Atom Bomb ‘Velvet Underground’

Triumph Bonneville
Clay Rathburn of Atom Bomb Customs is an old-school craftsman, and the creator of one of my all-time favorite bikes, ‘Doctor Who’. When Clay builds a bike, very little work is farmed out—an admirable approach in this age of off-the-shelf parts. This lovely 1966 Triumph Bonneville T120 is Clay’s latest creation, and it reveals its charms slowly, eschewing glitz for a subtle, timeless style.

Triumph Bonneville
“I built the frame in-house, using the original-numbers-matching neck, and reusing the cast rear engine mount,” he says. “I think the factory castings are beautiful when they’re cleaned up and reshaped a bit.” Clay then fabricated a new fuel tank, oil tank and fender out of aluminum, the old-fashioned way using a planishing panel hammer. The foot controls were built in-house too, and Clay also turned and knurled the aluminum kicker, shifter, brake, and footrests. The kicker lever itself is Triumph, but heavily reshaped.

Triumph Bonneville
Clay completely rebuilt the engine to stock specs—with a single carb TR6 head—and had it dynamically balanced. The stock ignition system has been replaced by a Joe Hunt magneto, while the forks and front hub are from a Japanese dirt bike, rebuilt and resprung. Sun Rims are shod with IRC trials tires, 21” at the front and 18” at the back. The exhaust system and bars are both in stainless, again built in-house.

Triumph Bonneville
Clay powdercoated all of the shiny black parts, and he sprayed and buffed the paint as well—something he doesn’t usually have the time to do himself these days. “The blue is actually a 2010 Ford color called ‘Dark Blue Pearl’,” says Clay. “The owner of the bike wanted it very low key, so he vetoed my idea to either leave the tins natural alloy or paint them in Jeep Rescue Green. Since low key is something that I normally lean towards anyhow, we were able to make the blue work.”

It works beautifully, don’t you think?

See more of Clay Rathburn’s work on the Atom Bomb Customs website and Facebook page.

Triumph Bonneville
Triumph Bonneville