1979 Triumph Bonneville 750

owner: Bret Edwards

My 1979 Triumph Bonneville 750. As a kid my parents balked whenever I asked for a minibike. It didn’t matter how much I pleaded, Christmas and birthdays would come, but the minibike never did. Later during my teenage years I spent summers doing miscellaneous small jobs in an uncle’s British motorcycle shop near Seattle. I’d stock shelves, clean parts in the solvent tank, strip down parts bikes, sweep the floor. Anything to be near motorcycles. A little bit of everything old and British came through the shop. Norton’s, BSA’s, the odd Matchless. But mainly it was Triumphs, and those were the bikes that interested me most. I liked the looks of their polished engines, the signature swooshes on the tanks, and their overall classic stance. They were everything I imagined a motorcycle should be and I knew early on that it wouldn’t be too long before I had one of my own.

In the spring of 1984 I was recently graduated from high school, had a decent job as an auto mechanic, and had worn down my parents enough that they had agreed to back a loan for my first real motorcycle. I say real because while I already owned a CB200, the CB wasn’t much more than a scooter under my 6 foot 4 inch frame. I looked like a spinnaker sail on a row boat, or the proverbial monkey with a football. I needed a real motorcycle to save my dignity, and it had to be a Triumph. I had my eye on a Triumph Bonneville sitting on the showroom floor of the Dewey’s Cycle, Seattle’s only remaining Triumph dealer at the time. It was a one owner, low mile, 1979 Bonneville Special, and I thought it was the coolest. Being a “Special” it was different from most other Bonnevilles with its jet black paint and gold pin-striped swooshes on the tank, a racing type 2 into 1 exhaust, and 7 spoke mag wheels. As an 18 year old the mags really did it for me. This bike was the one. I visited Dewey’s often that spring. The owner quietly put up with my barrage of questions, hours of sitting

on or staring at the bikes, and my seemingly endless promises of buying a bike soon. By August not only had I saved enough for the initial payment, but I’d also worn down my parents enough that they’d agreed to back the bank loan. A week later, just after my 19th birthday, the Special was mine. And for the next three years the Special was my only transportation. Commuting to work, running errands, road trips, it didn’t matter. I went out of my way to lengthen simple trips in order to spend more time riding.

Along the way the bike evolved to suit my changing tastes. I had read about the history of the Cafe racers, and by comparison to those bikes mine seemed dull. In 1990 what was to have been a simple engine rebuild and frame repaint, quickly became a mild Cafe conversion. Clubman bars, rear sets, dual exhaust, and a small Cafe fairing were added. With a fresh engine and a whole new stance, I was in love with my bike all over again. I began riding the bike more aggressively than I ever had before. To me it looked the part of a racer. Why shouldn’t I ride it that way? It wasn’t long before the inevitable happened. While tearing through a posted

45 MPH corner at 70+, the front end tucked. The bike and I slid through the corner and across the road. We went down a small embankment beyond the far edge of the road and into a farmhouse yard. Except for

a dislocated shoulder and some road rash I was fine, but the bike didn’t fare so well. After sliding down the embankment and entering the yard the bike righted itself back onto its wheels still at considerable speed. It travelled another 50 feet across the yard before center punching a large fir tree. The tree didn’t flinch. The damage to the Bonneville Special was extensive. There was road rash everywhere on the right side of the bike. The headlight, forks, front fender and clubmans were either flattened, twisted, or nearly torn off. The “unbreakable ABS plastic fairing was in about a thousand pieces. I spent the evening in the hospital having my shoulder reset and the road rash tended to. All the while wondering how long I’d be without the Triumph. I was crushed.

The next 13 years were a blur as life sometimes is. I’d married, had three kids, owned and ridden other motorcycles. The Special lay twisted in a heap in the back corner of the garage. I never seemed to have enough money or time to spend on it. But I couldn’t imagine letting go of my first “real” motorcycle. In 2006 a good friend mentioned a classic Norton rally he planned to attend the following summer. He invited me along and suggested I ride my Triumph. Since crashing the bike I had started a small fiberglass manufacturing company specializing in Cafe and vintage road racing styled bodywork for classic motorcycles. Over the next 6 months I completely rebuilt the Special from the ground up and into a rolling advertisement. The current bodywork is a mix of original Triumph factory racing type pieces and my own designs.

Some of the performance and reliability upgrades include:
All bodywork including molded in taillight and turn signals by GFTP.

  • Dual disc front brake conversion.
  • Stainless steel brake lines.
  • Cross drilled brake discs.
  • Dry belt primary drive.
  • Norton diaphragm type clutch conversion.
  • Dunstall performance 2 into 1 exhaust system.
  • Redwing “Hammerhead” rear shocks.
  • Magura clip-ons.
  • Johnson Cams performance camshafts, followers, and push rods.
  • Morgo high volume oil pump.
  • Relocated positive crankcase breathing system.
  • Twin Marchal head lamps.

Justin LewisTriumph