TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700 (2009 - 2016) Review
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£270|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
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.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
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.
EngineNext up: Reliability
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.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
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 vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
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.
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.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 8v, dohc parallel twin, 6 gears, belt drive|
|Frame type||Steel twin spine|
|Fuel capacity||22 litres|
|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|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||42 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||£270|
|Used price||£8,000 - £10,400|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||85 bhp|
|Max torque||108 ft-lb|
|Top speed||115 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||231 miles|
Model history & versions
2009: Model introduced
Other Triumph Thunderbird reviews on MCN
MCN Long term test reports
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Owners' reviews for the TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700 (2009 - 2016)
11 owners have reviewed their TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700 (2009 - 2016) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£270|
I first rode a Thunderbird in Death Valley in California. I wanted to avoid doing this on a Harley and fly a Union Flag instead. It was that good that I did it again 2 years later!! I fell in love with the TBird as it was so comfortable and full of character. The engine is stonking and feels bombproof. Even 2 up with the Mrs it had bags of grunt delivered in a smooth curve. It handles very well but but be aware of the grunt through that back tyre. I loved the bike that much that I bought my 2011 Storm this year. It is without a doubt the best bike I have ever owned. It's got Triumph short silencers and the roar is fantastic. Everywhere I go it draws admiring glances and nods of appreciation. I intend to keep her for a very long time. I am a recent convert from sports tourers to a cruiser and this bike puts a massive grin on my face every time I start her up and go for a blast. Don't think twice -buy one NOW!!!!
Purchased my Storm as a first bike! Some may say I must be mad choosing such a big unit as a first ride but I have to say the Storm has been a fabulous purchase and provided it is given the respect that is is due it has proven itself to be easy to live with and confidence giving each time I have taken it out. I set out looking for a quality cruiser and had a real hard time taking off the 'Harley Goggles' but once you have experienced the ride quality, power and presence you will be glad you turned your head away from the US and went for a proper UK heritage brand instead. My 2011 bike has 24,000 miles on the clock now and still looks in showroom condition. I am sure we will have many adventures in the coming years and cannot wait for the next ride out!
Buying experience: Purchased privately from a confirmed Triumph enthusiast. The dealer network is very good and to be fair their advice and expertise got me looking at the bike in the first place. Even though I purchased privately they have been great with advice and support since purchase.
Version: Actually the original 1600cc version, 1700 version for USA market (more torque!)
Annual servicing cost: £300
Should be a 5 - one of VERY BEST bikes over 30 years, but not perfect
Easy ride - so lazy and handling really good for a cruiser. BE AWARE - standard seat helps handling to be almost outstanding.... but very thin and to hard for my old arse. Found original triumph comfort seat (£200 ebay) huge difference but ride position an inch higher. I'd choose comfort every time.
LOVABLE. Honestly, bobble around town so lazy easy. Open up in town with excellent shorty pipes and you have instant hooligan moment, drop into 6th gear on motorway for touring and you are up to 270 mile range and 55 +mpg mileage. What is there not to love.Character, performance and pride.
Superb build quality, every bit of metal is solid, deep paint and deep chrome. Third party accessories (puig screen) show outstanding Triumph quality chrome. Try to source Triumph accessories if you can.
Fantastic value second hand - bit pricey new. Component quality lasts so well value just goes up!. Bad luck for me - belt damaged by stone at 2500 miles over 5 years, failed MOT issue so £500 cost to replace. Ouch - but just bad luck
Engine - a joy. Triumph accessories (metal ones) are superb. Tank mounted clocks STUPID IDEA. Dangerous design but that's cruisers ! Front crash bars force replacement of great horn with nasty cheap 'peeper' - need to replace original horn but need to engineer. Hate triumph panniers - struggle to find alternative solution. (we need HARD panniers in Europe!). Solo comfort seat rare, but vital.
Buying experience: Private purchased - somebody's never used toy with 700 miles over 5 years! My opportunity
Version: Red Haze
Annual servicing cost: £260
Nothing bad about this bike.
Very plush. Armchair like ride. Would like some preload and damping, but that would push the price up, but for what it is and how it is supposed to be ridden it is fine. Handles and has better ground clearance than most bikes in its class.
Pulls from nowhere in any gear. Real nice torque. Lovely sound from the Triumph "Shorty" pipes.
Slight furring on some bolts, but that is an age thing and salt on the road.
Servicing is about the right price for a bike that age and type. The big service needs to be done at 12,000
Tyres are limited to two brands. Metzler and Bridgestone. There is not a lot between the two, but I have a slightly better feel from the Bridgestones. Love the belt drive. No more chain oil. The "Shorty" pipes are a must. Sissy bar, Rack and Touring Seat are great for two up riding. Clock and Speedo and Rev Counter are all in one on the tank and easy to read.
Buying experience: Bought second hand from a Triumph Dealer. (Bulldog Triumph) Could not have been more helpful and struck a deal for some extra parts. Bike was 10,800
belt drive difficult to get correct
Version: Thunderbird 1600
Annual servicing cost: £250
Out grunts any Harley, Great fun to ride. Stock seat is harsh. Short pipes are a must, louder but not screaming Eagle loud. Triumph need to do more accessories. Good handling, strong brakes. Get one, NOW! Old boys go misty eyed cos its a Triumph.
Brakes are great, ride quality is great. With the long haul gel seat can go for about 2 hours, 2 up before bum ache sets in.
Engine is awesome, it aint no sports bike but it can haul ass when it wants to. Has no fear of American Iron.
Bare Alloy wheels and fork lowers must be kept polished or will quickly look rough, particulaly the wheels. Drive belt finicky to set up, silicone spray cures the dreaded squeak. Other than that no issues.
Excellent value, look at the price of a Harley or Indian. Residual values dont hold out as well as HD though. I always ride 2 up and go through a £200 rear tyre in about 4000 miles. Do my own servicing, havent done the valve clearances yet though. Spark plug access is a little tricky first time.
Longhaul seats are essential, stock is like a brick covered in vinyl. Quick release sissy bar is good, converts from a two up tourer to a solo seat cruiser in 5 minutes and 3 bolts. Short exhausts are a must, louder than stock but not stupidly loud, nice burble and pop on the overrun. Chrome swingarm is nice, but exhausts must be removed to remove it to adjust drive belt.
Buying experience: Private sale, Good deal on a well accessoried bike.
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 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!!
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 encourage you to buy the fogs which I have to say, look great.
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 my wife love it never done so many miles together
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 gets better!
Cracking bike from start to finish ! And its British