I find low-key, vintage bobbers irresistible, and this 1969 Triumph Bonneville from Johannesburg is a classic in more ways than one. It belongs to Justin Steyn, who started the project way back in 2009.
The style is utterly timeless, and like many of the best bikes, deceptively simple. The build process was anything but, though. It started when Justin bought a basket case oil-in-frame Triumph 650 from a friend: “I had two wheels, a frame and an engine—and little idea where to start,” he admits. He eventually found a old-school Triumph specialist, Peter Moody, who completely overhauled the engine.
Then things got tough. “There were no hardtails available for the oil-in-frame models,” says Justin, “so I couldn’t get the basic rolling chassis going. Then Peter found a complete 1969 Bonneville, minus its engine.” The build started to come together, literally.
Tiago from local workshop OneOne Customs stripped and prepped the tank. And Justin discovered a whole new world of fellow bobber aficionados. “A few of us would meet at OneOne a few times a week to work on our bobbers, using Tiago’s equipment and bugging him for advice … As each mate made progress and another bike was fired up, we would cheer in excitement and each have a ride on the brakeless deathtrap late at night. Good times!”
From the USA came a bolt-on hardtail from Choppahead—with a 4” stretch and a 2” drop—plus a handmade oil tank, a Vincent taillight and a Biltwell seat. “Once the parts were in my hands, things started to get moving, Tiago taught me how to weld, and I got cracking on the seat, chain tensioner and oil tank mounts.”
Drawing inspiration from the web, Justin decided on Ferrari blue, red and brass for his classic color scheme. Spokes were ordered from the UK, and Justin was lucky enough to secure a batch of untreated brass spoke nipples too. “Henry Kinnear built the wheels and did the spray job on the rims, and when I saw the end result I asked him to help out with the spray work on the frame, fender and tank.”
“Henry and I worked on getting the bike together, bit by bit, taking parts off for brass or paint and then re-fitting.” And although the Bonneville wasn’t fully finished, with exposed wiring and no leatherwork, Justin decided to enter it into a local bike show. He took second place in his class.
After blowing up a battery on the ride to the show, he got a leather battery box made (and the seat done) by Dion of Leatherman D in Pretoria. Peter Moody finished the wiring, fitted new Amal carbs and tuned the engine.
And now she’s done. Beautiful, wouldn’t you say?