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Bike review: 2012 Triumph Thunderbird Storm

Road Trip!

So this Memorial Day weekend I took my kids out to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio.  What an amazing time we had – thanks to Fast Lane that is.  Sure it cost extra, but we were able to ride just everything we wanted multiple times.  It was so hot and so packed that if we had to deal with normal lines it probably would have been a much different weekend.

Anyway to make the trip even more entertaining I’d decided to ride there and back – and the guys at Precision Bikeworks Triumph of Erie hooked me up with a 2012 Triumph Thunderbird Storm with Anti-lock Brakes to demo.  It wasn’t just any old Storm either – this one was the beneficiary of Triumph’s Short Muffler Kit, high-performance air cleaner and download to make it all communicate the right way.  Rich was nice enough to also think about my comfort a bit, and added a Longhaul Touring Dual Touring.

I was super excited about getting an extended ride on what’s been so many people’s Bike of the Year two years running.  The fun started as soon as I arrived at the dealership.  Rich was ready with a small stack of paperwork for me to sign, and then we went out to go over the bike.  It was parked next to my Fat Bob – they looked like twins actually.  Both had the dual headlights, the flatblack paint, not too much chrome and an aggressive stance.  There are lot’s more to talk about so let’s take a look.

Appearance:

Appearance is kind-of subjective, no?  In my opinion the Storm looks awesome.  I love the sinister look of it, minimal chrome, etc.  The dual headlights look really awesome too – they set it apart on the road from just about every other bike (almost!).  Everything on it was of very high quality as well, from the paint to the black wheels.  They also included guides for the cables, to minimize clutter, and added cool touches like the Storm logo on the primary cover.  Comparing the T-bird to my Fat Bob, my kids were split on looks, with my son preferring the Storm by far, and my daughter liking the Storm quite a bit better.  For me it’s at tie, but that’s only after I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into customizing my Harley.  Stock vs. Stock I think the big, black Triumph has a slight edge.

Performance:

Since the test bike is brand new, we couldn’t dyno it to get to actual numbers, but luckily there are plenty of sources online that have already done this.  A stock Storm comes in at about 86HP and 102 Torque at the rear wheel – the addition of the pipes, air cleaner and download can only help.  The Storm has outstanding power through the entire rpm range; very smooth and linear, just like my old Speed Triple.  Compared to my Harley it had a little less low-end and a ton more mid and high.  Mind you my Fat Bob has about $3,000 worth of upgrades and costs about $2K more to start so in my mind the Storm is a bargain.  The upgrades they did to it for the ride are just about the only upgrades I think the bike needs, performance-wise – the only thing I would do differently is go with a more aggressive exhaust.  There aren’t too many of after-market exhausts around just yet, but I was able to find a couple of good options.  Easy would be the D&D slip on but I think I would actually go with the Hog Slayer  http://www.british-customs.com/british-customs-triumph-thunderbird-1600-hog-slayer-exhaust.html by British Customs .  It’s a full exhaust that looks great, increases performance and sound, and saves 13 pounds to boot.  Given that most racers equate 7 pounds to 1 HP that’s almost a 2 HP gain on top of whatever the actual pipe does.  Plus if you’re riding any non-Harley cruiser can you really go wrong buying a pipe called a Hog Slayer, lol?

Handling:

Wow!  What a nimble bike.  It turned very well at low speeds and handled so smoothly at high speeds that in inspired a lot of confidence.  The bike was very stable and went where you wanted it to go when you wanted to do it.  Every time I talk about it I start to say sport-bike handling and stop myself; obviously it’s not a sport-bike but compared to most cruisers it handled like one.  I have to say that my Fat Bob handles well too, with its chubby front tire and great balance, but even this great handling Harley loses the handling battle to the Storm.

Braking:

Here is where the Storm really impressed.  Brakes were very strong and linear with a nice, easy pull.  They really inspired a feeling of control out there, especially when combined with the outstanding handling we already discussed.  Since the weather was beautiful I didn’t get a chance to test our the ABS, but I never felt any flutter at all, regardless of how aggressively I was braking.  This is definitely the best braking cruiser I’ve ever ridden.

Overall:

All in all I really love this bike.  I really urge you guys to go down to Precision Bikeworks  and check out whichever Triumph style matches your own, but the Thunderbird in particular does it so well for so many.  You can set it up as a slick solo cruiser or hook up bags, boards and a windshield (and that comfy seat – thanks Rich!) and ride till across a state or two – it will do it all.  If was going to get my own I’d probably go with this insane swirled red Thunderbird they had on the floor, upgrade it with the Storm performance package which happens to be crazy cheap, some of those Hog Slayer pipes and headlights off the old Speed Triple – either way I want one.  Good luck and if you do try one out be sure to let me know.

Ride Safe

Posted in: Motorcycles, Reviews

9 Responses to Bike review: 2012 Triumph Thunderbird Storm

  1. Jaclk says:

    You have covered the highlights of Triumph T-bird very well. Bottom line, when it comes to service between a bike like the Triumph Thunderbird vs. HD Fat Bob, which bike historically has the better track record? Secondly, cost comparison between Triumph vs. HD, when it comes to repairs and service who’s more expensive?

    Thanks

  2. Jack says:

    BTW, I would have to side with you children’s opinion on looks, the Triumph Thunderbird is visually more appealing to my eye, IMHO!

    Thanks again for the dialogue.

  3. admin says:

    Well, the Thunderbird is a pretty new bike so that’s tough. Triumph on a whole has a terrific reputation for reliability as far as their more modern bikes. Their current generation is pretty much bullet-proof, especially the triples. As far as cost goes a 1,000 miles service with full synthetic for an HD Road King costs $300. The same service on a Thunderbird at Precision Bike would be $195 roughly. To be fair though there are a host of smaller independent shops around that work on Harleys – where you could get that 1,000 mile service for less than $300. Harleys have a huge after-market and used part following too, so that’s another option. I love them both. Right now if I could have two bikes it would definitely be my Fat Bob and a Thunderbird. Or maybe a Road King and a Speed Triple. Or a Thunderbird and a Griso. I do like that new Harley Softail Slim… A Ducati Diavel maybe and a Rocket 3?

  4. Timothy says:

    How do you feel about the seating position? Is it too leaned-forward or is it more relaxed and comfortable?

    • admin says:

      It was actually very comfortable – very upright position not often found in cruisers. I also really liked that although the controls were forward they were ot set too far forward, giving a better feeling of control.

  5. Ed says:

    As someone who is just starting to think about getting his first bike, which do you think a beginner should go with? Both seem pretty much in my price range.

    Thanks!

    • admin says:

      Hold on Ed – in my opinion NEITHER of these bikes would make a good first bike. First off I hope that you have taken a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider’s Class. They teach you some very important skills and at the end should you pass you are a licensed rider. They provide bikes for you to use – 250CC (sometimes 125CC) little fellas that are a piece of cake to move around and pick up if you drop. There’s a reason for that… Lugging around a 700+ pound beast when you first start out is an easy way to get into trouble. Same thing goes for a small, light but fast sport bike but in that case the issue is the speed. I would suggest something light, small (500CC – 650cc roughly) and easy to maneuver as your first bike. Something like a Suzuki GS500 would be perfect. I’d get it used too, or a leftover at a dealer if you have to go new. They are easy to learn on and easy to resell once you are done. If you really want a cruiser as your first bike there are a few options in a smaller range too, like the Suzuki Boulevard S40. Although that’s a 650 it’s a very good bike for most beginners in my opinion, with a pretty low seat height and good center of gravity. A terrific option in the sport bike range would be Kawasaki’s excellent Ninja 650R, or the Versys which is just an all-around amazing bike that might not even get out-grown, although it might be a little tall for some.

  6. Jim Weidemann says:

    Nice review Rob.

    I would add that the ground clearance on the Triumph is better than other cruisers, except for my bike of choice, the Triumph Rocket Roadster. The extreme ground clearance the Rocket offers was one of the selling points for me in choosing between the Tbird and the Rocket. Very tough decision between the Rocket and Tbird.

    Back to the ground clearance, the Tbird takes more lean angle before the little nubs on the collapsible pegs touch down. And I like that.

    I also think the Tbird’s power is better at slightly higher RPM’s. Seems like you need to run the Tbird above 2,500 RPM for maximum thrills. :)

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