Triumph Thunderbird 900

Duration: 2003 ~ Present
Type: Hardware

Whilst this motorcycle is not designed for a round the world adventure, it has certainly managed to carry myself, luggage and passengers all these years without much complaint.

No modifications were made to this bike through Africa and South America, but on reaching Mexico I finally replaced the tired monoshock rear suspension unit for a used Kawasaki Ninja ZX-9R monoshock and never looked back. Whilst this suspension is a little lighter, the nitro and 4 damping settings have made this bike a whole lot more pleasurable to drive over rough terrain.

The seat on this bike is not great, so a great product from Australia came to light, an Airhawk blow up cushion, which gives me a little extra needed height too.

On arrival in Australia, I realised there would be some long distances to cover where fuel was scarce. The 15ltr tank on this bike takes me 300km and in the past I had carried a few extra 1.5ltr water bottles filled with fuel on the odd occasion that required a slightly longer range; Dakhla to Nouhadibou and El Chaltén to Perrito Moreno, for example. But those bottles are a bit weedy and prone to falling off the bike, so I got a couple of 5ltr cans to get me a good 500km. Yet where to mount them, I hate packing high, and I'd just managed to free up my rear seat for passengers again. The front forks looked like a perfect place to mount them, but of course I worried about road handling and potential for a nasty accident. After finding a decent workshop and engineer in Byron Bay to make some solid brackets, I gave it a go. With the tanks full, there was a slightly heavier feel in the front, but since this bike is already 220kg, the extra weight didn't seem to make much difference. What was noticeable however, were gusts of wind that would be felt pushing against the tanks. After a while I got used to it, took them all around OZ and have kept them ever since. I haven't seen anyone else do this before, which doesn't surprise me, but hey it works.

Next up in Australia I came upon the Triumph dealer in Cairns, where Mike suggested I use Heidenau K60 Scout adventure tyres. The problem being that the Thunderbird still had a 16" rear wheel, which unsurprisingly Heidenau don't support for that tyre range. Steve pointed out that the Tiger model made at the same time as the Thunderbird, had a 17" wheel, and that he had a spare one in the shop which would slide right on, no hassles. So now this TB 900 is running with 17" rear and k60 Scouts. Attacking the dirt roads in Australia were a cinch compared to how I might have anticipated them otherwise.

The driver footpegs on these bikes are prone to breaking when dropping the bike, and they are a real hassle to get a decent weld, so they have been replaced with some generic touring pedals instead.

After 240km the bike is still going strong and since it was tuned in Melbourne by a certain Thai technician, the bike runs smoother than it did 10 years ago.