TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 900 (1993-2003) Review and used buying guide
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£160|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The Triumph Thunderbird 900 was one of Hinckley Triumph’s first big hits. Unlike the original Speed Triple 900, though, which now feels and looks a little dated, the retro-look T-bird is still relevant.
Triumph Thunderbird 900 is a great used buy
The 900 T-bird was a reasonable hit for Triumph back in the day and, if anything, is even more popular today. That’s due not just to the current fashion for retros and the T-bird’s ‘bigger, three-cylinder Bonnie’ appeal, but also to its still relevant 70bhp performance, its durability and reliability. There’s also classy build-quality and detailing (on these early ones the amount of polished alloy is simply mouth-watering) plus its timeless style.
As a result, prices – particularly of good ones – are on the rise, especially for the most potent and best performing Thunderbird Sport. However, if you prefer classic chrome and alloy, a decent original Hinckley Thunderbird can still be had for under £4k.
It’s also, being a retro roadster, still a decent ride, too. The triple puts out a fruity-sounding 70bhp with plenty of flexible drive. It’s comfortable, relatively low and easy but prone to back-firing (all the early Mikuni bikes do it, apparently).
The T-bird was quickly joined by the more cruiser-ey Adventurer 900 and the faster, better handling Thunderbird Sport (which, though less retro, is the most desirable 900 T-bird of all, launched in 1998) and more basic, cheaper Legend TT.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Easy to dismiss as a soft, laid back custom. In truth, the Triumph Thunderbird 900 (complete with monoshock rear end), may be a tad tall (blame the scaffold pole steel spine frame) and heavy, but it cuts a decent dash nevertheless. Twin disc-ed, lower barred Triumph Thunderbird Sport is better yet. Single disc standard bikes can be under-braked. It's very comfy, too.
The rear monoshock is an item that can begin to feel tired, but is easily refreshed by a specialist.
Failed fork seals are also a common issue according to dealers so check for evidence of oil leaking. The brakes also take a hiding.
EngineNext up: Reliability
For our money the Triumph Thunderbird 900 hosts one of the best incarnations of the original Hinckley triple motor. The 885cc three has been detuned from Trident and Trophy spec to give even more low down oomph. Wound open it sounds like a squadron of Lancasters and with restyled chromy and curvy engine cases it looks the business too. A classic.
Don't be alarmed if you experience backfires when test riding a Thunderbird - this is a known trait of the engine.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Like most early Hinckley Triumphs the Triumph Thunderbird 900 benefited from engineering paranoia to the extent that it is massively over-engineered, understressed and pretty durable, too. The downside of that is the Triumph Thunderbird 900 is a little heavier than it has to be, but, in this context at least, I think we can live with that.
Triumph Thunderbird 900 owners' reviews
After 27 years on sale, we've got 22 Triumph Thunderbird owners' reviews on the site. The bike scores 4.1 out of 5 stars overall, with buyers stating the brakes and suspension need work after a few years of regular use.
Triumph Thunderbird 900 reliability - a dealer's verdict
By Pete O'Dell, The Motorcycle Works, Peterborough - 01733 578 883
"The only issues we tend to see with them are fuel problems. Because they’re the sort of bike that’s not used all the time – they are more sunny Sundays than commuters – the fuel system is very prone to clogging up. ‘The other thing we see is the coils packing up, which causes running problems. In fact, so much so that we usually keep coils in stock!
"As for the engine, as long as the battery’s kept fully charged all the time, so you don’t have starter clutch issues, it’s bulletproof. It’ll go forever.
"Corrosion is something you need to watch out for, because people don’t clean them properly. That’s it though. Keep on top of that and you’ll be absolutely fine. Looks and cosmetics are really important on bikes like this.
"There’s no real difference between the Mikuni carbed ones and the Keihin ones. They probably got a better deal off Keihin, that’s all.
"The Mikunis are an old style carburettor, which is very similar to those on the old GSX-Rs, everybody used the same sort of carbs at that point.
"We don’t see too many mechanical issues because the first generation of machines from the reborn Triumph were heavily engineered to ensure reliability. As such, they don’t have the injection problems of some of the later bikes.
"They do tend to knock out a few fork seals, though and we see those from time to time. The brakes take a good hiding as well because there’s only a single disc on the front.
"But, as long as they’re cosmetically looked after, there’s nothing to worry about – and they’re still very popular, too. Any engine problems would probably be due to the owner not keeping the oil topped up.
"They did several models, from the Adventurer to the Legend and Sport, but as for any differences between them it’s only really a styling thing. There are no real mechanical differences. "They’re built like tanks. The spoked wheels last well, although the brakes need to be serviced when the bike is. The only pain in the arse is the air filter because it’s part of the airbox. To replace the air filter you’ve got to replace the airbox itself – which will cost you about £55."
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
Finally killed off by ever toughening Euro emissions regulations, the Triumph Thunderbird 900 was a fairly long-lived favourite so there’s plenty to chose from. They also tend to be well looked after, cosmetically enhanced, and fairly low mileage.
Not a lot to get excited about, but what it has it does well and there is a big fat Triumph accessories catalogue accompanying the Triumph Thunderbird 900 to tempt you into upping the spec. Analogue clocks, chrome mirrors, comfy seat etc are all decent, but factory king and queen seat, noisier pipes (and they do sound wonderful), chrome cosmetics etc are common fitments on the Triumph Thunderbird 900.
Customising your Triumph Thunderbird 900
Like many retros/cruisers, cosmetic add-ons are plentiful for the T-bird and are all part of the ownership pleasure. This one has the visually identical but far noisier ‘off-road’ peashooter silencers, a heartily recommended optional mainstand, plus chunky alloy grabrail, chrome chain guard and slightly lower Bonneville handlebars, which bolt straight on. It also has a replacement EBC front disc, a chopped-down, rear mudguard, slightly dubious alloy rider and pillion pegs and a crafty, brighter Idiot LED lightbulb upgrade.
|Engine type||12v transverse triple, 5 gears|
|Frame type||Steel tube spine|
|Fuel capacity||15 litres|
|Front brake||Single 320mm disc|
|Rear brake||285mm disc|
|Front tyre size||110/80 x 18|
|Rear tyre size||160/80 x 16|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||44 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£101|
|Annual service cost||£160|
|Used price||£4,000 - £6,500|
13 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||70 bhp|
|Max torque||53.1 ft-lb|
|Top speed||125 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||12.9 secs|
|Tank range||165 miles|
Model history & versions
1995: Triumph Thunderbird 900 launched.
1996: Triumph Thunderbird 900 gets new oval section swing arm.
1997: Triumph Thunderbird 900 gets new chrome rad end covers and grill as standard.
1998: Triumph Thunderbird 900 now with king and queen seat as standard.
1999: Triumph Thunderbird Sport introduced.
2003: Both Triumph Thunderbirds discontinued.
Triumph Thunderbird Sport: Introduced late 1997 as more sporting version of Triumph Thunderbird 900 complete with uprated suspensions, wider rims, twion disc front brakes and revised styling to suit inspired by 1971 X75 Hurricane featuring special 3:2 exhaust and 'cheese grater' air filter covers. Black engine not universally admired, however...
Other Triumph Thunderbird reviews on MCN
Owners' reviews for the TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 900 (1993 - 2003)
26 owners have reviewed their TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 900 (1993 - 2003) 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:||£160|
Version: Thunderbird 900
Annual servicing cost: £100
I have owned this bike for 18 years and it has never let me down. still looks and sounds great. I do need to use it more(also have an explorer 1200) don't leave too much fuel in if not using often as modern fuel seems to go off very quick.
A little clunky around corners and poor turning circle
Bullet proof and smooth delivery of power and a great sound
I have been pleased with the overall build quality
I have a winter screen, rear sissy bar with small rack, fork protectors and Triumph soft panniers fitted. Chrome accessories are available on the second hand market but prices have risen steeply in recent months.
Buying experience: I purchased the bike when 3 years old from Triumph main dealer.
Annual servicing cost: £180
Great bike very solid and well built with great sounding engine: not like the modern triples with the whine they have. Poor turning circle can be a pain when manoeuvring on the drive
Tank is about 120 before reserve and easily cope with that without needing a break.
Great pull low down and great sound, seldom go over 100mph
Mostly aluminium with not so much chrome. Previous owners have looked after well with acf50 coating so no corrosion on a 20 year old bike is great
Standard annual service 180 at Triumph dealer
Very basic with no aids at all.
Buying experience: Bought from Padgetts online and PX my previous bike, delivered about 100 miles and no extra cost Paid £6000 which was asking price and had reasonable PX against MT07
Version: Thunderbird 900
Annual servicing cost: £150
Still one of the best looking bikes out there in my opinion, it's bigger and has more presence than a Bonneville and turns heads everywhere I go. I've changed a few things to make it the perfect bike for me: Lower handlebars (from Speed Triple), TOR silencers (Wow!), upgraded front brake, shortened rear mudguard (the original is sooo long!), Halcyon bar end mirrors, chrome clock backs, and chrome grab rail :-) I originally bought the bike as it was such a good price and I intended to sell it on, I still have it almost 3 years later and I have no intention of ever selling it so that's the best recommendation I can give.
Lovely ride, brakes a little lacking on the standard bike but it's very easy to upgrade the calliper which resolves this problem. I find it extremely comfortable to ride (I'm 6'3").
Awesome 3 cylinder engine, sounds like a squadron of Lancasters with the TOR silencers fitted :-)
I needed to replace the starter motor but haven't had any issues other than that.
For what these bikes cost you really can't go wrong! You could buy one, tun it for a couple of years and then get your money back (or more!) - it doesn't get any better than that?
Not much in the way of equipment but everything you need!
Good handling, great sound, nice broad powerband. Not so good is, dash lights, coils and air filter replacement.
The bike likes cooler weather. Its a good daily rider and 2 up pushes the rear suspension pretty hard.
Power delivery is very linear and has good roll on Power also
1995's are the best built. Akront wheels need more care than the chrome ones.
No options available anymore.
Buying experience: Private deal. Paid the man his asking price no questions. $2500
Version: Thunderbird Sport 900
Annual servicing cost: £200
It got grunt kudos and character...It's old school!
Front twins discs are great Back single disc barely there but could be improved
The best bit! It's got character in buckets and is bulletproof. Nothing bad about this.
Ok for its time.
Buying experience: N\A
Version: Early model
Annual servicing cost: £200
Handsome recreation of Meriden Tridents in their last form in a somewhat overblown way. Far less hassle than a Trident T160/T150 yet still simple to look after, but porky and cumbersome to push around for parking.
Front brake far behind modern standards but there are upgrades possible. Just watch out for overmuch being asked of the skinny front tyre. Rear is adequate. Right quality is very affected by the state of the rear shock absorber. Budget to replace at 60k. Upgrading is possible. Few Thunderbirds will be still on the original seat. Getting more padding is common but raises the seat height which is high already.
High torque is very attractive, but going above 100mph takes a long time compared to other Triumphs.
The front 2 (of 3) coils are adversely affected by heat from the engine and short out, but pattern replacements are cheap. Camchain tensioner has failed twice. Fork seals really need gaiters to cover them as road dust will eat them over time. (Easy to fit.) Speedometer can fail, but injecting grease into the head may save it.
Plenty on sale to choose from, most being low mileage. Tyres last well (15k for a rear tyre; likewise chain and sprockets) - chiefly because neither brakes nor acceleration wear them out fast. With over 80k miles done my engine smokes slightly. The alloy front footrests can fracture too easily, not even requiring a fall. Carburettors jets wear out by 45k miles (Mikuni on the early models). Replacing them smooths things out if the engine feels rough. Triumph says replace the airbox with its non-detachable filter every 12k miles. I doubt many adhere to that. You can drill out the internals and fit an aftermarket filter. Brake pistons seize regularly unless you never go out in rain. Stainless steel pistons sove this. Broadly speaking simple enough for DIY maintenance.
The bike as issued is basic: rear shock only adjustable for preload, easily burgled helmet locks, simple tachometer, small toolkit - and that's about it.
Annual servicing cost: £100
I would definitely recommend it to a friend. A bit too tall and a very poor (excessively large) turning radius. Terrible stock seat. Cramped riding position for a taller rider. Great power band. Plenty of acceleration. Good fit and finish. With mods it is now a great bike and often my go to when choosing one of my bikes for a day's ride.
Rear brakes not up to par. Single front disc brake is adequate but just so.
Great acceleration. Great sound. Wonderful power curve. Plenty of torque and speed without the need to rev it high.
Not a single mechanical problem in over 10,000 miles.
Great fuel mileage, I routinely get 45-50mpg. No mechanical issues in over 10,000 miles. Scarcity of spare parts, virtually no spare parts support from Triumph and this is a problem that will likely get worse as time passes.
Standard equipment is barely adequate. I have upgraded mine with an original Triumph accessory billet tail rack and passenger pad, as well as a set of Triumph saddlebag supports and Triumph leather accessory saddlebags, Monza style fuel cap, TR6 bars, parcel grid on the tank, high intensity headlight bulb, 70s era T140 seat, hinged the seat, made billet brackets to drop the pegs by approximately an inch. I am searching for a centerstand. BIG drawback is lack of spare parts support from Triumph.
Buying experience: Bought privately with less than 1500 miles.
Annual servicing cost: £200
I've owned mine going on 4 years now. My 7th bike and probably my favorite overall. Truly a fantastic bike in general, not even counting the fact that you can pick one up for around 3 grand. Possibly the most rewarding bike to hustle along. You'll learn from it.
I have the aftermarket solo seat for the TBS and the seat is hard as shit, but stock seats are very comfortable. Brakes were decent on the tbs as they have the dual rotors/calipers, but I upgraded the rotors for a little extra needed bite.
Get the carbs dialed in and throw some pods or aftermarket filters on her and she's a rocket ship. You will dust any of the modern classics on one of these. I've done it. One of the most throttle responsive bikes I've ever had as well.
My forks exterior finish corroded a bit, but it may have been owned by someone near the ocean as I'm in California. The carbs needed some new pilot needles, but other than that, she's been perfect.
I've had zero issues other than the above mentioned pilot needle that I "HAD" to replace. That said, I but about $200-300 into it yearly between oil changes and the occasional upgrade. I wouldn't say anything is more expensive than the average bike.
Im not a stereo on a bike kinda guy, so the fact that these have a "pass" button, 4-way indicators, oil temp/neutral/hi-beam indicators, and that's all I really expect. Easy to access idle control/choke and easy to refill fluids.
Buying experience: Bought used with 18k on it, and some damage for $2800. Had the tank/tail repaired and painted for $450. I get compliments all the time.
1998 T BIRD SPORT, In flaming red, How cool are we? we ride a T BIRD , not a bandit! or a divvy, not even a fat hog! No a Triumph T Bird, i would still love it if it was as unreliable as a hardly rideable, but it ain't . custom pipes differently air filter and a dino, 85 bhp, more that enough for our roads with all the silly speed limits and cameras and car drivers on phones! This is a keeper for me, i have left strict instructions to the wife to send it to the grave with me, I going to ride that bad boy on the road to hell, Grinning like a fool all the way! Also own a trident 900 sprint, 100bhp from stock, you guys would love it, Great day to day bike, keep the T Bird for the sun, also look for Trident 900 Daytona 900 Trophy 900, all are close brothers off the T Bird, to be had fore a song, come on Triumph remake the T Bird sport, a reworked speed triple would do nicely,
Got this 95 t bird for a song but it needs TLC I've had one before and its the only bike I've regetted selling. I'll keep this for a while as it ticks all the boxes I need in a bike and a few more. Tank range could be better and that seat will have to go but the ride is good and iI really like the look.
Well now the old girl is sorted - took some time and money but running well. A modern classic of the future - oil and filter change plus addressing issues below have given the bike a new lease of life. Rock on!
Got this a 1995 N reg' on the cheap from a mate - now I know why! Somewhat of a project - dodgy electrics, brake discs fore and aft needing replacing, sticking clutch plates - but the engine still pulls well! Had a t-bird sport before - better bike all round, but you get what you pays for I guess. My wife calls it the project. One day I'll get the old girl on the road. Essentially it's a solid bike - retro' looks, nice thrum from the engine, neat acceleration. Seat height a bit low for lanky old me, but what else could you get for 2K?
I,ve owned a 1996 model for a year now.Bad points are alternater cupling bolts snap and need an upgrade shaft & 1 peice bolt.Triumph did,nt recall. The front brake is bad for 2 up riding. Good points are;sounds lovely with aftermarket pipes,looks good and engine is reliable.Paint finish is still great,but anything alloy/chrome needs constant cleaning in the winter,even when its under cover outside.Would be great if Triumph bought out a 1050 version.
After a 10 year break from my last gpz/ninjas i was looking for something to slow me down,harley or triumph.Test rides later and Triumph wins,a better machine and more suited to my old style of riding.The bike has a good riding position,good pillion room,reliable engine and nice handling.I picked my 96 model up with 5k on clock early 2009 for £1700,brilliant bargain.Mine has dynoed 15 bhp extra,which really makes a boost to low/mid torque and ofc lovley noisy pipes. Bad sides are mirrors and speedo case rusty(previous owner left it outside),so ofc you will need to clean frequently if you have no garage. Also being Triumph its nice for older people to approach you and chat about bikes of old,rather than complain :)
This being my first Triumph, I was A little woried about its build quality and reliabilty but how wronge was I. It is simply the best motorcycle I have ever riden. Mine is a 1997, one previous owner and in mint condition. It is comfortable, nippy, handles very well and is just a great bike to own. The clocks are functional and not OTT, The suspension works fine, does a fair few miles to the gallon and the riding position is great, I can do mile after mile, get off of the bike and have no aches or pains. After having loads of ton up bikes, this bike has slowed me down and made me just enjoy riding again. My only complaint is that it could have done with a fuel gauge, why oh why isn`t this standard on all bikes. All that said, Well done Hinkley, please build them again.
A brilliant all-rounder & one that Triumph should not have stopped making. All the character of a real bike & modern engineering UJM & 'German Bike' riders don't know what you're missing! (Take note Hinckley, & ever bigger 'cruiser' bricks for Yanks that can't do corners & rocketing 'gas' prices ???? Get real.) Rock solid motor with barrel loads of low down torque, great, easy handling. Easy 10+hp gain by changing exhaust & air filter, but flat torque curve feels way more powerful than even 80+hp. Low seat height, so low speed manoevering a non-issue. Rediculously under geared as stock - what is it with this obsession for gearing for lowest standing 1/4 times ? (What *BS*!) In the real world it's overtaking accel with the right gear selected that counts - Thunderbird delivers in spades. And 44mpg ??? Nonsense! With the bigger front sprocket these engines were made for, +65+ mpg. - no problem (& I don't hang about). (Take note MCN testers & manufacturers that pander to this stupidity.) Value loses 1 star because, like all bikes, spares prices are a complete rip-off.
The Tbird is a really great bike. Yes it is top heavy at low speeds, but this goes awy once you're off. The front brake pads should be uprated, as standard pads don't give enough braking-two discs would have been better. Fitting louder exhausts is a must. This bike can tour, commute, pose and cruise. It's a very pretty bike. If you don't mind cleaning-avoid. The engine needs more poke-great from the lights but runs out of puff at 110 or so, depending on gearing. Wheel sizes are odd, which restricts tyre choice. I recommend Avon Azaros. Handling is great. Not sports bike sharp but steady and trustworthy-it can be hustled along very quickly if you want. Finish is excellent, bar the iffy chrome on the standard mirrors. These things are cheap now for what they are. Buy before the price starts going up! I would dearly like to know how Blubird upated his for more power! C'mon Blubird, tell us all!
My first proper motorcycle. One warranty repair to an oil breather seal. No sooner had I picked it up than the speedo started making a loud screeching noise (it'll have to wait until the next service). Took it on a tour down to Switzerland and felt a little out of place next to the BMWs and Goldwings! The small tank was the biggest limitation (reserve after 83 miles if ridden hard) along with limited luggage capacity. Also, I'm 6'4" so the cut down seat is not much use! I find it quite a task to keep all that chrome clean, especially wheels. But the engine is nice and torquey but not very powerful (69 bhp). I'll probably sell it / trade it in for something a bit faster and more suited to touring next year.
I really like this bike, it has plenty of grunt, looks cool (according to young and old alike), handles securely, although it is not supersports agile. It is pretty reliable but has a few electrical quirks which are apparently easy to fix but don't really affect it that much. It is great in town and on A and B roads at the legal limit but on the motorway it is a struggle to hold high speeds as the bars are too high and wide. Comfort is OK for short trips but I would recommend a better seat for longer trips, an hour is about my personal limit and 45 minutes for the pillion! All the chrome looks impressive and is great for cleaning fetishists. If I wanted to add anything to it it would be another 15bhp to match the performance with the looks, mind you it is great away from the lights as it has plenty of torque. Brakes are OK solo but a bit weak 2 up. Would I change it? Yes, but for something with equally good looks but a bit more power - nothing springs to mind at the moment! Strengths: Looks, low down torque, low seat height. Weaknesses: Lack of outright power, a little heavy.
I recently came back to motorcycling after a five year break. My previous bike was a honda goldwing which was too heavy to enjoy when riding two up but in my youth (what a memory!) I rode a triumph bonny. The T/Bird is better, it puts a smile on my face everytime I ride it. Strengths: Nice looks, easy to ride, reliable & not too heavy. Weaknesses: Slightly underpowered.
I like the T-bird because it's not a clone bike. It's got classic styling, mechanical and build quality that won't quit, plus tons of charisma. I lowered mine, which brought the comfortable Corbin down to 28 inch seat height. It's affordable to get T-Bird Sport power-you just advance the timing and put in the Tiger intake manifolds and rejet. Get a T-Bird with 6 gears (I added mine). I've cruised at 80-90 for hours in 6th, very comfortable with the right seat and front foot pegs to stretch out. The brakes have been fine, but I think they have a bit more stopping power. Overall, an excellent value, highly reliable and awesome bike.
Love the bike, riding position, looks, and style. Engine midrange is great, top end not as satisfying. All the power one can use in this style of bike. Pipes limit luggage choices but allow fitting a center stand. All in all a great naked retro choice.
The bike is great for use in the city and short trips. The problems we have abroad is the parts availability so we need to import from UK.
I love the Thunderbird Sport, a great British bike. I did have a 1995 Thunderbird before this one. A few things to think on though: 1- oh what fun cleaning all those spokes. 2- the front off side brake cable is rubbing the front mudguard under braking. 3- this is a strange one, when ridden in the rain I get a smell of burning rubber from the engine and just once it has dripped a small amount of water from the pump area. If anyone has any experience of this I would love to hear from them. Please email me on "firstname.lastname@example.org". Yes, that's my other bike just for a contrast.
Fabulous fun machine but a bit on the heavy side. The price you pay for real metal. Good brakes (twin discs), suspension (adjustable but doesn't need it) and performance although another 20 b.h.p. might be nice. Looks soooo cooool!
Great bike for relaxing and just enjoying the wonders of motorcycling!