TRIUMPH T150 TRITON ‘You could spend hours looking at this bike’
If you want power from an old British bike you buy a Trident. Never mind that it was a stop-gap design to turn a twin into a multi, and is therefore heavy, over-complicated and frankly daft; these days you can get all that sorted at Brentford’s P&M Motorcycles.
Owner Jim Hodges asked them to throw everything at his engine: 850cc machined-from-solid barrels, forged Omega pistons, Carillo rods, a cross-drilled and balanced crank, Megacycle 51135 cams, a gas-flowed head with central 10mm plug conversion, hardened exhaust valve seats, plasma nitrided valves, high capacity Morgo oil pump and Pazon ignition. The result is 80-85bhp, no oil leaks after three years and the most dramatic power delivery you can imagine: all revs and vibes, threshing pistons and howling exhaust. With the Bob Newby clutch and belt primary drive the powerplant is 10kg lighter than stock.
The incredible three-into-three exhaust was made by Shropshire custom house Metal Malarkey, lightly modified, and finished with F1-spec satin black Zircotec. Staffordshire fabrication house Made in Metal did (among many exquisite details) the aluminium seat unit, which hinges up to reveal a superbly finished custom wiring job by Geoff Chilton. Clocks are new Smith Chronometrics, while the magnesium yokes, forks and the front brake come from Molnar.
And before you rush to judge it as a cheque book special bear in mind that Jim, a design engineer, made many of the machined parts on his Warco lathe and mill. He also used a lifetime of riding Brit bikes to design the function of the entire build; from the position of the engine in the Featherbed frame, to the invisible rear brake switch, and the single-cable throttle system which combines a light action with an unheard-off tickover from the racespec Amal carbs.
In fact you could spend hours looking at this bike, gradually realising why little details are the way they are. “All that nonsense under the tank (Jim waves a hand towards the immaculate arrangement of ignition coils and CNCmachined head steady) – nobody sees that. But I know it’s there. It was P&M who put me onto the fact that it needs a lateral head steady, and not just an inline one. So I designed something which allowed access to the plugs and used rose joints so it was adjustable, and exact.”
Although the little black-and-white Triton uses the same Featherbed frame as the T150, it feels completely different: darting, sweet-steering, fastturning. Obviously it’s lighter than the triple, but it’s also got an inch shorter swingarm, and less rake. “The Norton forks looked too long, so I made a spacer under the top yoke to take up the length,” says Jim. “That had the effect of steepening the head angle a little.”
Jim is convinced of the link between good design and good function. “Ask a child to draw an aeroplane and they’ll draw a DC10. Ask them to draw a house and it’ll be Edwardian. With a bike, if it’s built properly and looks good it should work well.”
The last part of the little Triton’s agility is the tiny tank. It came with the jalopy donor bike, but to start with was the usual five gallons. Jim got Made in Metal’s Neil Adams to lower it, and fabricate an aluminium seat unit to suit. It gives the bike a feeling of almost total freedom from bulk – but there is a snag. “It’s got a range of about 30 miles!” admits Jim. “It’s down to the shape of the underneath, and where the petrol taps are. It’s only about a gallon and a half anyway, and it runs out when it’s still a quarter full. So I’m going to get Neil to do another version, about three and a half gallons.” Like the existing tank, the new one will be mounted with rubber bobbins rather than the traditional dodgy strap.
Most of the detailing comes from the big Triton: double gearbox adjusters for accuracy and stability; milled footrest brackets; engine sprocket as close as possible to the swingarm spindle to minimise chain tension variations; a hinged seat unit; and another Geoff Chilton custom loom, this time hiding inside the frame tubes: “You just pull the wires through with welding rods,” says Jim.
together with every single nut and bolt replated. Then I was out on it somewhere and someone said, ‘The plating’s wrong. It should be cadmium.’ And I thought: ‘I can’t be bothered with all this’. At the time I had a handful of British bikes so I went about changing all of them from standard, in subtle ways.” John Jones “I rode them since I was 15. I thought Japanese bikes were crap. We used to think they were made of scrap American cars. My mates were on RD250S, which were fantastic and really quick, while I was on my 500 Triumph and couldn’t get it running right.”
Why stick with drum brakes and old forks?
John Jones “Where do you stop? It’s a slippery slope, so you’ve got to persevere. Otherwise, why not put a Honda engine in, because it has electric start and is totally reliable? So you just love them. If I was commuting I’d have a Honda. In fact, I did have a Honda.” Thanks P&M Motorcycles: 0208 847 1711 Andy Molnar: manx.co.uk Geoff Chilton: 07872 995934, madeinmetalltd.co.uk www.zircotec.com malarkeyengineering.co.uk The Bridge Bakehouse in Whaley Bridge