You could hardly call it beginner’s luck when, at the first time of entering, Lindsay Young took the runners-up spot in Built in Britain with Carole Nash with his stunningly reworked Bonneville.
For not only is the talented Scot a mechanical engineer by trade, he’s been fiddling with bikes since a young boy and has previously modified a series of sports bikes. But the Bonnie was, he says, his first true custom project.
Sports Bikes to Classic Triumph Machine
So why did 52-year-old Lindsay make the leap from sports bikes to the classic Triumph machine? “I guess as you get older the thrill of super-fast sports bikes wanes and the natural progression is to something more sedate, but it still needs to have street cred and be fun to ride” he explains. “I did initially think of some sort of café racer but there are so many of them around, it’s all been done before many times over. I wanted to do something a bit different and unique so my thoughts turned towards a retro-style minimalist street-rod or streetfighter.
“I also definitely wanted to do something British which had the quintessential British engine – the parallel twin. In the end I narrowed it down to either a Triumph Bonneville or a Thunderbird 1600. As it was to be my first true ground-up custom I decided to go for the Bonneville option as it ultimately would be simpler, cheaper to learn on and easier to do.”
Finding a donor bike
With decision made it was time to find a donor bike; a task which proved pretty easy as a mate had a 2003 bought-from-new model in good nick and with barely 3k on the clock. It was time, then, to get to work and, it seems, test the patience of Lindsay’s better half, Lesley. “My wife nicknamed me ‘Garageman’ due to the amount of time I spent out there. I really must thank her here for all her excellent dinners that went stone cold due to me doing ‘just one last thing’!”
So what went on in that garage over ten bike-building months as Lesley’s culinary creations chilled? “Most of the work was fairly straight forward, just very time consuming” says Lindsay, “I managed to do all the work myself with the exception of the complete rewiring, the engine bore out and the final Dyno tune. The rewiring was caused by just about every electrical component being moved to create the minimalist look I was after. I had started it and was getting there technically but it looked like a dog’s breakfast so decided to get it done by a pro and I’m so glad I did!”
A custom wheels challenge
The biggest challenge, it turns out, was presented not in that dinner-ducking garage – but in getting those striking custom wheels built. “This should have been fairly straight forward as the rim and hub centre line don’t change even if you go for a wider rim, but it turned into a five-month nightmare with me eventually having to use two suppliers. The second took three attempts at it and in the end I was telling them how to set the wheels up!”
He admits too that the bike started to consume him as the build progressed. “The project grew arms and legs as it went along. Ohlins shocks, bigger wheels, four pot Brembo front brake with 335mm disc and so on, but once I had found out about them I just had to have them on the bike.”
It is perhaps telling then that his one bit of advice for those set to follow in his footsteps that “the important thing is to know exactly what you want to do before you start out. Changing direction in mid-build not only wastes a lot of time but costs a bloody fortune.”
He acknowledges too that whilst the Bonnie is most definitely his baby he’s happily accepted input from a pal. “I’ve got a very good mate, Alan, who’s into Harleys – I can just about forgive him that as he gave me some excellent ideas! His best two were the 36” flatbars and convincing me not to completely chop off the rear of the sub-frame, just behind the shocks.”
A proud moment
With the bike now complete and able to be pre-fixed with the phrase “award-winning” is there anything he’s particularly proud of? “I think I achieved the minimalist street-rod look I set out to get so I’m very happy about that. Also creating a Bonneville with some top quality components, matched with real performance and handling as it now has fifty percent more power than stock and the brakes are phenomenal.” He casually adds: “Oh yes, and the splitting an 8 ball accurately without any specialist equipment!”
His pride naturally enough also extends to performing so well in Built in Britain at the first time of asking; an achievement which appears to have caught him by surprise. “There were some cracking bikes in the finals and I really didn’t think I’d get any further in the competition once I’d made the last twelve – I was a bit stunned on achieving even that. Getting the news that I had made it to runner-up just blew me away. Thanks so much to all those who voted for my Bonnie, I really appreciate it and well chuffed that you like my bike!
Earning a display slot at Motorcycle Live as part of his prize also seems to have messed with his mind, albeit in a good way. “It feels a bit surreal actually. You always think these shows are just for the latest and greatest bikes from all the top manufacturers and pro-builders, definitely not for my little ole ‘homemade’ Bonnie.
“Just making the top twelve and into the Carole Nash calendar was ‘winning’ enough for me and my ultimate goal. That’s all this year’s Christmas presents sorted!”