Buffed: A Muscular Bonneville T120 from Old Empire

A muscular custom Bonneville T120 from Old Empire Motorcycles
The phones ran hot at Old Empire Motorcycles after they released their T120 collaboration with Triumph last year. So the English workshop decided to build a more useable and refined version, with similar aesthetics—and creature comforts like lights.

Here it is, and very classy it looks too: a Bonneville that has signed up to the gym, and gained a sleeker, more muscular mien.

A muscular custom Bonneville T120 from Old Empire Motorcycles
A current-spec T120 was purchased and delivered to OEM’s headquarters in the historic country town of Diss. The chaps started the strip down, but with more care than usual: “The build brief was to keep mad modifications to a minimum,” says founder Alec Sharp. “We achieved the ‘line’ by dropping the front end and replacing the rear shocks with uprated Fox units.”

The back end was sliced and diced: a new hoop was made, and machined in sections to accommodate a Z-Flex LED light strip—which includes both the rear brake lights and indicators.

A muscular custom Bonneville T120 from Old Empire Motorcycles
There’s a new hand-formed aluminum seat pan, foamed for a lower profile perch and covered in diamond-stitched waterproof suede leather. The iconic T120 tank was left unmolested though, apart from de-badging and the removal of the kneepads—so it retains its 3.4-gallon (12.8 liter) fuel capacity.

The stock exhaust system was binned, along with the catalytic converter, and a new big-bore, mandrel bent stainless system made up. Internal baffling keeps the noise levels down…a little.

A muscular custom Bonneville T120 from Old Empire Motorcycles
A new remote master cylinder, bolted onto a custom-made bracket under the sump, now occupies the space vacated under the engine. This relocation was probably the trickiest modification, aside from the bars and controls.

OEM ditched the old bars and risers and replaced them with their own proprietary items, plus their ‘Ultimate’ control sets with internal wiring to a Motogadget m.unit. (It’s hidden under the seat, and neatly spliced into the original loom.)

A muscular custom Bonneville T120 from Old Empire Motorcycles
The throttle has been converted back to cable, which runs under the tank into the side panel—where a neat little unit utilizes the fly by wire operation to be actuated by the new cables.

The instruments themselves have been moved, along with the ignition switch. That’s now on a bracket above the gearbox, with the instruments sitting on custom mountings fabricated into the new headlight. The headlight also has built-in indictors and an LED main and dip beam.

A muscular custom Bonneville T120 from Old Empire Motorcycles
Classic leather grips (and pegs) match the leather on the seat, and a good splash of Black Shuck gloss black paint with gold pinstripes sets the whole thing off.

This might be a ‘budget’ build by OEM’s usual standards, but they haven’t skimped on the details. Little things like a brass water filler cap and a side-mounted tin number plate help make this T120 look a million dollars—or rather, pounds sterling.

A muscular custom Bonneville T120 from Old Empire Motorcycles
The rubber is now a little more aggressive than stock: Metzeler’s Enduro 3 pattern, a dual sport compound designed for both tarmac and gravel surfaces. And to ensure the T120 has the performance to match its newfound looks, the engine fuelling is now controlled by a Power Commander.

Some of the parts from this build are now available on OEM’s web shop. “Although each build is unique, we’ve realized people like the small details we create,” says Alec. “But don’t worry: we’ve still got a heap of more ‘extreme’ builds to chew through!”

A muscular custom Bonneville T120 from Old Empire Motorcycles

Those high-end builds are for an exclusive clientale that wants only the best. But for the rest of us, the prospect of turning an already exceptional bike into something extra special is pretty appealing.

If you’ve got a T120 in your garage and want to make it stand out even more, you know who to call.

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A muscular custom Bonneville T120 from Old Empire Motorcycles