It looks like a Triumph. No, I don't mean like a Speed Triple or a Daytona. I mean like the Triumphs of the 60's. Those bright shiny machines with the tear-drop tanks and big, throbbing, air-cooled motors, spoked wheels, long black vinyl seats with the ripples along the tops, and paint to die for.
Yeah those Triumphs. The Triumph Thunderbird, 2002 model, is the modern equivalent to the traditional Triumph with a few twists tossed in. The style of the 60's meets the technology of the 90's, and being sold in 2002. This liquid cooled, DOHC, 885cc in-line three-cylinder engine motorcycle will serious produce some head-turning looks.
First impression: blinded by the chrome. The styling of the Triumph Tunderbird is totally retro. Smooth sexy lines; lot's of pretty chrome; full, round tear-drop fuel tank and the Triumph moniker emblazoned on everything. Very classy, throw a leg over the, seat and you immediately feel very comfortable and in control.
The bike's weight is placed down low making it feel very stable and secure. Turn the ignition on, hit the starter button, and the motor instantly comes to life. Though heavily muffled you still notice the very distinct sound of the triple. Sounds kind of like a very contented cat.
The mirrors are high and wide. No blind spots what so ever. The pegs are low and forward, and the riding position is straight up. This particular model sported a set of alter-market handlebars, which are slightly lower and wider than the original bars. Another variation from stock are the knee pads on the side of the fuel tank.
After a short jaunt down the highway, I turned off onto a back road. The wind was fairly strong, making the lack of fairing all the more obvious. At speeds in excess the 140 km/h, my helmet began to force its way through my face, trying to escape the wind pressure by exiting through the back of my skull. Luckily I have a thick skull. Once the road narrowed down and began to wind through the hills around Petchaburi, I forgot all about the wind and began to enjoy the bike.
At a brisk yet moderate pace the handling was superb. Nice and firm in the sweepers yet light and easily to lean into the tighter corners. The suspension soaked up the bumps with minimal transfer to my posterior. The aftermarket mounted handle bars made it a dream to handle the bike with minimal steering input. Despite weighing in at over 225 kilo the bike felt light and easy in the corners.
Out past Petchaburi I pointed the bike in the direction of Hua-Hin while taking a more tourist road, a true suspension test. This is a fairly fast road with a variety of pavement and road conditions for good measure. The Triump handled all with ease. The only downside occurred when I really opened it up hard and tried to blast through the corners at high speed. There were a few turns where the rear end started to wallow a bit due to the limited travel and moderately dampened rear shock, but this really isn't supposed to be a roadracer, and when driven at reasonable speeds there is no real problem.