Julian’s Triumph 500 Metisse
No bike I’ve worked on has had as much done to it as this gorgeous little 1960s dirt racer.
It arrived in March 2023, fresh from its last race and still covered in mud, with a brief from Julian: convert it to road spec. On a Rickman frame such as this, it’s a complicated problem. The famous brothers were brilliant at welding and making stiff frames. Everything else, not so much. We needed a headlight, speedo bracket, ignition switch bracket, battery box, rear brake switch, tail light and speedo pickup.
Rickman frames have almost no brackets, so you have to be cunning. And they don’t come much more cunning than my old friend Simon Martin. He spent more than 30 years building race frames for bikes. His idea for the headlight bracket is beautifully simple. Ditto his battery box, which on this bike we put just behind the headstock. The smallest battery we could find would just fit. And the RGV250-based sidestand picked up three existing mounting points. So clever.
Once the bike was back from Simon’s place, I got going on the wiring. The bike had also arrived with a huge old electronic ignition system. As Julian wanted battery charging, it made sense to throw it away, and use ElectrexWorld’s combined CDI ignition and alternator. Fitting it was the last job… until I removed the primary cover, and discovered the end of the crank had been chopped off. Clearly this was a serious racing engine.
“Julian, about your bike… It needs a new crankshaft.” Julian took it in good spirit, and I suggested he use Alan Seeley, a bike journalist and freelance mechanic. Alan tore the engine apart, and the bad news just kept coming. The crankcases were from different models. The gear pinions were mismatched. The barrels were shot. And on and on.
Long story short, Alan and I fitted the Electrex stator kit to the rebuilt engine in mid September. Fuel on, kick and… the most fantastic sound echoed around the marina. The engine is crisp and sharp, and pulls like a train. Rrappp! Rrrapp!
Rickmans are, I have to say, pretty nightmarish to work on. They make Heath Robinson look organised. But they are beautiful and capable. And wazzing the little 500 round for a test ride made all the skinned knuckles and swearing worthwhile. Julian has an absolute jewel to look forward too.