2011 Triumph Thunderbird Storm Comparison

MotorcycleUSA Staff | June 20, 2011

Triumph started off with the Thunderbird, our pick as 2010 Cruiser of the Year, and gave it a serious attitude adjustment. Dubbed the Thunderbird Storm, this new for 2011 model has received a murdered-out color scheme, doing away with the chrome and polished parts for bad-ass black on black. To back up the mean new look, the Storm gets the big-bore treatment with 100 more cubes for a bigger hit off the bottom its of its two-cylinder engine. So let’s find out how this Mad-Max inspired power cruiser from across the pond stacks up against the competition…
Being the only performance cruiser in this comparison without a V-Twin engine, we expected the Parallel Twin to be more of a top end revver than a stump puller. Much to our delight, once the 1699cc is fired up a deep, lumpy rumble emanates from the twin pipes of the Triumph T-bird. It actually sounds more like a V-Twin than some of the others with an actual V. At 97 decibels at idle and 108 decibels at half throttle, the Thunderbird is not exactly quiet. Whack the throttle to the stop and the 737-pound Triumph lunges forward with authority, pulling hard through the midrange before tapering off just as the speedo nears triple digits. That meaty, low end torque was a serious hit with our test crew. It just made you grin like a moron while trying to look like a bad-ass, and for that the Storm earned top honors in the engine character category.

2011 Triumph Thunderbird Storm
2011 Triumph Thunderbird Storm Dyno Chart
The Thunderbird Storm gets off the line quick, but runs out of steam as it hits 95mph, thus hurting its quarter mile times.

“The Triumph was packed with power,” confirms Joey Agustin. “This was the first bike I rode for the day, and I think it was one of the best. Top 3 engines for sure.”

The five-speed transmission of the Storm was the second-place pick of all our testers as it scores were solid with just the right of amount of clunk to let you know you are moving large pieces of spinning metal together at high speeds. No one had much to say about it except stuff like,”…yeah, it’s pretty good.”
In a straight line the Triumph felt fast, but seat of the pants scores from the test riders rated the black beauty second to the M109R. On the MotoUSA dyno the Storm produced 86.14hp at 5200 rpm and 102.27 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm, putting it right in the middle of the pack for both measurements. As far as we were concerned the real test of performance would come at Chuckawalla Valley Raceway under the harsh desert sun. Blasting away from the line the Thunderbird got off quick, but ran out of stream before the quarter mile. A look at our GPS data showed the acceleration tapered off significantly after 95mph, which really hurt the British bike’s time. With a 13.37 second pass at 101.17mph, it could only muster the fourth-quickest time. Its big end of the speedo performance also hurt its 0-100-0mph time at 18.54 seconds. So the torquey nature of the Storm fooled us into thinking it was faster than it really is.
Up on the mountain and down on the freeway the Triumph was a solid performer in terms of handling and suspension. In the curves the 200mm rear tire made the turn-in easy and a cakewalk to get around a bend in a hurry. The steering input was light and precise compared to the other behemoths in this test, and it garnered top marks from all of our

2011 Triumph Thunderbird Storm
2011 Triumph Thunderbird Storm
The forward footpegs on the Storm took a beating up in the mountains as the exceptionally good handling made it easy to achieve the maximum lean angle.

tests with the exception of Steeves. He felt the cornering clearance should have been better, and at first I agreed after getting my foot ripped from the left peg while putting on a spark show. Later I realized that the clearance was actually better than most of the other bikes in the test. We knew there was more lean-angle available in the chassis, but it was plenty capable for a cruiser. Blasting down the ridiculously bumpy Interstate 5 South was comfortable and the twin rear Showas soaked up whatever we threw at them.
The cockpit of the Storm earned middle of the road marks for the rider interface and comfort. One of our riders took issue with the fatter than normal handlebar grips, while the rest of the crew had no problem with them. The reach to the drag bars was slightly forward but not too much of a stretch, and the forward pegs and controls didn’t put too much pressure on your tailbone.
Steeves weighed in on the Thunderbird’s ergonomics, “The Triumph was comfy without being too stretched out and extra muscle wasn’t needed to maintain a position when hauling the mail.”
It’s good to know that you won’t be squirming in the seat after only a few miles like the Harley saddle, especially when you have a 5.8-gallon tank at your disposal which offers up a range of 184 miles. Doing the math that gives the Triumph 34.2 miles per gallon. This puts it on the low end of the economy scale behind the Suzuki, Star and Victory, but near the top for range compared to the rest of the field.
Twin 310mm floating discs clamped by a pair of four-piston Nissin calipers up front, along with a single rear 310mm disc, provide ample stopping power. Feel from the front was excellent and the lever was nice and firm. Brian felt the geometry of the Triumph helped in braking control as it felt more sportbike-like than the rest. Once again another 10 points went to the Triumph in the subjective scoring. On the airstrip the tale was a bit different with a braking distance of 127.79 feet from 60mph. This put it right in the middle of the pack, traveling two yards further down the asphalt than the best in class Suzuki.

2011 Triumph Thunderbird Storm  2011 Triumph Thunderbird Storm
On the open road is where the Triumph Thunderbird Storm won us over. It handles good, makes lots of usable power and looks bad-ass. Sure, there are things it could do better, but when the dust settled, the Storm proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the bike we would choose to lose our license on. For 2011 the Triumph Thunderbird Storm is the ultimate Performance Cruiser.

In the end, two-thirds of our testing staff would choose the Triumph Thunderbird Storm if they had to spend their own cash. Although it trailed some of the other bikes in the performance categories like 0-100-0mph test and the quarter mile, it remained close enough to capitalize on the tester’s affinity for its engine character, great handling and good looks when the others fell from the good graces of our test monkeys. Booker T. Washington once said, “Character is power,” and Triumph has built enough character into the Storm to outshine the machines with more engine power to emerge the winner of the 2011 Performance Cruiser Smackdown.

MotorcycleUSA Staff