Gut instinct is pretty useful, without it most of us would be stuck up a tree somewhere with our motorcycles smouldering in a ditch beneath. Choosing bikes for our events is on the whole a thoroughly enjoyable and privileged task (apart from having to turn people down, that sucks big time) but every now and again I have to take a flyer on a bike. A low-res photo of a bench strewn with tools and a bird’s nest of wiring exploding out of something resembling a frame, often the only hint I get as to what a finished bike is going to look like. So far I’ve only cocked up a few times and have learned to trust the initial microsecond gut reaction.
Thankfully on this occasion my guess, although partially educated, turned out to be a good one. Scottish outfit White Crow Customs rolled this sublimely finished Triumph Thruxton into Tobacco Dock for Bike Shed London 2016. White Crow’s founder Glen Thomson was also holding a wet finger in the air and trusting his own gut, telling us “I met my business partner Colin a few years ago at the school gates – he was running a Legends racing team and looking for something creative to do; I was running music festivals and looking for something mechanical to do, so it was a great match. We built a small workshop on the banks of Loch Lomond and got busy.”
Seeing as Glen and Colin live slap-bang in the middle of some of the best biking territory anywhere on the planet they wanted their first bike to at least go as well as it looked so they ripped this 2006 Thruxton to pieces and vowed to only return the most necessary parts.
First to make the recycling pile was the lardaceous stock fuel tank, replaced by one from a Kawasaki Z250A. Not a straight swap though. Within the first couple of seconds of seeing this bike up close one realises that the White Crow chaps are perfectionists, proper OCD types. The tank has cut and stretched along the top and de-seamed underneath, the proportions and lines suiting a more dashing silhouette that the guys were aiming for. Z250, who’d have thunk it. The rear dipping down just enough to follow the spine frame and make for a perfect tank-to-seat interface.
The subframe rails have been cinched inwards slightly to narrow the Thruxton’s waist. The rear shock amounts are therefore closer together but you’d swear it was a factory positioning. Well, most would. Those geeky enough to have studied Triumph’s intermittent welding of the subframe will know that theres room for improvement. On this bike a silky smooth and continuous weld joins the tubes and reinforcing plates, prior to being filed flush. There was no way Glen and Colin were sending the frame for a lacklustre coat of powder so they pulled back then curtain on their spray booth and laid 9 coats of gloss black for a shine that looks an inch deep.
Crowning this tidy rear is a one-off seat base and tail, selfishly proportioned for solo riding and fashioned in-house. The perforated leather seat with White Crow logo’d embossing is particularly lovely. Perforated leather, please can we see more of that. A pair of flared tail lamps have been grafted into the underside of the tail, matching the upswept angle. From here they look like those decent quality Highsider ones from Germany. All of this is propped-up by a set of upgraded shock absorbers.
The capacious tail and hidden battery box beneath the seat house a new loom, Motogadget friendly of course and lithium power source. After all, who builds a bike without and M-unit these days? OK, I’ll get in the sea or whatever it is these days. Joking aside, by chopping out what wasn’t essential and replacing components with lighter versions 25kgs have been shed from the Thruxton’s kerb weight. I read somewhere 20 years ago that 0.5kg lost equates to 1hp gained. No idea if this is true, probably not, but Colin’s race background wouldn’t allow him to drop a stock engine back in.
The head and barrels were removed and skimmed to raise the compression ratio a sniff. While the heads were just laying there on the bench Colin satisfied the urge, enlarging the ports for improved gas flow. Both in and out. Valve seats were re-cut with improved angles to suit the increased flow from a brace of Keihin CR flat slide carbs which supply the correct mixture while a pair of extra long velocity stacks throw the engine a lifeline at low revs. The result is an increase in tractable torque and according to an ex-submariner neighbour, “sounds like a belt-fed machine gun”.
To reign-in the undoubted zeal that’ll arise from riding through Glen Coe to the aforementioned soundtrack the stock two-pot caliper has been substituted for a beefier three-pot. To tidy the rear further the brake caliper now resides above the swingarm on a custom mount. The oil cooler hasn’t escaped either, that was binned and a smaller, slimmer version tucked neatly away behind the frame’s downtubes. This allowed the exhaust headers to hug the frame tightly before dropping down and rearward to stainless reverse megas. Both the zorst tubes and the mufflers were fabricated in-house.
In a building full of over 150 customs from across Europe this first effort from White Crow not only allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief but also helped highlight why I’m standing here. Talented folk getting their heads together and hands dirty to produce gorgeous looking motorcycles, something that’ll always be a pleasure to write about.
Another bike is already on the bench and Glen promises me it’ll demonstrate another side of his and Colin’s combined talents. I for one can’t wait.