Triumph Thunderbird Sport
1997 - 2004 865cc, OHV, four-stroke triple
Why you might like a T-bird Sport ...
Comfort: Classic sit-up-and-beg-posture.
Vibration: Smooth engine. Triumph got the balance right.
Wheels: Aluminium alloy for reduced unsprung weight.
Pillion: Decent saddle for long distance hauls.
Engine: Strong, durable, heavily engineered.
Torque: Gets it on nicely from the mid-range upward.
Depreciation: In demand. Prices appear to hold well.
Chain final drive: Easy final drive ratio changes.
Presence: You'll be noticed by all but the very blind.
Six-speed gearbox: Upgrade from standard 5-speed T-birds.
Servicing: Straightforward. Owner friendly.
Seat height: Will suit most riders. Pillions will help.
Engine sound: Classic Hinckley triple roar. Grows on you.
Liquid cooling: The bike stays calm whatever you do.
Braking: Twin front discs. Lots of stopping power.
Power: Around 82 horses at the crank. Less at wheel.
Clutch: Hydraulic. Nice, progressive feel. Bites clean.
Modern classic: Look after it. The future will love you.
Suspension: Just right for us (too soft for some).
Handling: Corners or straights. The T-Bird rolls on and on.
Fuel consumption: Around 45mpg is possible.
... and why you might not like one
Weight: Top heavy for many riders. 500lbs overall.
Finish: Keep on the right side of corrosion (nuts, bolts, etc).
Starter clutch: Needs a good battery for smooth operation.
Grab rail: Doesn't have one. Strap only. Optional back rest.
Noise: Dated engine is a little rattly, but tolerable.
Silencers: Luggage & footrest woes with early bikes.
Enamelled engine: Watch for scabby examples. Hard to fix.
Looks: Dumpy design lacks grace and elegance.
Silencers: Stacked on early bikes. Awkward. Impractical.
Handling: Some guys call them wallowy and lardy. We don't.
Centre stand: Hasn't got one of these either, not as standard.
Damage: Plenty have been dropped due to weight issues.
Cleaning: Hard to get into the tricky bits.
Horn: As with most motorcycles, it's feeble.
Horn: Untidy placement on the left side of the engine.
Price: Second hand values hold well.
▲ Left hand view of the early Thunderbird Sport. None of the Sports were fitted with hard grab rails or centre stands as standard. Clearly, Triumph aimed these British muscle bikes at the solo riding experience. The chopped front mudguard suggested that this was more about urban racing than international touring.
▲ There's very little we didn't like about the Triumph Thunderbird Sport. But if you plan to carry luggage or a regular pillion, choose the model above with a 3-into-2 system with a silence each side. The passenger pegs are lower, and throw-over bags present no problem. However, the early bikes with the two silencers on the right side are visually cool. Some riders feel that these early models have a (slightly) better finish and are (slightly) less prone to corrosion. But there ain't much in it.
▲ With its 17-inch wheels and 43mm Kayaba front fork, the steering is a little quicker than on the standard Thunderbird 900. The extra (310mm) front disc and improved suspension will encourage you to misbehave. There's a small, but not insignificant range of bolt-on goodies for the Sport'; some from Hinckley, and some from who knows where? Just buy the best bike you can and love it. There are no serious known problems. Just the usual irritating things like duff ignition coils and the occasional popped seal or dodgy clock. Mostly, these Trumpets just roll on and on. But wait! Is it worth more than a standard 900 Thunderbird? You tell us. Either way, factor in an extra 10 percent or so. All the Sport engines are black finished, incidentally. Colours include
▲ The Triumph Legend (1998 - 2001). If you're looking for a cheaper Thunderbird, this is it. Same 885cc engine. Same general feel. Same presence. But the seat is lower by an inch or two, the suspension is more basic, and braking power is down a few notches. Nevertheless, these cost-cutting, reduced power (65hp) Legends are good value entry-level triples. Colours were Cardinal Red, Obsidian Black, or Imperial Green. The wheels are 17-inchers.
▲ Thunderbird Sport spare parts are still relatively easy to source. Secondhand fork yokes are generally around £150 - £250 a set; wheel bearings are around £20 a pair (2015 prices). A replacement radiator will set you back around £120. But if you're thinking of long term ownership, you'd be well advised to stock up on a few consumables, and maybe invest in a spare petrol tank and side panels, etc. But generally, you can get pretty much whatever you want at reasonable prices. Keep in mind that many parts from the standard 900 Thunderbird, Legend and Adventurer will fit. For oil, a 10W40 semi-synthetic will do fine.
▲ Left to right: Triumph Thunderbird Sport Quick Release Thumb Bolts. Designed to replace those tricky under-the-seat standard removal screws, these doo-dahs cost around £25 a pair plus £2 P&P (Sept 2015 prices). Talk to email@example.com based in Lancashire. Next, those Barnett clutch springs will help you get a grip and maintain it. Prices are around £15 to £20 for a set of four. Check eBay or similar. They're kicking around somewhere. Finally, that's a Puig Fly Screen. It's also available for other bikes (Triumph and otherwise), but the Thunderbird Sport item will set you back around £45 plus around £6 P&P. Talk to: firstname.lastname@example.org (based in Germany).
1997 Triumph Thunderbird Sport specifications
Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, in-line, triple
Dry weight: 494lbs (224kg)
Copyright Sump Publishing 2015