9 Aug 2012

Magnificent Triumph custom seen in San Francisco

I was walking around the city centre here in San Francisco, where I am spending a couple of days on a touring (and unhappily bikeless) holiday along the North-West coast of the USA, when I spotted a pretty sharp looking bike parked just outside the Wells Fargo agency by Union Square. It was chained up to a post and parked in a line of bikes with a rather beat-up Suzuki V-twin just behind it, so it was hard to take any decent pictures, but I just had to take a closer look, and here is what I saw...

Although I love bikes and write a bit about them, I freely confess to not being a specialist in the terminology for various forms of customised bikes. This particular machine may well be what is known as a "bobber". Pretty stupid name for a bike in my opinion anyway, but there it goes. Why a "bobber"? Why not a "fobber" or a "lobber"? In any event, the basis would seem to be a Triumph Bonneville, maybe of the 1970's, but then I am not a Triumph specialist. On taking a closer look, I found myself in considerable admiration of the quality of craftsmanship that has gone ito this bike, bar perhaps a couple of details that jarred a bit esthetically. Let's have a closer look...

So the rear view tells us that the bike is low and narrow, that the bars look quite flat and uncluttered, that there is a funny thing sticking out on the right-hand side of the engine, that there is a side-mounted rear light and that the frame has no suspension, with the neat little leather seat just lightly sprung (I wouldn't like to ride this thing fast through the San Francisco streets with all them hills and bumps!).

A peek around the starboard side of the bike shows that this funny thing sticking out on the right of the engine must be some form of electronic ignition, since the ignition wires run from it to the plugs. But why the hell is it so bulky and sited out there? Also that the exhaust pipes seem to be straight through with no silencers! Maybe this guy owns Wells Fargo and therefore can get away with the racket the bike must make? Maybe he has some other secret?  And what is that can under the neat but hard seat? Looks like an oil tank of some kind. Open Amals with just wire mesh on the bellmouths and no front mudguard. Ok, a bike for fine weather only. But well cleaned up and with some special pieces, it would seem. Let's get in even closer....

Well, that big ignition thingie is definitely a pity, but whoever has worked on the engine has otherwise done some nice work, at least on the outside. Everything looks clean and polished and there are nice details. Perhaps the exhaust exit sticks out a bit far before it takes a curve, but that is a matter of taste.

Now to the back end. Hard-tail frame, which must have come from a much older bike or have been specially made. Neat rear mudguard and black wheel rims and the seat looks good and fits in well, even if I would not want to ride the thing too far. The oil can under the seat is ingenious, all in aluminium and finned for cooling. Not sure that I would want to be sitting precisely above the exhausts exits though, especially in a town.

And so up to the sharp end. Very nice work here. Headlamp, bars, levers, front fork and tees all seem simple and harmonious and yet show plenty of attention to detail. Especially the tees, which are quite beautiful. No rear-view mirror though. Does the guy have one on his helmet?

More of the same, only it shows the forks better. They don't look like they come from aTriumph. A Harley perhaps? Plenty of those about here.

And the front brake is a drum, maybe a late Triumph Meriden item, unless it is a UK afterfit from one of those special parts people like Rickman. Don't know but it looks nice.

And the area on the other side of the rear end, with that natty little rear light and plate. They seem to be able to get away with many things on this side of the pond! But the bike is not going to get away in a hurry, what with being tied up like this in front of Wells Fargo, not to mention...

Being hemmed in by Brinks. I had no idea that this bike was so valuable!

All-in-all a great looking bike. Would love to hear it and ride it, and then maybe change a few tings to make me want to ride it more often and for longer spells. But maybe that isn't the point of these things after all?


  1. Bobber = American slang for cutting down or shortening

    e.g. - I ' bobbed ' the fenders on my bike today .


    She's gotten a ' bobbed ' hair style ( short hair cut )

    Hence a ' bobbed ' fendered bike became known as a ' Bobber '

    What can I say ? We've all got our idioms and some of them stick for a lifetime ;-)

  2. Thanks for the explanation GS. You habe enlightened me. Nice bike, don't you think?

  3. Why yes it is good sir ..... why yes it is . Mighty fine post as well about the blues club as well on your part ;-)

  4. All dialects are cute.
    But some dialects are more cute than others.
    Comrade Léon thinks American dialects are weird in the sense that “mainstream American” is already a dialect.
    So, American dialects are dialects to the second power.
    Get me, brother ?