Desert Bonnie: Triumph Bonneville Black

Desert Bonnie

A “Bonnie Desert Sled” from Old Tops Garage x Atlantic Custom Studio…  

For many of us, the golden days of 1960s California desert racing remain one of the most romantic and defining periods of motorcycling culture. We’re talking about the days of 500-rider mass starts when riders like Malcolm Smith and Steve McQueen went racing across the sand and scrub on modified Triumph, Norton, and BSA desert sleds with high pipes, bash plates, and cross-country saddles — machines that really did “sled” their way through sandy washes and bound over dunes and arroyos.

1954 Triumph Desert Sled: Motorcycle Classics

It’s a scene captured in Bruce Brown’s seminal film On Any Sunday — required watching for any motorcycle enthusiast. Our friend Fábio Astolpho of Brazil’s Old Tops Garage has long been obsessed with these British-American Bonneville ‘sleds of lore. He’s a man whose builds often incorporate classic designs, such as his Honda CB900F Bol d’Or we featured last year, but this Bonneville build would be a bit different — a more modern bike that would take design cues from the 1960s.

Racing Gold: Honda CB900F Bol d’Or Superbike

Fabio has actually owned this 2006 Bonneville Black for 15 years, and the project would be unique in the way it was carried out.

“One day, in a chat with Fred from Atlantic Custom, he suggested we do a project with this bike. It was looking pretty plain and deserved a makeover, but I was like, ‘Maybe not. I prefer coming up with ideas and building stuff myself, I won’t be a good client.’ So he got my point and suggested we work together on it, like a collab, as a team. So I agreed, and we started working on it.”

Desert Bonnie

Many workshops run in the other direction when the bike owner/client wants to be involved in the design and build process, but not Atlantic Custom. Then again, Fabio isn’t the regular client, as he has several builds already under his belt and has worked well with other partners to realize his visions.

Desert Bonnie

The idea here wasn’t to create a true desert sled, but to take ideas from those vintage racing machines and incorporate them into a modern(ish) bike that would remain a great rider and commuter. Some of the modifications include the desert sled-style front fender, custom rear hoop and fender and saddle, engine guard and custom-made 2-into-1 exhaust, custom sprocket guard and ignition relocation, and new handlebars, gauges, and LED lighting — all with custom mounts.

“A good chunk of this parts were designed in 3D and made from CNC-machined aluminum or 3D printing. It’s got that vintage vibe, but we’ve used a ton of tech to get there.”

Desert Bonnie

All in all, this is a well-balanced, highly detailed Bonneville that remains a great daily rider while harking back to the golden days of California desert-sledding, and Fabio is especially grateful to Atlantic Custom Studio for being open to such a collaboration.

Below, we talk to Fabio for more details on the build, and credit goes to Leandro Cotes for the photos and Pedro Sinder for the film work.

Desert Bonnie: Builder Interview

Desert Bonnie

• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.

I am an advertising professional, and my main job has always been art direction. My involvement with motorcycles goes back to my childhood, as my father had a couple of bikes and so did some of my cousins (in fact, it was with one of them that I learned how to ride). I have always liked vintage motorcycles with classic designs, probably because I grew up around them. When I built my first customized motorcycle (a 1973 CB 750K), I understood the possibility that I had to apply my experience and knowledge of art direction and design to something permanent, unlike the advertising campaigns I do, which have a short lifespan.

I design and plan everything, but I don’t execute. For that, I have some carefully chosen partners who bring my ideas to life. This bike was made with Atlantic Custom Studio and we’ve worked as real partners on the project.

• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?

It’s a 2006 Triumph Bonneville Black (a carb one).

Desert Bonnie

• Why was this bike built?

I’ve had this bike for 15 years now. And, like I’ve said before, I’ve always customized my own bikes my way. One day, in a chat with Fred from Atlantic Custom, he suggested we do a project with this bike. It was looking pretty plain and deserved a makeover, but I was like, “Maybe not. I prefer coming up with ideas and building stuff myself, I won’t be a good client.” So he got my point and suggested we work together on it, like a collab, as a team. So I agreed, and we started working on it.

Desert Bonnie

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

I’ve always been obsessed with the old American Bonneville scene. You know, that time of desert sleds in the California deserts, Steve McQueen, and all that cool style — it’s always grabbed my attention. So that’s where we started.

Desert Bonnie

• What custom work was done to the bike?

This bike is all about the details, a lot of them inspired by the desert sleds era. So, the bike’s got a wider handlebar with a crossbar, new mirrors, a mini Daytona speedometer (with a custom mount).

Desert Bonnie

Engine guard with fog light, specially made 2:1 exhaust, rear loop, custom-built seat and rear fender, all-new LED lighting including turn signals, taillight, and a vintage headlight (all with custom mounts), custom chain guard and sprocket, and relocation of the ignition and rectifier.

Desert Bonnie

A good chunk of this parts were designed in 3D and made from CNC-machined aluminum or 3D printing. It’s got that vintage vibe, but we’ve used a ton of tech to get there.

• Does the bike have a nickname?

Bonnie Desert Sled (we know it’s not a complete a desert sled but…who cares).

• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?

The bike’s got the original 790cc engine, never been opened up. But we’ve put in bigger carb jets and a sport air filter. Plus, we’ve shed about 15 to 20 kilos off its weight.

Desert Bonnie

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?

The bike definitely got nimbler and more responsive. The combo of the new tires, wider handlebars, and shedding weight made it a blast to ride.

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

In my opinion, the front and rear of the bike look way different from how they started out, but they bring a ton of lightness and balance to the whole deal. I’m really stoked about it. And I bet for Fred, the rear is the real showstopper.

• Is there anyone you’d like to thank?

I want to give a huge shoutout to Fred and the entire crew at Atlantic Customs for their fantastic collaboration. Taking on this project as a collab rather than a typical client job shows their commitment to teamwork and innovation. Not to mention, diving into a style that’s a bit different from their usual work really showcases their versatility and skill. Much appreciated, guys!

Follow the Builders

@oldtopsgarage
@atlanticcustomstudio
@leandrocotes (photos)
@pedrosinder (film)

One Comment

  1. Another awesome bike from a very best of brazilians builders: Atlantic Custom Studio!

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