The “What We Ride” features focus on our contributors and the motorcycles they choose to kick their leg over. We’re fortunate to work with Ken Carvajal and he has become a vital part of the ChopCult team. Ken is a Chicago-based custom motorcycle enthusiast who enjoys photography as one of his artistic outlets. He draws inspiration from other photographers and rates Cicero deGuzman Jr. highly. Having no mechanical background, his ‘can do’ attitude helped him to build the 1965 Triumph chopper he calls "Victoria." He considers the chopper to be the reason that he has friends in multiple states. Take a moment to get to know Victoria.
Words and imagery by Ken Carvajal
This bike started as a British Cycles roller that my wife and son gave me as a very early father’s day gift. I hounded the Classifieds for a year in hopes of finding a 650 or 750 motor. Out of desperation, I even considered picking up a complete basket case until I saw an ad for a running 1965 TR6 that had been previously posted for a much higher price. I contacted the seller and made an offer to trade-in the roller, apply that towards his asking price, and pay the rest in cash. That’s how I got this bike. It had good bones, rigid frame, Santee horse shoe oil tank, Visionary Cycles triple trees and really nice one-off narrow Z bars. But the most appealing thing to me was the MAP open primary belt setup, which by itself was worth nearly half of what I paid for the bike.
Shortly after getting the bike home, I changed the seat, installed a set of ACME Cycles T-bars, and a 21” wheel that I laced to a Spitfire spool. I ran a mid-tunnel Wassel repop tank that I rattle canned, installed a ribbed rear fender, and shaved the lower tubes with a Sawzall and angle grinder. I just really made it my own.
There were also many things that I garage-engineered and rolled back because they were just plain terrible ideas. It’s geared for the highway with 21/43T combo, which is pretty weak at take-offs but cruises nicely at highway speeds. I also installed a remote oil filter which works great, as well as a Monster Craftsman chain tensioner to keep my chain from hitting my rear tire. I rode it in this configuration for a year and got to learn it inside and out by doing my own motor work, wiring etc. I had my share of things vibrating off, things wearing down and getting it towed home. I figured it’s part of the learning process but I was able to get it running so good and trust it enough to go on long distance trips like around Lake Michigan and New Orleans to San Antonio. I rode it to Pinned in OH, Violation Tour and a number of camping trips. Maybe I lucked out, but it’s been very good to me. During that time, it won “Best Foreign” at the annual hardtail party in Milwaukee and was also one of the bikes displayed at the 2014 Four Points Cycle show in Madison, WI.
I’ve always wanted to clean it up and further change the look so, this past winter, I installed a Frisco’d Wassel tank (repop) and 8 over fork tubes. With help from my good friends, I also built a custom seat that Adam from Pierce Street covered for me. I installed a single dual head coil, moved the ignition switch under the seat, and had my handsome friend Jason at JumpStreet Customs make a set of one-off riserless rabbits to complete the bike. The overall stance feels just right and I seriously enjoy riding this bike. I especially love when people get stoked on something that I built myself. The best part is when it sparks a conversation with a complete stranger who would then share their stories about their Triumph chopper back in the day. I give the bike credit for helping me make the friends I have now, and I can’t wait for the day when I hand the key to my son and share the roads with him.
Owner name/location: Ken Carvajal / Lombard, IL
Bike Name: Formerly “Victoria” after my favorite Mexican beer.
Engine/ year and make/ model: 1965 Triumph TR6, 650cc
Frame: Modified front loop to run Harley front end, 2” up on the neck, 4” stretch on the hardtail .
Front end: Visionary Cycles Trees, 8 over Frankies, shaved lowers.
Tires/wheels: Stock 16” rear wheel with Carlisle tire. Front is a 21” Harley wheel laced to a Spitfire spool with Shinko tire.
Favorite thing: The king and queen seat. It’s actually comfortable, especially with a bag strapped to the sissy. I also dig the MAP open primary belt setup.
Other mods/cool parts: Boyer EI, Remote Oil filter, Single dual head coil, Haifley Brothers Sissy bar kit that I modified to add the tail light. Lastly, the JumpStreet Customs rabbit ear bars.
Next Mod: I’ve been toying with the idea of installing a 750 kit and maybe raking the neck a little.
Building or riding story: I built this bike in my garage and did everything myself, except for the seat upholstery. I learned a lot along the way with help from ChopCult members, especially Tony the Torch who’s always willing to lend a hand. It’s to the point where the bike is very trustworthy. A friend has even commented that he’s surprised it hasn’t blown up because I don’t baby it.
One riding story that comes to mind is the time we trailered our bikes to New Orleans to ride from there to the Texas Hill Country (1200 miles roundtrip). My bike started smoking pretty bad while riding from the truck to the rental house. I thought I had a blown piston but the compression seemed good and she fired up first kick as usual. Before the trip, I connected with some ChopCult members in the area and exchanged numbers with Steve, CC member name BP131. He happened to be a Triumph guy and lived just a few blocks from where we were staying. Long story short, we traced my oil lines and found a piece of gasket that was blocking my return line, forcing all the oil to my top end and into the cylinders. (Steve if you’re reading this, again THANK YOU!)
The following day, we were west-bound towards Texas. At the halfway point, in Beaumont, I noticed my frame had cracked in two different spots. Being more than a thousand miles from home, 300+ miles from our truck, and another 300 to our destination, I may have hyper ventilated a little. But luckily, my friends Chris Hartman and Panhead John found a local metal shop 6 miles away called Babin Machine Works. Great group of guys who tigged the cracks and initially wouldn’t take any form of payment. I’m glad they at least took $20 that I hope they used towards a case of beer. Shortly after putting my bike back together and getting back on the highway, my clutch lever cracked. With zip ties and hose clamps, I rode it the rest of the 280+ miles to San Antonio, Texas. Joey Cano at Slab Side pointed me to Stu at SOS CYCLES who had the lever waiting there for me the next morning. No issues the rest of the trip and it was an amazing experience overall.
Thanks to: My beautiful wife and son for all their support and encouragement. My mom for being my cheerleader since day one. My great friend, Chris Hartman, for always pointing me in the right direction, Chris McMorrow (Black Horizons) for also being a great friend and keeping me safe, my boo Jason at JumpStreet Customs for making the bars, my buddy Curtis at Speedball Cycle Works for helping me with the seat pan and kickstand, Darryl at Lost Cause Engineering for the pointers with the seat, Adam Nisiewicz at Pierce Street Seat Co. for wrapping my seat, Tony the Torch for always lending a hand when I have those panic moments, Ed Zender at Morrie's Place, my dude Alex at Strange Cycles, Steve aka BP131, ChopCult for being my first go-to when I need help with my bike, and everyone that has ever liked the photos of my bike when I post them on IG.