Triumph Thunderbird

Truimph_24By Kevin Ash


Pictures: Jason Critchell, Paul Bryant





Triumph has the entry level end of the cruiser market effectively covered with the Bonneville America and Speedmaster – both models are doing well in the important US market and sell strongly elsewhere in the world too. They score on two counts: one is their easy riding manageability which gives them strong appeal to relative novices, the second is their combination of cruiser styling with a very specific Triumph character, and that’s not just the parallel twin engine, but the sixties British twin look morphed into modern cruiser.

 Triumph_Thunderbird_02Click on image for galleryIt’s important to note these reasons for the smaller twins’ success because Triumph is hoping very much that owners of these will want to move up not to a Harley-Davidson but the new Thunderbird, and it will need to offer as much appeal if it’s going to work in the same way. The monster 2.3 litre Rocket Three hasn’t done as well as Triumph had hoped, mostly it seems because bigger isn’t necessarily better after all in America: cruisers do best in the 1.4 to 1.8 litre range, and really, only two cylinders will do. But could it also be that the Rocket Three, defining three-cylinder engine and sheer size aside, actually is rather bland looking as cruisers go?

Triumph has readily admitted that it is targeting Harley-Davidson with the Thunderbird, and that it commissioned Californian designer Tim Prentice to produce a bike aimed specifically at the American bikes. He came up with the Thunderbird’s styling, while the engine capacity is right there with the Milwaukee machines, 1597cc against the Harley twins’ 1584cc, while everything else about the bike is generic cruiser, from the raked-out forks to the teardrop tank to the long, low stance.

Triumph though has broken with cruiser tradition for the engine, using the classic British parallel twin layout where just about every other cruiser, and certainly every Harley, uses a V-twin. Triumph reckons it can get away with this because the British brand is still well thought of in the States as well as being identified by the parallel twin, and it’s probably right. The question is, even with a different motor, does the bike offer enough else to tempt Harley regulars, which after all is the only way it will sell in big numbers?

I’m not entirely convinced, and that’s despite the Thunderbird being superior to a Harley in just about every way you can measure. The engine for example does all you’d want from a cruiser, in terms of feel as well as power and torque. It’s a low, low revving unit producing a muscular 108lb.ft (146Nm) of torque at a mere 2,750rpm, and a sufficient 85bhp (86PS, 63kW) at less than 5,000rpm. The crankpins are staggered 90 degrees apart to produce uneven, V-twin-like firing intervals, so when you crack open the throttle the motor thumps lumpily and the bike lunges forward with satisfying urge. Vibration is tactile low frequency rather than annoying tingles, although spin the engine beyond 5000rpm (not that you normally would) and it does become harsh, while the fuelling is perfect, smooth yet immediate and utterly predictable. It even manages to use less fuel than most other cruisers, according to Triumph (and I’ve always found the company’s claims in this respect perfectly honest and accurate), improving on a typical Harley by some 25 per cent with 54mpg (5.2 l/100km, 45mpg US) in mixed riding and 44mpg (6.4 l/100km, 37mpg US) at a steady 75mph (120kph).

The transmission is unobtrusive with reliable gear selection and the first belt drive on a Triumph for 85 years... as Triumph product manager Simon Warburton said, they couldn’t find the original engineer to call on his experience. But then the inverted-tooth, Kevlar-reinforced modern belt is vastly superior to a vintage version, quiet, clean and efficient and requiring very little maintenance. And it won’t slip in the wet.

Triumph has put a lot of effort into the chassis, determined to endow the Thunderbird with superior handling to a Harley, so it has a stiffer frame and better suspension. In particular, the steering at low speed is very impressive: most cruisers with their forks raked out at something like the Triumph’s 32 degrees tend to drop in to corners, and stand up if you brake while leaning, but the Thunderbird does neither, remaining neutral and as a consequence, very easy to handle. Whether a hairpin bend, mini-roundabout or high speed turn, the Thunderbird sweeps round impressively demanding the minimum input from the rider. This is a very relevant superiority, not in terms of agility but giving the bike a natural, undemanding feel.

The brakes do the job unobtrusively, asking for high pressures for hard stopping but responding well and proportionally, while the optional ABS is smooth and works effectively, certainly better than earlier Triumph attempts which could badly upset the chassis on bumpy surfaces.

This despite the suspension being soft, inevitable as low speed comfort is the primary aim. Bumps at speed have the bike bouncing around, but still the damping does a good job of controlling the wheels and providing the best ride quality in the class. Add this to the comfortable riding position, which is upright and spacious while avoiding the ergonomic extremes of many cruisers, along with the generous 4.8 gallon (22 litres, 5.8 gallons US) fuel tank, and you have a genuinely useful motorcycle as a well as a cruiser, a too-rare combination.

You really can go places on this bike, and there’s no shortage of accessories to turn it into exactly the machine you’re after, with various luggage and screen options for touring as well as an array of shiny bits: you could spend up to £7,000 on extras if you felt the need.

The finish quality is far more consistent than a Harley’s too. While the American bikes mix some of the very best finish with some unforgivably awful detailing, such as hose clips fixing exhausts or bolts and silencers which start rusting from the crate, Triumph’s corrosion resistance is regularly good and the Thunderbird’s attention to detail is impressive. The styling is well balanced and nicely themed too: note the way the final drive cover on the engine is angled to match the slash at the end of the silencer for example.

So why do I have reservations? Well, these are not so much to do with the UK market where I think the Thunderbird’s dynamic qualities along with its provenance will help it succeed in the cruiser market. It really is a great bike to ride, especially as it addresses what cruiser riders like in particular by feeling and sounding good, while having better range and rust resistance than a Harley really matter here in Britain. The price is usefully lower too. I just feel that the styling is too generic. Despite the trademark Triumph engine the bike could be any cruiser from any factory, except Harley itself. Harley-Davidson’s cruisers each have very particular characters beyond merely being cruisers, such as the California custom Rocker C, the Fifties Road King and ironically the Euro-custom-inspired Dyna Fat Bob. As a result, the Thunderbird lacks the presence or character of a Harley, and that does matter, more than any superiority in the handling or performance angles.

I suspect American Harley owners will see the Thunderbird, nod in appreciation at the badge and find it pleasing to look at, but find nothing to really grab their attention and persuade them to forego the home team. Still, this is just the first of many for Triumph – if Harley can make 20-30 bikes using the same motor then Triumph has plenty of scope yet to add individuality with niche versions. And for the British rider, all this matters less anyway: this is a British cruiser with values that are more important to us. The cruiser sector is smaller here but Triumph will grab a useful slice of it with the Thunderbird.



Price: £9,499 (ABS: add £600. Two-tone paint: add £300)

Available: June 2009

Contact: Triumph Motorcycles Ltd, 01455 251700, www.triumph.co.uk

shuggiemac
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Perhaps we should not be too surprised at the conclusion that has been arrived at here, where the machine may not appeal to the American market. Perhaps Triumph should have capitalised on the charm of their smaller cruisers that are succesful there beacsue of their unique styling and employed the same design team to try and capture that essence in a bigger form.
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I am sure the gentleman they used is perfectly capable but maybe getting an American to design a bike for the American market is always going to go down a certain path. Maybe not, I am just thinking about it here.
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For my part I quite like most of it. I think the engine is quite imposing in the pictures and dominates the side view of the bike. It is certainly nice to see something than just another narrow angle V, in this style of machine. Perhaps that alone shall win it friends. It looks excellent in Image 24 of the series for example.
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It is obvious that Triumph realise the huge potential of after sale bolt ons. Harley do very well indeed out of it and I think it is perhaps HD's cleverest thing of all that they manage to get people to pay over the top prices for their bikes as standard and then the vast majority go back and pay even more in bits to change it. Shrewd marketing, very shrewd indeed.

Navy Boy
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Yet another comprehensive and thoughtful insight by Kev here. I've now read it twice as this is a bike I'm particularly interested in and I must say that Kev's conclusions are not surprising ref the styling.

Having said that I do like the looks and the fact that the seating position and tank range do, as Kev points out, make it a genuinely useful bike and not just a cruiser show how Triumph's thinking has, I feel, been spot on with this bike.

Whether this will be enough to boost sales in the fickle American cruiser market remains to be seen however I do hope that it works for Triumph as projects such as this help to finance other exciting bikes and will doubtless assist Triumph's future strategy a great deal.

kevash
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I get the feeling that because Triumph has taken one risk here in using a non V-twin engine they've overcompensated in making the rest of the bike as conservative as possible, and that's translated as lacking styling character. Yet it's still good to look at, nicely balanced and well finished, for me there's just nothing that makes me think, I must have that bike above any others, or more specifically, a Harley.
Having said that Triumph's accessories come in themed groups so you can turn the Thunderbird into an M1800R Intruder-type techno cruiser, a Road King-style tourer and so on, so you could certainly add that character yourself. It would cost of course but the prices are very reasonable compared with Harley's. There's a big bore kit for example which is around £500, something like half the equivalent Harley Screamin' Eagle kit. I'll report on that later but I have tried it already and it's impressive.

loubike
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The thing is, as Kevin has touched upon in the past, Harley riders (especially so here in the States) are not that interested in whether a bike performs superior to their HD bike. For years Moto Guzzi has been making very attractive cruisers that handle far better, run much faster, and so on; yet, they haven't managed to steal many HD riders away. It's all in the brand and because of that, I just don't think Triumph is going to steal many Harley riders away at all - these folks are interested in Harleys and appreciate these bikes often because they have HD on the tank and also because they manage to distinguish themselves stylistically from the much more bland metric cruisers flooding the market. For many of the same reasons that HD drivers buy HD, Triumph drivers buy Triumphs; that is, they buy them precisely because they are not HD bikes. All of the Triumph riders I know here in the States wouldn't dare be caught on a HD, this even for the more "cruiserish" America owners - they don't want a HDesque bike. They want a bike that is distinctly Triumph.

I'm obviously no marketing guru and who am I to criticize a company that has made MANY smart moves in the last years, but I really think they are kind of missing the boat on this. Like Kevin, I don't think the bike looks bad at all, but I just think the Thunderbird looks too much like some other bikes, especially metric cruisers - some of which I find very attractive actually. Again, I obviously can't speak for everyone or the States in general, but it seems like more folks here are clamoring for a bigger Bonnie or Scrambler or a more distinctive cruiser than the Thunderbird appears to be. Who knows, however. I wouldn't have thought the America would do as well as it has done in the States, so we'll see.

kevash
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The Bonnie America does pretty well for Triumph in the US (surprised me too!), in particular as an entry level bike, so maybe the Thunderbird will confound us and do well by picking up America owners who want to move up to something bigger. The Rocket Three is just too big and too different for them as a next step, which meant to date they've had no choice but to go metric (I do like that term!) or transfer allegiance to Harley when they're upgrading.
But maybe the Triumph badge will do it after all - this is a real wait-and-see one!

shuggiemac
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It's great to have some real discussion on here again and about something where we can all only speculate!
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I guess that considering the size of the market in the USA then Triumph only have to get a small percentage to convert or try it and it will have all been financially worthwhile.
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I used to live in the States a number of years ago and even then there were "metric" cruisers being sold and bearing in mind where they originate from, then perhaps the Triumph does stand an even better chance of selling. I mean that, with all due respect, there was a fairly strong proportion of people in America who were of the 'Jap Crap' school of thought. I do not mean that to be offensive, so hope it does not come over that way, there was also a fairly significant number of people over here at that time who thought the same thing. I do believe that HD is partly so popular in it's home market because it is American made and as a nation that (admirably) carries a whole lot more imortance generally than domestic loyalty does over here in Europe. The Triumph, whilst not being American may be more accepted by some than an oriental marque.

kevash
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A couple of American friends recently commented they feel like the British are the only people left on their side these days... There's that aspect, plus the not being Jap crap thing, and with roots dating back to WW2, the Hell's Angels only allowed their members to ride Harleys or Triumphs. Not sure if that's the case these days and it's hardly going to affect sales directly, but it is indicative of an underlying attitude that is helpful to Triumph.
So many factors pushing this way and that, it's going to be interesting to see how it pans out. But whoever buys one, you'll assume they like the look and are happy with the heritage and all that, in which case they'll be delighted with the bike as it really is good to ride, even if you're coming from something more conventional. And that's not in outright performance terms (although it is better than a Harley in this) but in how it feels, which is important (lovely thumping, low revving motor) and how it steers, which is exceptionally easy and natural.

loubike
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I agree to what both Shuggie and Kev say. And when I think about it, I do think Triumph stands a good chance with the T-Bird of picking up some sales from metric riders looking for a bike with a little more prestige and character.

shuggiemac
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Kevin, if I can pose a question from another angle. You say that there is nothing in the Triumph that really would make those leaning towards a Harley jump in their directon. I would thus ask is there anything in it that would drastically turn those who be more 'on the fence' on the image thing, to not buy it and chose a Harley, other than the intangible?
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I'll be honest and I do actually quite like Harley's but in light of the fact that there are so many about, all striving to be individual but many ending up looking really so very similar, that I would actually consider the Triumph bacause it isn't one!

kevash
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That's the Lexus thing, or it was in the earlier days of the marque - they were attracting people who didn't want an AudiBMWMercedes rather than those who actively wanted a Lexus. It's one thing that might work for Triumph, especially if they go on to build on it as Lexus has done.
As such, there's nothing to turn people off who are wavering, indeed as I've said, it's a better ride in many respects, just as a Lexus was a better executive saloon car in many respects, and the Triumph is more practical too for several reasons. So they'll be happy enough.
I'm a Harley fan myself, and that's largely because I think Harley delivers where it counts, not just in the style for looking good, but for what the style represents in different models: Harleys aren't just custom bikes, they're slices of Harley history, or if not they're based on specific genres within the cruiser world. Of the near-30 big Harley air-cooled cruisers, hardly any are simply generic custom bikes, they don't see this sector as a single type but an umbrella for many different types. The Triumph though is a generic custom so in this respect it's not really competing with Harley as the designers intended.
But getting back to your question, dynamically and in terms of feel (which is very important here) the Triumph has nothing at all which would put off a floating voter.

Paulvt1
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Kev. How far forward are the pegs? Is it all day comfy or just for posing? I wouldn't mind testing one when they come out.

kevash
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Yup, it's tucked away in there somewhere, stuff about the riding position being comfortable and not having the extreme ergonomics of many cruisers. I was fine on it, we spent a lot of hours in the saddle and it's all-day comfortable in fact. The footrests aren't too far forward and the bars aren't too high or wide, I'd certainly have no worries about going a long distance on one. The decent suspension helps in this respect too. Note there's a touring seat option if the stock one isn't plush enough, although I think this is aimed more at improving the lot of pillions, and there are other touring accessories like screen and even running boards if you want. Definitely worth at least a test ride.

loubike
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Don't wanna turn this into a HD thread, but I personally have really come a long, long way in my opinion of Harleys in the last several years. I used to just hate them, mainly because of the folks who seemed to ride them and incessantly wear the clothing and brand; yet, I have to admit that the modern ones are really not that bad. They turn and brake adequately and perform well. And too, though there is one on every corner here in the US, they still manage some distinction by offering a myriad of color choices and so on. And too, I must also say that their design teams know their customers and make some very attractive bikes. Though I could never greatly afford a new one, I think the Nightsters and XL1200s are some of the nicest bikes in terms of beauty on the road. Now, heh, I try and console myself that I like the HD bikes for more "high minded" (yeah right) reasons than the Joe on the street.

But anyhow, back to Triumph. I think what Kevin says about the Rocket has been really true here, folks just think of it as a kind of garish monster, but I frankly quite love it, at least the touring version anyhow. And yeah, I think many of those people on Americas want to move up but just think the Rocket is too big. Hell, many of my friends who own a 1200 or larger even think the R3 is too big; no wonder those moving up from an America haven't greatly more considered it. The T-Bird should give them that option. It's funny, heh, this forum is starting to actually change my fairly negative perception of the bike's potential success. I'm still not a huge fan of the aesthetics like I am of the Bonneville or even the America even, but just from what has been said here, I do see there is some market out there for this bike and I definitely want to see Triumph succeed. Now, if only Guzzi would stop consulting Pierre Terblanche and actually start on that Triumph business model, maybe even MG might see some success Stateside again.

Paulvt1
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It's definitely growing on me. On a brief trip to Wales yesterday i reckon 80% of the bikes i saw were cruisers. Given that the U.K market is getting older and that there is so much concentration on speed limits, i reckon you might see more than a handful of these on U.K roads.
I'll also be interested to see what Guzzi have planned regarding the proposed cruiser they have planned and word has it that there might be a new Honda Magna coming.
Interesting stuff.

Psychopasta
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Judging by the sales at my local (Seattle, WA) Triumph dealership, the TBird is going to be a big sales success.

- Pasra

Psychopasta
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Judging by the sales at my local (Seattle, WA) Triumph dealership, the TBird is going to be a big sales success.

- Pasta

roundincircles
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What does going 'metric' mean - Japanese?

chipper
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I think metric is Jap or a bike with metric sizes as opposed to imperial like Harleys. I do like the T-bird but after buying a Harley I would have prefered a more distinctive Triumph design as when I look at the T-bird now I see a Harley imitation which dare I say it looks a bit Japanese.

This is just the aesthetics as I found the engine and handling marvelous but the ergonomics for me would need to be tweaked.I would buy one but have been Harleyed for the moment and a massive result for me is the missus wants to come away on the bike for a couple of days. Off to dealer to order a backrest and earplugs. I wonder if is this a result!. Chipper

Whippet
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I was tempted and really loved the engine on the Thunderbird. The styling was great from the riders point of view but sadly dull side on. When I test rode a Road King I was really swept away with the whole feeling that you are participating in a Hollywood movie that you get on a Harley. Also, if you place the Road King next to a T/Bird there really is no contest in looks. £5k more expensive it may be, but Road King was my choice.

Paulvt1
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Got to admit - i sat on one again last week (T'Bird) and it still did appeal. I do like the restraint in it's lines. Handsome.

Captain Scarlet
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I've ridden Sportsters and Touring Harley's over hundreds of miles and owned a FatBob Dyna and Deuce Softail. Over the years I've ridden different incarnations of the Rocket, owned a number of Triumph's and a while back I rode the T-Bird too. These where my thoughts (and costs) at that time, after a couple of hours ride...

The demo bike had covered 2,200 miles and was fitted with Triumph's own aftermarket exhaust system - audible, but quite quiet / legal sounding actually. This is what I thunk:

Slightly better than a latest Harley:

o selection of first gear from cold

o bar mounted info toggle

o foot controls positioning

o softer fuel map when just off throttle

o liquid-cooling

o unique configuration/genre mix

o hurried gear-shifts

o fork control

o stock machine rrp

o u-turns

On a par with a latest Harley:

o clutch pull & control

o mid-range grunt when used zestfully

o mirrors

o unhurried gearshifts

o reliability

o belt drive

o steering

o handling

o tank range

o slow & mid-speed cruising

Slightly worse than a latest Harley:

o just off throttle grunt

o quality

o sound

o 75-80 mph vibration

o seat comfort

o rear shocks control

o ground clearance

o no std alarm/immobiliser

o no keyless ignition

o economy

General Observations:

I could happily make more observations, but for simplicity, I have just stuck with ten in each of the three categories above.

First impressions were good. It felt manoeuvrable, selected first without a clunk and was easy to pull away on. Although the five speed box felt fine up to the 75-80 max speed that you'd ever want to cruise at for a decent length of time, it is not as relaxing as having the Harleys six-speed cruise drive transmission, which really drops the revs, improving comfort, economy and most probably longevity too. The Harley pulses are delivered slower at motorway speeds too, which means they feel more like pulses, rather than tingling vibes that the Triumph was on the verge of delivering, and did actually deliver north of that speed range.

The bike has no noticeable power band, but does seemingly have two fuel mappings. If you whap the throttle open hard and for long, then you are treated with very nearly the sort of grunt that the twin-cam 96 ci Harley currently makes. But if you are a bit ginger, or are just very chilled out, then the delivery is very soft. This is perfect for mini-roundabout u-turns in wet weather, where a Harley is punting out much more off the throttle torque and requires just a bit more finer clutch control. However, in the main, I'd take the Harley off the throttle grunt, because it's got it all going on without the need to open it up hard. Just a preference.

I managed to grind both footpegs once and my Timberlands heal on another occasion. The bike was perfectly stable although on one occasion (180 turn around a smallish roundabout) it did create a little under-steer, easily reigned back in with a gentle bit of brake and throttle roll-off. The bike handles very well, and it's not to be treated like a sports bike naturally; but with similar lean angles on the Road King Classic (two-up too), I had no such problems. Nor with the Fat Bob, but naturally that had forward-controls.

The bike is well built in the main, but the wheels looked very difficult to stop them succumbing to corrosion and in particular the exposed rear wheel nut/adjuster bar looked like it wouldn't like a lot of English weather, and some of the switchgear felt flimsy (not next to a Jap bike, but...) next to a Harleys. The toggling info button is a nice touch, better than Harleys centre console toggle button, which is a tad fiddly. But Harley have self cancelling indicators which work (based on lean angles) and cruise control is an desirable option (standard on tourers like RKC) both sides of the pond, which Triumph have overlooked and don't offer.

It has good ergonomics and is a nice place to spend time, particularly in the 30-60 mph region, which cruisers tend to shine in. Very nice to hustle around town centres and it filters relatively easily too. Slow speed balance and control is, like Harleys, very good. Performing a u-turn wasn't all that easy mind, distance wise; I had to nick a bit of a side road junction to comfortably do it, and I'd say it was only 5% better than a Harley in this respect. And the seat whilst not Harley good, was certainly fine for an hour or two - but I wouldn't have wanted to ride another thirty minutes unless I had to.

The engine sound was disappointing for me, unlike the Rockets gruffness and triple whistles, it seemed a little flat and boring. But it was smooth and relatively grunty (if revved hard) but really sounded quite indifferent to me, even with the aftermarket pipes fitted. A stock Harley would have been just as loud, without too-loud irritation, and given a more pleasant off beat gruff tone, which we obviously know they are famed for. The tank, engine, side-panel and headlight are particularly nicely shaped items and it has an air of reliability/longevity about it. I really don't see any recalls with this bike, just a few corrosion warranty claims.

The bike is easy to ride, but no easier than a Fat Bob really. And filtering and a bit more counter-steering aside, the Rocket 3 is just as easy too. So I'd recommend trying those two, plus my favourite 'bagger' a RKC. It's good to try something with the practicality of panniers and a screen, and the comfort of running boards, just to see the difference that they collectively make.

I found the tank even wider than a Harley and my calves were also very close to the engine casings on both sides - a worry in hot weather or if catching a denim clad leg against them. I started off my ride really enjoying it and definitely could envisage a happy ownership with one. But near the end of my ride, little nagging doubts like this one sullied the dream a little. And there's serious money to be spent on it - to make it prettier than a Fat Bob or as practical as a Road King. The spec I like adds approx £3.5k of accessories to it. Add additional desirable stuff (were it available), like cruise control, alarm / immobiliser, abs, panniers and touring screen with fixing kit; and you've just added a further £2.5k of accessories. Suddenly it's much more expensive than a Road King King Classic, which has all of that, plus killer classic looks, all as standard.

But maybe that's being unfair. Not everyone would bling a bike like I might, and most would be more than happy to buy a stock bike and grow and develop with it as funds suit personal circumstances. The T-Bird natural competitor is probably the SuperGlide, but lets compare it against the Fat Bob, as it's the next in the range to the SuperGlide and I've owned one:

The Triumph is a face value appealing £9,500. And the Fat Bob is now a brow raising £11,340. A not inconsiderable difference of £1,840. And I'd say that the Triumph doesn't seem the thick end of two grand worse to ride. But choose blue paint and add an alarm (Fat Bob has one as std) and the price is suddenly £10,064. The difference is now £1,276. Rather than faff with keys beneath thighs, and fiddly alarm fobs, especially in the rain at petrol stations, I'd happily pay £276 for keyless ignition, which integrates with the alarm / immobiliser, to have it on the Triumph - if I could. Poetic licence maybe, but I genuinely would, it's truly brilliant. Ignoring other advantages like self-cancelling indicators and stuff, the difference then would simply be a grand. Now a grand is most probably not enough to sway a decision one way or another to buy a personal second choice machine, whichever one an individual might choose. But, register them, then wheel them out of the showroom with 0 miles on the clock. The Harley has just lost a grand and the Triumph has just lost two grand. Now there's absolutely nothing in it whatsoever. And with that clarity of thought, I'd choose a twin. A v-twin.

Conclusion

A great deal of thought has gone into this bike. It's not just a good bike, it's a great one. I would recommend it and wouldn't criticise or suggest a faux-pas, if somebody chose one over a Harley. The fact that it can run a Harley close, straight out of the crate, is an amazing achievement for Triumph. But for me, personally, if I had to buy today; then I wouldn't choose the young pretender. To extinguish any doubts, I'd go for the legend.

Paulvt1
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I know bugger all about Harleys, and i find the whole thing a bit bewildering, with all the different familial names and such. The only one i like of the current range is the Fat boy Special - but that starts at £16,000 - so that's a non starter in my book.

chipper
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Cap`n I too, test rode the T-Bird last year and it is a great bike but engine aside it looks a tad japanese. Last week I pulled up alongside a T-Bird and had a chat with the owner. The super glide looked smaller and sportier and dare I say it classier. Cost wise I probably paid less for the harley £10,000 than he did for the triumph. Would I buy the Triumph yes but not instead of a Harley.

Captain Scarlet
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"Would I buy the Triumph yes but not instead of a Harley"
... word.

greenthing
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Thinking about the brand loyalty and bias in general of the motorcycling community why would the American public buy yet another "metric" the T in Triumph is the same as the T in Thailand where 95% of triumphs are now made .Prince Andrew opened the last factory if that makes the bikes a little bit British ,the Thunderbird looks to me like a brit copy of a jap copy of a Harley i am British and i will not buy Triumph and i do not know anyone who has one .I bought a Buell great American bike that (was)wheels/seat made in China frame in Italy,suspension in Japan,wiring loom in Mexico,the bike itself is great though (i just hope i dont need many spares),there is nothing brit about Triumph and if you look far enough back the origin of the Triumph company was German anyway and the now Triumph companys first motors were based on Kawasaki designs (bah humbug)

shuggiemac
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greenthing wrote:
there is nothing brit about Triumph and if you look far enough back the origin of the Triumph company was German anyway

I think it is somewhat unfair to say that there is nothing British about Triumph. I can't say if 95% are made in Thailand or not though I suspect that is not he case. I would say however that the design, development and thus the essence of what is the bikes all come from Britain and that, to my mind, more than makes them British. OK so this one in particular is designed by an American gentleman. Just because it is bolted together in Thailand does not make it a Thai bike. If you look at any machine then there is not a single one I would bet that is made entirely in one country.

As for the origins of the company, well could one not argue that it is totally irrelevant now? They didn't make motorcycles when they started and it is so long ago that there is no German culture in there.

Captain Scarlet
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Some assembly is done in Thailand, but if you'd been to the Hinkley factory (which I have a number of times) you'd realise the 95 percent comment is 'massively' off the mark.

Most of the world's bikes use generic stuff like Japanese connectors and stuff, and are all the better for it. If they are off the shelf, reliable and affordable why bring the hassle of designing that in house when it can simply be a brought in bolt on part of the build?

Heck even Harley's brakes are Italian nowadays, doesn't make them European, any more than the GoldWing wasn't American when it was assembled in the States. Is the Victory not American and does it not sell because it 'is' a metric? I've seen plenty stateside! Did Harley stop being American when they were owned by the Italians? Well, they did start making two strokes, so fair play! ;-D

I wasn't old enough to ride British bikes when they had cork clutches, dripped oil and spat their internals with regularity in the name of character. But I've owned four 'modern' Triumph's and not had a problem with any of them. Irrelevant of where the parts were sourced, who screwed it together and how it was delivered to the shop, the end products worked for me, and others.

The T-Bird might not be my favourite ever cruiser, but it's amazingly good for a first attempt, and Triumph is still a cool brand irrelevant of era - as made famous by Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Richard Gere, Tom Cruise et all...

p.s. If you look back far enough the royal family has it's Germanic roots. Don't mention the war!

blacktiger
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see below

blacktiger
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Quote:
Thinking about the brand loyalty and bias in general of the motorcycling community why would the American public buy yet another "metric" the T in Triumph is the same as the T in Thailand where 95% of triumphs are now made .Prince Andrew opened the last factory if that makes the bikes a little bit British ,the Thunderbird looks to me like a brit copy of a jap copy of a Harley i am British and i will not buy Triumph and i do not know anyone who has one .I bought a Buell great American bike that (was)wheels/seat made in China frame in Italy,suspension in Japan,wiring loom in Mexico,the bike itself is great though (i just hope i dont need many spares),there is nothing brit about Triumph and if you look far enough back the origin of the Triumph company was German anyway and the now Triumph companys first motors were based on Kawasaki designs (bah humbug)

Firstly, the majority of Triumphs are still made in Hinckley. I don't know where you get your 95% from. Maybe you're thinking of the twin cylinder Bonnie based models.
Secondly, cruisers have to look a certain way don't they? The T'bird is a nice flowing design IMO and looks far better than any Harley out there.
Then you say you'll never buy a Triumph and you don't know anyone who has. Well, that's because you have a closed mind and wear blinkers and mix with others with the same affliction. Modern Triumphs (and I have two) are solid, reliable, good handling bikes and you, obviously, don't know what you're missing.
I agree with Capt.Scarlet on the rest.

MacH
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I think you may find that the Thunderbird has a 6 speed gearbox and not a five speed as you indicated in your post... maybe that was why you found the economy less than the HD

"Gearbox 6-speed constant mesh, helical type 2nd - 6th", lifted from Triumph spec sheet.

Navy Boy
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I've just seen one for sale in my local dealer. A 2010 model with a number of desirable options fitted (Louder pipes, panniers etc.) and am sorely tempted.

Does anyone have a T'Bird and if so what are their experiences of it? Anything to keep an eye on?

alanp
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Recently I felt I needed to go 'cruising' after finding I was going way too fast on my BMW K1200R because it was soooo easy.
I anguished over which one to buy, a Harley or a Triumph Thunderbird, not an easy decision. I test rode a number of Harleys and the Thunderbird and settled on the Triumph rather that the Fat Bob which seemed comparable to my needs. I suppose the main reason was that the Thunderbird felt safer while cornering by not grounding out as quickly and other reasons were the quality seemed better; clever design thinking had gone into it to incorporate the Triumph vertical twin design which on the road actually does feel somewhat like a Vee twin rather than superficial cosmetics; my wife is more comfortable on it than the Harleys without spending mega money on better seating since it came with a proper dual seat with both rider and passenger back rests in the deal; its 6th gear is ideal for motorway cruising; there's a surprising amount of stainless on it; in blue with the white stripe down the tank and mudguards it looked great and who the heck would choose a bike with the name 'Fat Bob' over 'Thunderbird'?

Navy Boy
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Thanks Alan

The bike I've seen has some 3600 miles on it and the options added to it are the sort I'd want anyway. Having just been on a HOG Touring holiday (Shortened due to various reasons but good all the same) I am really looking to get into the whole cruising thing a little more however the bigger H-Ds just don't quite do it for me.

I'm thinking that a test ride may be in order... Any advice on screen options (I'm 6'00'')?

alanp
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Can't help you much with screen options I'm afraid. I'm 5' 10" and use the shortest Triumph screen since I prefer to use the screen to take wind blast/rain from my upper legs and body while sitting up with my shoulders/head in the breeze.
One other thing I liked about the Thunderbird compared to the Harleys is that it's water cooled. I never want to use air cooled engines if I can avoid it after getting in a slow/stationary traffic situation in Budapest with the engine of my air cooled Ducati rapidly getting so hot it burnt the insides of my legs and overheated the clutch fluid until the clutch lever was useless. Not nice. 'Once bitten, twice shy', as they say.

kevash
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I did a long trip on a Thunderbird, 200 miles to the north of England then from the east coast to the west on the A66, our own coast-to-coast route 66, and with plenty of interesting history too, and finished off with a 200 mile ride home again.

I'd chosen the T'Bird as the British Harley for the British route 66, no other reason, yet it proved to be outstanding as a long distance bike, never mind the cruiser credentials: I didn't need to refuel until my arrival up north, a feat plenty of touring bikes couldn't manage, and as long as I kept the speed maximum to 85mph it was plenty comfortable enough too. This was without a screen. The motor is torquey, smooth and endearing, the handling fine in its lazy way and as you say, ground clearance isn't an issue either.

It's also been one of the American magazines' (I think Cycle World) cruiser of the year in the States, which is quite an achievement. I had reservations in my launch report about the generic styling, but the bike has proved so good it's shrugged this supposed handicap off anyway. In fact the blue with white stripe one looks really good!

An outstanding bike, if any machine will tempt riders onto the cruiser side of life, this one will.

Navy Boy
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Joined: 12/02/2009

Thanks Kev

I did have another read of your report the other day and whilst I see your point about the styling having been in the company of Harleys for the last week I do think that the T'Bird still has a certain something.

The tank size does appeal too and the fact that it isn't a member of the H-D touring range does have a certain appeal!