TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700 (2009-on) Review

Published: 20 May 2009

"Performs well, handles better and beautifully built but a bit derivative"

TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)

"Performs well, handles better and beautifully built but a bit derivative"

  • At a glance
  • 1597cc  -  85 bhp
  • 42 mpg  -  231 miles range
  • Low seat height (700mm)
  • £11,149

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

Triumph’s all-new Thunderbird is bravely aimed at taking on Harley in the US, but in terms of spec, quality, performance and price looks the best-equipped rival ever to do just that.

It performs well, handles better, is beautifully built and has all the cruiser goodies you could wish for. But if we have to be critical, it’s a bit derivative and indistinct and that Triumph badge on the tank is going to take some getting used to.

Video: Triumph Thunderbird details

Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5

Keen to produce a cruiser that turned and stopped decently, Triumph has equipped the T-bird with a meaty frame, suspension and brakes (plus optional ABS), carefully-developed tyres and easy handling.

At walking pace it’s still something of a handful despite the low 700mm seat (there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a big, 300kg bike). But on the move the Thunderbird is impressively neutral and brings a level of bend-swinging fun rarely, if ever, seen on American or Japanese rivals.

Engine 4 out of 5

Triumph’s all-new, 1600cc lump dominates the Thunderbird and is the world’s biggest production parallel twin. Peak torque comes at just 2750rpm and it redlines at 6500rpm (or a claimed 115mph in top – 6th) so, all in all, your arthritic right wrist never gets much of a workout.

That said, overall performance is not radically new and the power and torque figures are ‘good-to-average’ rather than stunning.

What’s more, close your eyes and you’d assume it’s a Vee rather than a parallel, and although most of the vibes are cancelled out by twin balancer shafts in front and back of the block, they do still get through, numbing your right hand slightly after 45 minutes or so.

Maybe this is being picky: you need some of that for ‘character’ after all.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

We’ll not know about the new Triumph Thunderbird’s reliability until there’s more miles under its belt, but there’s no denying it’s very refined and beautifully built. Paint and chrome appears good as is fit and finish and general quality of components.

In fact, one of the few criticisms of the bike is that, like some Japanese rivals, it’s almost TOO refined and glossy and lacks the gritty edge of the real H-D.

Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5

Difficult to judge, due to the fact (as with most things cruiser) that the telling virtues on this sort of bike are subjective and unmeasurable.

On face value the T-bird ticks all the right boxes, out-performs Harley in every measurable way, undercuts its American rival on price and yet STILL has a cool and credible name on the tank.

So it’s good… but it’s still not the real McCoy and it still hasn’t that rich history, credibility and the proven sky high residuals that go with it.

Find a Triumph Thunderbird 1600 for sale

Equipment 5 out of 5

From the saddle the new Thunderbird ticks all the right boxes in a slick, beautifully produced way: low, laid back saddle (check); cool and chromy pull back bars complete with chunky grips and switchgear (check); tank-mounted chrome instrument console with neatly integrated tacho and multi-functional LCD display (check), ABS plus a massive range of aftermarket accessories.

In a nutshell, any clichéd cruiser feature you can think of is present and correct, right down to the ignition key under the seat.

Owners' Reviews

5 owners have reviewed their TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700 (2009-on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

We’re currently improving the way this section works, which means we’ve had to suspend the submission of new owners’ reviews for a short period. Please check back soon.

Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.6 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.4 out of 5
Engine 4.8 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.6 out of 5
Equipment 4.6 out of 5
4 out of 5

Thunder in the Sun

07 October 2011 by Anonymous

Almeria, Spain. - I can remember the moment in May 2011 the T-bird arrived from the UK. I was all nerves. I had read all the reviews but never had a test ride (Dealers don't like to give test rides in Spain). Wow! I was impressed and remain so. It... Read more does everything it says on the tin. I grin from ear to ear when riding the coast roads and up into the mountains. It never fails to turn heads if thats what you are looking for and has that superb throaty acceleration that leaves everything fading behind in the mirror - Its a beauty! Just be careful accelerating in the lower gears otherwise it can sometimes remind you that you are riding a fully grown bull when it can spin and kick out hard on the rear wheel! I now have the front end dressed with the T-bars, engine bars, fogs and chrome bits. For xmas and next year, the aftermarket short pipes, rear foot plates for my girlfriend (I'll stick with pegs) and some bags - to bring the wine back on the vineyard tours!!

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5

One Year On

10 May 2011 by mike760

Have had my Thunderbird for a year now and it always a grin on my face when I ride it. I have the gel seat & mid screen so very comfy and very little turbulance. The only weak point on this bike is the adequate headlight - guess this is to... Read more encourage you to buy the fogs which I have to say, look great.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5

fantastic

16 August 2010 by ltj516

this bike does everything a harley does except shake you to death at tickover but thats what harley owners call character well they can have character ill have a nice comfortable smooth ride thank you .triumph have created a cracking bike myself and... Read more my wife love it never done so many miles together

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Outstanding!

20 November 2009 by BlackTBird

Put simply - the most impressive bike I have ever owned or ridden in 20 years! Outstanding performance in every department. Aftermarket pipes a must (like all cruisers) and plenty of accessories to make it individual. Done 2,500 miles and it just... Read more gets better!

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
5 out of 5

T- Bird Triumph !

15 September 2009 by Mapeiman

Cracking bike from start to finish ! And its British Read more

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
Read all 5 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2009
Year discontinued -
New price £11,149
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £80
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 85 bhp
Max torque 108 ft-lb
Top speed 115 mph
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 42 mpg
Tank range 231 miles
Specification
Engine size 1597cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 8v, dohc parallel twin, 6 gears, belt drive
Frame type Steel twin spine
Fuel capacity 22 litres
Seat height 700mm
Bike weight 308kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload only
Front brake 2 x 310mm discs, four piston calipers
Rear brake 310mm disc, twin piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70 x 19
Rear tyre size 200/50 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

2009: Model introduced

Other versions

None

Photo Gallery

  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700  (2009-on)
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