When in doubt – go large! That’s the axiom adopted by Triumph as you look at the Triumph Thunderbird Storm.
Big looking and muscular, the Triumph Thunderbird Storm, the Storm is Triumph’s Model Thunderbird, available in any color you like so long as it’s black, either jet gloss or matt.
The more aggressive-looking, tougher-styled Triumph Thunderbird Storm comes complete with an all-new Triumph tank badge as a break with tradition, and twin goggle-eye streetfighter headlamps presumably left over in the parts store after Triumph decided to bin them in producing the new Speed Triple…
It’s targeted at a younger customer demographic, whom views chrome as un-cool, and polishing it a waste of time and elbow grease, when you could be out riding what it’s covering. Except that, unlike Harley-Davidson, Triumph has applied the paint-it-black concept not to its entry-level America and Speedmaster models, although these have been updated not so long ago, but to the high-end largest-capacity member of its cruiser family, here with added cubes. The Triumph Thunderbird Storm brings the 1699cc big-bore version of Triumph’s eight-valve DOHC parallel-twin engine – the format it was originally designed in – to the series production marketplace for the first time. Previously only available as an aftermarket kit, the 6 percent bigger 97 horsepower engine produces 15 percent more power and 7 percent more torque, and delivers a completely different riding experience compared to the stock 1599cc Triumph Thunderbird.
The Triumph Thunderbird Storm’s bad boy paint scheme gives an edge to what’s otherwise quite conservative styling by cruiser standards, but the result has real presence, as well as being distinctive by the very nature of the engine it’s wrapped around. The dark livery makes the large radiator much less obvious than on the 100cc smaller-engine Thunderbird, though apart from the twin headlamps, a slightly flatter reshaped handlebar termed ‘drag handlebars’ by Triumph, and all the black paint coating everything including the engine, the Triumph Thunderbird Storm’s chassis package is unchanged from the stock Thunderbird, including its very comfortable riding position.
Swing your leg over the low-slung (702mm seat height) seat of a motorcycle whose architecture is made more rational by the fact that there’s no rear V-twin cylinder to be somehow avoided, and you’ll nestle into the practically plush Thunderbird seat, which doesn’t leave you sitting with the base of your spine digging into the seat vinyl, as so many other laid back motorcycles of style over substance make you do, leading to the predictable onslaught of numb-bum syndrome in short order.
Not on the Triumph, who’s wide, rounded, 21-liter fuel tank allows your knees to tuck in reasonably tight, within the confines of the low-set, forward-mounted footpegs the Triumph Thunderbird Storm retains instead of footboards. These aren’t positioned excessively far forward, so while the raked-back handlebar delivers a relaxed, comfortable stance, it’s a relatively upright and definitely more rational one – that word again – than on so many such motorcycles. You feel in charge of the Storm, not merely perched aboard it – this is a cruiser with sporting overtones, but now with the extra grunt to deliver on expectations.
For the upsized parallel-twin engine is the star of the show on the Triumph Thunderbird Storm, with unmistakably more zest in performance all through the rev-band than on the stock 1599cc Thunderbird, with the icing on the cake providing by just sufficient pleasurable vibes left in by the twin counter-balancers, to deliver enjoyment rather than complaint. It’ll pull cleanly away wide open from just 1500 rpm in the overdrive top gear, or as low as 1000 rpm on part throttle, just 200 revs above the engine idle speed, making it an easy motorcycle to ride slowly, although it’d have been nice if the clutch and brake levers had been adjustable.
Feet-up U-turns are improbably feasible in spite of the long 1615mm wheelbase, thanks to the Triumph’s good balance and the smooth, controllable take-up of the cable-operated clutch. Although you end up short-shifting around 4500 rpm most of the time, rather than exploring the upper reaches of the rev-band where peak power of 97 horsepower is delivered at 5200 rpm, there’s never any sense of those big, heavy pistons seemingly firing every lamp-post as on many other big twins, even though there’s an unmistakable sense of power down low. Although thanks to its 270-degree crank it still has the feeling os such a V-twin, the Triumph seems lighter on its toes and more responsive when you twist the light-action throttle. The effect is really satisfying, even exhilarating – you honestly wouldn’t think a mere 100cc capacity hike could make such a difference.