Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Triumph 900 Thunderbird

Tue, January 19th, 2010

Click here for a larger front 3/4 view.

1995-2004 Triumph 900 Thunderbird
Plenty of power all over the rev range, without being buzzy, hyper, or difficult to modulate.
A very nice compromise. Suspension compliance and ground clearance not on a par with sport bikes, but nothing to fault given the bike's mission. Sport version gets more adjustable suspension, but retains laid-back steering geometry.
When this bike came out, I thought it looked like a gimmicky, awkward mash-up of '60s Bonneville and the throughly modern Hinckley Trident 900. My impression has improved dramatically with time. After a decade and a half, the 900 Thunderbird is a welcome change from new bikes that all look like transforming robots. The flat seat and pea-shooter mufflers make the Thunderbird my choice over the nearly identical Legend.
John Bloor knew that to be successful, he had to dispel the old British reputation for unreliability from the very start. He might have overshot his goal; the initial Hinckley triples and fours are astoundingly overbuilt.
Main complaints are a poorly padded seat that ruins otherwise comfortable ergonomics, and inflated costs for replacement parts (though they remain readily available, thanks to the company's many similar modular designs).
The naked 900 triples are my favorite 'new era' Triumphs, and among them the Thunderbird looks most like a Triumph.
Despite a few clumsy details, the Thunderbird works as a retro-style fashion accessory and as a modern piece of serious transportation.