Thundering typhoons

Hari Warrier, Hindustan Times
First Published: 11:21 IST(17/1/2014)
Last Updated: 11:38 IST(17/1/2014)
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It has taken British bike-maker Triumph a long while to enter India, its plans plagued by problems. But better late than never, it is here. We got an opportunity to test out the Thunderbird Storm, the “smaller” of the two cruisers it has brought to India, which weighs in a mere 340 kg and is driven by a 1700-cc engine that belts out 98 PS of power and 156 Nm of torque. Those are eyeball-rolling figures, but pale in comparison to big brother Rocket III.
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But this story is about the younger sibling, so let us get on. For a short while, we got the bike for a free run. Here is what we found.

LOOKS

Black. Basic. Drool-worthy. The jet black seems to absorb light, and if it were not for the chrome of the handle and the exhausts, would be hard to spot on a dark road. It lends the bike an attraction that is not so in-your-face as, say, the main competition, Harley Davidson, or Suzuki’s Intruder. Triumph’s signature twin headlights that are always on, rear LED night-lights, the handle-bar styling all combine to lend a very macho effect.

The clocks are mounted on the fuel tank, with the analog speedo showing both kilometre and mile numbers. The digital panel has the usual stuff — two trip meters, a distance to empty, fuel gauge… The RPM metre is also analog. The operating gear display is miss- ing.

RIDE

The Thunderbird Storm has a humungous parallel twin engine that has a 107 mm bore and 94 mm stroke — two of them. The engine is liquidcooled, with a vertical grille placed between the front downtubes. Fuel intake is by a sequential fuel injection system, and the power delivery is sweet: you just need to rev a bit, no matter what gear you are in, to take off. Since the final drive is by belt, there is no jerking or stuttering while the engine’s revs are transferred to the rear wheel, and operations are smooth and quiet, almost Japanese. V-twin lovers would miss the — dare we say it? triumphant stacatto of the exhaust.

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The speedo levels off at 200 kph, which seems easily doable. The bike is stable at all speeds, right down to 5 kph, and handles traffic with aplomb. Cruising in three figures is a dream, with the engine barely ticking over.

ABS is standard fitting, and the braking is spot-on.

The shock absorbers too are excellent especially considering Indian conditions, tuned just right for twin-riding. On single riding, though, it is rather stiff.

HANDLING

In typical cruiser fashion, the Thunderbird needs a lot of space to bank. It is time well spent to meet the bike and get acquainted with it slowly before venturing into intimate acts such as taking a tight curve (at whatever speed) without slowing down. This is a lady, treat her with respect.

Once you do get cosy with the bike, though, you realise that it is not about you, but about the bike — all you need to do is keep your riding position and point the steering. The bike does the rest. You are there just to enjoy the ride, and you had best not try any funny stuff !

VERDICT

This is a great bike, without doubt. Competition in the form of Harleys and the Suzuki Intruder and Honda Fury, which have V-twin engines, had better take note, as in pricing the bike at Rs. 13 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), we think Triumph has put the cat among the pigeons.

Last but not the least, the company claims 50 miles per gallon (that’s more than 21 km per litre) in normal riding conditions. Now, you don’t need to quail when the man on the street asks, “Kitna deti hai?”

What may rule against the Thunderbird — how many people are aware of the Triumph badge in India? Will they add up to sufficient numbers for the company? Will it manage to dent Harley-Davidson, which has had an unbridled run in the Indian market for four years? Questions that will be answered in the coming months. Let the buyer decide.


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