Story: Gary Koz Mraz Photos: Ron Sinoy
The Triumph Thunderbird is -Triumphant. Don’t get me wrong I love those little Bonneville’s and the gargantuan 2300cc Rocket III but the 1700cc Thunderbird sits perfectly middle of the road, where most of us cruiser types want to be. Released in 2009 the Thunderbird is comfortable, powerful, responsive and elegant in design.
The two new offerings for 2014 are the Commander and the LT (Light Touring)
Essentially, both are the same bike differing only in styling and tire size. The Thunderbird LT features long haul amenities like a quick detachable windshield, detachable saddlebags, passenger backrest and floorboards. The Commander is sans the touring goodies and has low profile tires and dual headlamps.
I enjoyed a few weeks touring on the well appointed LT. Riding position is extremely comfortable, primarily because the saddle rates as on of the most comfortable factory motorcycle seats I have ever experienced. Its deep dish, lots of padding and the perfectly positioned lumbar support, (for me anyway) assure smooth sailing. My passenger called it roomy and had no complaints about her seating arrangement. She especially liked the height and comfort of the backrest. Floorboards give you room to move, although I would loose the heel shifter simply because I don’t use it and it takes up valuable real-estate. Also, I would opt for triumphs optional crash bars (engine dresser bars) and highway pegs for the long hauls. The buck horn handlebars compliment the relaxed riding position.
It turns out that that these 2014 T-Birds employ a reconfigured chassis which pushes the steering neck forward and drops the seat a full inch putting the LT at a 27.5 inch seat height and wheelbase at 65.5 inches.
I freaking love this power plant! Its whack the throttle and peel out punch delivers tons of torque in every one of its six gears. Very easy to hit triple digits at freeway onramps with the 1699cc liquid-cooled parallel twin (the world’s largest, Triumph is proud to boast). The eight-valve, DOHC engine produces 91bhp at 5750rpm plus a whopping 111ft-lb of torque at just 3400rpm. The water-cooled parallel twin proudly boasts its large cylinders but subtly disguises its radiator.
Braking is beyond reproach. Nissin four-piston fixed calipers with ABS on double 310 mm floating discs provide braking up front with a two piston Brembo floating caliper on a single 310 mm floating disk with ABS at the rear. The 150 front tire and 180 rear really bite the road. On one occasion I had to make an emergency stop and was happily surprised at the short stopping distance without locking up.
Triumph website claims 56 mpg highways; I was averaging 45 which is just fine. The 5.8 Gallon gas tank allows 240 miles between gas stops – my kinda crusin. Set in a buldging chrome teardrop the analog gauges are spartan displaying speedo and gas. The digital LCD reads twin trip meters, odometer, clock and range-to-empty indicator all scrollable from a handlebar control. The leather saddlebags come with waterproof liners and an optional luggage rack is available for even more storage.
Esthetically my Lava Rev and Phantom Black LT presents a very classy/classic look. The Avon white walls, 56 spoke wire-laced wheels and trim details balance well with paint and chrome. I was in fact impressed with all this chrome. So used to the blacked out look on so many modern motorcycles it was refreshing. You don’t see a lot of these bikes about and on several occasions I would have a Harley push up close at stops to look and ask questions. The truth is we all love this British linage and the modern Thunderbirds are true to form.
What’s the downside? The exhaust note on the LT is all but vanquished! I have ridden all the Triumph Thunderbirds and commented on the wonderful low note those big pistons put out. I guess that’s an easy fix. I can only assume Triumph figures long haul touring require some semblance of solitude.
I also had a chance to take the Commander for a spin and wow, if you’re looking for an aggressive, muscular motorcycle this bike is a must test ride. With a throaty note from its exhausts, no frills, lower handlebars and low profile tires this baby commands the family of thunderbirds.
Thunderbird LT Light Touring: $16,699.00 this British bird comes well heeled for the long haul.
Thunderbird Commander: $15.699.00