Apex MFG begins to build us a custom Speed Triple
A Tall Order
Since its inception, a large part of TrackdayMag.com’s content has been about project bikes. While some have been new and others came to us from salvage auctions, our builds have always followed the basic formula of stripping off a bike's street bits, repairing any damage we found, then track-prepping the machine by equipping it with aftermarket racing parts. This Triumph would be a departure from that routine. While its torque-monster engine, full Ohlins suspension, PVM forged wheels and Brembo brakes are all premium stuff that will serve admirably at the track, the Speed Triple isn’t a bike which gets raced at the club or professional levels, so aftermarket parts suitable for punishing racetrack use are essentially nonexistent. The things we needed would have to be made from scratch.
Hitting the Apex
If you’re living in America and want to build a hot Triumph, then Apex MFG would be your first choice for parts, advice or even a turnkey competition bike built to club or pro specifications. This race shop is home to the Castrol Triumph team, which has fielded the machines of Jason DiSalvo and Elena Meyers in the Daytona Sportbike class of AMA Pro Roadracing. The shop staff is an amazing collection of moto-geniuses, who eat, sleep and breathe two-wheeled performance. (See the article 11:15 for a description of what it's like to work with them in the Apex MFG shop.) Ed “Teddy” Donahey, the team’s lead fabricator, is himself a Speed Triple owner. His machine is a showpiece, featuring transplanted BMW S1000RR bodywork and more handmade bits than you could spot in an hour of careful scrutiny. Teddy would have gladly duplicated his machine for us but suggested we think bigger, saying, “If you can dream it, we can make it.” The brainstorming session of a thousand text messages ensued. Finally we asked, “What if we build a retro superbike that looks like the 1960s but goes like 2015?” In the moments of cyberspace silence that followed as we awaited his answer, we could almost see the grin stretching across Teddy’s face. The phone pinged. “Find some bodywork,” was his reply.
Glass From The Past
Vintage race fairings aren’t easy to source. Furthermore, how would we know what type might fit our machine? We needed an expert inthe field. Countless hours of Internet surfing led us to a company called Glass From The Past. This Oregon-based company reproduces many of the fairings which were used in motorcycle roadracing's formative era. It's interesting to note that in those days, bikes simply didn't come with streamlined bodywork. If you wanted race fairings, you either had to buy a set from some tuning house or make it yourself. Those fairings which did exist were rarely considered specific to a given bike. You just bought them in a size suitable for the motorcycle that you were planning to race and then fabricated a set of brackets which would hold the panels on at speed. Essentially, this was exactly what would be required to bring our nuevo-retro Triumph project into being.
Glass From The Past is a one-man show, run by owner Bret Edwards. He reproduces many of the fairings which were popular when racebikes had wire wheels and drum brakes. Looking at the pictures on his website wasn't answering our questions, so we called. It turned out that he'd begun just such a project a few years earlier with a Triumph 955, which is very similar to our Speed Triple. The customer ended up walking away before the fairings were finished; however, Bret had a good start on figuring out what had to change dimensionally to make the original shape large enough to work with a modern bike. The bodywork he'd chosen for that stillborn build was originally created in the late 1960's by legendary racebike builder Rob North. It was used at the high speed circuits of the day, including the Isle of Mann and Daytona. These fairings were installed mainly by Triumph and Norton racers and were of a width suitable for triple cylinder motorcycles. At Bret's urging, we ordered a set of his modified vintage fairings. Of course, the design had yet to be mounted to an operating motorcycle, much less tested at the speeds and lean angles possible with today's machinery. Like everything else in this project, the parts would be prototypes.
Rounding up the rest
With the bodywork sourced, we considered which parts would be required for the rest of the build. Apex is a dealer for Remus Sport Exhaust, a company which makes high-end mufflers and systems for both exotic cars and motorcycles. Their low mount slip-on would save us twenty pounds over the immense dual high mount mufflers which had come as original equipment. Teddy was toying with the idea of removing the catalytic converter from the stock Triumph header, primarily because he was interested in seeing how much power such a modified system might make. Again, our parts would be prototypes!
We would need a way to tune the fuel injection to match the new exhaust. Time after time, we've chosen Bazzaz when we build a project bike and this Triumph would be no exception. In our experience, Bazzaz is easy to use and features the highest build quality we've seen in aftermarket motorcycle electronics. Also, we really love having traction control. There's nothing like that once-a-year feeling when the traction control saves you from an impending highside and we've really come to appreciate this electronic safety net. Plus that, it makes you the KING of rainy trackdays! We ordered a ZFi-TC system with Strain Gauge quickshifter and a handlebar mounted dual map switch with a traction control adjusting knob.
Since the Speed Triple doesn't fit competitively into any specific racing class, it is considered more of a "Boutique" bike by the performance aftermarket. Those companies which manufacture aftermarket parts for it generally choose form over function, producing elaborate, expensive and ultimately fragile parts. This sort of frilly bling might impress other riders at a local Bike Night but isn't what you'd want for racetrack duty. Our finished machine would be subjected to thousands of miles of racetrack flogging, so it would require parts engineered from competition experience. Fortunately, that is exactly what Apex MFG specializes in. The rest of what we'd need for the build would either be sourced from their catalog of racing parts or made from scratch right there in the Apex shop.
We arrived at Apex MFG around 10:30pm on the Friday night before Thanksgiving. This was our first actual glimpse of the Speed Triple, since it had come out of the Apex new bike inventory and had never been in our possession to this point. Teddy had already begun the project by stripping off the bike's stock lights, bodywork, seat, subframe and exhaust. Then he fabricated a one-off fairing bracket and subframe combo, which he'd used to hang the bodywork in the general vicinity of where it would end up. The machine was still miles from being finished but this mockup gave us a very exciting glimpse of what the finished silhouette would be! Knowing that modern handling, brakes and horsepower were wrapped into that, On any Sunday / Mad Max / Jim Goose of the MFP retro-flashback shape, was exciting beyond belief. Backs were slapped, hands were shaken and beers were consumed as we reverently stared at this stunning specter from the sport's glory days. K3 made the comment, "I've wanted to build this bike since I was a kid." Teddy replied, "We all have." It was clear that the next few days were going to be very interesting.