Triumph is in the middle of hosting its world launch of its two new cruisers for 2014, the Commander and Thunderbird LT. Our boy Evans is on the scene in San Diego, California, where he spent yesterday testing the LT. We kept him mostly out of the bar in the evening to hammer out a quick-ride review in advance of his full test of the LT and Commander, the latter which he’ll be riding today.
Triumph gathered the world moto-press in San Diego to allow them to sample the latest additions to the Thunderbird line. Since the LT and the Commander are heavily influenced by the American cruiser market, Triumph thought it would be best to show off the bikes stateside. Additionally, San Diego also offers a wide variety of roads to better demonstrate the capabilities of these two new bikes.
The big news for the LT and Commander is the new frame designed to give the load-carrying capability and the handling characteristics Triumph desired for the new T-Birds. The wheelbase is about two inches longer at 65.6 in. Countering the extra distance between axles, the frame’s rake angle has been brought in from 32 degrees to 29.9 degrees, and the trail distance shortened 0.7 in. to 5.2 in. The new chassis is visually discernible between the tank and the steering head where it appears noticeably longer. This change is to accommodate the shrouded fork and the windshield (with optional lowers) of the LT.
If you were a fan of the Thunderbird Storm’s parallel-Twin engine, you’ll feel the same gravitational pull towards the LT. Using a mechanically unchanged 1,699cc powerplant, the LT’s engine receives a new airbox and exhaust system.
Rolling on spoked rims, the Thunderbird’s whitewall radial tires are an industry first. Triumph had Avon develop the tires specifically for the LT. The whitewalls are not just painted on; they are an integral part of the tire’s sidewall.
Riding the LT immediately highlights what Triumph has done with the Thunderbird’s handling. The bike steers easily regardless of speed. Turn-in is quick for a relatively long, 836-lb. motorcycle. The bike happily holds or changes lines in corners and gives no hint of standing up when braking while leaned over.
The engine offers ample power throughout its rpm range. Riding on a winding road was as simple as placing it in fourth gear and using the throttle as a rheostat to dial in the power. The one issue with the engine was the transmission with some notchiness in the lower gears, but another journalist said his LT did not suffer from the same symptom. We’ll have to wait for the full test on that one.
There’s tons more to tell you about the Thunderbird LT, but this is just a little tease while I get a chance to write up a more detailed review of the LT and Commander.
If you can’t wait for another taste of the newest Thunderbirds, Triumph has graciously given us the introductory video below which was used at the beginning of the press briefing before our first day of riding. Enjoy.
[Updated to correct specifications.]