My local dealer, Bulldog Triumph, recently took delivery of their demo Thunderbird 1600 and I had the opportunity to take it out for a spin and compare it against my faithful America.
With the America and the Thunderbird side by side, the big 1600cc looks quite small in comparison. This is not just an illusion; The seat height of the Thunderbird is around an inch lower, whilst the height and length of the Thunderbird are reduced by 2 inches and 3 inches, respectively. Even the larger, 22 litre, fuel tank looks smaller than the 19.2 litre tank on the America.
After a short test ride I was impressed with the handling. Even though the Thunderbird boasts a large 200/70 rear tyre, the bike leaned into the corners with ease. The front brakes were sharp and responsive and the forks didn’t dive when braking (like they do with the stock springs on the America). Gear changes were smooth – something unique to a Triumph. The engine seems happiest at low RPMs with peak torque arriving around 3,000 rpm. For anyone expecting a lot of excitement when opening the throttle, I would steer them towards the Rocket III. This bike is quite sluggish given the huge 1600cc capacity.
The big dissappointment for me was the sound from the stock exhausts and I eagerly awaited the dealer putting on the Triumph after market pipes.
With the after market exhausts the Thunderbird is more expressive but with more of a rasp than the bark of the America. This is a real shame. I want bark, and if Triumph want to win any Harley owners over, they will need to provide it. I have been informed that the rasp could be due to the catalytic convertor as a similar problem was found with the Rocket III’s.