Triumph Thunderbird review

Date 23.2.2011

Presented by
  • Motorcycle Trader

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Triumph Thunderbird

T-BIRD TOURING

Triumph’s range of touring accessories equips its biggest twin to take the road out of town…

You see a lot of big-twin cruisers on interstate highways here and in particular, in the USA. So it seemed like a good idea to check out how Triumph’s big twin, the Thunderbird, handles the long-haul action.

Adding a passenger and luggage makes little difference to the T-Bird riding experience. The torquey 1600-twin’s performance combines with the robust suspension and powerful brakes to deliver a laid-back, stress-free ride. Dynamically the whole machine copes manfully with typical conditions on our roads. The suspension and seat padding insulate you effectively from all but the few severe bumps that can’t be dodged. And two-up, the power of the rear brake comes into its own. It’s strong with plenty of feel.

Long rides on cruisers are best approached with a different mind-set. You tend to be more interested in photo-opportunities and bakery-café stops than you are in knocking 30 minutes off your best Melbourne to Eden time. That’s not to say you can’t cover serious ground, though. In the saddle, relaxed and comfortable, with the 270-degree engine loping along at more or less legal highway speeds, you can realistically commit yourself to 1000km days. Fully loaded you can expect close to 18km/lt from the bike, making the 22 litre tank good for 350km-plus stints.

Here are some of the accessories that enhanced the T-Bird’s comfort levels for our ride (prices shown don’t include installation costs): The quick-release screen was effective at reducing the rider’s exposure to weather and windloads (screen kit A9741023 – $695; mounting kit A9758116 – $279). We also enjoyed the benefits of the long-haul dual touring seat (A9700224 – $589), the rider backrest kit (A9708158 – $377), the quick-release sissy bar kit with backrest (A9750516 – $744) and the ever-welcome for winter, heated grips (A9638068 – $329).

Leather panniers (A9528004 – $975) and their mounting kit (A9528030 – $315) took care of our gear for the trip. They looked great on the T-Bird and pressed my nostalgia buttons, recalling my similarly equipped WLA Harley back when the world was young. They provided reasonable capacity and the quick-action fasteners underneath the old-school buckles were a nice bonus. As expected they leaked a bit at speed through a heavy downpour, justifying our decision to use garbage bags as liners. And you do miss the ‘locked-up’ security-factor of modern hard panniers when you’re out of sight of the parked bike.

An irritation on the Thunderbird is the fiddly steering lock with its separate key. Some would also take issue with the bike’s limited cornering clearance, but for mine it’s in keeping with its cruiser role and still allows lots of fun-riding through medium to fast bends, fully loaded.

If you’re into touring and in the market for a Harley, a Victory or a metric cruiser, check out a T-Bird too.

THUMBS UP

Strong, sweet engine

Pleasure on wheels

Looks the goods

THUMBS DOWN

Fiddly steering lock

No lockable storage

SPECIFICATIONS

Triumph Thunderbird

ENGINE
Type:
Liquid-cooled, four-valve, DOHC, twin-spark, 270º parallel-twin
Capacity: 1599cc
Bore x stroke: 103.8mm x 94.3mm
Compression ratio: 9.7:1
Fuel system: EFI with twin 42mm throttle bodies

TRANSMISSION
Type:
Six-speed, helical-gear, constant-mesh
Final drive: Belt

CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type:
welded tubular-steel, twin spine
Front suspension: 47mm Showa telescopic fork – non-adjustable
Rear suspension: Showa twin shocks– preload adjustable

Front brakes: Twin 310mm discs with four-piston Nissin calipers
Rear brake: Single 310mm disc with Brembo single- piston caliper

DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Dry weight:
308kg
Seat height: 702mm
Fuel capacity: 22lt

PERFORMANCE
Max power:
63kW (85hp) at 4850rpm
Max torque: 146Nm at 2750rpm

OTHER STUFF
Price:
$20,990 plus ORC (standard bike)
Bike supplied by: Triumph Australia (www.triumph.co.uk/australia/)
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kilometres