Until relatively recently, a prize winning custom motorcycle was usually an awesome but completely unrideable or impractical work of art. Things have thankfully changed. Even choppers and bobbers are being built with less radical, more rideable American old school design cues. Owners of these custom motorcycles want to have a head turning original but also want their motorcycle to be a practical daily or at least weekend ride. The more practical European and Japanese influenced custom styles like a café racer, brat bobber or scrambler are therefore all the rage at the moment. The all American street tracker style is rapidly growing in popularity internationally and with good reason. These urban racers are stylish, have plenty of heritage and are practical motorcycles for daily urban commuting.
Street trackers are the barely street legal versions of the American racing motorcycle known as a flat tracker. The AMA Grand National Championship for flat trackers was the premier motorcycling series in the United States from after WWII until the 1970s when Supercross became more popular. A traditional flat tracker is a twin cylinder engine fitted into a rolling chassis specially designed for dirt oval track racing. Unlike its European speedway cousins, the flat tracker has front and rear suspension and a rear brake. No front brake is fitted. Before WWII Harley and Indian were the main contenders. In the 1950s Harley had the championship all to itself but in the 1960s the British manufacturers began entering the events and in 1963 BSA won the national title. Triumph won the title in 1967, 68 and 1970 with BSA winning again in 1971, after which the British motorcycle industry’s collapse meant that it was left up to Yamaha to step in and win in 1973. From 1977, after Yamaha’s withdrawal from the competition, Harley had it all their own way until Honda entered in 1984, and won four championships in a row before withdrawing at the end of 1987. Although deemed to be an all Harley racing series, this championship is one of the few series internationally which attracts motorcycles powered by American, European, British and Japanese production engines. Currently the twin cylinder class allows for engines with capacities from 550cc up to 1250cc which includes Harley Sportster, Triumph Bonneville, Buell, Aprilia, KTM, Honda and Ducati power. The distinct look of a flat tracker has not changed in almost fifty years. The street tracker brings this distinctive look to our city streets.
You would have to go a long way to find a more authentic looking modern street tracker than Glenn’s creation. He bought an accident damaged Triumph Thruxton, minus its complete front end, petrol tank and side covers from Traditional Triumph in Edenvale. As part of the deal, Glenn purchased the complete front end off a damaged Speed Triple which happened to be standing next to the Thruxton. Glenn had a Bonneville steering stem pressed into the Speed Triple trees and after a twenty minute installation process, the Thruxton left Traditional Triumph on two wheels.
The beautifully crafted British made aluminium tank and tail piece were purchased locally secondhand. All the wiring, electrical components and battery are now hidden under the seat. The tiny front headlight is soon to be replaced with a row of LEDs across the bottom of the front number board. This is not a legal solution but will be very visible during the day. Glenn does not ride this motorcycle at night. The number 45 is his historic BSA racer’s number. Motocross handlebars provide the leverage required when carving through traffic. The aftermarket silencers have been gutted and produce a ready to race sound.
Remove the front brake and bar end mirrors and this street tracker would look right at home standing next to its flat tracker cousins on the start line of an AMA event. Street trackers are not often seen in South African custom circles. We feel this is possibly the motorcycle that will change this situation.