By Marissa Baecker
It is easy to confuse the 2014 Triumph Thunderbird LT (long touring), a European import, with its North American cruisin’ cousins during Bike Week at Daytona Beach, FL. In fact, the Triumph measures up so closely that when I returned from my beach side table of the Ocean Deck restaurant (after having devoured the best Mahi Mahi burger in memory), my Triumph ride was lost in the sea of glistening chrome creatures sunning themselves in the parking lot.
My formally dressed UK touring treasure was camouflaged as an American Road King with its trio of headlights (one main and two auxiliary spot lamps), world’s first radial white wall tires mounted on wide wire-spoke rims, heritage styled front fender and quick release saddlebags. Helping to hide my ride were its bookend neighbours – two full fairing Glides. An untrained eye could stand before all three bikes and easily mistake them for the same family.
Throw a leg over this low riding bagger, turn the key, push the start and the differences soon take over (right after I stopped two big burly bikers and offered to trade them my parking spot if they got my bike out from between the Harleys holding it hostage. I suppose I could have removed the offending saddlebag that was sure to send the dominoes dropping once I stood my bike up, but then I wouldn’t have been awarded the gracious biker hospitality of a helping tattooed hand.)
Fueled up and fed, I was ready to explore the hot spots across the county that Bike Week is famous for and I was settling in for several hours behind the bars.
With the Thunderbird LT, Triumph has redesigned the saddle and, now with a low seat height of approximately 27” (700mm), created more backside room with additional padding (an extra 30mm of seat foam) plus added lumbar back support. Accenting the ride comfort are ergonomic foot controls, heel/toe shifter and brake pad on full floorboards (floorboards for the passenger as well) and highway pegs so there is no reason to call it a day before the sun goes down.
I headed for the highway from the Daytona Pier at the foot of Atlantic Avenue and made my inaugural ride up the infamous Main Street. How long could .7 of a mile over 12 blocks of crazed, chromed, crowds of cruiser crusaders and half-corked characters from all over the continent really take?
After a mere few blocks and over a half hour of clutch control exercises in the afternoon heat, and never out of first gear, paired with the fact that I was fully leathered and sporting a full face helmet in the land of legally free flowing locks, I had put my patience as well as my wimpy grip through the ultimate test of strength. I was grateful however that my 750 lb. ride had a low center of gravity and slow speed operation was relatively effortless.
I turned the heads of onlookers who saw my Triumph as opposed to heard it. With the never-ending drone of Reinharts and Vance and Hines, my quiet Thunderbird was making a statement in silence with its twin-skin stainless steel 2 into 1 into 2 chrome-plated exhaust.
They say birds of a feather stick together so when I received a thumbs-up from a pair of fellow Triumph riders now staggered to my right, I was certain I had been accepted into the club and at the end of this procession would be a patch ceremony. I was riding mid pack but with the change of a traffic light, I was leading the pack soon to be followed by pulling up the rear of the pack on the next block and all the while being entertained by the characters and chaos that lined both sides of the street.
Riders began to roar as throttles opened up on the approach to the Main Street bridge running over the Halifax River. My Thunderbird spread its wings right past the “Please Ride Quietly” sign as I chuckled to myself.
Riding down the Florida freeway, I shifted smoothly through the belt driven six-speed transmission without any unwanted shake or rattle as I rolled. Smooth and consistent shifts with immediate response from the lower RPM torque – 111 ft-lb at 3550 RPM. The liquid cooled 1699cc parallel twin powering this beast is the world’s largest for a motorcycle and offers up 93 HP. Created in 2009 when the original Thunderbird was introduced, it is shared in the Triumph lineup with the Thunderbird Storm.
Housed on the 5.8 gallon tank is the dash console offering an easy to read (even in the mid afternoon sun), analogue speedometer and fuel gauge, digital dual trip, odometer and clock scrolled through by handlebar switch.
As I watched the speedo creep up close to 70 mph, I was thankful for the large quick release windshield with the side draft deflectors. Even at high speeds, the Thunderbird was strong, solid and smooth.
With my limited knowledge of Florida wildlife, I was under the false impression that I needed to scan the roadside for gators. In the event that one of these scaly swamp creatures should cross my path, it was a confidence booster knowing that an ABS braking system, four-pot Nissin calipers on 310mm floating discs in the front and a single Brembo in the rear, would get me through any anticipated regional hazard. What I found instead was an assortment of low flying raptors, a melee of waterfowl and even a couple of wild turkeys but no gators.
My Triumph was to be returned after a good night sleep but not before I took advantage of catching an Atlantic sunrise on the white sand of Daytona Beach.
MSRP – $16,699.00 U.S. $17,999 CDN