Too many stunning custom bikes seem to just disappear off the face of the planet as soon as they’ve been featured – bikes that you’d give your eye teeth (and any other ones required too) to own seem to vanish without trace after having their few minutes in the sun. This one, though, came back…
Pictures: Simon Everett
Back in August 2018, a gentleman by the name of Nelson Ryall was taking one of his bikes to his mate’s garage for an MoT. It’s an old-school bike workshop – messy, with bikes everywhere, but run by good people who really know their stuff. He dropped the bike there and, cup of tea in hand, went for a wander to see what was there. Leant on a wall (the side-stand’d fallen off) was one of the prettiest bikes he’d ever seen – a 750 Bonnie, basically, in a Cobra frame with a Sportster tank and a very distinctive paintjob. It was in a real state, though, basically unsafe to ride, and in a complete mess. Nelson, though, could see past all that, and he knew it was a very well put together motorcycle with great lines that just happened to have fallen on hard times. He had to have it.
A deal was done, and it duly arrived in his shed. He got it running, with the help of a couple of mates, Jonathan Foster and Andrew Hodge, and then rode it till winter arrived. It was, he says, a bit of a dog, but didn’t let him down (although he’s not sure why it didn’t), and it put a smile on his face that he hadn’t got from other bikes for a very long time – it was just great to ride, and fun!
It was at about this point that he realised that what he’d bought had a bit of history; Nelson, you see, runs Langport Bike Night down in Somerset (which is, strangely, despite its name, nowhere near the sea at all), and one evening he took the Triumph along. Even though it was still a bit of a mess at the time, it went down well, and one of the old-school chopper types, Jeremy Smith, posted a pic of it on a ’60s and ’70s chopper site on Facebook (it’s got a 1969 registration plate). Well, the site went mad, and a whole load of incredibly helpful people helped him find out about it. He didn’t know, you see, that it’d been the front cover bike of BSH issue 61 way back in May 1989, with a big write-up and centrespread, or that it was one of those rare bikes that had a Stu Garland paintjob originally. He was, as you can probably imagine, more than a little blown away by this. Okay, so it’s all a bit Trigger’s broom now, compared with the original build, but the bike’s general components are still pretty much the same, and its spirit definitely is though.
Spurred on by the knowledge, as winter came, he set about restoring the old Triumph to its former glory – much wielding of spanners etc. was undertaken (you know the score), and come early spring, it all looked and worked as it should. He reckons he’s put more than 250 hours of work into it, rebuilding and/or modifying just about everything to get it to look and work just so.
His furthest trip on it so far has been, from his native Somerset, to Avebury in Wiltshire for the Stone Circle bike show – a 140-mile round trip on a rigid, and do you know what? It wasn’t as uncomfortable as you might think. Okay, so he says it was nothing like doing similar mileage on a normal bike; he had to develop a keen eye for potholes for instance, but due to mid-mount controls (turns out to be altered Guzzi foot-pegs) even they weren’t quite as bad as they could’ve been (you can brace yourself against them). At Avebury he got the best award he’s ever received at a show – a certificate from the Wiltshire BSA club that says ‘An Outstanding Chopper’. How cool is that?!?
Since then he’s just been enjoying it; the first thing most people do on seeing it for the first time is smile (just as he did when he first saw it too), and the older ones recognise it from BSH, and he believes that says it all really. That’s the reaction he wants. It’s a proper riding machine too – genuinely fast, noisy and uncompromising, but very rewarding as well, and that’s why he likes it so much. It handles well, and the 750cc Triumph engine makes sure the power’s there, while the fully open TT ’pipes are a joy to hear when it’s running at speed – hear it running, and you’ll understand why the original feature, way back in ’89, was titled ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’…Enjoy more Back Street Heroes reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.