Launch report: Triumph Thunderbird

Ben Miller reports back from the world launch of Triumph's new cruiser



Triumph Thunderbird ... in dealers July 2009

I'm at the launch of Triumph's Thunderbird, their new model aimed squarely at the Harley crowd. Thunderbird is a big name for Triumph, it was an iconic sporty model in the 50s which was then re-launched in the 90s.

Triumph have been pouring cash into developing their sportsbike range, with the ever-popular 675, but this model marks a point where Triumph have declared they're not ashamed of the past, so this bike is a big deal for them.

The price and specification of the Thunderbird aims it right at the Harley market, it's styled traditionally - it's not trying to be outlandish like the Rocket III. The 1600cc parallel twin engine feels strong but it's not the centre-piece like the engine on the Rocket III. Everything on this bike is very refined because they're not chasing outright performance. The engine itself is whisper quiet but it sounds good through the pipes.

The controls are nicely judged, there's nothing awkward in your field of vision. The gearbox is slick - you don't feel like you're shifting heavy cogs around like you might on a Harley. The handling is nice and precise and the bike works well with the Metzeler tyres which were developed with this bike in mind. The Thunderbird doesn't need wrestling around corners and it has a bit more of an edge to the ride quality over a Harley-Davidson Road King. You get the impression you can crack on down a country lane but then you realise the footpegs are but 3-inches from the ground.. The brakes are good, not too grabby and there's optional ABS should you need it.

I wish the Thunderbird had an bit more of a focus point to it, it's great when you get on a bike and one aspect, like the handling, or engine really stands out. On the Thunderbird everything takes equal place but that said, it's got a massive accessories catalogue that will enable you to treat the bike like a blank canvas and take it in any direction you fancy. The build quality is as you would expect from Triumph, it's a quality bike, solid and finished off well.

It's available in Silver, Blue or Black, with an stripe down the centre of the bike as an optional extra. the base model comes in at £9499 (£9794 with stripe) and the ABS model comes in at £10099 (£10394 with stripe).

Although it'll have limited appeal in the UK, the Thunderbird is sure to impress the US market and that's exactly what Triumph have in mind. It'll be in dealers for demo rides on the 7th July.