Written by Marlon Slack
Red Clouds Collective may sound like an Eastern European anarchist group, but they actually make waxed canvas and leather goods out of their workshop in South East Portland, Oregon. And while their days are filled with stitching and designing gorgeous products for their store by night they flip the sign to ‘closed’ at the front door and build motorcycles. Most of them are old British and Japanese enduros, but this time they’ve tackled a more modern offering – a 2006 Triumph Bonneville T100 they’ve dubbed ‘Rubber Soul’.
Thankfully for the collective the ultra-clean donor bike for Rubber Soul was found just outside of town. ‘An old guy owned it and had a handful of other bikes that he loved,’ head of the Red Clouds Collective, Seth Neefus recalls. ‘He made sure they were all well maintained but had become more interested in adventure bikes instead’. When they went to check out the Bonneville he took them for a blat around some local country roads. ‘We had a blast and his enthusiasm for motorcycles and riding made me feel proud to take the bike off his hands.’
Back at the shop Seth and the team spent some time deciding on what to do with their new stablemate. Eventually they decided on a timeless formula – to streamline the bike as much as possible and make it into a truly classic looking machine. ‘The look of the 1960’s and 70’s Triumphs are so perfect,’ Seth says. ‘The high pipes, the wide bars, short seats and only the essentials left give the bikes a classy and aggressive stance. A motorcycle that’s ready for whatever is in its path.’
So with that goal in mind the team stripped everything apart, taking the bike down it’s bare frame. They cut the passenger footpegs away and lopped off the rear frame just behind the shock mounts and attached a loop. With some words of advice from Triumph gurus British Customs they relocated the rectifier, headlight mount and attached a skid plate, also using one of their battery boxes to hide away the battery, CDI and all the rest of the mess of wires that make up the loom.
At the back a modified rear fender was mounted to the shortened rear end. Bars come via their own design, made by One Down Four Up. For the technical kids at home they’re made from 0.120” wall DOM stainless steel and are 35” wide with a pullback of 5.5” and a rise of 4.25”. So now you can replicate them from home. You can thank me later. See See Motorcycles handlebar controls were attached as well as chrome levers, new master cylinder and a mini speedo. ‘Less is more,’ Seth confirms.
One of the best parts of the bike is the original 1970’s era Triumph tank that’s been modified to fit the Rubber Soul. ‘We had to repair it from a lifetime of use,’ Seth says, ‘It had a lot of dents and some outside rust. We made some small modifications to mount the old tank onto the frame and it ended up being a seamless and secure fit’. But that classic tank goes a hell of a long way in dragging the Bonneville out of the 2000’s and into the period Red Clouds are trying to emulate.
But what of the colour scheme? ‘We wanted it to feel light and have a race vibe with an elegant and classic sense,’ Seth explains. ‘We chose a light green-gold colour to work with the chrome that was already on the bike and made a creamy-white leather seat to keep the vibe consistent.’ Interestingly that isn’t paint that you’re looking at on Rubber Soul, it’s powder coat. That’s right, the whole thing is powder coated in a hue called ‘Enchanted Summer’. Every other part that wasn’t painted was polished and remounted.
[superquote]“We wanted it to feel light and have a race vibe with an elegant and classic sense”[/superquote]
The Rubber Soul took the team at Red Clouds Collective a hell of a lot of time to complete. ‘It was all very intensive and detail oriented,’ Seth recalls, ‘Lots of late nights and a countless hours’. And that was partly because the bike had to be ready in less than two months to make the famed One Moto Show. But part of the reason the build went so seamlessly is because of the Bonneville’s inherent reliability. ‘The bike ran great and we didn’t have any mechanical work to do,’ Seth says, ‘so that allowed us to spend all of our time on making the bike look and feel the way we wanted it’.
People about to embark on a project take note: there’s wisdom in those words. Having such a solid starting point for a motorcycle allowed the team at Red Clouds Collective to focus on making the Bonneville look like an exceptional lightweight desert sled – miles away from the porky original lines of the standard bike. And the guys love it – every day they’ve been riding the bike around town and occasionally, up into the mountains that surround Portland. Next time we’re in town we’ll be harassing them for a ride!