TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700 STORM (2011 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Big-bore 1700cc engine
  • Blacked out finish
  • A serious attempt at a cruiser from Triumph

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Power: 97 bhp
Seat height: Low (27.6 in / 700 mm)
Weight: High (747 lbs / 339 kg)

Prices

New £13,100
Used £6,500 - £11,000

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

It would be easy to be cynical about Triumph’s new Thunderbird Storm. Its route of taking an existing cruiser model and spinning off a pared-down, mean and moody, all-black, ‘hot rod’-styled variant is a well-trodden one.

In recent years there have been Harley-Davidson Nightsters, Victory 8-Balls, Honda’s Black Spirit, even Kawasaki’s VN900 Custom, so the Storm is not so much a case of Triumph jumping on the bandwagon as shouting ‘Room for one more?’ and squeezing onboard among everyone else.

Riding it, however, reveals the new Storm to be pleasingly more than just AN Other fashion victim. Hinckley has become particularly adept recently at delivering well thought-out and crisply-executed machines that are both thoroughly developed and wanting for little. And the Storm, although developed from an existing model – the 1600 Thunderbird – is the latest example of this.

So, aside from predictable black paint and metal finishes plus subtly minimalistic styling (the Storm boasts more aggressive, flat bars and extended risers as well as chic clear glass indicators compared to the stock Thunderbird) Triumph has gone the extra yard by giving it a completely different headlamp arrangement, more performance and a host of neat detail touches.

Blackness aside, it’s the Storm’s twin-beam headlamp which visually distances it from the stock Thunderbird and reminds you of its Rocket III Roadster big brother – no bad thing in itself when you’re after an image that’ll strike consternation throughout suburbia.

Triumph Thunderbird Storm burnout

But the Storm’s added performance, courtesy of using the Thunderbird’s optional 1700cc big-bore kit which delivers an extra 12bhp and a healthy wodge of added grunt means the Storm has the extra go to match its hot-rod image. That’s something that can’t be said of the Nightsters and Black Spirits of this world.

On the one hand the Storm is better ‘hot-rod variant’ than most, being both thoroughly done in terms of cosmetics and performance. By doing so, it offers a tempting, ‘bad boy’ alternative to the stock Thunderbird which, good though it is, has always been a bit too ‘vanilla’ for my tastes.

On the other, the Storm plugs a useful gap in Triumph’s range. In terms of how it looks, how it goes and how it feels, it truly is a ‘junior Rocket III’. So, the standard Thunderbird’s spec and manners appealed, but not it’s style, here’s the solution. And if you were tempted by the Rocket III’s poke and pose, but not its bulk and brawn, the Storm could be for you, too.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

From the saddle, the Storm is pleasing, effective and surprisingly unthreatening to ride. While the rider’s-eye view is all bad-attitude gloss black, once levered off its side-stand and prodded into first gear the Storm is refreshingly light and welcoming.

The ergonomics are natural; the clutch, gearchange and throttle are light and crisp; and the pick-up from the big parallel-twin motor meaty and instant without being fierce. It’ll rev-on to a 7500rpm redline, at which point it starts to sound meaty enough too, but there’s no real need. Instead, it’s all about low and mid-range urge – and there’s more than enough of it to satisfy.

The handling feels even better than the stock Thunderbird – a big improvement on the class convention. The suspension, like most Triumphs, is well set up and the brakes are excellent.

The whole plot is taut enough to pleasingly swing through a series of country bends. It’s no sports bike, of course – the slow steering and sheer bulk mean that corners have to be planned and steady – but it’s more fun than most cruisers when you want to get hustling along.

In fact the Storm, despite its sheer size and bulk, only ever becomes a handful during dead slow manoeuvring, when there’s no getting away from the fact this is a big, hefty bike. But it’s nothing to get unduly concerned about, either.

Comfort and all-round useability is its forte. Its seat is well padded and the bars and pegs set to be acceptable for a tank’s worth of riding time. A decent, all-round cruiser with an extra helping of menace. Whether that makes the Storm a true hot rod, though, is a different matter…

Triumph Thunderbird Storm right side

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

You probably expect a true hot rod to have a big, beefy V-twin engine and you’d be right in thinking the Triumph’s parallel twin has its work cut-out to keep up. But there’s an authenticity here, too, although it’s British rather than American authenticity.

Look at the T-Bird engine and think ‘Bonneville’ – if it wasn’t for the ugliness of the rad, it could so easily be mistaken for an air-cooled lump.

The Storm’s added performance, courtesy of using the Thunderbird’s optional 1700cc big bore kit - delivering 12 more bhp and a healthy wodge of added grunt - means it has the extra go to match its hot rod image.

On the other hand, there’s no getting away from the fact that the Storm can’t quite match the competition for sheer punch. The Triumph unit’s virtue is in being a beautiful creation to use day-in, day-out.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

All Triumph and slick, crisp and well-built these days and there have been no reported reliability issues with the Thunderbird so it’s fairly safe to assume the same will be true of the Thunderbird Storm.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Priced between the standard Thunderbird and Rocket III Roadster of its day, the Storm represented fair, if not startling value.

Custom bikes enjoyed a boom in popularity in the ‘00s perhaps due to a generation of erstwhile sportsbike riders looking to ride in style (and more importantly comfort). These bikes exert an appeal on anyone who likes chromed parts, dark paint and has a desire to be different from the hordes of plastic rockets and desert rally look-a-likes.

Harley achieved great success with its Dark Custom range, particularly with the style-conscious and cash-strapped youth of America - something Triumph noticed, no doubt.

A contemporary rival of the Storm was Harley-Davidson’s Muscle; a seriously cool… erm, muscle bike. Especially in yellow. It excites in every quarter (looks, performance, pulling power and resale value). And it’s a Harley-Davidson which, in this category, matters. A lot.

Triumph Thunderbird Storm vs rivals

At the time you could also go for the Victory Hammer S, a blacked out hot rod version of the Victory Hammer.

So how do they compare? Well, if you’re looking for a genuine slice of hot rod heaven, the Triumph – good though it is – isn’t the one to go for. It’s far too diluted for that.

Instead, Harley-Davidson’s Muscle and the Victory Hammer S are the bikes to have – and not just because they actually look like hot rods, but because they perform like them, too.

If you want the mostest in a straight line, it’s the Muscle, but the Victory’s all-round aplomb elsewhere means it puts it at the top of this hot rod tree.

A modern equivalent would be the Triumph Bobber Black, Triumph Speedmaster or if you wanted something with a bit more poke and modern styling, the Ducati XDiavel.

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

Dressed in black paint – matt or gloss black, your choice – with a drizzle of chrome-plating, the Storm carries off the mean and moody stance with ease.

Flat bars and dual headlights add individual style and the capacity hike of 102cc, taking the Storm up to 1699cc from the standard Thunderbird’s 1597cc, confirms its hot rod status.

Specs

Engine size 1699cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, parallel twin, 6 gears
Frame type Tubular steel twin spine
Fuel capacity 22 litres
Seat height 700mm
Bike weight 339kg
Front suspension 47mm telescopic forks, no adjust
Rear suspension Twin shocks, preload adjust
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 43 mpg
Annual road tax £96
Annual service cost -
New price £13,100
Used price £6,500 - £11,000
Insurance group 14 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 97 bhp
Max torque 115 ft-lb
Top speed 120 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 205 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

2011: Model introduced

Other versions

Triumph Thunderbird 1600 – standard version of Thunderbird
Triumph Thunderbird Commander - 1700cc, footboards, Showa suspension
Triumph Thunderbird LT - 1700cc Touring version with footboards, windscreen, white wall tyres, panniers and backrest. 
Triumph Thunderbird Nightstorm - 1700cc all black version  

Other Triumph Thunderbird reviews on MCN

Owners' reviews for the TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700 (2011 - on)

2 owners have reviewed their TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700 (2011 - 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.

Review your TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 1700 (2011 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Engine: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Reliability & build quality: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Value vs rivals: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Equipment: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
5 out of 5 Tbird
31 August 2013 by Scottie1984

Absolutely love this bike.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5 cheapest shopping online
12 April 2011 by gegedeai

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Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
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