We stumbled across this ripping pair of wheels at the International West Kent Run. There were so many people buzzing around it we thought there had been a road accident, so naturally we wanted to see the blood and gore too. But it was just Mellie minding his own business and dealing with the kind of attention this bike draws wherever it goes.
And you can see why. In case you’re unsure of what it is, we’ll put you out of your misery; it’s a 650cc T120 unit Triumph lump squeezed into a KTM frame and jacked up to a vertigo-inducing elevation. That seat height, for instance, is around 40 inches. And that’s around 10 inches higher than a standard T120.
We tried it out too and climbed up on the footrest and nearly fell off. But once you’re up there, the view is impressive.
So what’s the story?
‘Well, I’ve had the bike for around 13 years,’ said owner, Mellie, from Kent. ‘But it was off the road for 10 of those years. I didn’t originally put it together. It was built by a guy in East Anglia. When I picked it up, it had the “original” KTM front end complete with a very small front brake—you don’t need a small brake on a dirt track. But I put on the “new” front end. I didn’t have anything special in mind. I just went to a breakers yard and hunted around for the longest forks they had in stock. I came away with these, which are from a Kawasaki KDX. They went straight into the KTM yokes without any machining.
650cc oil-in-frame T120 Triumph
‘The bike is registered as a Triumph. The engine is from a 1971 650cc oil-in-frame T120. I’m not sure about the origin of the KTM frame, but I think it dates from the early seventies.
‘The back end is from the original KTM donor bike. The swinging arm is aluminium alloy. The frame is steel.
‘It’s a very light bike to ride. The heavy part is, of course, the Triumph engine. But it’s a good, torquey, single-carbed unit with a typical Triumph roar and rattle.
‘The exhausts are stainless steel. I wasn’t happy about the pipes and silencers that came with the bike. They stuck out on the side and I wanted something tucked away. So I found a firm (down in Mitcham, South London) and took the bike there and gave them a rough design and left them to it. They came up with the system that’s on there now. It’s a very tight fit, but it looks a lot better and sounds better too.
‘The ignition is electronic. A Boyer. There’s no battery. It’s running a capacitor discharge system. When I first had it on the road, I had a starting fault that I couldn’t track down for a while. It was finally traced to the back light which was sticking on; that’s enough to drain vital ignition power (there’s no battery reserve, remember). But once that was sorted, the bike started fine—and still starts after just a couple of kicks.
‘The front mudguard, rear mudguard and petrol tank are KTM. The side covers are plastic and come from a Honda Dominator. The headlights are aftermarket parts.
‘The bike does get ridden regularly. And it attracts a lot of attention wherever it goes, some of whom love it and some who hate it. I often get offers for it. But there aren’t a lot of people who can handle it because of the height. I’m an inch or so over six feet, and it’s a stretch for me. But it does settle a little when you’re sat on it. And it goes and stops well and soaks up the bumps like a sponge.
‘I’m not sure what it’s worth, but it has to be around £2500 or so (March 2010 prices). But I’m not really looking to sell it.’
What we like about this bike is that it’s one of those simple, practical projects that hasn’t had a wedge of dosh thrown at it (you get tired of machines that have soaked up twenty-five thousand pounds, and often much more).
But that height thing. That’s the killer. Time to get out the platform shoes again, huh?
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"Hello Sump people.
I stumbled across this article and was very happy to see my old friend once again, the KTM-Triumph.
It’s a bike I built one summer holiday in about 1990 while I should have been studying for engineering exams. The concept and most of the parts—including the magic ingredient of the lugs to allow separation of the lower frame—came from Titch, an NCC (National Chopper Club) member and colleague who also worked at Tredworth Motorcycles where I earned a few quid in the summer holidays.
He’d bought a Triumph chop and decided the rolling chassis wasn’t much good, and then someone offered him a KTM 495 with no motor. And so the madness began. He quickly thought better of it, however.
When I got the project, the frame was cut and the engine offered in place with binder-twine. I remember that building it was a lot easier than expected. I think because of the height of the thing, there was just about enough space to fit everything. It was a joy to work on the KTM bits, all beautifully made lightweight racing tackle.
After a bit of development of brakes and suspension—plus an engine re-build after fitting the oil pipes the wrong way round—it proved excellent transport for a couple of years. It served well to hooliganise its home territory off the tracks of the Forest of Dean, and it attracted much attention from the police while at college in the centre of Coventry—due to having no silencers, and using the pedestrian underpasses as a shortcut; concrete stairs being no problem on this one.
From Coventry we made many trips out to rallies with the Furry Teeth MCC, including doing pretty good times down the strip at the bulldog bash one summer.
Anyway, I’m glad to see the new front brake; that was my next stage. In fact, I think there’s still a brake from a KLR600 in the shed somewhere. I see it’s also still got the very short gear lever. I was about to put a longer one with a linkage on for more leverage because the force required to change up is too high and I did damage to my big toe knuckle after using it a lot.
After a couple of years, I sold the bike to a chap from Essex; probably the last owner mentioned in the article. I saw it at the Condom Rally a few years later. I couldn’t find the owner but saw he’d done some painting and fitted silencers and some tidier motocross plastics.
If you’ve got contact details for the current owner, please pass this on for his interest. I’d love to have a go on it again!
All the best, Dave Lewis"