Bike devotee keen to put Triton to use

The Burt beckons . . . Classic motorcycle racing enthusiast Stuart McElrea, of Balclutha, is hoping his rebuilt Triton motorcycle will live up to expectations at next week’s Burt Munro Challenge in Invercargill. PHOTO: JOHN COSGROVE

After four years of work, Stuart McElrea will finally get to see what his rebuilt Triton motorcycle can do when he takes part in his 12th Burt Munro Challenge classic motorcycle event next week.
The classic motorcycle racing enthusiast, of Balclutha, has been a keen motorcyclist since he was young, his father would take him to race meetings.
‘‘The bikes looked and sounded great and then a neighbour used to pass on his UK motorcycle magazines to me and I’d drool over the Triumphs and Norton gracing the pages,’’ McElrea said,
Since his teens, he had owned many motorcycles — ranging from classics to modern adventure and sports machines
— which he still rode and raced today.
‘‘I started classic racing about 12 years ago when a 70-year-old friend of mine showed me that if he could race, then so could I.
‘‘We eventually bought a suitable classic racing bike together and raced it until he finally retired so then I bought his share of it and carried on.
‘‘Racing gets your blood pumping, sitting there on the start line with 20-30 other bikes waiting for the flag to drop and all trying to get to that first corner first, it’s great fun,’’ he said.
Four years ago, he noticed the Triton up for sale.
A Triton is a hybrid motorcycle containing a Triumph engine installed into a Norton featherbed frame.
‘‘It was a good marriage of a tuneable engine with a sweet handling frame,’’ McElrea said.
‘‘During the ’60s in the UK, the Rockers all rode cafe racer style machines, and the top bike to have then was a Triton.
‘‘You take a Triumph Bonneville engine and with a bit of fiddling bolt it into the best frame on the market — the Norton featherbed frame and get a cafe racer styled Triton.’’
McElrea had always wanted one.
‘‘When I finally got it I knew it was a basket case, the Triumph 650 Bonneville motor was very sick and it had a single-leading brake that couldn’t stop it, it was a mess.’’
He later discovered its provenance involved having been crashed heavily in the late ’70s and dumped in a garage until it was rebuilt.
‘‘I binned the old 650 and put in a Triumph 750cc T140 engine with a five-speed close-ratio box. I then changed the front brakes to a more suitable twin-leading shoe drum brake system. They work really well now. The bike has a quick action throttle and new-period Amal carburettors, plus it’s also been lightened quite a bit with alloy guards, oil tank and rims.
‘‘It’s been in the garage and not running for a while, as it had some initial teething problems but they are all sorted now so hopefully we will get a good run at Teretonga.
“The bike has limitations, and so does the rider, but Teretonga Park is my favourite track. It’s a long, sweeping track which allows you to get up a good head of speed before you enter the main straight, which is the second longest in Australasia.
‘‘If everything works out on the day and running on 100-octane pump gas, I should hopefully exceed 200kmh on it,’’ he said.