Triumph Thunderbird LT: Review

We took Triumph's latest cruiser in India - the Thunderbird LT - LT for 'Light Touring' for a spin; although it's anything but light. And as we found out, the Thunderbird LT surprised us. Read on to find out


Triumph Thunderbird LT ride review


Cruisers – they have a certain charm, and that charm is imbibed from popular culture; and popular cruiser culture is dominated by V-Twins. Be it television series about motorcycle gangs, Hollywood movies (both classic and contemporary), the cruiser or even a chopper is almost always powered by a burbling V-Twin. And that, somehow, for purists is a given; if it’s a cruiser it has to have a V-Twin.


Here’s where Triumph has gone out on a limb and plonked the largest possible parallel twin motor in the Thunderbird LT. V-Twin loyalists or not, the Thunderbird LT certainly attracts attention – even if you don’t like big cruisers. 



Triumph Thunderbird LT


We went out to pick up the test Thunderbird LT from a suburban satellite town and at first glance, what immediately grabs your attention is the sheer size of the bike. Generous chrome on the headlights, engine covers and the exhaust system together with large fenders and removable leather saddlebags make the bike look even bulkier than it is.


And what’s also unique and harks at its classic design are the white-walled radial tyres – the first, Triumph says, for a motorcycle in the world – riding on wire-spoked rims. Wheels are both 16-inchers, with a massive 180 section rear tyre.



Triumph Thunderbird LT details


Suspension on the Thunderbird LT is taken care of by shrouded 47mm Showa forks and twin 5-way preload adjustable Showa rear shocks.  Braking duties are taken care of by ABS-enabled four-pot Nissin calipers on 310mm floating discs up front and a single Brembo caliper and a 310mm disc at the rear.


The instrument panel sits on the large 22-litre fuel tank housing a large analog speedometer, and a digital readout with the odometer, trip meter, clock and distance to empty readings. The details can be toggled with the press of a switch just above the thumb starter. 


2015 Triumph Thunderbird LT


Looking closely at the individual parts on the bike’s body, it’s difficult to find fault in the attention to detail that has been showered on this Triumph.  Machined fins pick out the distinctive parallel twin shape, and chrome engine covers offset the blacked out barrels and crankcases.


Take a few steps back, and the stunning beauty of this motorcycle sinks in; you can’t help but admire all that muscle and chrome. It’s a striking motorcycle and one which is guaranteed to turn heads once you’re out on the street.



Triumph Thunderbird LT ride quality


Astride the bike, the first thing you immediately feel is the weight. At 380 kg, this Triumph looks and feels heavy and I was filled with thoughts of battling it out through suburban streets and through the chaotic afternoon traffic of South Delhi.  Seat height is 700mm, easy enough for me to plant both feet on the ground and this gives some reassurance and respite.


And the seat is a plush comfortable number, probably one of the comfiest I have ever sat on in a motorcycle. I thumb the starter and the big parallel twin comes to life and settles into a soft twin engine rumble.  Well actually, it’s more like a murmur, if you expect a big cruiser to have a bassy exhaust note.


Triumph Thunderbird LT rear shot


If it’s music you’re looking for, that of course, can be sorted with a pair of aftermarket exhausts. The sound however, you get used to, and after a few kilometers down the road, I even began to appreciate the soft friendly rumble of the 1700cc engine. Well, it actually is a parallel twin 1699cc, liquid-cooled, eight- valve DOHC motor that produces 94PS at 5400rpm and a whopping 151NM of torque at an early 3550rpm. 


What this means is that you can cruise steadily at 70kph in sixth gear, and all that torque makes pulling over 450kg of bike and rider seem pretty effortless. But my fears of handling this big heavy cruiser with wide handlebars and panniers soon seemed unfounded.



Triumph Thunderbird LT side view


Once out of first gear, the Thunderbird LT settles in and handles very predictably. Despite the size and weight, it feels nimble enough to be pointed easily through gaps in traffic and it surges through with a reassured rumble from the twin pipes. Even in bumper to bumper traffic, which I encountered for more than an hour, the Thunderbird LT didn’t feel too ungainly; in fact it’s as easy or difficult to handle in first gear traffic as any other motorcycle. 


Being the heavy cruiser that it is, the LT however is not meant to scorch the streets, neither is it meant for holding 0-100 speed records. But open the throttle and shift through the gears, the bike pulls cleanly from stop lights and soon you’d be crossing legal speed limits without realizing you’ve done so. The gears are clunky, especially the first, which settles in with a thunk which one isn’t used to.


Triumph Thunderbird LT riding on open road


Out on the open road, on a long winding one is where the Thunderbird LT truly comes into its element. Laid back, relaxed riding posture, a cushioned seat with lumbar support, flat footboards, wide bars and a torquey engine is just what the doctor ordered for a long ride on the highway. 


It’s not an outrightly fast motorcycle, but the way the Thunderbird LT delivers its power, it’s easy not to start liking its performance. Whether accelerating out from first gear or cruising steadily at the bottom end of sixth, the easygoing nature of the parallel twin coupled with its finely honed suspension ensures a great ride.



Triumph Thunderbird LT on a curve


Overtaking is a breeze, downshifting to fifth or fourth is adequate to get beyond slow moving traffic on the highway. The only hitch for me was going over broken roads and undulations where the suspension felt a little stiff; although I suppose that can be sorted out as well with some adjustments to the pre-load on the rear shocks.


So, if you’re in the market for a cruiser, is the Thunderbird LT for you? If laid back riding and long distance touring is what you’re looking for, the Triumph Thunderbird LT certainly ticks all the right boxes.  A full tank gives a range of over 300 kilometres, which is adequate for this class of cruisers. At Rs 15,75,000 ex-showroom Delhi, it’s priced at par with the competition.


Triumph Thunderbird LT at Bikers Cafe


It may not be a V-Twin and it’s not an American cruiser. But the way this parallel twin performs, coupled with the excellent handling dynamics for a cruiser, it certainly makes for a very good consideration. And if you’re wondering about riding it in the city or even using it for the daily commute, the Thunderbird LT makes for a very practical motorcycle for all-round usability. But would you be using it just for the daily commute? We don’t think so…

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