Written by Tim Huber.
Produced from 1998 to 2001, Triumph’s Legend TT is basically a more affordable, less flashy version of the Thunderbird 900. The running gear and amenities are pretty unremarkable, but it features the Hinckley firm’s famous three-banger and a decent enough frame. So with a few performance parts and a cosmetic redesign, Nicola Martini of Italy’s Mr. Martini fame, reasoned it’d make for a solid base for his next project bike. So a 2001 Legend TT donor was sourced, and the build — dubbed “Bob” — got underway.
The bike wasn’t commissioned by a customer and was instead built as a personal passion project of Nicola’s to compete in the upcoming sprint races at Wildays later this month. Held at the Riccardo Paletti racetrack in picturesque Varano de’ Melegari, Italy, Wildays is a three-day festival and celebration of racing, vintage bikes, customs, and motorcycle culture, with food, art, and music tossed in for good measure. The event packs road racing, drag duals, flat track, and various off-road races into a single weekend of camping, competition, and camaraderie.
But, with a dry weight of around 475lbs and a somewhat underwhelming 70hp (and 53.1ft-lbs of torque) on tap, it was clear that the Legend’s engine would need some massaging if it was to be competitive come race day. So, in order to squeeze a bit more oomph from the liquid-cooled, 885cc, DOHC, triple, Nicola installed a throng of lightened engine internals and an electronic gearbox (done after these photos were taken). There’s also a new ECU paired with a gorgeous custom three-into-one exhaust with headers flowing into a Supertrapp can. The triple’s trio of carbs is now connected to a custom single-piece air-intake with mesh cover — a nice change of pace from the typical bank of pod filters.
“The bike is now evolving on a technical level and improvements have been made to increase its power,” Nicola tells us. The Triumph still sports its stock tank, however, the rest of the build’s bodywork are custom fiberglass pieces. An old-school half-fairing wraps around the forks and is anchored to the top triple via a one-off stay. Drawing inspiration from the two-stroke Grand Prix racers of the 1980s is a boxy, low-profile tail section suspended high above the back wheel, giving the build a markedly more modern and aggressive stance and overall aesthetic.
On top of raising the seat-height with the new tail, the riding position has also been made more conducive to racing via the addition of clip-ons and a trick set of rear-sets that are mounted higher-up and further back in custom brackets. As a purpose-built racer, the bike is devoid of any lighting or other road-going necessities, and the Gixxer rims have been shod in equally unstreetable race slicks. The stock instrumentation’s been jettisoned to make room for a single, round analog unit, too.
The new tail is capped off with a bespoke leather saddle with horizontal stitching and white piping, and hidden beneath is the bulk of the Triumph’s wiring and electronics. A custom subframe is also concealed under the tail, with only the polished front portion left visible. The thing turns as sharp as it looks too, with the stock 43mm telescopic forks having been replaced with an inverted set off a GSX-R1000. The Triumph also borrows the superbike’s three-arm forged wheels (front and back), and its dual discs and Nissin calipers.
Decorating the Legend’s bodywork is a teal livery with black stripes and white outlines that match the white powder-coated wheels. The triple tree, steel spine frame, and aluminum alloy swing-arm were also powder-coated in black. The racer maintains the Legend’s blacked-out engine and polished fins, though the cylinder head valve cover’s been thoroughly polished. The front fender – reportedly a carbon fiber unit borrowed off a Suzuki — has also been done up in the teal and black scheme.
As far as priorities are concerned, aesthetics have taken a backseat to raw performance on this project, though, like all completed builds that leave Mr. Martini’s Verona HQ, it’s a damn-fine-looking motorcycle. It’s spartan yet looks elegant and complete. It’s not overly-simple, but definitely not over-engineered either.
While that’s another one in the books for Mr. Martini, the cafe’d Legend’s story is far from over. Come September 20, it’s off to the races, and Nicola and the gang will see if the build lives up to the donor’s original moniker.