Triumph Bonneville ‘Atom Bomb Special’

1972 Triumph Bonneville
Clay Rathburn is one of those builders without a recognizable style. But his bikes are always marvels of craftsmanship, and bear closer inspection.

Clay built this machine as an ‘anything goes’ project for his friend (and Atom Bomb webmaster) Adam Green. “Adam lives on an island in New Jersey, and wanted a bike for zipping around the island,” says Clay. “I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted without worrying about fuel range.”

1972 Triumph Bonneville
Clay built the frame from scratch, aiming for a low profile and reusing the swingarm from the donor 1972 Triumph Bonneville. “Once the frame was built I realized that no gas tank or oil tank would look good on it,” he recalls, “so I was stuck for a week or so. Finally I threw a Hail Mary, and made a pattern for split tanks.” Adam loved it, so Clay got to work on the aluminum sheet.

The oil bag was another mental roadblock: “I stared at the back half of the bike for a long time before deciding to do a one-piece fender/oil tank/tail unit.”

1972 Triumph Bonneville
Once the bodywork was done, the rest of the bike was straightforward—at least for a man of Clay’s talents. The exhaust is stainless, made in-house, as are the bars and the aluminum foot controls. Richmond Auto Upholstery stitched up the seat cover, and Clay’s friend Mike Hall lettered the tanks.

“I nervously suggested the lettering should go backwards on the righthand tank,” says Clay, “and he didn’t bat an eye. Mike knocked it out of the park.” It’s worth mentioning that Clay also rebuilt and detailed the Triumph Bonneville engine—restored to factory specs but with an overbore to clean the cylinders up.

1972 Triumph Bonneville
The bike looks like an absolute blast to ride, and Clay was loathe to part with it. “I probably put a hundred miles on it before it left—much more than normal. In terms of pure fun it’s the most enjoyable bike I’ve built. I didn’t want to get off it, except to put gas in it. Which happens frequently!”

But that hardly matters. This Bonneville might be short on range, but it’s long on class.

1972 Triumph Bonneville