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1971 Triumph Tiger 650 Bobber

Posted on December 13, 2011 by Andrew in Bobber, Classic. 71 comments

Chris soon realised that the bike wasn’t so welcome at his daycare business (click for a wallpaper)

Bikers can seem like a tough bunch of humans, even for those of us on the inside. It doesn’t seem to matter how long you’ve been riding or what kind of bike you ride, when you roll into that car park during your Sunday ride and the guy with the 1% patch on his leathers pulls up along side of you, chances are you won’t be making a joke about his gnarly beard any time soon. That’s not to say that the guy himself isn’t a stand-up bloke, but to the casual observer he might seem just a little challenging, conversation-wise. Now the owner of this Tiger is definitely no Hell’s Angel, but to the uninitiated his shaved head and no-nonsense ride may throw you a little. And yes, when I say “you,” I really mean “me”. But once you overcome the irrational preconception crap, you’ll find one Mr. Chris Atkinson – probably one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet and his sweet Triumph bobber that looks tough, but has been know to help old ladies across the road when not carrying its owner around. Honest.

Here’s Chris. “I’m 52 years old, I married my childhood sweetheart Karen, still in love and having a blast, 2 boys, Tom 22, Josh 19. I live on a small farm, have been here for 20 years. I am a retired panel beater/spray painter/truck driver and now Karen and I are in the childcare business. My dad (may he rest in peace) used to race bikes around Parramatta Park Raceway and then he got a few hot rods. He was a butcher by trade but loved working on cars, bikes and his old timber ski boat. We lived across the road from the Westmead Speedway, where the Westmead Hospital is now, and I used to sit up on the roof of our house and watch the speedway cars and bikes race the oval track. All the neighbourhood kids would get together and make billy carts and race down our hill out the front of our house. So this is where my love of bikes and cars began.”

“After harassing dad for months, he bought me a Honda XR 75 with a Bassani pipe when I was around 13. Dad and mum thought I would get bikes out of my system if they got me a bike early, but how wrong they were. Then got a Kwaka 90 trail, then the first of the Honda CR 125s, a Bultaco Pursang 250, a Suzuki RM 400, a Honda XR 500 trail, a 1979 Maico 250, then a Honda XR 400. I got into Vintage Motocross racing with the 79 Maico when I was 40, then got a 1982 Maico 250 and a 1981 Mega Maico 490 (commonly regarded as the best open class MX bike ever to be released), they only imported 11 into Australia, what a beast! Then I got a 1984 CR125 and raced 3 classes in VMX.”

“I raced for a few more years but my knees packed it in A few ops later I sold some of my bikes but I kept my first Maico 250 and the little CR 125. After not riding bikes for a few years I got the bug back and thought about a road bike. Then I went to Deus one day while we were at Sydney Uni watching my boys play Rugby and I saw the bobbers there and that was it… I had to get one. I met Filip Sawczuk at the Deus bike build off, he has a very neat Triumph 500 bobber. I picked his brain and he gave me some good tips.”

“I searched for around a year to find something and then I found a guy in the States, Dave Helrich from Helrich Custom Cycles; he builds beautiful bikes that I had never seen the likes of before. One in particular called “The Metal Street Fighter”. This is the bike I based mine on. Tried to get one, but Australian import regulations won’t let you import modified bikes or cars. So decided to have a go at building one myself, with the help of Dave via many emails and telephone calls; he’s a top bloke.

I found an original ’71 Tiger 650 on Ebay, went around to the guys house and see an old mate of mine I hadn’t spoke to for 10 years. See what happens when you take a different path in your life? Great to see him! I brought her home, got her registered, and went to work.”

Seat, or hobnail boot?

“I got a Factory Metal Works rigid frame along with some other parts to get me started. Stripped her down and the fun began. Fitted the engine, made up brackets to fit the oil tank, a battery box, modified the steering head, rebuilt the forks and after about 3 weeks I had a rolling frame and was really happy with the look.

Then I made up brackets to fit the hand-made aluminium guards from 7 Metal West in the States. I wanted to make the front brake a bit of a feature on the bike, I just love the art deco look of it so I had it and the rear brake ceramic coated. I wanted the tank to be a metal finish. Did some lead wiping repairs to the tank and had it flame coated in aluminium, an industrial process that sprays a 1 to 2mm coating of aluminium on to metal surfaces. The finished product is really rough, so 2 days of sanding starting with 60 grit paper slowly working my up to 2000 wet and dry and lots of polishing transformed the tank. Hand polished the engine with steel wool and purple polish made it look a treat. Got some nice stainless drag pipes to compliment the metal look I was after.”

Note the beautiful cloth-covered wiring beneath the seat

“Fuelled her up, primed up the new Amal carby,
ignition on, and she started first kick”


“I had the wheels, frame and other bits and pieces powder coated black. Then the new stainless spokes and bearings fitted to the wheels. Dave Helrich made a trick seat for me as well. I was like a kid at Christmas time getting all this stuff home. Fitted everything up and couldn’t believe my eyes, this was my bike! Another couple of weeks making bits and pieces and fitting all new stainless bolts and she was nearly done. I fitted a Tri-Spark electronic ignition, high voltage coils and rectifier. I wanted to make the wiring a feature as well, rather than hide it. I heard about some old school cloth covered wiring in Victoria and had it all rewired with as much of the wiring exposed as I could. Also wanted a bit of a hot rod look to her, so modified a Mooneyes Spinner Cap to hold the tank down and mounted Big Daddy’s Rat Fink on top of the battery box (my mascot) and modified a taillight and blinkers.

Fuelled her up, primed up the new Amal carby, ignition on, and she started first kick. Took her for a quick run down the road with the biggest bloody smile on my face. It was fantastic. Karen helped with some of my second guesses on how the bike should look, and holding those bits and pieces to get a tack weld onto. Also gave herself a good pipeburn (Yay team – Andrew) holding the bike up for me.”

Chris decided to splash out and get the combo brake and bug catcher option

“I reckon the only thing I would do different would be to get a 5 speed as the bike just lacks that top end and it would be so much nicer to ride with an extra gear. I have just ordered a 750 Big Bore kit, and I’m gonna rebuild the bottom end and balance the crank.”

Totally gnarly chain tensioner, dude

“This may sound corny and you have probably heard it all before, but the best thing about building this bike is that at the age of 52, I have discovered a whole new world out there, met so many people and made new friends, especially all the guys from Sydney Cafe Racers.”

  • Well done. Simple and clean…I'll take 2!

  • Jesús Learte

    I like the bike so much as the story happy owner tells. Congratulations.

  • Beautiful bike, the kinda bobber I crave for.

  • SportsterMike

    I’m 50 blah blah, perhaps I should get welding? Great story and great bike..

    • Chris

      Yeah, get welding. You get hooked, I can see myself building another one. Glad you like the bike.

  • emaychee

    I have a soft spot for Tigers anyway, but this..this is fantastic.

  • revdub

    Very cool bike. I like the skateboard wheel roller too. Nice detail.

  • Dave

    It’s good to see you gave credit to trojan cycles for helping you out with this build. Nearly all your parts came from them. i also remember walking into the place one day and the bloke that works there was sweating under your bike helping you get it running again…

    • harryfxr

      You really tore Chris a new one that’ll teach him to give credit where credit is due.

      • Chris

        I give credit to anyone that deserves it and Trojan were great. Don`t know why they were taken out of the story. Nick and Pete are good guys and really helped me out with the build. This is my first road bike and first build and learnt so much from them.

    • Chris

      I am reading your comment and thinking, yeah Trojan were great. I remember that day and I remember talking to you. I had a flat battery, just putting a new one in. Then I read the comment underneath and think, hang on a minute, I did mention them in the story. Don`t know why Trojan were taken out of the story. Pete and Nick helped me out heaps and just want to thank them.

      • Sorry Chris – I had to edit yr words to get the length down and I’m afraid I removed the Trojan reference. Here it is in its original form:

        “Got a Factory Metal Works rigid frame from Trojan along with some other parts to get me started. Stripped her down and the fun began. Fitted the engine, made up brackets to fit the oil tank, a battery box, modified the steering head, rebuilt the forks and after about 3 weeks had a rolling frame and was really happy with the look.”

        More on trojan here:

        Dave, Harryfxr – chill the freak out!

        • Dave

          Andrew, i am chilled but it just seems weird that the only word from that paragraph removed was trojan to get the length down…

  • skillet

    One NICE Triumph!!!

  • Nice.! but front forks too long… something wrong with the angle of the bike, I think bottom of frame should be parallel to floor, my opinion anyway..

    • Chris

      Yeah thought about doing this too during the build. Lowbrow customs have a technical page on their website showing you how this is done. But happy with it for now and rides good. Might do it later on. It is good to hear other peoples opinions. 

    • Davidabl2

      Maybe it IS parallel to the floor when there’s a rider on it?

  • Now thats nice!

    • Chris

      You have got a great blog going there, gonna be on my regular look at sites.

  • Andrew Crosstown

    beautiful bike. love the tank!

  • Sounds like you’re in a good place in your life. Nice bike.

  • Philip B

    I never get bored of your bike Chris 🙂

    • Chris

      Thanks Philip, can`t wait to see what you are gonna do with your Guzzi.

  • Cliff Overton

    Great work Chris – the bare metal style on a bike like this is one of my favourite looks. Love the touch of brass here and there too. Now – where was that retro cloth wiring place in Victoria?

    • Chris

      • Cliff Overton

        I am a bit slow getting back to you – but thanks for that link, very helpful.

  • Mpress

    i can never get my mind around the “unseats” people use.
    no foam, padding nothing- just a metal base with(sometimes) a thin leather base.
    whats wrong with a little comfort?

    • From memory, Chris had a padded cover he removed before the shoot. Best of both worlds!

    • Chris

      The seat is more for looks and short rides, I have a 2″ hi density foam cover that fits over the seat for those longer rides and comfort.

      • Mpress

        Thanks- it is a very nice bike.i wouldn’t want to take anything away from that.

        • Chris

          Thats cool, no worries, glad you like the bike.

  • Andrea Earp

    The car is very cool. I like it very much.

  • Mark Hawwa

    Awesome mate! Pictures came out great! Thanks for the kind words

    • Chris

      Hey, thanks Mark. Your`e a legend !

  • My name is filip sawczuk and  i have triumph 500 you can see on youtube under , triumph tiger 100 1963 resurrection ,i work on this bike for long time ,all parts and tips i got from Peter and Nick from they rebuild my engine,they got my bike in magazine ,they top blokes ,when i met Chris i give him Peter phone and he get  parts ,help from them,plus they put he’s triumph in magazine to,i  recommend 100%  to all

  • David Mucci

    Such a beautiful build with fantastic details. The knock-off tank tie down, the gradient of the burn on the pipes, the cloth wiring poking out under the riveted seat – it’s all very well done.

  • Filip

    on youtube under (HD triumph bobber 1963 custom by

  • motoguru .

    lean and mean <3

  • Mr. Harder

    Cool bike, good stance and simple feel. I just don’t think that putting a chain tensioner on the drive side of the chain would work that well. Wouldn’t the non-drive side go really slack when on the gas?

    • Chris

      Yeah, I was told this too. But had no room on the bottom to put it. So put it up top, have done 2,500 ks on it in 6 months and have`nt had a problem so far. Glad you like the bike.

      • Mach-X

        My guess is the only reason it’s working at all is that this is a hardtail.  If this had a swingarm that tensioner would be a problem.  It actually isn’t doing anything up there but riding along with you.  Tightens it up under decelleration the way you have it there, (but my guess is you know that by now).

        Nice bike .. we share histories, just a half planet apart.  My old man raced at Ascot on Triumphs in the 60’s, grew up around 500’s and 650’s.  Amals, leaded fuel tanks, Cerriani forks, etc ..  They were all hard starting sob’s to be sure. 

        Nice street bike … have fun.  🙂

        • Chris

          Thanks for the tip, my first build and first road bike, so still learning. Think I will modify it to fit down the bottom. Great to share stories and ideas, thanks.
          Glad you like the bike.

  • redrumracer

    Tight, tight, tight

  • Congratulations Chris, what a stunner!

    I really appreciate your attention to detail.

    • Chris

      Hi Stephen, just looked at your blog, nice bike. Bet you can`t wait to get it finished. I have a 49 Ford F1 Pickup, so we share the same taste I think in cars and bikes. My old girl is a bit of a rod, matt black, pinstriping, rear air bags, 350 chev and 4 sp auto, still has original interior. Be good to meet up with you one day. Appreciate your comments.

      • G’day Chris, thanks for checking the blog and the kind words.

        Yep, you’re right, the F1 is something I’d definitely dig!

        I’m certainly up for a ride once I get the scoot on the road in hopefully the next 3-4 months. I’ll get in touch.



  • Chris

    If any of you guys are in the States and thinking about getting one of these style of bikes, check out Dave Helrich from….. HELRICHCUSTOMCYCLES.COM
    He builds beautiful bikes at a great price, custom made for what you like.

    • Dave

      …and again, why would you not say this about Trojan? ireally don’t get you man…why plug the US guys so much when the local boys helped you so much aand they can also build one hell of a bike to boot? I know you have seen the stuff they do otherwise i wouldnt be slamming you so hard. It just seems like you don’t want to acknowlege trojan cycles as much as the others.
      anyway, i don’t want to keep going, your bike looks nice its just that i think your priorities for crediting are a bit mixed up so i’ll leave it at that.

      • Probably because a huge percentage of our readers are in the states and wont be able to use Trojan’s awesome skills due to them being based in Sydney.

        Dave chill the hell out. He mentioned you/trojan in the credits. Andrew made the mistake of editing it out. 

        Chris is a top bloke and would not have left out crediting trojan on purpose.

  • Wow, this is a very nice Triumph, cheers

  • Oztraveller

    G’Day Chris,
    Brilliant Job on the Bike.
    I’m doing a lazy first job on a Scrambler, love the tank, who did the flame coat and how much?

    • Chris

      Hey thanks. Scramblers are cool, what are you doing, Triumph ? at Narellan near Campbelltown. If you have any reapairs on the tank they have to be leadwiped, not bogged up, cost me $400. 2 days of sanding and polishing. If you need any more info let me know.

      • Oztraveller

        Thanks Chris,

        I picked up a 2008 Triumph Scrambler with some performance and suspension improvements, now I want to play with the bodywork. I like the italian TPR mods, your solution for the alloy tank may be the way to go, but i want to keep the original tank for the future if i change the bike over some time. That way i can sell modified or original, and swap the bodywork on to a new bike. MAS engineering is the plan for the fenders and side panels, but I’m not sure if the stock items fit the 19 inch front. I’m looking for a straight alloy (a friend just got an alloy from the Tank Shop in the UK, but it took 2 years and a lot of effort to get it!) or second hand tank to flame coat.
        As i said, easy job this time, Ill try a ground up build like you’re when i retire (only 10 years to go!)

  • Russellmalcolm

    Beautiful bike!  Inspiration for my next bike build, going to use my 2007 bonnie!  Not sure if I should modify it for off road and street use, or go with a hard tail??? 
    Btw, where did you get the tail light/turn signal unit? 
    I just finished my RE Machismo, have a look here: 

    • chris

      Hi. Made up the tail light from a brake light and two blinkers. They are a pretty standard items you can buy from Trojan Classics, bullet style. I just drilled into the brake light and connected the two blinkers. Not much room in there but can be done. Great video, love your bike and your matching helmet.

      • Russellmalcolm

        Great idea on the tail light! I also love the aluminum finish on the tank.  I was wanting to go black with my triumph bonnie, but after looking at ur bike I’m now not sure?!  I am also not sure if I should hard tail the bonnie, I really need one bike that won’t give me too much pounding on my back and neck. 

        Glad you like the video and the matching helmet, thanks for looking. 

        Again, beautiful bike.  Congrats!  

  • Vin

    Really………Really……….Fantastic Work ………i m Lovin it

  • Live4lifeart

    Hey brother… So proud of your achievement … Sister no 1. X

  • Live4lifeart

    Hey brother…so proud of your achievement … Sister Anne

  • Amazing work…. This is a bike that made me stop surfing the web, as I had to pick up my jaw off of the floor.  I would love to have full color framed pictures of this bike as artwork! Simply beautiful work.  

  • Sam

    Hi Chris, I think your bike it just great! would it be possible for you to give me the exact specs of the frame for stretch, drop, neck angle etc. I was looking into ordering the frame from factory metal works but they can make it any way you want and i have no idea what to choose. I’ve seen many hardtail triumphs and i find your frame seems just perfect. Thanks in advance for your help!

    • chris

      G`Day Sam. Glad you like the bike. The frame is a standard rake, 4″ stretch and 2.5″ drop. Are you in the States or Australia. If you are in Aussie, Trojan Classics sell the frames.

  • Guest

    sick bike man. love the story, love the bike! really like the attention to detail..skateboard wheel roller, different coloured wiring etc… oh, and that dude rambling on about trojan needs to shut the fuck up…what a dickhead!!

  • Don

    Do NOT balance the crank.  It’s out of balance so that the vibration throws go forward and backward.  If you balance the crank the bike it will bounce up and down, be uncomfortable, leak, and …………. trust me.  You do not want to balance that crank.

    • Akofam

      Hi Don. The crank is getting balanced to a higher rev range, or 85%. The motor is getting done now, the guy that is doing it is a great engine builder. Thanks for the advice.

  • Brim

    Honest to god truth, this brought tears of joy to my eyes. I want this bike.

  • jason

    Great story and AMAZING AMAZING bike
    all your hard work shows (jaw dropping)
    would love to hear it puurr!?
    any chance of a sound clip?

  • stevelovelace

    Admire the thought and craftmanship of this 71 tiger. I have the same. So “salute”

  • Andrew

    I have a basket 1972 tiger 650, hoping someday with some wrench time my unit will look as sick as this beast, great job!

  • RJ650

    Just starting a 71 TR6R build. Mosyly stock but wan to convert to a bobber. This is my first build. Dad’s bike been in the basement for 20+ years. He took it apart to rebuild and….. there it sat. Would love to chat for some pointers. Bike looks amazing. Right now looking for the best way to get a frame for it.

  • Anders Bom

    Chris – i love this bike so much so i started to sarch for a triumpg tiger 650 myself but i cant find one. you know anyone who can build me a bike like yours?

    Great bike great build – love it!