Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Ride Reviews: Triumph Thunderbird 1600, Tiger 1050, Rocket III Roadster


Ride Reviews: Triumph Thunderbird 1600, Tiger 1050, Rocket III Roadster

I had the chance to test ride a few Triumph motorcycles last Saturday at MOTOHIO European Motorbikes in Columbus. This was the first time I had the chance to officially test ride motorcycles since going to the last Femmoto event in Las Vegas in October 2008 and it was a nice change of pace instead of working a full day at my store. Oh dear, such a punishment for me! Okay, was in the mid 90s and sweltering hot. That was something six bottles of water and a few hot dogs fixed quite easily.

So first up to the plate was the Thunderbird 1600. It's a parallel twin powerhouse on two wheels (and I haven't even made it to the Rocket III yet). For its size it was well-balanced and felt like a much lighter bike. It had quick acceleration and every gear was smooth, making shifting effortless. I was cranking this machine through the turns and it responded to my every command. For cruiser-style bikes, it's difficult to find one that doesn't make twisties feel like a laborious task and this one definitely proved itself to be an agile winner. Additionally, its seat height is quite neutral; I'm 5'5" and was flatfooted on it. However, because of the location of its forward controls, I found myself either overstretching slightly or reaching for the levers, suggesting that the ergonomics are more for someone who is several inches taller. Aside from that, if you're looking for a power cruiser that's fun, agile, and has the potential to keep up with the sporties, this is definitely a bike for you.

The Tiger 1050 SE has now earned a place in my top three list of future, full-time utility motorcyles that could take my FJR1300's place whenever it decides to retire. It's upright, enduro-style posture was comfortable and made me feel taller. It's agile and smooth at any speed at any gear, and has power to boot. I had a great time running that triple-cylinder engine through the gears and its constant spunk reminded me that it had torque to spare. I was also surprised by the firmness and comfort of the stock seat, too. My major criticisms of it are that it doesn't have the same luxury options as the FJR such as an electric, extendable windshield and large plastic fairing for those jaunts in the late fall/winter months. Additionally, it's chain-driven so there's a little bit more maintenance issues involved, especially on long-distance runs. Also, the stock sidecases aren't large enough; one sidecase's cargo room is compromised due to the bike's exhaust pipe, and the larger sidecase can't fit a single full-face definitely needs a top case or aftermarket sidecases. The 32.5" seat height will take a little getting used to as well. Otherwise, it's a contender to the low-seat, low-frame BMW R1200GS.

The last ride of the day was a reunion of sorts with the Rocket III Roadster. I had my first encounter with the world's largest production bike in 2007 when I rode it to kill time while getting the 8000 mile service on my FJR in Lakeville, Minnesota. This 2010 version, however, is the souped up roadster version. Triumph has gone ahead and made a leaner and meaner edition of its excellently designed high engine displacement machine.

Its powerband can be summarized in one word: torque. This thing gets you moving on sheer power. The 2294cc engine was barely trying to get me moving; I was never above 3rd gear at any given time (the thing has five gears). I slammed this bike into a curve and it leaned effortlessly through it. I hope to try the fully dressed touring model someday; that is one that screams for a towing hitch and an accompanying trailer. I applaud Triumph for creating and improving a bike that, not only has an engine larger and with more torque than most economy cars, but also thinks it's a bicycle and eats curves as if it were one. My only criticism is ergos; the location of the pegs on the Roadster had my knees up higher than I would like for long distances. Then again, this thing is intended to be a short-distance hooligan...for longer trips it's the touring edition.

In general, every Triumph excels in agility, smoothness, and braking power. All you need to do as a rider is find the one that fits your personality. For me it's the upright styled Tiger 1050. Of course, with the constant evolution of motorcycle technology that could change in the next several years. Oh well, Eleanor isn't going anywhere for a long time, and I wouldn't want her to, anyway. :)