The Thunderbird nameplate goes back a long way for Triumph. It can trace its roots all the way back to 1949 when Triumph launched the 6T Thunderbird to capture the American market. Since then, the Thunderbird has been through many stages of upgrades and redesigns before finally being phased out in 2003.
However, Triumph resurrected this model in 2009 with just one objective, to take on Harley-Davidson’s Road King Classic in its own backyard. Given the dominance and the penetration of Harley-Davidson in the American market, Triumph had a mighty task set out in front of them. The firm from Hinckley had to win over buyers with an offering that not only looked the part but offered a similar riding experience and a retro charm that cruiser buyers crave for.
Over the last five years, various variants of the Thunderbird have spawned with the 2014 Thunderbird LT (Light Touring) being the newest. Other variants include the Thunderbird, Thunderbird Storm and the Thunderbird Commander, all of which are also available in the UAE.
At first glance, the 2014 Thunderbird looks very much like the Harley-Davidson Road King Classic. It has all the necessary cues that make it blend in perfectly as a big American cruiser with its extravagant amounts of chrome, big fenders and those classic white-walled tyres. Only when you notice its quintessentially British parallel twin engine and the Triumph badge that you realise it’s not a Harley-Davidson.
Triumph has paid a lot of attention to detail and that doesn’t go unnoticed. The Thunderbird LT is one of those motorcycles that needs to be admired. It has broad chrome embellishers on its mudguards, copious amounts of chrome, a large single headlight and massive wire-spoked wheels are just a few of its style motifs. Elsewhere, the LT boasts of one-off Triumph tank badges, white piping around the sumptuous seat, a 1930s art deco-style rear indicator and LED tail light assemblies. The Thunderbird LT also comes with a pair of removable leather saddle bags and auxiliary spot lamps as standard.
The most notable thing here, and a massive win when it comes to street-cred, is that the Thunderbird LT comes standard with the world’s first white-walled radial tyres riding on wide, wire-spoked rims.
Every Thunderbird LT comes with a large look-over windshield which is secured firmly in place by spring-loaded retainers yet, when unlocked, can be detached by hand in a matter of seconds to give a completely different look and feel to the motorcycle.
Traditionally, even though a large cruiser like the Thunderbird LT is expected to have a V-Twin engine, the 1,699cc parallel twin is a lovely power plant to have on a motorcycle like this. It is the world’s largest parallel twin engine and I think it doesn’t compromise on anything while serving this large 380 kilograms behemoth. I personally like how it isn’t over the top with its vibration and how smooth it feels at idle. This big-bore long-stroke parallel-twin engine uses a 270-degree firing order to provide the feel and the thump of Harley-Davidson V-Twin. It succeeds at this, to some extent. The Thunderbird LT gets a 6-speed transmission and belt final drive as standard.
To quote figures, it puts out a maximum of 93bhp at 5,400rpm and torque is a phenomenal 151Nm at 3,550rpm. It is this low-end torque that will captivate you the most when you ride the Thunderbird LT. Getting off the line is a thrill every time you twist that throttle and is an experience to enjoy on long, sweeping roads. The crisp exhaust note adds to the feeling of this brisk acceleration and a point to note here is that fairly loud pipes come as standard. I wouldn’t want to upgrade to something louder if I bought a Thunderbird LT. They aren’t excessively loud and are nicely suppressed while idling, just how I like it.
With such a potent power package at its disposal, Triumph has made sure that handling can be as good as possible given the large dimensions of this motorcycle. It does take some time getting used to the size, especially while manoeuvring in traffic. You need some hefty shoulders to guide that heavy front end at low speeds. It’s all a matter of getting used to. Once you are comfortable with the size of the Thunderbird LT, you will notice how well balanced it is. The positioning of the handlebars and the footboards felt very comfortable and even though I’m tall, there was no fatigue even after hours of riding.
The overall ride and handling is great with excellent braking and brilliant suspension. In fact, the suspension is remarkable in my opinion. The ride quality is extremely plush thanks to Showa 47mm forks at the front and Showa twin shocks with 5-position adjustable preload at the rear. Braking is taken care of by Nissin twin 310mm floating discs at the front and a Brembo single 310mm fixed disc at the rear. ABS is part of standard equipment.
The Thunderbird LT has added a new dimension to my experience of riding a cruiser. It has a near perfect engine and a chassis that keeps up with the performance. It is remarkably agile and stable for a motorcycle its size and I was really impressed by its superior suspension and brakes. The UAE market gets the Thunderbird LT with ABS as standard at it is priced at AED 87,500, which is significantly cheaper than the Harley-Davidson Road King Classic that starts at a whopping AED 107,900 and goes up to AED 112,900. The only downside that I see with buying one of these is that it doesn’t include you in to the whole V-Twin American culture and lifestyle. But if a Harley-Davidson bandana and a HOG membership isn’t what you are after and all you need is a great cruiser, then I recommend you take a serious look at the Thunderbird LT.
For more details on the Thunderbird LT, contact Duseja Moto on +971 4-3476712.