Triumph ads an all new motorcycle to their 2010 cruiser lineup. Called the Thunderbird, this is one of those bikes that nobody saw coming and yet everyone knew about. While we heard more and more questions about Triumph planning to build a V-Twin engine, the UK-based motorcycle manufacturer went along and developed the largest production parallel-Twin motor to power their latest jewel.
Heritage isn’t something that bike manufacturers ever forget about and Triumph’s cruiser genes are found all over the new Thunderbird, a motorcycle that represents the very essence of modern British bike engineering and design.
Ok, so you’ll most likely say that the bike’s designer, Tim Prentice, is from California and couldn’t be more right about it. But he worked closely together with engineers to meet good looks and functionality, all in accordance with Triumph standards.
The first thing about this bike that draws attention (apart from style) is the parallel-Twin engine, which’s 1,597cc or 98ci displacement makes a competitive cruiser out of the Thunderbird.
Once again, Triumph shows they’re faithful to the parallel-Twin and three-cylinder engines that they’ve built in the past and plan on getting more and more benefits by continuously developing more powerful and competitive powerplants.
The vertical-Twin one on the Thunderbird, which is liquid-cooled and features a 270-degree firing interval, produces a claimed 84.8bhp at 4,850rpm and 146.1Nm at 2,750rpm. Also, with a bore and stroke of 103.8 x 94.3mm, the rev limit reaches an impressive 6,500rpm and that can never be a disadvantage, given the category and this type of engine.
Triumph built the new Thunderbird around a Tubular Steel, twin spine frame and made the engine a stressed member of it. The bike is long, low and fairly aggressive, meaning that the 63.6-inch wheelbase and 27.6-inch seat height stood out as two important aspects if the original plans were to be followed. And they were. Furthermore, the 32-degree rake and 151mm trail introduces us to the Showa 47mm forks, which are capable of 120mm travel. At the back, a pair of Showa chromed spring twin shocks offer 5-position adjustable preload and 95mm rear wheel travel. Sounds to me like we’re in for a decent ride!
Safety is a first when riding nowadays, so it’s good to know that the 2010 Triumph Thunderbird benefits of twin 310mm floating discs and Nissin 4-piston fixed calipers up front and of single 310mm fixed disc and Brembo 2-piston floating caliper at the rear. Even better is the fact that they offer an optional dual-channel ABS for those willing to pay the extra buck.
Triumph had originally produced the Thunderbird starting 1949 and until 1966 as a veritable roadster powered by a 650cc parallel-Twin engine.
In 1994, the resurrected British company started manufacturing the Triumph Thunderbird 900, a classic bike and more of a reminder of the original T-Bird. This was powered by an 885 cc triple engine developing 69bhp and lead to producing other versions such as the Legend 964 cc, Adventurer and Thunderbird Sport. Yet, until 2004, all these bikes vanished from Triumph’s lineup.
But we have a hunch that the 2010 model is here to stay and even make a point against motorcycles such as the Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide Custom , Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 and even the Honda VTX1800F or the Star Warrior .
Cruisers are supposed to be uncompromising machines and from where I’m sitting, this means having the power to impress either when they rolls down the boulevard or when you’re the actual person riding. Designer Tim Prentice has drawn the Thunderbird as the bike on which clean lines manage to contour a massive and very capable engine and all the bodywork pieces that make it a Triumph, allowing those found in both postures to appreciate this bike.
This is a more than decently sized motorcycle with 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels, a 5.8 gallons tank, spacious seat and two custom fenders. The engine’s nature allows for an exhaust pipe to beautifully find its way along each side of the bike, while the power source itself doesn’t look at all out of place.
The 47mm forks give a massive touch supporting the 3.5-inch wide front wheel, the headlight is large enough to get the job done, but no locomotive-like unit, while the handlebars are in accordance with the style and yet aren’t straight cut. Plus, the front end looks just nice with the stock mirrors on. We appreciate the tank-mounted instruments, the low seat as well as the discrete taillight.
Colors available are Jet Black, Pacific Blue / Fusion White, Aluminum Silver / Jet Black. The white stripe of the second color scheme gives the Thunderbird a nice racy look, kind of like it’s always ready to hit the drag course.
We may not have taken it to drag racing, but the time we spent riding it both in and out of town was enough to say that the Triumph Thunderbird fits perfectly in the competitive cruiser class.
The engine starts with the push of a button and revs smoothly while sounding pretty much like a docile V-Twin, but the sound similarities are there. Given the fact that the engine provides plenty of torque just above idle and it can be revved as high as 6,500 rpm, the 1,597cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin with 270-degree firing interval feels even livelier than a V-Twin one of the same displacement.
Both the motor’s versatile nature and the fact that the rider’s feet can always go and flatfoot the ground allows even short riders to maneuver this British bike with great ease even across crowded intersections. Indeed, it weighs 746 pounds with gas in it, but the low center of gravity makes sure that Ram bo isn’t the customer targeted by Triumph. This is also the case around parking lots, where it often comes to pushing the bike rearwards.
The handlebars are easy to grab and the feet forward riding position is quite forgiving on the rider’s back compared to other bikes I’ve ridden.
Although it wasn’t designed to go around twisted mountain roads, it sure proves it can and the only thing stopping riders from leaning even more into corners is the sound of the pegs scraping the asphalt. We must say that the bike is very well balanced and quite forgiving. Despite its imposing dimensions and massive engine, the Thunderbird inspires confidence too all riders that swing a leg over it and in terms of riding pleasure, it won’t leave anyone disappointed.
The suspensions offer good bump absorption when it comes to the road’s imperfections and also keep the bike stable at all times and riding speeds. We did get quite enthusiastic with the throttle, especially because of the fact that the one we ridden was fitted with ABS. The brakes are very powerful and reassuring, even on wet road.
Overall, the Triumph Thunderbird is a very satisfying motorcycle, but like all other ones in its class, it can be seriously improved. Triumph’s accessory range allows owners to make a touring motorcycle out of it and there’s even a 1,700cc or 104ci big-bore kit. After a few years of riding, this might just be the way to rediscover your love for Triumphs.
What makes the Standard Thunderbird even more attractive compared to the competition is the $12,499 MSRP, while the Premium ABS Thunderbird starts at a $13,299.
It looks like Triumph thought at everything when creating the all new Thunderbird and if it’s good enough for Jay Leno we tend to like it even more. How about you?
Engine and Transmission
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, Parallel-twin, 270º firing interval
Capacity: 1597 cc 98.0 Cubic inch
Bore/Stroke: 103.8 x 94.3mm
Compression Ratio: 9.7:1
Fuel System: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection, progressive linkage on throttle
Maximum Power EC1: 86.0PS / 84.8bhp / 63.2kW @ 4850rpm
Maximum Torque EC1: 146.1Nm/107.7ft.lbf @ 2750rpm
Primary Drive: Gear
Final Drive: Toothed Belt
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Gearbox: 6-speed constant mesh, helical type
Oil Capacity: 4.2 liters 1.1 US gallons
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame: Tubular Steel, twin spine
Front Wheel: Cast aluminum alloy 5-spoke 19 x 3.5 inch
Rear Wheel: Cast aluminum alloy 5-spoke 17 x 6 inch
Front Tire: 120 / 70 R19 Metzeler Marathon ME880
Rear Tire: 200 / 50 R17 Metzeler Marathon ME880
Front Suspension: Showa 47mm forks. 120mm travel
Rear Suspension: Showa chromed spring twin shocks with 5 position adjustable preload. 95mm rear wheel travel
Front Brakes: Twin 310mm floating discs. Nissin 4-piston fixed calipers
Rear Brakes: Single 310mm fixed disc. Brembo 2-piston floating caliper
ABS: Optional, dual-channel ABS
Instrument display/functions: Tank mounted instruments assembly with large speedometer and integrated tachometer
Includes LCD to display Odometer, Trip 1, Trip 2, Fuel Gauge, Range-to-empty & Clock
Integrated instrument scroll button on handlebars
Display: Clock / Trip 1 / Trip 2 / Odometer / Fuel Gauge / Range to Empty
Warning lights: Indicators / High Beam / Neutral / EMS / Fuel / Oil Pressure / Alarm / Water Temp
Headlight: H4 60 / 55W, single reflector
Rear Light: LED
Indicators: Clear-lensed, self-cancelling
Length: 2340 mm 92.1 inch
Width (Handlebars): 880 mm 34.6 inch
Height: 1120 mm 44.1 inch
Seat Height: 700 mm 27.6 inch
Wheelbase (mm/inch): 1615 mm 63.6 inch
Fuel Tank Capacity: 22 liters 5.8 US gallons
Vertical Ground Clearance: 140 mm 5.5 inch
Dry Weight: 308 Kgs 678 lbs
Weight in running order: 339 Kgs 746 lbs (full tank of fuel)
Features & Benefits
Engine - The new Triumph Thunderbird, powered by an all new parallel twin 1600cc/98 inch water cooled engine, beats a rhythm of primal appeal. Open up the throttle to enjoy immense torque at low revs, because you want the shove without the scream and the glide without the grate. But it’d be a crime not to ride slow enough now and again for everyone to cast a long, envious stare in your direction.
Brakes - All that ‘go’ is balanced out with a whole world of ‘stop’. Dual front discs deliver the message from hand to wheel so smoothly and progressively that braking feels more intuitive than responsive. And those seeking the ultimate in control and peace of mind have the option of adding ABS.
Wheels - The cast aluminum 19 x 3.5 inch front and 17 x 6 inch rear 5-spokes are machined with such precision that you can see your face in them. And when you’ve created a thing of such beauty, you don’t slap any old piece of rubber on it. The Thunderbird team worked with Metzeler to develop bespoke profiles, with the rear being engineered to give it a look that means business at no expense to that trademark Triumph handling.
Instruments and Lighting - Fitting that a bike which tells you more about the road also tells you more about your journey, with class-leading functionality. The tank has a large speedo, integrated tacho, two trip meters and fuel gauge, set in a chromed nacelle and proudly bearing the unique Thunderbird logo. This detailing is carried through to the indicators, which have clear lenses so as not to spoil the monochrome look and are self-cancelling – because you’d rather just concentrate on enjoying the ride.
Fuel Tank - A capacious 5.8 gallons affords you the freedom of enjoying your ride rather than looking for a fuel stop. And even when you do have to fill up, you won’t see it as an inconvenience – more as an ideal chance to admire the tank’s perfect, seamless contours and to run your eyes over the brilliant chromed zinc Triumph badge that proudly adorns it. Listen carefully and it’ll whisper of more than a hundred years of pedigree and dedicated engineering excellence.
Seat - Get right down in the thick of the action on a seat just 27.6 inches off the ground. But as expected from Triumph this low seat height, amongst the lowest in its class, isn’t at the expense of padding. Cruise with a partner in comfort – or alone – and still plant both feet firmly on the ground at lights. And when you return to your Thunderbird, you can do so in the knowledge that taped seams for extra waterproofing mean you’re in for a comfortable ride even if it’s been caught in a shower.
Suspension - Supple enough to let you eat up mile upon mile of Tarmac with all the comfort and control you demand. Triumph brings its legendary engineering to the cruiser market to produce a revelation in suspension performance. The finely calibrated system blends effortlessly to complement rather than hinder the bike’s looks and with the rear being adjustable for preload, it’s ready to go whether you’re two-up or in serious solo mode.
Transmission and Gearbox - Each gear change feels – positive, smooth and satisfying. And with a sixth gear to slip into you can enjoy those soothing, deep, booming low-rev tones to their full even at higher speeds. The first belt drive to appear on a Triumph since 1922 grabs all that torque from the engine and plants it firmly into the road. But in conforming to cruiser ride expectations, the team just couldn’t resist exceeding them by engineering a low-maintenance rear pulley that lasts up to 3 times longer than standard.