Written by Carole Nash Editor
Created: 08 August 2008
A slippery Sam TT replica; lean, mean ans finished in brilliant white? No, that would be too obvious for Triumph, who chose instead to name their low budget, low seat height cruiser the Legend TT. How strange.
Yet the Legend is a great first timers machine, which hides its considerable weight well, has a funky three cylinder engine to give you a 70bhp kick along country lanes, plus a handy range of factory accessories to let you personalise your first `proper´ bike.
Hate to use a cliche, but this a genuinely nice bike.
Pounds, shillings and pence - or a short inside leg measurement - were the only reasons to consider the Legend TT over Triumph’s more handsome and better equipped Thunderbird or T-bird Sport, concluded Roland Brown in his 1998 review of the budget-priced cruiser.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time: to test Triumph’s Legend TT in the Isle of Man on the legendary TT circuit. I could check out the triple’s handling in bends ranging from the Ramsey Hairpin to the sweeping curves over the Mountain; assess its comfort on the notoriously bumpy Sulby Straight; discover its top speed on the flat-out downhill blast from Creg-ny-Baa; and ask the crowds that gather outside numerous pubs along the course to rate its pose value.
Instead the wet Manx weather ruined those plans and meant that I had to test the bike between rain showers on a race day, when the TT course was closed to traffic. So I didn’t get to ride it on the famous circuit, and the best-known landmarks that I rode past were the horse-drawn trams on Douglas prom.
But maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, after all. Despite its name, this latest 885cc Triumph triple is no race-replica but a budget-priced cruiser, developed from the Thunderbird and Adventurer models. So it’s much more at home in town or on a gentle ride in the country than being screamed to it’s redline on a racetrack.
The Legend TT has been created for two main reasons. One is to provide a bike for shorter riders, in answer to long-standing complaints about Triumphs’ excessively high seats. The second is to give the Hinckley firm a cheaper entry-level model to counter parallel imports and other cut-price rivals, especially in export markets, where the pound’s strength has made Triumph’s range expensive in the last couple of years.
Most obvious of the changes from the Thunderbird is the new bike’s simple finish and colour scheme. The Legend has essentially the same shape as the T-bird but its paintwork is in a single colour (in a choice of red or black), there’s hardly any chrome, and the badges are stickers instead of elaborate cast metal as on the other models.
Handlebars are the high and wide ones fitted to the Adventurer, but it’s at the other end that the most important innovation occurs. A new rear subframe combines with the reshaped seat itself to give a seat height of 725mm, which is 25mm closer to the ground than the T-bird’s. The unchanged sidepanels have also been slightly repositioned.
A new shock linkage helps lower the bike slightly, and the wire-spoked wheels are both 17 inches in diameter, as on the Thunderbird Sport, in place of the previous combination of 18in front, 16in rear. Like the basic T-bird and Adventurer, the new model has non-adjustable 43mm front forks and single 320mm front disc brake.
Apart from being finished all in black with no chrome the Legend’s DOHC watercooled engine is also identical to that of the T-bird, which means it’s the most softly-tuned of Triumph’s 12-valve units. The only engine-related difference is the exhaust system’s new pair of reverse-cone silencers, which don’t alter the claimed maximum output of 69bhp at 8000rpm.
To my eyes this Triumph has very little of the nostalgic visual appeal of the Adventurer and especially the Thunderbird. It’s by no means an ugly bike but initially looked slightly anonymous and reminded me of Honda’s similar-coloured CB750. At least the three-pot motor fired up with a distinctive twittering note, though, even if it had little of the raw sound of an old Triumph.
Being tall I’ve never been bothered by Triumph’s high seats. But there’s no doubt that many shorter riders will feel much happier on this bike, which is low enough to allow most people to get both feet flat on the floor. Along with the high, wide bars and forward-set footpegs, the seat gave a laid-back riding position that was fine for slow-speed control as, oblivious to the TT race taking place nearby, I rode along near-deserted streets and out of Douglas.
In this softly-tuned guise Triumph’s triple motor is great if you’re not in too much of a hurry. The 12-valve unit produces peak torque of 53ft.lb at a lowly 4800rpm, carburets very cleanly through its trio of 36mm flat-slide carbs, and is creamy smooth all the way through the range. Just wind the throttle open and off it shoots, pulling like a Manx chambermaid from low revs.
Inevitably there’s no power worth chasing at the top-end, but you rarely miss it. Like Triumph’s other cruisers this bike’s gearbox has five speeds rather than six, and quite adequate they are too, thanks to the broad spread of torque. Above about 50mph you can just leave it in top, confident that a tweak of the throttle will produce a reasonable turn of acceleration.
Not that you’d want to use all the Triumph’s performance for long (unless you were unfortunate enough to be riding one fitted with the learner-legal 34bhp restriction kit). When I found a straight piece of road my arms and neck were given a work-out by the wind long before I approached the maximum of about 110mph. At slower speeds the bike was comfortable enough, although I didn’t ride for long enough to pass judgement on the slimmed-down seat, which has no grab-rail for a pillion.
Hard riding over the fast and bumpy TT circuit would have highlighted the limitations of the Legend’s fairly basic chassis, but at moderate speeds the triple handled well. Triumph’s familiar steel spine frame is more than rigid enough for cruiser duty, and in bumpy bends the Legend was happier than most cruisers, even if it couldn’t quite match the stability of those Douglas trams.
The front end was soft enough to dip noticeably when the reasonably powerful front disc was used hard, but that’s unlikely to be a problem for many riders, any more than is the occasionally harsh and underdamped feel at the rear. Steering was light and neutral, thanks partly to the 17-inch front wheel. On dry roads the Legend’s footrests scraped without making the Bridgestone BT57 tyres work too hard, but it wasn’t a problem.
Triumph enthusiasts who are short enough to have serious problems with other models’ tall seats will forgive the Legend much, and be glad that at last there’s a bike they can ride more easily. For anyone else I can’t really see a logical reason for buying this rather basic machine in preference to the more handsome and better equipped Thunderbird or T-bird Sport except for the all-important one of hard cash.
At £6349 on the road, the Legend TT is a very substantial £1650 cheaper than the Thunderbird Sport, and costs almost two grand less than the original T-bird, let alone the even more expensive Adventurer. The Legend is also available with two-tone paint plus metal tank badges from the T-bird Sport for an extra £150.
Naturally a chunk of that huge price difference could easily be eaten up by anyone customising the bike with accessories (from windsceens and alternative seats to chromed bar levers and engine covers). It’s also true that these days Triumph’s other models are available at discounts that will substantially reduce the price difference.
As a fan of classic Triumphs, especially ones with high bars and two-tone paint, I love the period look of the Thunderbird and would pay quite a lot more for its added style and never mind the seat height. For shorter riders, those on a tight budget and those who just want a simple, competent three-cylinder cruiser without much retro image, the Legend TT will doubtless do just fine.
Get Triumph motorbike insurance for the triumph legend tt.
||Liquid-cooled transverse triple, cc 885
|Claimed power (bhp)
||69bhp at 8000rpm
||120/70 x 17in Bridgestone BT57
||160/60 x 17in Bridgestone BT57
||3.25 x 17in; wire
||4.25 x 17in; wire
||43mm telescopic Kayaba
||One Kayaba damper, adjustments for preload
||Twin-piston caliper, 320mm disc
||Twin-piston caliper, 285mm disc