Thursday, August 17, 2017
LONG-TERM ON A 2015 TRIUMPH THUNDERBIRD
Your 12,500-mile report…
… and some thoughts from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017
Let’s start with this disclaimer: No matter what you might read here, I like this bike. Sometimes I go out in the garage late at night and just sit on it.
Why? Mainly because it’s so danged comfortable. It’s like a La-Z-Boy on two wheels. In motion, the footboards allow me to move my legs a bit every now and then. And the windshield somehow deflects cold blasts away from the handgrips so that only on the coldest of rides do I wish it had heated units. With acres of chrome and a deep paint job highlighted with hand painted coach lines, the thing is a real looker, inviting conversations the lengths of which are inversely proportional to how badly you have to hit the restroom.
The engine pulls like a proverbial tractor and lopes along at 75-plus miles per hour, gladly doing it all day, as it did on my recent trip to Wyoming. Two up presents no problem. Neither does ten days on the road.
I changed out tires a click or two before turning 10,000 miles. In the process, the mechanic alerted me to some excess wear on the drive belt. I’d never owned a motorcycle with a drive belt and understood that, like shafts, they are largely maintenance – and trouble – free. Apparently, I understood wrong. At the tire change, more than 1/8th of an inch of belt had prematurely worn away. The mechanic said he aligned the pulleys carefully with the tire change but, “We’ll need to keep an eye on it.” Seems to me that, coming out of the box, the drive pulleys on the T-bird should have been aligned with laser-like precision. Now with another 2500-plus miles on the rig, the belt seems to be worn even more. I’m thinking this is a manufacturer’s defect, but I suspect I’ll be informed it is a wear item and repair or replacement will be on my nickel.
Just prior to that tire change, the check engine light came on. I quickly pulled over and, referencing the owner’s manual, found that the big bird is programmed to let you “limp home” should the light illuminate. I added a dollop of oil and the light went out, but as the mechanic was testing the machine after putting on new rubber, the light it up again. The diagnosis suggested something associated with an exhaust valve in the tail pipe (?) but was inconclusive prompting, “It may just be a bad sensor. We’ll check on it when you come in for service.” And they reprogrammed it to go out. Half way through my 2500-mile loop up to British Columbia, the light came on again. No Triumph dealers in sight and, since it was on a Saturday, even if there were one, it would likely be Tuesday before it could be addressed. I gambled on the “bad sensor” theory and motored on. Disconcerting, it is, to be enjoying the cruise on BC 99, I-5 and various side roads with that amber light glaring at you from the dash. I didn’t try a dollop of oil as the dipstick indicated full.
Another little grievance is the fact that in low to moderate powered sweeping or tighter turns, a wobble develops in the front wheel. I mentioned this at tire time and was told that new rubber might remedy things. With a little research, I further found that tightening the rear shock might help alleviate the problem. Still I experienced the jostle. This I will mention at service time.
Also, one of the running (or fog) lights failed. Not sure why. Ghosts of Lucas Electrics?
Again, I like this bike. As with all things complex and mechanical, things will happen. I am disappointed in some of the minor things (and perhaps major things – like that wobble) have cropped up on this fairly new machine. I’m also a bit bent out of shape that the relationship between my local dealer and Triumph has ended forcing me to go an additional 60 miles for warranty service.
I’ve owned four BMWs and liked them all pretty well, though their cost of maintenance seemed to escalate as they became more ‘sophisticated.’ They were nicely engineered and well suited for the riding I like to do, perhaps a little more so than the T-bird. But I knew I would be making some compromises in an effort to try something different. And you can’t argue with that comfortable saddle!
Still, as I completed my loop from Vancouver Island, I got a nagging twinge or, perhaps, a longing for the lighter feel and the legs-under-you seating position of my old GS. As luck would have it, driving into Port Angeles, WA, I followed and then conversed with a fellow rider who’d swapped out his expensive-to-maintain GS for a Yamaha Super Tenere. “9500 miles,” he said, “and nothing’s ever gone wrong.” (His ‘nothing’s gone wrong’ comment seems to be borne out by the comments of many others on the Tenere owner’s page.)
The Super T has been on my wish-list back burner since I first laid eyes on one at the Grand Canyon in 2010 or 11. From time to time, I’ve checked in with the motorcycling press on the Yamaha. Good reviews. Substantially competent at most of what the Beemer does at a much-reduced ticket for admission. Plus, service intervals and costs are reportedly much less than I’ve paid for either my BMWs or the current Triumph.
A Yamaha dealer outside of Salem, Oregon had several on the lot and very inviting out-the-door pricing. The young sales lady with whom I spoke, insisted that, since I had my gear on, I should take one for a ride.
As I said earlier, I like the T-bird. Not sure how much longer I’ll have her, however.
Damn test rides, anyway.
Church of the Open Road Press