“I’m just going to back off and let you build the bike you want – I trust your vision.” Wow, what builder wouldn’t love to hear those words come from their client? Fortunately for Rob Chappell of Origin8or Cycles, that happens more frequently than not. And why wouldn’t it? If you’ve ever seen some of Rob’s creations, you would know he’s an artist when it comes to building motorcycles, and this 1969 Triumph Bonneville T120R is no exception.
It all started in January 2015 when a client of Rob’s reached out to him to take a look at a 69 Bonnie, for sale, online. At first glance, the bike looked intact and most importantly, all original. As Rob recalls, the owner was very attached to this motorcycle because it was just like the one his Dad used to have. But like all things mechanical, although sentimental, they’re great until it begins to become a headache. Other than riding it all summer, the owner had no clue how to wrench on the darn thing or to even maintain it. Subsequently, due to a gunked-up Mikuni carburetor, messed up wiring, a rusty tank inside and out, and a slew of other issues to be discovered later, the bike wouldn’t even start. So it was an easy buy for Rob if there ever was one. If only the owner knew what was to become of his beloved Bonnie! The result would be unrecognizable.
There were a few discussions between the client and Rob about the details concerning the design, style, and stance of the bike. The final direction was quickly determined and approved by the client. Hence the “I’m just going to back off” quote by the client. It was time to get to work. The bike was thoroughly stripped down, and all the parts were analyzed, catalogued and where possible, for reuse later on in the building process. As Rob puts it, “The bike is now wearing a moto-iron 4-inch under springer along with a 21-inch wheel from TC Bros. Lucas from Factory Metal Works supplied the 4-inch stretch, 2-inch drop bolt on rear hard tail and a custom vertical oil tank, Wassell peanut tank, rear fender, exhaust and other small items. Bars, clamps, cables, etc. came from LowBrow Customs, and the cool chain tensioner is a Monster Craftsman item. “I had my brother Chris over at Tuffside seats in Vegas stitch up the custom tweed and leather seat. The stock 19-inch rear wheel was retained, and to match the narrow look of the bike, I opted for some Metzeler Lazertec’s.”
When it came to the engine, looks can be deceiving. There was a massive vibration at speed, and when Rob had the bottom end torn apart, he discovered the issue at hand and why it was so far out of balance. A previous owner had done a terrible back-yard balancing job on the crank with irregular welds, here and there, like a bad patch job. Thus the crank had to be sent to a local engine shop for proper balancing repairs. Rob also honed the cylinders and added new rings and a complete gasket and seal kit. Other work needed on the bike was new plumbing lines, manifolds and 930 Amal’s mounted and connected in place of the Mikuni’s. For the electrical, a Tri-Spark electronic ignition was added along with a 200watt stator, high output coil, new plugs and wires and complete custom harness.
As for the look of the bike, the client did have a request for Rob. He wanted the colour orange in a candy metallic finish on the build of the bike. By the time Rob had completed all the fabrication work on the frame, mounts and cable routes, it was around mid-February – deep freeze time in the dead of winter. Having had enough of the harsh weather, Rob was daydreaming of California when the idea came upon him. He decided to have the entire bike painted white, like the brutal snow and wind howling outside his shop. Then show a warm sunrise in gold and orange revealing sunspots on the top, symbolizing the summer he was dreaming of at that very moment. Thus the name of the bike: “California Dreaming.” The paint job was beautifully executed by Mat Tobin from Jensen’s Customs in Whitby, Ontario. Incidentally, California Dreaming is the first bike built by Rob on which he did not do the paint job himself. As evident in the photos, it looks spectacular and as Rob would say, “Mat knocked it out of the park!”
In the end, not many original parts were kept and used in the transformation. But in a quirky twist, the panther tail light, which the owner swears is original from that era, was one of the few things worth keeping for the final build. That’s about the only element that is recognizable from whence the build started. With a cheeky smile, Rob would jokingly say “Maybe the old owner will see this bike and recognize it?”