Tested - Triumph Thunderbird Commander


It might be designed as Triumph’s latest assault on the American market, but can the Thunderbird Commander still cut it on the tight and twisties of NZ?

Paul went to find out..

Comfort. Not always the word I’d use to describe many cruisers that I’ve tested over the years, but after spending a day cruising around on the latest Thunderbird from Triumph, that’s the first thing I jot down on my notepad. The saddle is the first delight; with the sumptuous padding cosseting you as you sink into it, with no pressure points or hard areas that become a real pain in the arse after a few hours on the road. And it’s low, too, with the newly designed frame for the Thunderbird now incorporating the engine as a stressed member and allowing the designers to get the saddle closer to the ground, just 701mm off the floor.

Complimenting the great seat is a set of folding floorboards, which further aid the rider’s ability to cover greater distances, the rubber-mounted panels keeping vibration to a minimum while the ability to fold up means you’re not hitting something solid when you decide to turn up the wick in the twisties. Okay, the heel/toe shift isn’t my cup of tea, with the system over-complicating a function that has worked well for many years, but it’s simple to remove the rear lever if you want and there’s never any trouble shifting the sweet gearbox.

The change in handlebars for the Commander means the riding position is much more relaxed than the other incarnation of the Thunderbird, the Storm. The sweptback ‘bars of the Commander mean much less of a reach forward to find the controls, with the raised pillion seat behind almost acting as a backrest. This is a bike aimed at enjoying the cruise, something that Triumph have thankfully realised means making a bike that’s comfortable to ride.

Along with the updated styling that is quite clearly aimed at attracting riders away from Harley- Davidson’s Road King, the Commander is fitted with a stylish rear valance and long chrome mufflers, while the comprehensive instrument panel is mounted on the large swooped tank. Fins on the cylinder head give it that air-cooled look, but take a closer look and you’ll find the Triumph is seriously up-to-date, with water-cooling thanks to the cleverly disguised radiator set in-between the frame spars, with the 1699cc parallel-twin powerplant featuring double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, twin balancer shafts, fuel injection and all mated to a sixspeed gearbox. Again, to attract the mass market, the Commander runs a 270-degree crankshaft giving it that V-twin pulse through the chrome exhausts, and
the final drive could only be via a belt…

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