Triumph Thunderbird 1700cc (limited edition factory fitted big bore kit)

The nail in the coffin for my old Thunderbird 1600 was when Triumph announced they were doing a limited run of factory fitted big bore kits and two new colour schemes.  This was back in November last year when it was still hard to get any details about cost or whether the two new colour schemes would be included with the big bore kit or an optional extra.  I sold the old bike there and then, after only 531 miles, and used the money as a deposit on the yet to be launched 1700.

[image title=”Thunderbird 1700″ size=”medium” id=”335″ align=”left” linkto=”full” ]

Four months later, in late March, I picked up my Thunderbird from Bulldog Triumph, in Twyford.  The time had finally arrived to find out whether that extra 100cc would make its presence known.  I had already told the shop that if I wasn’t happy with this one, I would be back for a Rocket III Roadster.

After nearly 1200 miles and six weeks of use, I have to say, the big bore kit makes a huge difference.

With the 1600, you feel compelled to change up through the gears quickly and at relatively low revs, whilst the 1700 is quite happy to linger in gears and feels content to use the full range of the available revs.

[image title=”Thunderbird Performance Curve” size=”medium” id=”330″ align=”left” linkto=”full” ]

The graph to the left shows the difference in power delivery.  The 1600 reaches peak torque around 2700 rpm and then slowly drops off whilst the 1700 reaches peak torque a little later – at around 3000 rpm – dips a little and then hangs on to the power until around 3500 rpm.  Whilst this shows the 1700 has more power, I think the following describes how and why the 1700 feels more comfortable to linger in gears.  The 1700 exceeds the 1600’s peak torque sooner, at around 2400 rpm, and continues to exceed the 1600’s peak torque until around 4000 rpm.

For me, Triumph are onto a winner with the 1700 and my local dealer will be sorry to hear that I won’t be getting a Rocket III Roadster any time soon.  The 1700 is for keeps!

My new (and old) Thunderbird 1600

Well, my new Triumph Thunderbird 1600 arrived last August and I have already sold it after only 531 miles.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the bike, but first impressions left me under whelmed.  I was expecting more torque than was readily available on tap and I was never impressed with the initial colours available.  It’s not all bad – well, apart from the after market handlebars playing havoc with my wrists – the riding position is great, it’s a lot more fun accelerating off the lights and over taking than using the Triumph America.  Although cornering is smooth, the footpegs scrape the ground a lot sooner than on the America, but for such a big bike with such wide tyres, cornering was effortless.  Compare cornering on the Rocket III Tourer which has a smaller 180/70 rear wheel and you’ll see what I mean.

The only reason I sold the bike is because Triumph are releasing a special edition of the Thunderbird with a factory fitted big bore kit taking it up to 1700cc.  They are also releasing two new colours; Phantom Red Haze and Phantom Blue Haze.  I have already put my name down for one of the limited SE’s in Phantom Red, so watch this spac

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Fitting a chain to a 1993 Tiger without draining the oil

A poor design of the early Hinckley Triumph engines is that the sprocket cover is part of the engine casing, usually requiring the engine oil to be drained to change the engine sprocket or fit a new chain.  To compound this, on the Tiger models, you have to remove the rider’s left foot rest as well.  This takes time and is a real pain in the ass, something I have done before and didn’t want to do again just to fix a broken chain that had slid off.

View of the SprocketAs I could reach – and turn – the top of the engine sprocket, I tried to feed the chain in from the top, which wasn’t very successful because I couldn’t get any access to the lower part of the sprocket.  Chain Fed Through (showing metal feeder bar underneath)I then decided that if I could feed the chain in from the lower part it would be easier to pull the chain around by spinning the top of the front sprocket.  This worked a treat.  I used a thin, curved, metal bar from a Triumph America screen as a support for the chain.  By placing the chain on the metal bar and feeding them both under the swing arm until the chain pushed up against the sprocket I was able to hook the chain onto the sprocket after only four or five attempts of spinning the top of the sprocket with my hand.  Once the chain was sufficiently far enough around the top of the sprocket I was able to start pulling it through with ease.

Bike/Car Camera System Using Alix 3d2/3d3 Boards

Foreword: A while back, whilst traversing a roundabout, some bastard drove into the side of my lovely car and, although it was his fault, claimed it was mine and that I was in the wrong lane, etc, etc. Before that point, I had been toying with the idea of installing a forward facing camera to capture my trips to Wales and the number of idiotic incidents one sees when driving anywhere. This was the final impetus I needed to start my project. My original system used a Mini ITX board without any hardware encoder, relying on the efforts of mencoder and the CPU to encode the raw stream to a useable size and of reasonable quality. I learned quite quickly, that a hardware encoder was required.

Choosing the Alix system: After getting fed up with the car I wanted to install a similar camera system onto my motorbike. Rather than doing something practical and spending lots of money on a bespoke system, I decided to use my experience from the CarCam project to build a system for the bike. Being short of space, I needed the smallest system I could find, with hardware encoding, USB support and run on 12V. Needless to say, I couldn’t find anything that fitted this requirement.  How ever, I did find a supplier of MPEG2 Mini PCI cards which meant I only needed to find a small system board that accepted Mini PCI.

Development: It’s been over a year since I started working on this project.  I have sold one system to a friend who has been using it to record his off-road exploits (as well as his commutes).  During this time, I have refined the code to a stable release and optimised the time it takes to start recording from power on to around 25 seconds (from around a minute in the early code).  The system is based on Slackware 13.0 with a heavily customised 2.6.30 kernel and environment.  I am using aufs2 to mount over “/etc” and “/var” to prevent the Compact Flash card from being prematurely destroyed by OS writes.  The handling of inserted/ejected media, as well as media errors, is done via syslog-ng which calls helper scripts when the appropriate kernel messages are generated.  Other scripts are called from cron to check that the recording doesn’t exceed the 4GB file size limit of the FAT32 file system and that the USB device doesn’t fill up.

Video Quality: The output video needs some deinterlacing, but the overall quality is very good.


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Blocking SSH Scans Using Syslog-ng

Some time ago I decided to do something about the number of SSH scans I was receiving on various machines under my control.  I am not overly concerned as I use keys for access, but there is always a possibility that a vulnerability exists which has not been publicised yet.  With this in mind, it is better to thwart the attempts early on.

I have seen people approach this various ways, and here is mine. It requires a database to keep a history of scans; I have used MySQL but any database should be fine.
The script will work under Linux and FreeBSD. Although configured to use Shorewall under Linux it would be trivial to replace the Shorewall commands with a line similar to “iptables -I INPUT -s -j DROP”.

Firstly, create a custom destination that points to our external script to process the reports from the SSH daemon:

destination ssh_scan { program(“/root/bin/sshscan”); };

Then create a filter to match the SSH daemon reporting an “Invalid User”:

filter f_ssh_scan   { program(“sshd.*”) and match(“Invalid user”); };

We can then create a log rule that passes any line that matches our filter to our script for processing:

log { source(s_sys); filter(f_ssh_scan); destination(ssh_scan); };

The contents of the script are as follows (including the code to create the MySQL database):

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LED Brake light conversion for a 1993 Triumph Tiger (version 1)

I bought a 1993 Triumph Tiger last August to run through Winter.  As it happens, for one reason or another, I didn’t get it on the road until December.  In the three months I ran it, I went through around six stop/tail bulbs of various types, including LED bulbs.  I have no idea why the bulbs kept blowing but I decided that I could resolve this issue by designing my own LED circuit with some over voltage protection built in.

The main reasons for deciding to build my own circuit were as follows:

  • Off-the-shelf LED bulbs are not efficient at putting the light where you want it – and because of this, are often not as bright as filament bulbs.
  • My bike was blowing bulbs quicker than I was able to buy replacements.
  • I wanted to incorporate a flashing brake light circuit
  • I fancied doing something different

The initial design included two 12v regulators and two polarity protective diodes; one for each of the stop and  tail light circuits.


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Trident Exhausts for 1993 Triumph Tiger

I am currently doing 900 miles a week on my Tiger so I decided to treat it to some new exhausts as the old ones have been full of holes since I bought the bike over a year ago.  Triumph wanted around £300 per exhaust which are made of plain old steel with just a dash of stainless steel at the end and another extra stainless plate for a heat shield.  Looking around, I was able to find Trident Exhausts offered a selection of exhausts for the Tiger and I decided on the carbon and stainless steel option.  Peter Corlett was very helpful on the phone and the exhausts were around £80.00 cheaper than the Triumph offering with a lot more going for them.

The exhausts took a little over a week from order, to be custom made, and to eventually arrive at the door.

I was a little disappointed with some aspects of the exhausts; One of the baffles was dented to the one side, the pipework were of different lengths and – this is a little picky as I am happy with the finish – but the stainless pipework does not look as polished as the website pictures:


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Thunderbird 1600 – First Impressions

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.

Feathercraft Big Kahuna

It has been many years since I last went kayaking.  Apart from a fair bit of kayaking on rivers and lakes when I was a teenager, I last used a sit-on kayak on Borth beach when I was in my twenties.  I did buy a fibre glass kayak 10 years ago, but never got around to using it.

Given that I no longer own a car, my choice of kayaks was somewhat limited and I set about researching what foldable kayaks were available.  I had no idea there were so many and of such good quality.  I had fairly strict criteria; The boat had to be sea going, light and pack into a single bag.

My final choice was the Feathercraft Big Kahuna.  If I had had the money, I probably would have bought the K1 or the Khatsalano but, for a return to kayaking, I think the Kahuna is the perfect choice.

Without ever seeing the boat, I decided to order one through Knoydart.  I was apprehensive about whether it would fit on my bike, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.  To complement the boat – and after reading many good reviews – I decided to get the Lendal Kinetic Touring 700 paddle, which breaks down into four pieces.  Knoydart were very helpful in suggesting the correct size for my build and choice of boat.

Below are four photos of the maiden voyage, starting with the kayak strapped to the back of the bike, arrival at the local lake, pre-assembly and final assembly with paddle.

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It took me just under an hour to assemble and I had to stop several times to refer to the manual.  I hope that I can get this down to 30 minutes with practice.  I found the boat to be very stable on the water, though not as easy to turn as the fibre glass boats I used previously.  I will have a better understanding of the craft on Monday when I shall be putting it through its paces by practicing various rolls and escaping the capsized boat whilst wearing the splash deck.

Thunderbird 1600 – July Release?

Well, I have had my order submitted to Triumph along with my requested accessories.  I just heard today that my after market exhausts have already arrived in the shop.  I am not sure when my bike will arrive as I have gone for the dual ABS of which only 40 will be available in the first month.

Looking around for news, I found a link on hellforleather which suggests that the Thunderbird is nothing more than a Harley clone.  They even harp on about the firing order of 270 degrees is designed to give it that V-Twin feel.  What a bunch of tossers.  For the attention of the muppets at hellforleather – who seem to be Harley biased – the bike is not meant to sound like a V-Twin.   The 270 degree firing order is meant to give it a lazy bark rther than a regular thump – it certainly has nothing to do with Triumph trying to mimic the Japanese and their V-twins.    The Thunderbird has no pretentions about what it is.  It is a massive, 1600CC, parallel twin – a first in the history of motorcycling.  We are inundated with V-twins, so much so, we are pretty bored with them, whether they be Japanese or that American crap.  Hellforleather then go on to slate Triumph for its range of expensive aftermarket accessories to make it look and perform like it should.  Really?  Like most Harley owners don’t buy 900cc bikes and purchase the upgrade to make them 1200cc and like most Harley owners don’t buy V&H pipes because the standard ones are shite.  Yes, Triumph are muscling in on your territory, and doing it well.