When too much power is not enough, the Triumph Thunderbird Storm is just the muscle cruiser for you.
It’s basically a liquid-cooled Thunderbird 1600cc bored out to 1700cc with 107mm pistons pumping out to 73kW (98ps).
Leaving Oliver’s Motorcycles in Moorooka, I let the clutch out into a slim gap in the afternoon commuter traffic and the bike lunged at the space.
Luckily the brakes are also really effective, especially the rear brake, perhaps the most powerful I’ve experienced. I stomped on them a couple of times and the ABS comes on quickly and effectively.
Thunderbird hit the streets in 2009 and two years later they unleashed the Storm which instantly became a hit, proving that power is king.
Unlike most cruisers, it’s not powered by a V-twin but by a parallel twin which Triumph prefers.
While the thumping vibe of a big V-twin is addictive, the parallel twin has its own appeal. I love its characteristic broad sweep of midrange torque and this is no different.
There isn’t the low-down grunt you expect from a big cruiser, but a surge of 156Nm of torque from 3000 revs through to the red line.
It’s addictive in its own way and you have to use the gears just a little more than you normally would to avoid a slight lag around 2000-2500rpm.
Thankfully the gearbox has become a little slicker over the years since I first rode a Thunderbird.
Neutral is easy to find and the gears lock into place without much mechanical noise to drown out the macho purr of the megaphone style exhausts.
The Thunderbird is a wide and low beast. You sit with your legs wide around the fat tank and your hands down low on the slightly bent beach bars.
Ahead, all you see is the blurring road and white line.
They’ve even managed to keep the mirrors low without sacrificing vision around your arms into the quickly diminishing traffic behind you.
The seating position is quite high but comfortable. You feel like you are sitting on it, rather than in it.
There is an easy reach to the forward controls and a firm, but fair 700m-high seat dished out to the shape of your backside. It’s comfortable for the full duration of a 22-litre tank of fuel, or almost 400km, depending on your riding style.
Assembling and manufacture of some components in Thailand has improved build quality. The cabling is tidy, the edges such as around the fuel filler are nicely finished and the welds are clean.
Triumph loves tradition, so they have kept the side-mounted ignition switch which is just behind the right leg.
They have also retained the traditional tank-mounted instrument panel, but with a comprehensive and modern LCD display that shows fuel, odo, two trips, clock and range which you can toggle through via a convenient “info” button on the right switchblock. A gear indicator would also be handy.
I like the auto indicators. They’re safe, modern and should be mandatory on all road bikes.
Styling is equally traditional with blacked-out engine and the frog-eyed twin headlights like their Rocket III and Speed Triple, or Harley’s Fat Bob. Looks aside, they certainly deliver a well-blended spread of light for night cruising.
A good combination of medium-sized tyres and a decent suspension system make it a reasonable handler in the traffic with fairly humble change of direction and easy feet-up u-turns.
Out on the potholed urban landscape, it trips up a bit in the rear with a bouncy shock, while the front seems very planted.
At high speed, it’s quite stable and the clean air from the low scuttle means there is little buffeting.
However, the windsock effect will mean your arms start to tire after long bouts of high-speed cruising.
It has generous clearance for a cruiser which allows you to settle into a nice rhythm in the twisties. If you want to go harder, you will have to rely on the strong brakes for late corner entries and the stonking engine to pull out of the corner.
It might seem like a minimalist muscle cruiser, but it has awesome performance, quality build and you can personalise it with more than 100 factory accessories.
Triumph Thunderbird Storm tech specs
- Price: $20,990 plus on-road costs.
- Warranty: 2-year, unlimited km
- Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 1699cc parallel-twin, 270º firing
- Bore/Stroke: 107.1 x 94.3mm
- Power: 73kW @ 5200rpm
- Torque: 156Nm (115ft.lb) @ 2950rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed, belt drive, wet clutch
- Wheels: 19 x 3.5in; 17 x 6.0in 5-spoke alloys
- Tyres: 120/70 R19; 200/50 R17
- Suspension: Showa 47mm forks, 120mm travel; Showa twin shocks with 5 position adjustable preload, 95mm rear wheel travel
- Brakes: 310mm floating discs, Nissin 4-piston fixed calipers; 310mm fixed disc, Brembo 2-piston floating caliper, ABS
- Length: 2340mm (92.1in)
- Width (handlebars): 880mm (34.6in)
- Height without mirrors: 1120mm (44.1in)
- Seat: 700mm (27.5in)
- Wheelbase: 1615mm (63.5in)
- Rake/Trail: 32º/151mm
- Fuel: 22 litre tank (5.8 US gals)
- Wet Weight: 339kg (746lbs)