In a world of increasing conformity, making a bold and individual statement is a difficult task. Even in the seemingly free-thinking custom motorcycle culture there are dominant trends and prevailing aesthetics, and most expressions of individuality are confined to a small variation of detail or nuance. Not so with the first public offering from Zeema Innovations unveiled at Bike Shed London 2015 at Tobacco Dock last month. The Project 3 Triumph Speed Triple is a standout bike that is as brave in its ambition as it is confident in its execution. It certainly left more than a few bearded cynics lost for words and nodding in hard won appreciation.
The donor itself is an unusual choice. The Triumph Speed Triple is a machine notoriously difficult to modify, and not too pretty in its naked form. But despite its reputation as an ugly duckling, Chris Tweed from Zeema saw it as a perfect donor with a great engine, the roar of a throaty triple, and a reputation for solid handling. He loved the single sided swing arm, the twin spar frame and the “whole stubby bullishness”.
Chris started with the concept of the Riva Aquarama runabout boat and the elegant sinuous lines that led it to being known as the “Ferrari of the boat world”. Not an immediate match with the Speed Triple then. Undeterred, Chris decided this was to be “a wooden boat triumph motorcycle thingy”. OK. Chris found the unloved donor on eBay, and began in earnest to strip the sorry thing apart. The first task was the seat unit. Wood and varnish were the chosen materials and after several incarnations and four sheets of 8′ x 4′ birch ply the seat began to take shape. This was the longest solo part of the build, but is it’s defining feature.
With the seating position fixed next came the bars and pegs. The riser bars were ditched for clip-ons, the foot pegs swapped for fully adjustable rear-sets and the forks dropped through the yokes by 20mm to set the riding position. Chris felt the wheels should be spoked, so the chunky mags were ditched in favour of modified and machined Borranis, originally designed for the Ducati Monster S4R. The exhaust needed to be discrete and minimal as not to distract from the sleek tail lines, so a low slung 3-into-1 was fabricated. Then the radiator was built and hung, but Chris didn’t want the standard radiator oil cooler combo and as there was a vacant space where the lights used to reside it seemed like logical place to put the oil cooler.
The frame, swinging arm, engine covers and brakes were stripped, blasted and powder coated in a bold gloss white, with the tank painted to match. In light of the lack of a fuel gauge, Chris exposed a bare strip at the rear of the tank to allow the rider to see through the opaque plastic illuminated by an internal tank-light, to check the fuel level. The loom was drastically trimmed, rerouted and tucked out of sight. The mini speedo and idiot lights sunk into the top yoke gives the minimum info, and the discreet LED brake light under the seat unit facilitates an MOT pass. The hard lines for the oil cooler were fabricated and the brakes replumbed.
Project 3 came together just right with more than a hint of the Riva. A radical departure from the cookie cutter customs, this is a statement debut from Zeema and a joy to admire.
After many years in the racing car industry, Project 3 is a venture along untravelled roads for Zeema. Chris is confident he can bring high levels of design, finish and creativity to the scene, and this is hopefully just the first of many creations. Let’s hope each and every one is as bold and genre-busting as this elegant and capable Triple.
To get in touch with Chris to discuss future projects, or indeed race car and bike preparation head over to the Zeema website.