Photos by Glenn Roberts
July 1 2009

Ted Wilkins is no stranger to building a bike, rebuilding it, and then rebuilding some more. When Ted was a young lad, there was no way his parents would let him have a motorcycle, so he did what he had to do; he built one from an old bicycle. An old Clinton chainsaw engine drove a wheelbarrow tire via a V-belt, and a small balloon tire on the front. His biggest problem with his homemade contraption is that he couldn’t keep the front wheel on the ground, oh yeah, and it had no brakes.

This humble beginning led Ted to motocross, but he found that involved too much travelling to get to the various tracks. Then a hillclimb started in Wilberforce, Ontario, just down the road from his home. With his 370 Can-Am race bike, he took on the hill and began thinking he could give up travelling to motocross tracks and race in his own ‘backyard’. But Ted is a competitor; one hill on a motocross bike just didn’t cut it.

After a talk with a buddy, they determined they would build a nitro-methane breathing monster. Ted found a 1971 Triumph 650 Trophy ‘oil-in-frame’ basket case. Ted modified the frame to eliminate the inherent oiling problems, installed a Morego 750 kit, a Bonneville dual-carb head, many ancillary items and, of course, Nitro-Methane. Ted turned the tired Triumph into a purpose-built hillclimber and started running in the AMA Pro Hillclimb circuit of the northeastern United States, with a few stints on the west coast and parts in-between.

This insanely brutal sport had Ted rebuilding parts of the bike on a regular basis. Many bent front ends and many engine blowups meant regularly throwing higher quality parts at the old Triumph. “Bent connecting rods were common, but sometimes the engine would literally blow up.” Ted spent a small fortune on the best quality engine parts to the point he had so much invested and the engine sounded so good, he didn’t want to lose it all again. So Ted did the unthinkable and built a new hillclimber from the ground up with a 521 cc Rotax engine. He was told it wouldn’t work by fellow racers, but at his first race he proved them all wrong and ended the weekend with a third place, but that’s a whole other story.

Ted retired the old Triumph after campaigning it on the AMA Pro Hillclimb circuit from 1985 to 1989 reaching a best of 8th place in the Pro 800 Class.

The Triumph sat in the corner of his garage for close to two decades before he decided on the resurrection. He didn’t know what he wanted out of it other than it would be a hot rod of some kind. He just started cutting and grinding and would see what happened. Ted had thought briefly of a hardtail, but a broken back from a bad landing in ’97 put a kibosh on that idea.

Many of the parts were salvaged from Peterborough Cycle Salvage and Ted just made them fit. Stuff like the seat pan frame is from a BMW engine guard, the seat pan braces are pieces of derelict handlebars, the fork is from an old Yamaha TTR 230, as is the swingarm albeit highly modified to fit the frame and accept the single shock that he thinks is from a bigger Yamaha street bike of some kind. He joked that the tires are the most expensive items on the ‘Xclimber’.

Ted also had to remember all the mods he made for racing, like removing welds in the transmission and reinstalling the unneeded gears from its racing days. The suicide clutch takes up space on the left foot peg, operated by his heel, while the jockey shift is under the right thigh.

His biggest hurdles were the master cylinders for the brakes; left hand lever is for the rear brake and the traditional right lever operates the front brake. When he turned the steering, the master cylinder clamps would hit the gas tank. Not wanting to change the handlebar placement, the steering radius or the gas tank—that would be too easy—Ted built the master cylinders into the handlebar with the help of his old and tired belt-drive lathe. He just shrugged his shoulders when I asked him how long it took to do that. I said, “OK, ten hours or forty hours”. He instantly responded with, “forty”. Time well spent I’d say, it is the coolest homemade handlebar I have ever seen. The throttle, again from an old handlebar, is also of Ted’s design.

While you won’t see the Xclimber ripping up any hills these days, you may see him ripping up the road, as this is Ted’s regular rider. Oh, and that jockey shift under his right thigh, Ted was worried that would slow him down, but that concern was unfounded he says. He is as much at home on the pavement as he is fishtailing around a gravel-filled corner; there is no amount of abuse he could give this bike that it hasn’t already experienced. MMM


Owner: Ted Wilkins
Make: Triumph
Model: Hillclimber
Builder: Ted Wilkins
Name of Bike: Xclimber

Year: 1971
Builder: Triumph/Ted Wilkins
Displacement: 750 cc Morego Kit
Cases: Triumph
Head: Triumph Bonneville Twin Plug
Lower End: Triumph/Balanced Crank, Carrillo Rods
Cams: Harman & Collins and Black Diamond Exhaust Valves
Carburetors: Mikuni
Ignition: Points
Exhaust: Ted Wilkins

Year: 1971
Builder: Triumph
Type: Oil-in-Frame
Rake: 38° plus 5° in triple trees
Swingarm: Yamaha TTR 230/Ted Wilkins
Shocks: Yamaha something
Modifications: Too many to list

Front End
Builder: Yamaha
Type: TTR 230
Triple Trees: Ted Wilkins
Painter: Rusty Evans
Powder coating: ABC Powdercoating
Lettering: Glen ‘What’s Your Sign’

Builder/Manufacturer: Suzuki GSXR
Tire Make and size: Pirelli Scorpion Sync 120/70-17
Builder/Manufacturer: Suzuki GSXR
Tire Make and size: Pirelli Scorpion Sync 150/70-17

Gas Tank: Kawasaki LTD
Seat: Ted Wilkins/BMW engine guard
Handlebars: Ted Wilkins
Brakes: Ted Wilkins mounting brackets
Battery: Homemade 5 mAh NiMHi Battery

• Almost everything was made from recycled parts or from scrap
• Special thanks to Bonnie for keeping the Honey-Do list short while I finished the resurrection
• Photos taken by Glenn Roberts


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