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TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 900 (1993-2003) Review

Published: 24 November 2006

Updated: 21 November 2014

Surprisingly cool, versatile and fun retro – indeed one of the first

TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 900  (1993-2003)

Surprisingly cool, versatile and fun retro – indeed one of the first

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

The 900 Thunderbird 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 Thunderbird's 'bigger, three-cylinder Bonneville' appeal, but also to its still relevant 70bhp performance, its durability and reliability.

Ride Quality & Brakes 2 out of 5

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. Comfy, too.

Engine 5 out of 5

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.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

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.

Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5

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.

Find a Triumph Thunderbird 900 for sale

Insurance group: 13 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 3 out of 5

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.

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1993
Year discontinued 2003
Original price -
Used price £4,300 to £7,500
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 13 of 17
Annual road tax £91
Annual service cost £170
Performance
Max power 70 bhp
Max torque 53.1 ft-lb
Top speed 125 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 12.9 secs
Average fuel consumption 44 mpg
Tank range 165 miles
Specification
Engine size 885cc
Engine type 12v transverse triple, 5 gears
Frame type Steel tube spine
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Seat height 790mm
Bike weight 220kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake Single 320mm disc
Rear brake 285mm disc
Front tyre size 110/80 x 18
Rear tyre size 160/80 x 16

History & Versions

Model history

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.

Other versions

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...

Owners' Reviews

21 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.

Review your TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 900 (1993-2003)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.1 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3.6 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 3.8 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.1 out of 5
Equipment 3.5 out of 5
4 out of 5

Looks right but no sportster

17 July 2019 by Thunderbirdmiler

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.

Ride Quality & Brakes
2 out of 5
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.
Engine
2 out of 5
High torque is very attractive, but going above 100mph takes a long time compared to other Triumphs.
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
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.
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
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.
Equipment
2 out of 5
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.
4 out of 5

A good bike with mods that made it a great bike

04 May 2019 by DRW

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.

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
Rear brakes not up to par. Single front disc brake is adequate but just so.
Engine
5 out of 5
Great acceleration. Great sound. Wonderful power curve. Plenty of torque and speed without the need to rev it high.
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Not a single mechanical problem in over 10,000 miles.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
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.
Equipment
2 out of 5
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.

5 out of 5

Triumph TBS stands for "Truly Ballsout Special"

19 February 2016 by EE

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.

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
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.
Engine
5 out of 5
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.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
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.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
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.
Equipment
4 out of 5
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.

5 out of 5

SO DAME COOL

19 November 2013 by raygmorris69

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,

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
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Old but true

23 December 2011 by highlandvl

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.

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

Back in the saddle again

10 November 2011 by jimbo5

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!

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
3 out of 5

Starting to show its age

23 August 2011 by jimbo5

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?

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
2 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Roadster

10 February 2010 by Jon068

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.

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Born again

04 September 2009 by Rusty068

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 :)

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
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

A great Machine

19 June 2008 by 01partsman

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.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Great Torque, Handling

04 April 2008 by Tbird1

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.

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

My two pence worth

02 October 2007 by General Sir Ron Pig

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!

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
0 out of 5

My Review

14 December 2006 by Anonymous

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.

Ride Quality & Brakes
0 out of 5
-
Engine
0 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
0 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
0 out of 5
-
Equipment
0 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Tough looking old style bike with plenty of torque and a couple of quirks!

30 August 2006 by sboatright

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.

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
-
Engine
3 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Superb bike forgot how much fun it was to ride a decent bike

27 May 2006 by stv002

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.

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

My Review

09 May 2002 by BluBird

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.

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
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

My Review

20 February 2002 by basel1120

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.

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
-
Engine
3 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
3 out of 5

My Review

16 February 2002 by Mstylianou

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.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
1 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

My Review

17 December 2001 by TBird and Ninja

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 "kawasakizx6rj2@aol.com". Yes, that's my other bike just for a contrast.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
3 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

My Review

30 August 2001 by PleasanceC

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!

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
3 out of 5

My Review

03 May 2001 by dozz

Great bike for relaxing and just enjoying the wonders of motorcycling!

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
-
Engine
3 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
3 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-

Photo Gallery

  • TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD 900  (1993-2003)
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review
  • Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle review
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