The Thunderbird’s wings have shape shifted into a massive parallel twin motor. Triumph’s Thunderbird is Harley-Davidson’s worst nightmare come true. If there is such a thing as a slayer of giants or in this case a Harley killer, then the Thunderbird is the spearhead and the first that really could matter.
Words: Tor Sagen/Photography: Jason Critchell
All the big four from Japan, Moto Guzzi and Victory have engaged The Motor Company in battle for the lucrative North American cruiser market. None are even remotely close to pushing the big American Screamin’ Eagle of the throne. The Japanese manufacturers will always suffer from not having the right heritage and Yamaha have even changed their name to Star in the US to sound less Japanese. That’s a pretty desperate measure if you ask me and show us just how powerful the US divisions for the Japanese motor manufacturers really are. Moto Guzzi is simply not big enough in the US and Victory is simply not growing fast enough and hasn’t launched a new product since the Vision. This leaves us with the ever expanding English motorcycle manufacturer from Hinckley.
Triumph has got that very sought after thing called heritage. Without heritage you’re nothing in the highly emotional cruiser market. Without heritage you’re left only with a good product and price competitiveness which simply isn’t enough to battle with The Motor Company. Rather than writing a thesis on the subject I shall explain just how Triumph’s new Thunderbird fits in the picture.
The Thunderbird places itself exactly in the market where Harley-Davidson rules. The Thunderbird now finds itself in Big Twin country and every effort has been made to ensure it stays there where others end up in the Badlands. Triumph had the Speedmaster, America, Rocket III and Rocket III Classic. There was a major gap in between the 865cc parallel twins and the 2300cc triple. The Thunderbird closes that gap with its brand new 1600cc parallel twin powertrain.
Thunderbird is a stripped down cruiser that can be taken to the exact same places as the extensive H-D Softail range. Triumph has in fact already launched more than 100 accessories that enable a lot of changes from day one. The range includes everything from Sportster to Touring accessories.
A big old tapered leather seat is my first point of contact on the T’bird. The seat is at a low 700mm height and it’s instantly comfortable. The low seat height enables the forward mounted footpegs giving a comfortable cruising position. I’m spending the day in sunny Barcelona and in the mountainous Montserrat region a few miles north from the Catalan capital. I start my day on a bog standard T’bird fitted with ABS brakes. I have tested Harley’s ABS brakes on the Touring range and I can instantly see one thing Triumph hasn’t done which H-D has. An ugly ABS ring is visible on the left side of the front wheel whilst Harley hides the sensors inside the wheel hub. Purely aesthetic I know, but these things matter in this segment. The front brake setup is a double 310mm disc one with Nissin 4-pot callipers and a single 310mm disc at the rear with a 2-pot Brembo calliper. ONLY EXCERPTS of the full article to be published at a later date.