Editor's Note: Who else could review the new Triumphs but our own Mike Vaughan? He takes the Commander for a spin and then the LT home, where he gets a thumbs up from a once-hesitant passenger.
THE THUNDERBIRD Commander and Thunderbird LT are the latest cruisers from Triumph, intended to take a bite out of or possibly add to the segment by bringing to the game new customers who don’t want a V-twin lookalike, but prefer the American cruiser style and feel.
Some perspective: While Triumph considered the cosmetically modified Thunderbird Adventurer of 1995 as “styled for America,” it wasn’t a true cruiser. The company's first real cruiser was 2002’s Bonneville America. A modified Bonneville, with a nod to “American” styling, it had a lowered seat, pullback handlebars and a feet-forward riding position. With 790cc displacement, however, it lacked the muscle to attract buyers in the 1200cc-plus core cruiser segment.
In 2010, Triumph revived the Thunderbird name, and reintroduced it as a cruiser with a unique 1600cc vertical twin, the largest such engine in production. It was followed in 2011 with the Thunderbird Storm, a sportier version of the basic Thunderbird, still in the cruiser mode, but with a 1700cc mill that generated 99 hp and delivered 115 ft. lbs. of torque.
According to sources within the company, the bike did well in both versions but didn’t exactly set the sales charts aflame. With the introduction of the Thunderbird Commander and LT (shown, right), Triumph has pulled out all the stops to match the segment leaders in terms of styling, riding position, performance, and quality of fit and finish.
While the two bikes share the same DNA, as with fraternal twins, they look and feel a bit different.
Except for the engine, these latest bikes are all new. They are centered on a redesigned tubular steel frame that provides for a lower seat pan, pull-back handlebars, and more room for both the rider and passenger. Both bikes sport Showa 47mm, non-adjustable front forks, and a pair of five-way preload adjustable dual-rate, progressive Showa shocks in back, with 4.3 inches of travel.
Both bikes come standard with Triumph’s ABS system, along with dual 310mm floating disc brakes in front, actuated by a pair of four-piston Nissin calipers. In the rear, a single fixed 310mm disc, actuated by a two-piston Brembo caliper, provides stopping power. The combination, Triumph claims, will bring the bike to a stop from 80 mph, in 70.1 yards.
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