Black Art: A different way to build a Triumph Bobber
The factory Bonneville Bobber has been a staggering success. In the first month of its launch, it became the fastest-selling motorcycle in the 115-year history of the marque.
But there’s more than one way to bob a Triumph. This compact, chunky machine comes from BAAK Motocyclettes of Lyon in France, and it’s based on the current model Bonneville T120 Black.
So why design a new Bonneville bobber when Triumph already sells one? According to BAAK’s marketing guy Julien Demaugé-Bost, they wanted to approach a bobber build from a different direction—and show what could be done with the T120 Black.
“The Triumph Bobber already has a strong personality,” he points out, “so we decided not to use that base.”
Baak wowed us a year ago with their immaculate Bonneville sidecar conversion, which was chock-a-block with fine detailing and engineering. And this new build matches those high standards.
“We wanted to make the bike look as simple as possible, true to the bobber ethos,” says Julien. “Bobbers usually match an image of the ‘rebel rider.’ So we also did our best to avoid the stereotype, by reinterpreting the bobber in a ‘gentleman’s way’.”
BAAK’s five-strong crew—led by founder Rémi Reguin—started the same way they always do: with the wheels and tires. The T120 leaves the factory with an 18-inch front rim and a 17-inch at the back, but now rolls on matching 16-inch aluminum rims laced to the stock hubs.
The tires are a Continental pattern that we don’t often see: the K112, which has a 70s-style tread matched to a modern-day rubber compound.
The next big step was to make the bike look more compact, by building a shorter seat. It’s similar to an existing BAAK unit designed for the previous version of the Bonneville, and sits on a new aluminum subframe.
The custom seat pan is made from high-density polyethylene—the same material used for hard hats—and the foam is covered with leather in a classic rib pattern. It shortens the tail by just over five inches (14 cm).
The bike is sits almost an inch lower than stock, thanks to new machined aluminum triple trees and shorter shock absorbers created in collaboration with Shock Factory.
To protect the engine, BAAK have installed an aluminum sump guard that sits between the stainless steel header pipes of their own proprietary bobber-style exhaust. The sound, we’re told, is “deep and strong.”
BAAK’s own wide and cross-braced ‘bars promote comfortable, upright ergonomics, with the rider sitting close to the tank. “You still can share the bike with a pillion, despite the reduced seat length,” says Julien. “And the torque of the engine is your best ally during duo rides!”
With a solid 105 Nm on tap, the T120 parallel twin has ample grunt for two-up touring around tree-lined country lanes. (Aside from the exhaust system, the only drivetrain changes are pancake-style air filters, to visually lighten the back end.) And BAAK’s bobber is usefully lighter than the 490-pound avoirdupois of the showroom bike too.
Many parts have been relocated to increase the vintage vibe, like the turn signals, the regulator, the ignition control, and the mirror that sits low by the left-hand grip.
“The timeless result we were trying to create meant we had to mess with the complex electronic systems of the bike,” says Julien. “We did away with the stock speedometer and handlebar controls; the controls shown on this bike are 3D printed prototypes. They will be aluminum cast in the future.”
The master cylinder and clutch lever are by KustomTech, and there’s a tiny Motogadget speedo integrated into the Bates-style headlight bowl. It keeps almost all the features of the stock instrument—except the option for heated grips and engine modes.
“We’re currently working on a ‘Plug & Play’ solution, so anyone can use this part on a new Triumph motorcycle,” says Julien.
That’s the practical stuff covered. But it wouldn’t be a BAAK bike without beautiful detailing, and this T120 doesn’t disappoint. We especially love the use of leather—from the fork gaiters to the straps on the handlebars and headlight, and those handy side pouches under the seat.
“Most of the parts on the bobber will be available in our shop in the coming weeks,” says Julien. “You’ll then be able to buy a bolt-on kit to turn your own Bonneville T120 into a bobber.”
If you’re in Europe and you have the latest generation Bonneville in your garage, you’ve now got a good excuse for a trip to Paris: the BAAK bobber will be unveiled at the Midnight Garage Festival this weekend.