2010 Triumph Thunderbird 1600 – SN488
UK Registration: HY10 OZB
We took this bike in on part exchange for our Kawasaki Vaquero and what a gorgeous bike it is.
A UK bike with 2 owners from new and finished in a cracking deep pearlescent green.
Full Triumph history, garaged from new and in sublime condition (check the video).
If you are looking for one of these then look no further as I doubt you’ll find one much nicer.
The very first Triumph Thunderbird before it was reborn with a 885cc triple cylinder in 1995.
By 2009 it was time for Triumph to add a rumbling, thunderous cruiser to the market; one that had much more grunt than those from the parallel twin America’s and Speedmaster’s, but more usable and attractive to a wider audience than the huge Rocket 3.
That offering would once again take the Thunderbird namesake and the Triumph Thunderbird 1600 was introducedTriumph Motorcycles are one of the very few manufacturers to continuously produce cruisers without bowing to the pressure of using a V twin engine. For that we have to give them credit as let’s face it, the lack of a V twin will certainly prevent some very traditional cruiser riders from considering a Triumph. I don’t think Triumph care too much as they continue to produce unconventional cruisers and the public continue to buy them.
The sole aim of the Triumph Thunderbird 1600 was to bridge the gap between the smaller 865cc America and the super sized 2,294cc Rocket 3.
In order to compete with the big boys like Harley Davidson in the cruiser world and target the US audience particularly, Triumph knew they needed a heavyweight cruiser that had impressive power, was rider friendly, looked the business and sounded awesome.
The best way to do that was to take the idea of the Triumph America 865cc already in existence and make it bigger, a lot bigger.
At the time of its release the Thunderbird 1600 was equipped with the largest parallel twin engine in production.
The clear signal from Triumph Motorcycles was that the British are here with the new Thunderbird and we are not only going to compete but we are going to give you such a good bike it can’t be denied.
The Thunderbird 1600 had a production run until 2016.
Engine and Transmission
Initially the engine used in the new model was intended to be a modular unit essentially two out of three cylinders from the Rocket 3. However, as it turned out the only parts in common were the valves, the rest was all new a liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder engine.
It was mated to a six speed transmission, fitted with quiet helical gears and belt final drive. This was the first time a belt final drive had been used
since the 1920’s, but Triumph could no longer argue with the reliability, low maintenance benefits from using a belt over a chain.
The 1,597cc engine produced 85 horsepower and 146Nm of torque which no small feat or something to be sneered at. A great improvement over the smaller 865cc Bonnie engine that graced Triumph’s other cruiser type bikes.
12,000 mile service intervals and 2,500 mile belt inspections and adjustments were pretty impressive and fed into the low maintenance positives for the new bike.
The engine pulls very strong and sounds awesome, it is a thundering rumble, usually only found on big V twins. It is smooth and linear but not lacking in character in fact the smoothness is achieved by the placement of two balances in front and behind the cylinders along with the advanced fuel injection system.
Triumph utilised a six speed gearbox, with the sixth gear being the overdrive, for when the rider is soaking up long distance cruising miles.
The power was more than enough, adequate and delivered extremely well, arguably the only downside or note is that it wasn’t mind-blowingly fast.
However, it was just a really good engine, one that made for a comfortable ride and a capable one in all circumstances, so there wasn’t too much more you could ask for.
This even filtered down to a relatively light clutch lever and silky smooth gear shifter more on par with Japanese sportsbikes.
Chassis, Suspension, Brakes
Housing the big motor was a tubular steel frame with a twin sided swingarm.
The bike is big and heavy at 777lbs roughly ready to ride, despite this you could still consider the bike fairly quick and it wouldn’t struggle to carry a full load, there would be no notable power difference whether you rode solo or with a passenger and luggage.
The front forks were long and raked as was the style, the seat low slung, passengers accommodated but not necessarily cared for, although you could add a much needed passenger backrest.
The bars are pulled back, high, wide and footpegs far forward, in a typical cruising rider position. It isn’t a bike for shorter riders on this basis without some modifications first.
Suspension is good, soaking up the road bumps and carrying the bikes weight well. Centre of balance is low and central which makes movements at low speeds pretty easy. All riders should be able to get both feet down to paddle the bike around the drive and do so wit
The bikes wheelbase is pretty long which is great for stability at speed, it is also suited to riders who like to test their limits somewhat aggressively.
The only issue they could encounter is the pegs scraping and hearty cornering be a bit nervy, let’s face it only the best riders or nutcases are capable of throwing heavy cruisers into corners like they are on sportsbikes, so that doesn’t matter too much. Sweeping bends however, are great fun and should be engaged in at all costs.
Brakes are perfectly fine and suited to slow the bike down and bring it to a stop. ABS was also optional in the US and standard for the UK bikes.
Handling and Styling
In terms of handling, the Triumph Thunderbird is a bike that gives you a great riding experience. If you are used to your fists in the air, feet forward and wrestling with big motorcycles then this won’t be un-natural for you. If you are moving from other types of bike it might take some adjustment to get used to the riding position.
However, the bikes steering isn’t as heavy as you think, it goes where you want it to go and the low centre of gravity certainly inspires a riders confidence to deal with the weight.
To ride the bike is comfortable and with a few touring accessories that could be chosen out of Triumph’s collection of parts, you could do some serious long distance touring.
In terms of styling, the bike is classic, a bigger brother to the Triumph America in many ways. The silhouette side by side is not all that different and that isn’t a bad thing as the America is a very classically styled cruiser.
With the exception of some covers everything feels premium, so you feel like you are riding a quality motorcycle which is reflected in the performance.
Lashings of chrome make the bike a little flashy unless you go for the 2011 Storm version which was a more aggressive blacked out model.
Thunderbird 1600 Performance
Upon its release the Thunderbird caused quite a stir, Triumph were once again entering the foray with a parallel twin, sticking their very British fingers up to the American V twin engines.
While the America and Speedmaster had been accepted they weren’t exactly flying high and dominating and the Rocket 3 was a power cruiser attracting a niche audience. On the other hand the Thunderbird was a bonafide attempt at taking on Harley and to an extent it seemed to have worked.