focus on staying period correct. We tried to keep it AHMRA vintage motocross legal, with a focus on simplicity. It’s street legal, adding to the challenge. Between us, we came up with this.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Early Husqvarna triple clamps, forks and hub. Renthal bars, Tomaselli levers. Polished aluminum fenders. Custom headlight. Commando taillight and bracket. Nickel-plated stock Triumph frame. Custom vintage oil tank. Single carb head for better throttle response.
S&W rear shocks. Vintage cleated pegs mated to original Triumph arms. New Church Moto did the upholstery on a seat pan I built. Custom stainless exhaust with SuperTrapps. Custom skid plate. Chain tensioner. Everything is powder-coated black, or polished aluminum or stainless. We didn’t want any chrome. Stock fuel tank, British Racing Green with hand lettered logo. Brakes were set up by Michael at Vintage Brake.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Nope. I’ve never thought about naming it. Maybe I’ll have a contest.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
I’ve only ridden it briefly, and it was great. Light for what it is, handling was good. Small front brake, so no stoppies. The show bike quandary; do I ride it or not?
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
All of the detail work and the small things that go unnoticed. The fork stop was a challenge, and the seat pan. Cleaning up the factory castings and blending them in. I’m proud of the final result, and wouldn’t change anything.
My daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Larew, is a professional photographer and took the photos. She did a great job.