WHITE HELMETS TRIBUTE: TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE T100 “NO.2”
White Helmets veteran Oli Blount builds one stunning tribute machine…For nearly a century, the Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team — better known as the White Helmets — was a team of soldiers from the Royal Corps of Signals of the British Army who performed public demonstrations of motorcycling skills, stunt riding, and acrobatics. The team’s origins were the horsemanship and precision motorcycle demonstrations given by members of the Signal Training Centre starting in 1927.
“The team owed its heritage to the daring dispatch riders of the First World War who, with skills honed on the battlefront, began to perform tricks by pitching their motorcycles against horses at their base in Catterick, Yorkshire.” —Daily Express
The members, who served as army dispatch riders, traditionally wore tailored No.1 dress uniforms and open-face white helmets when performing, and starting in the 1970s, they rode 750cc Triumph Tigers.
The team normally consisted of 36 volunteer members and a commissioned officer, with 10-man teams performing tricks such as the Court Jester, Swallow, and Ladder Handstand, entertaining about two million of spectators each year.
New recruits had to pass a two-week selection course in October and spend the next six months learning the stunts and routines, which culminated in a display in April when new members were presented with their white helmets by the Signal Officer in Chief.
Unfortunately, in 2017, the team was disbanded after 90 years of service, with top officials stating that the White Helmets had become too old-fashioned an image for the Royal Signals, which are now involved in cutting-edge cyber warfare. (Cue the eye roll.)
Recently, we came across the build of our new friend Oli Blount (@no.2triumph), who served a three-year stint with the White Helmets (2012-2015). As a former member, he developed a love for the classic bikes they performed on, and in May of last year, he had the idea to create a White Helmets tribute build.
“The vision for the build was to create a tribute motorcycle, something the team would be proud of and happy to ride in a show — British, highly polished with a classic appearance, but on this occasion, road legal.”
Originally, he intended to purchase a vintage Triumph Tiger T140, but then the modern T100 drew his eye — more affordable, more reliable, and easier to customize. He purchased an ’06 Bonneville T100 with just 1500 miles on the clock and got right to work, completely stripping down the bike.
The frame and swingarm were acid-dipped, polished, and nickel-plated. He also stripped the paint from the engine and installed finned cases polished by EJN Metal Polishing.
The bike is now running Keihin FCR 39 carburetors and custom brass velocity stacks, and the exhaust system was purpose-built by Hitchcox Motorcycles with “no.2, 1927” laser-etched into the end:
“1927 being the year the White Helmets was formed, and no.2 the bike number I rode during my three years with the team.”
The bike has fully adjustable Matris suspension, a Tamarit triple clamp, Morad high valanced rims, TKC80 tires, and much more. All in all, this is one absolutely stunning tribute to the White Helmets from a former member of the team, and one of the loveliest Triumphs we’ve had the pleasure to showcase in some time. Below, we get the full details on the build from Oli himself.
Triumph T100 White Helmets Tribute: In the Builder’s Words
The bike is a 2006 Triumph Bonneville T100, a similar modern representation of the 1976 Triumph T140 Tiger the Royal Signals White Helmets Motorcycle Display Team used in the latter years of their presence.
Unfortunately, the British Army disbanded the display team after 90 years service in 2017. As a former member between 2012-2015, I developed a love for the classic bikes we performed on.
In May 2020 the idea of the build first arose. Originally, I began searching for a Triumph Tiger T140, but with prices varying around the £5,000 figure, I decided to take a look at the modern T100’s — that decision would give me a lot more flexibility on customisation and ultimately a more reliable bike.
The vision for the build was to create a tribute motorcycle, something the team would be proud of and happy to ride in a show — British, highly polished with a classic appearance, but on this occasion, road legal.
The first process was stripping the bike. Fortunately, the T100 I’d purchased had only covered 1,500 miles so was in very good condition. The frame was chopped and a rear loop added before being acid dipped then highly polished by EJN Metal Polishing shortly before nickel plating, along with the swingarm.
I also purchased Esteves Motorcycle Design finned engine casings, of which you don’t see all too often on today’s motorcycles due to the liquid cooled era. These were again polished by EJN.
The engine was completely stripped so I could access the bulk of the casing, using paint stripper over the course of a couple days to achieve the all-round finished look of the engine.
Keihin FCR 39 carburetors add a punchy rasp to the tone, matched with custom brass velocity stacks.
The exhaust was a purpose-built system from Hitchcox Motorcycles, adding a personalised touch with “no.2, 1927” laser-etched into the last few inches of the exhaust. 1927 being the year the White Helmets was formed, and no.2 the bike number I rode during my three years with the team.
Biltwell Tracker bars and motogadget accents keep the look simplistic and relatively vintage looking. Thornton Hundred Beeline Mount was machined to fit the 2006 model, again polished. A brass plaque denotes the history of the team on the handlebar mount.
The suspension system is Matris front and rear, making the bike fully adjustable and bringing the bike from 2006 into 2021, but keeping a classic aesthetic. The front forks are held in place by a Tamarit triple clamp.
Stopping the bike is a mixture of Beringer disc and master cylinder front end and Discacciati caliper and disc at the rear.
The footprint is provided by Continental TKC80 for the scrambler appearance. These are wrapped around Morad high valanced rims and stainless steel spokes, threaded by Central Wheel Components.
Wiring was tastefully hidden away, custom loom and FCR indicators, rear and front light all connected to an M-Unit Blue courtesy of Mono Motorcycles.
Drawing your eye in is the cherry-red tank emblazoned with a white Triumph logo and display team insignia. The fuel cap is Motone billet, engraved with roman numerals no.2.
The finishing touch, a custom leather seat with Triumph embroidered at the rear from Nostalgia Upholstery.
Here is a bullet-pointed list of everything that has been done/added to the bike:
Biltwell Tracker Handlebars
Custom Aluminium Speedo Holder
Motogadget MST vintage
Beringer Clutch & Brake Lever
Beringer Master Cylinder, Front Disc & Caliper
Tamarit Triple Clamps
4.5 Inch Headlight
Baak Front & Rear Scrambler Fenders
Matris F15K Front Internal forks
Front Forks Polished & Lug Removal
Custom Billet Wheel Spacer
Morad Rims, Front 19″ Rear 18″
Continental TKC 80 Tyres
Nickel Plated Frame & Swingarm
FCR Fuel Cap, Engraved No.2
Custom Painted Fuel Tank
Thornton Hundred Customised Beeline Mount
Custom Brass Handlebar Mount Plate
Rear Matris Suspension
FCR Rear Light
FCR Front & Rear Indicators & Bracket
Custom Fabricated Rear Loop
Keihin FCR 39 Carburettors
Custom Brass Velocity Stacks
Custom Brass Engine Bracket
Esteves Motorcycle Design Engine Casings
Polished Engine Casings
Motone Brass Plug
Nostalgia Upholstery Seat Pan & Seat, Embroidered Triumph