Old Em­pire Tri­umph T120 tested

‘ Think the new T120 Bon­neville is pretty spe­cial? Think again’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - In This Week's Issue - PHIL WEST GUEST TESTER

Cus­toms don’t come much more ex­clu­sive than this one-off com­mis­sioned by Tri­umph from Uk-based Old Em­pire Mo­tor­cy­cles and built around the T120 Bon­neville. Called, sim­ply, ‘Tri­umph’, it’s based on a stan­dard T120 Black and the re­sult is glo­ri­ous. From the one-off, un­der­slung, open pipes; hand-formed, leather side­pan­els; 1960s tank; clean and un­clut­tered han­dle­bars (there’s no switchgear, mir­rors, in­di­ca­tors or even clocks) to the ex­quis­ite paint, ev­ery­thing about it reeks class and qual­ity. And the idea is for it to in­spire buy­ers to cre­ate their own spe­cials - ideally around Tri­umph’s ever-ex­pand­ing ac­ces­sories range. As such you’ll be able to ad­mire it on Tri­umph’s stand at Mo­tor­cy­cle Live at the NEC.

Alec Sharp, OEM’S founder, told MCN they had no spe­cific brief but that the idea was to ap­ply a “Steve Mcqueen, ISDT, Onany­sun­day type off-road style – but with­out com­pro­mis­ing prac­ti­cal­ity too much.” So, al­though min­i­mal­ist, it qual­i­fies for a day­time MOT.

So it’s got: stock T120 Black wire wheels on Met­zeler Sa­hara knob­blies; re-fin­ished Tri­umph calipers and discs with clev­erly hid­den master cylin­der; one-off nose cowl­ing; Ren­thal Fat­bars with OEM’S own switch­less levers; one­off tank re­mod­elled from a 1960s T120 item with OEM’S ma­chined, screw-in filler cap; stan­dard T120 en­gine but with ‘OEM’ name plates and one-off, AC Co­bra-in­spired open twin stain­less pipes; re­con­fig­ured in­jec­tor bod­ies com­plete with bell­mouths to repli­cate 1960s open carbs; hand-formed leather side­pan­els and quilted leather sad­dle; cus­tomised, multi-ad­justable Fox twin shocks; ‘chopped and looped’ rear sub­frame and more. Got all that? Phew!

But al­though, ad­mit­tedly, con­ceived mostly for form rather than func­tion and built pri­mar­ily for show, not go, this wouldn’t be a First Ride and it couldn’t truly be con­sid­ered a mo­tor­cy­cle if we didn’t see how it went – and boy, it does that im­pres­sively well, too.

On board OEM’S cre­ation re­minds of a slim­mer Bon­nie, thanks to the new tank and seat, yet one with a slight scram­bler style, due to the Fat­bars. Then with no switchgear and clocks, let alone mir­rors and in­di­ca­tors, you’re briefly flum­moxed (al­though I rode it with Alec’s iphone clipped on which, via a Blue­tooth-synched app OEM are de­vel­op­ing, dis­plays a ‘Smiths’ tacho and speedo – clever).

I needn’t have wor­ried: turn the con­ven­tional ig­ni­tion key (which is hid­den be­hind the bars), reach down with your left hand to the brass knob mounted into the leather side­panel and pull – and it in­stantly fires into a ca­coph­ony of open pipe noise. Yes, it’s a pro­ce­dure that sounds a lit­tle Heath Robin­son and, in truth, it is. But it is some­how charm­ingly bril­liant.

And after that it’s sur­pris­ingly con­ven­tional. The T120 mo­tor is as ur­gent as ever with its raw plea­sure height­ened by the vi­cious ex­haust noise. The mostly-un­changed chas­sis is pre­dictable and neu­tral, al­beit with a slightly firmer ride (thanks to the Fox shocks and thin­ner sad­dle). The front brake is a touch dull (due to the re­mote mas­ter­cylin­der be­ing op­er­ated by a ca­ble from the lever); yet even the knob­bly tyres (and I’m more crit­i­cal than most about ‘cos­metic’ tyres on the road) were up to the job. In short: I had a blast.

‘It sounds a lit­tle Heath Robin­son, but the OEM bike is also charm­ingly bril­liant’

Very far from your nor­mal Tri­umph but it’s been built for the guys from Hinck­ley and is in­tended to in­spire own­ers

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.