If you could go into the future to see which motorcycles would become classics you could make a hell of a fortune; if I had a DeLorean and some Plutonium I’d give it a try. Those who’d picked up Honda CX500s or BMW R series bikes for pocket change are now cleaning up and if you’d mothballed a Z1, a K0 or a CBX you can now add an extra zero to what you paid for it. Of course it’s never that easy or we’d all be rich but with Triumph going from strength to strength the early Hinckley Trumpets could be one of the future classics to keep an eye on. Fresh from their Ducati Scrambler success at World Ducati Week Russell Motorcycles are back with an old friend, a 1998 Triumph Speed Triple, that’s now a retro racer.
Main man at Russell Motorcycles Eduardo Iglesias must have known Triumph were on to a good thing when the Speed Triple was released as he picked this one up nearly new in 2000. Before the current era of super nakeds had even arrived the Speed Triple was part of a new line-up of Triumphs that were getting the company back in the black. But after a few years of thrashing the tasty triple around he sold it to riding buddy Alberto who has been part of the original riding crew before the company was even conceived. He’s been blasting it around himself, always with half an idea to do something a little different with it. “Ever since he has been waiting the chance to remake it. This past summer, he had a crash with it so he came to me and said: “do whatever you want with it, freestyle!” explains Ed. So freestyle he did and Ed and Dani started to draw up plans of exactly what direction to take and when they settled on retro racer they were pot committed.
It makes a lot of sense on a crashed bike that has largely received only cosmetic damage, to replace the body work or leave it off altogether. Simply to fit up standard fairings again would seem a waste to any true customiser and it wasn’t a path the boys ever considered. With all the busted bits removed and the trellis frame fully exposed the rear subframe was ditched for a new item. Fabricated in-house it bolts to the factory mounts but is raised in height to give a more aggressive racer look and still allow for the battery and electronics to be hidden beneath. The frame was checked to ensure it hadn’t suffered any stress fractures in the crash and once given a clean bill of health the new subframe was bolted on and the whole lot painted black. Then it was time to start making moulds for the full array of fibreglass body work to give the bike that retro look. The tail section was the first piece created and the lines are straight from the ’70s GP paddock with a faint resemblance to the Kawasaki’s of Mick Grant.
With the stock tank still in good condition and containing all the pieces for the engine’s fuel injection it made sense to keep it on the bike, so the tail-piece comes all the way to where the tank meets the frame. The front end at first glance is not dissimilar to many of the fairings you see from the period but this one-off piece has a few tricks up its sleeve. First it had to be designed to work with the Triumph’s parameters to allow for easy bolt up and steering that was free to move lock to lock. Plus being a bike designed for the street, Ed made the two openings that allow the fitment of a pair of twin headlights that give the classic Le Mans enduro styling. But it’s the Triumph’s smile that gives this Speed Triple a unique touch; mounted right at the front and out in the cold air, the oil cooler takes pride of place and has been given a subtle black grille to help keep the stones from punching a hole in its guts.
With the glass out of the moulds it was time to lay down the paint and it’s here that a race look bike can really be won or lost. Thankfully like all their builds this is an area where Russell Motorcycles excels and if Triumph had fielded a factory team in the period this could well have been their colours. The lime green is the original colour of the Speed Triple and was the hue that grabbed all the attention when the model was released, so cleverly this has been retained. Broken up with bold blocks of black and white the colours are separated with razor-sharp lines in all three colours for a more intricate take on basic pinstriped race graphics. “The words it has in the fuel tank “lo que ves es lo que hay” is a tattoo Alberto has on his leg that means “what you see is what you get” and the number seven is also another tattoo that he has in memory of Raul the soccer player of Real Madrid.”
But what really gets the rider going, why Ed bought the bike in the first place and gave Triumph such a financial boost is that high-compression, fuel injected, big bore triple engine. The very first ride had MCN fawning “There’s nothing on earth quite like the fruity and fast second generation Triumph triple. As you might hope, this layout is a happy compromise between the easy, flexible torque of a twin and the free revving power of a four.” With the factory muffler destroyed in the crash it was the perfect excuse for Ed to fit up a GP style rear can that gives the Triumph the throat it deserves to let the world hear that triple scream. To add a little more racing feel to Alberto’s experience the traditional handlebars have also been changed over to clip-ons to give a more sporty riding position. With the stock instrument cluster hiding behind the new Perspex screen all the information the rider needs is available and a set of adjustable levers with lime green clickers is a neat touch.
To keep things road legal for his mate so that he can join them on every cruise Ed made sure to fit up minimalist turn signals front and rear, with a dual tail light setup a racers touch in the bid for street legality. For the Russell Motorcycles team the reaction of the customer is everything. “You see that the bike is really personal and we are very proud that he is clear he is not going to sell it” with Alberto more than happy to confirm that fact “There may be others, but this one will never go…” Now all that’s left to do is contemplate whether Russell Motorcycles have shown the potential of the early Speed Triples to be a future classic, to me it’s a definite yes and I’ve already opened the classifieds in hope of that unicorn like low KM, one lady owner example that must be out there!