Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 23rd June 2008

Our America cousins across the pond have many fine qualities; a willingness to simplify the spelling of English, re-write the history of most world wars to over-estimate US influence, not to mention the ability to play rugby in full body armour. However, they have one weakness; a chrome fetish.

They can´t get enough of the stuff.

So naturally, when Brit bike makers Triumph created a bike for the US market, they added lashings of shiny chrome to their Adventurer model, fitted higher handlebars, replaced sensible mudguards with fenders of jukebox proportions etc.

The result was a very nice motorbike indeed..for Americans.

Pleasant around town and quick and agile enough to be fun on twisty roads, concluded Roland Brown of the Adventurer, a cruiser versatile enough to hold its own as an all-rounder. But his 1996 review found it was a case of nice legs, shame about the face

The chap in the leather jacket appeared from a nearby shop as I was preparing to ride off on the Adventurer, and immediately he was all over the bike: circling it, examining it, excitedly pointing out its new features and praising its style. All very flattering, even if the Triumph wasn’t mine. Then he mentioned that he was the proud owner of a Yamaha 1100 Virago.

Now I’ve always regarded the Virago as one of the ugliest motorbikes ever created, but the V-twin Yamaha’s long-running success, particularly in America, shows that plenty of motorcyclists have very different taste. So it is with the Adventurer. To my mind this chrome-laden new Triumph is considerably less appealing than the simpler, more traditional Thunderbird on which it is based. But style is very subjective, and the Virago owner’s enthusiasm suggests that plenty of others will think the Adventurer looks just fine.

Style is the key ingredient in a cruiser market that is big business right now, with Harley’s long-time dominance coming under attack by bikes such as Honda’s 1100 Shadow ACE and soon-to-be-launched F6C six, Kawasaki’s revamped VN V-twins and Yamaha’s Royal Star. The T-bird was Triumph’s best-selling model worldwide last year, and now the Hinckley firm has produced a follow-up aimed even more directly at riders who enjoy laid-back motorcycles fitted with a host of accessories.

This bike is so closely related to the Thunderbird that there has to be some doubt about whether the Adventurer really warrants its new-model designation and its name, which is borrowed from a 500cc parallel-twin trail bike from the ’70s. The internals of the water-cooled, 12-valve triple motor are identical to the T-bird’s, and so is the claimed peak output of 69bhp at 8000rpm. The main part of the steel frame is unchanged, as are cycle parts including forks, rear shock, wheels and brakes.

But a new model the Adventurer officially is, incorporating a number of modifications intended to take Triumph’s cruiser concept a stage further. Its handlebars are higher, giving a truly relaxed riding position in conjunction with the unchanged footpegs. The basic Adventurer comes with a new single seat, like Harley-Davidson’s Sportster. And talking of Harley influence, this model also has an enormous, flipped-up rear fender (you couldn’t possibly call it a mere mudguard) that looks as though it has come straight from a Softail or a Wide Glide.

Other new features are mainly just for looks. The engine has extra shine thanks to chrome-plated covers, and the megaphone-shaped silencers are new. Colours are violet and white (or the alternative gold and white); the fuel tank has a new badge which is based, like the T-bird’s, on an old Triumph design. Along with retained details such as the chunky handlebar clamp, this model also comes standard with the traditional rubber knee-pads that are an optional accessory for the Thunderbird.

Ah, the accessories. Triumph has taken a few chapters out of Harley’s catalogue in developing scores of additional parts, many of them for the cruiser models. This bike’s screen was an extra, as were the leather panniers, dual-seat, sissy-bar and the plastic inserts designed to tidy up the area between fuel tank and sidepanels. For all the Adventurer’s standard-issue sparkle, this bike’s chromed control levers, sidepanels, sidestand, chainguard and small round frame ’outrigger covers’ were accessories.

Beneath all the added flash, the Adventurer had much of the same raw three-cylinder appeal as the Thunderbird. That much was clear as I settled into the fairly low seat (one of three dual-seats available for the Adventurer, along with the single saddle and pillion pad), reached up to the pull-back bars and hit the button to send the 885cc motor into life with a muted twitter from its twin silencers. (Like the T-bird, this bike is also available with a set of freer-breathing, much more tuneful tailpipes ’for off-road use only’.)

My first riding impression was predictable: delight at the low-rev grunt of a softly-tuned motor that was perfectly suited to this bike’s laid-back look. The Triumph’s five-speed gearbox was typically sweet, but once under way there was barely any need to use it. Peak torque of 72Nm is produced at just 4800rpm. In top gear the Adventurer pulled without complaint from as low as 2000rpm, about 30mph, with no detectable dips in its power-band. It just surged effortlessly forward, feeling most happy in the 50mph to 70mph zone where a cruiser is likely to spend much of its life.

Power tailed off at high revs, but if requested the Adventurer would keep accelerating all the way until its chrome-rimmed speedometer was indicating 100mph. That’s impressive flexibility. And as ever the triple was superbly smooth all the way to its 8500rpm redline. Shame the close-set mirrors were more use for checking your Ray-Ban’d expression than the traffic behind.

If the engine’s flexibility was expected, much less so was the way in which this bike’s small, optional-extra screen one of three alternatives allowed comfortable use to be made of the engine performance. To my eyes the screen initially seemed positioned too far forward for either style or protection. But despite the bolt-upright riding position, I was surprised to find that the Adventurer would happily hold a 90mph-plus cruising pace without too much wind-pressure on my chest, and with no more roar than is generated by the screens of many sports-tourers.

Not only that, but stability was no problem at an indicated 100mph, in contrast to most unfaired bikes and a good many with windscreens too. (Other testers have noted that, in naked form, this bike is slightly twitchy between 90mph and its 120mph top speed.) And the Adventurer’s low-speed handling, although the bike steered slowly thanks largely to its lazy steering geometry, long 1550mm wheelbase, 18-inch front wheel and fairly hefty 225kg of weight, was very competent too.

For more spirited riding the non-adjustable, generally excellent front forks were rather soft, and the short-travel shock felt a bit stiff and underdamped. But at relaxed speeds the triple had a precise and neutral cornering feel, plenty of ground clearance, and generous grip from its Avon tyres. Even the front brake set-up of single 320mm disc and twin-pot caliper combined lots of feel with a reasonable amount of bite, and was backed up by a controllable rear disc.

That helped make the Triumph a very pleasant bike in town, where its riding position and the manoeuvrability provide by its wide bars were also assets. But the Adventurer’s usefulness did not end at the city limits. It was quick and agile enough to be fun on a twisty road, and with this screen fitted would even make a passable long-distance machine, despite its small 15-litre fuel tank. This bike may be aimed squarely at the cruiser market, but it’s versatile enough to hold its own as an all-rounder.

Mind you, that versatility comes at a price. The Adventurer costs £8169, which is £190 more than the basic Thunderbird. And to that price must be added this bike’s total of over £1300 in extras, bringing the total price close to the five-figure mark.

Personally I’d prefer the simpler look of the T-bird, but many of the new breed of cruiser rider will doubtless disagree. This new triple has the Triumph name giving an edge over Japanese rivals in many minds it’s well-built, and as a bike to steal sales from Harley it could be just the job. Most importantly, riders who buy the Adventurer for its styling will not be disappointed by its performance.

Get Triumph motorbike insurance for the triumph adventurer.

Vital Statistics 
Engine……….Liquid-cooled transverse triple, cc 885
Claimed power (bhp)……….69bhp at 8000rpm
Compression ratio……….10:1
Transmission……….Five speed
Cycle parts
Front tyre……….110/80 x 18in Avon AM27
Rear tyre……….160/80 x 16in Avon RL30
Front wheel……….2.50 x 18in; wire
Rear wheel……….3.50 x 16in; wire
Front suspension……….43mm telescopic Kayaba
Rear suspension……….One Kayaba damper, adjustments for preload
Front brake……….twin-piston caliper, 320mm disc
Rear brake……….twin-piston caliper, 285mm disc
Top speed……….120 mph
Fuel capacity……….15 litres
Buying Info
Current price……….£8,169