By Matthew Nomey


“The thunderbird? A legend? Whaaaaaat?!....”

I know. I know! It doesn’t make sense yet, but bear with me! I’m doing that whole “Usual Suspect” thing and bringing you the story at different points, and well… I digress.

The name thunderbird has its roots in American legend. It comes from Native American mythology symbolizing this massive bird with giant thunder-filled wings and lightning bolts coming out of its eyes. Sounds like the perfect background to a Metallica song, huh? The creature of lore is symbolized as a totem: powerful and wrathful. Those particular words really resonate with the Triumph Cruiser.

At first glance the Triumph Thunderbird really looks like a typical American cruiser: long wheelbase, belt driven, chrome everything…. etc., but the T-bird is far from typical.

A smooth, liquid cooled power delivering 1600cc parallel twin characterizes the engine. When you pull the throttle down, this bike brings the thunder. With plenty of torque and power to boot, the bike just accelerates and finishes off so smoothly at the upper rev range. It’s so nice to get on the throttle of a cruiser and not be shaken to bits when you open it up on the highway. Oh, did I mention liquid cooled? Yeah, that’s right. You don’t have to have your front cylinder shut off at a stop sign because your engine is so ridiculously hot, plus it gives the upper rev power to just fly on the highway. Oh! If the 1600cc wasn’t enough for you, Triumph decided to give you a bored out 1700cc option in Thunderbird Storm. I mean…in case you weren’t feeling badass enough.

Surprisingly, the engine is not my overall favorite part of the bike. Do I like it though? Oh yeah. Does the power bring the “wow” factor? Of course it does. Any bike can be just outrageously powerful, but if you can’t really use any of it in the fun parts of riding, then what’s the point? That’s where I think Triumph wins over any other cruiser: handling.

After opening it up on I-10, I decided to see if it was any different than any other cruiser in tight turns. I took it gradually first (long turns in the lakefront) then I progressed (roundabouts in city park) all the way to 90 degree turns uptown. This isn’t your dad’s ole Peter Fonda “Easy Rider” ridiculously raked bike. This Thunderbird can handle. Triumph got the geometrics so on point for the wheelbase that you can’t come out of a sharp turn without feeling like Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” is playing in the background, and you’re there just feeling so damn cool sling-shotting out of turn - after turn - after turn, and when you come out of a turn to a red light, talk about great braking! No over squeezing needed here folks, plus just in case you needed 60% quicker braking, Triumph equipped the Thunderbird with ABS. Boom!

It’s not every day you can really come across a bike like the Thunderbird. It’s an all-encompassing cruiser. It not only looks the part of a hog, but it has plenty of power and handling to knock off the typical shackles of that same proverbial name, and calling this cruiser a hog is like calling a Porsche 911 an anvil. You can’t do that because let’s face it: names are everything. Names are the rhetorical symbols that not only define places and things but also people. Names give us recognition. Names can even give us a purpose. So, when you’re out and about enjoying your ride, and you see this cruiser storming past you. Look closely, and you just might catch a glimpse of why it’s named…Thunderbird.