CATAMOUNT CUB: 1965 TRIUMPH TIGER CUB
Interview by Taylor Brown of BikeBound.com
Photography by Seth Neefus
March 29th, 2022
In 1952, Triumph introduced the Tiger Cub, a 200cc four-stroke OHV single designed by the legendary Edward Turner. Sometimes known as the “Baby Bonnie,” the lightweight single was meant to mimic the larger machines in the Triumph lineup, such as the Speed Twin and Thunderbird:
When the UK limited learner riders to machines of 250cc, the Tiger Cub became immensely popular among budding motorcyclists, and it also made a splash in the trials world. Today, it remains one of the most popular machines in Pre-65 Trials: “Pre-65 Trials began with classic British trials machines being dragged out of the shed for a bit of fun on the weekend. Today, the rules vary from club to club, but generally allow machines with an engine, gearbox, and the silhouette of a frame available at the time.” —BikeBound
Enter our friends Seth and Casey Neefus of Portland’s Red Clouds Collective, whose Yamaha XT500 “twins” remain two of our favorite builds we’ve ever featured. Seth, who was interested in getting into vintage trials, picked up this ’65 Tiger Cub as a true barn find:
“It was a pile of junk with no seat and some random parts thrown on it…one side was covered in mud, and it didn’t run.”
He was especially inspired by the Pre-65 Trials machines, and those who ride them:
“Everything is heavily modified and absolutely beautifully built from fabrication work to the paint schemes. Then you watch how these old machines just hop around and up all of this insane terrain…. It just seemed like the right thing to fuel my passion for building old British motorcycles and gaining knowledge and skills to improve my riding on very difficult terrain.”
As is de rigueur for Pre-65 Trials, the modifications were extensive. Seth added a top tube to the frame, which doubles as an oil tank, and the bike required a new top end. It’s rocking longer gas shocks in the rear, a big rear sprocket for low speed work, Domino slow-turn throttle, electronic ignition, an aluminum tank painted in classic black and gold, and much more.
The bike is simply gorgeous, but Seth says the riding experience is the real pleasure:
“This is the most fun motorcycle that I have ever ridden! It is light and nimble, quick and responsive with lots of power…. I have learned how to be a better rider on a motorcycle that was made in 1965. These things are great for technical trials, riding some muddy trails in the woods, or around town to run some errands. I am continuously impressed by this motorcycle.”
He isn’t the only one — the “Catamount Cub” took home Best British Bike at last year’s One Moto Show. What’s more, the 2022 edition of the show is fast approaching — April 28 – May 1 — and if you’re there, you’ll get to see the unveiling of the Neefus brothers’ new Triumph Pre-Unit builds!
Below, we talk to Seth for the full story on the “Catamount Cub.”
Triumph Tiger Cub Trials Bike: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
1965 Triumph Tiger Cub (mountain cub).
• Why was this bike built?
I really wanted to start riding vintage trials and a friend was selling this Tiger Cub. He found two of them on a property he was working on stashed away in a dirty corner of an old barn. Obviously, I got the one he didn’t want. It was a pile of junk with no seat and some random parts thrown on it, as well as one side was covered in mud, and it didn’t run.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
If you watch any vintage trials video from the UK, you will notice their bikes are a work of art. Everything is heavily modified and absolutely beautifully built from fabrication work to the paint schemes. Then you watch how these old machines just hop around and up all of this insane terrain. It just made me want to make something I could gain some basic skills with while riding these kind of obstacles. It just seemed like the right thing to fuel my passion for building old British motorcycles and gaining knowledge and skills to improve my riding on very difficult terrain.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Since the bike needed everything that makes a motorcycle function other than a frame and engine, I found a great source online for trials parts used on most pre-65 trials bikes, which really helped with a few aftermarket things.
I added a top tube to the frame that acts as an oil tank and allows for the use of a different gas tank. The stock Tiger Cub frames do not have a top tube and the gas tank does not have a channel through the middle. The tank just bolts in at the front and rear and sits in the strange open area of the frame.
The gas tank I used is polished aluminum and is very slim. I did the paintwork on it to make it feel like a classic Triumph with black paint and gold lettering.
The fenders are also polished aluminum and the front bracket is an aftermarket mount I was able to source online.
The handlebars are a trials handlebar by Renthal with a 5.5” rise, which was nice because you stand up 100% of the time when riding trials.
There is a nice little number plate and very small seat that are also seen on the majority of pre-65 trials bikes. The high header pipe was added since the bike had a rusty low pipe on it when I found it.
The stance on a trials bike is set back and requires the pegs to be repositioned, and longer gas shocks were added to allow for more travel clearance. I also added a much larger rear sprocket to help with the gearing for slow speeds and technical terrain.
A new Amal carburetor and Domino slow-action twist throttle were installed to help with with the responsiveness while riding. The points ignition was updated to an electronic ignition system to help with reliability and now it starts first kick every time.
It turned out the top end was heavily worn, and the barrel had extremely deep scratches. Unfortunately, it had been bored to the max, but I found a replacement top end and fitted a new piston and rings, along with new gaskets for the entire engine. The whole top end was vapor-blasted, as was a handful of other parts, and everything else was painted and restored to a beautiful shiny polished look.
• What’s the story behind the bike’s nickname, “Catamount Cub”?
When I was a kid I would spend my winters snowboarding at a small mountain in Upstate, NY called Catamount. I learned to ski there when I was two years old and then learned to snowboard at the age of 13. It was just home to my nights and weekends as I grew to become a competitive snowboarder and also hangout and have fun with friends. It was my stomping ground and the place I would learn new tricks and really develop the fundamental skills to grow as an athlete. In the end, snowboarding and skateboarding brought me and my brother to the west coast, but that is another whole story.
Ultimately, the name Catamount has a deep nostalgic meaning for me. Since I was building this bike to learn how to ride vintage trials and starting a whole new discipline at a much older age, it felt comforting to think of the place I spent my youth learning how to ski and snowboard and how that is what brought me to where I am at today. Now the Catamount Cub is in my life and a pleasure to ride.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
This is the most fun motorcycle that I have ever ridden! It is light and nimble, quick and responsive with lots of power. I love it and it is everything I could have imagined! I recommend going out and building up a little Triumph Tiger Cub or something similar because it just makes everything so much more fun.
I have learned how to be a better rider on a motorcycle that was made in 1965. These things are great for technical trials riding, some muddy trails in the woods, or around town to run some errands. I am continuously impressed by this motorcycle.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I am proud that it looks the way I wanted it to look, but I am most proud that I am able to ride it better than I thought I would be able to ride it. To answer your question, the thing I am most proud of is what has been done with it after the build was finished.
• What’s next for Red Clouds Collective?
We are always working on new clothing, bags, and leather goods as usual, but we definitely spend our nights and weekends wrenching on a handful of builds. We are finishing up 2 Triumph Pre Units from the mid 1950’s that we will have at the One Moto Show in just a few weeks.
I won’t go into detail about them — you will just have to come see them in real life and spend a fun weekend in Portland with hundreds of motorcycles. We are honored to have our bikes in the show and can’t wait to see everything that so many talented builders have been working on!