Reader Ride. A sweet and nicely updated Triumph

Things have been really busy on my end this spring. Lots of great material coming in and I’ve been hitting a few shows and such. As a result this one slipped back in the queue a little. I really need to be more on the ball with my e-mail.

James from Ottawa, Canada writes in with another great bike.
Hi Steve

You may remember me from a couple of years ago after I bought my used ’96 Triumph Thunderbird 900 triple. Did some mods to it then sent you some photos – along with some of my former ’74 Norton Commando 850 – which you kindly posted. They’re still up on your archives I see – – scroll down towards bottom of page Thank you.

Well of course I kept diddling with the Triumph. Bought a salvage ’98 Thunderbird Sport and ended up swapping the engine into her after the cam chain inexplicably broke on the Bird engine (these engines are virtually bulletproof and there was no advance warning). Lucky I had the TBS engine and it actually worked out better – more horsepower in the TBS (82 vs 69) and 6 speed tranny vs. 5. And I like the black engine body better than the Bird chrome/silver one too – although I left some of the Bird chrome pieces on for accent.

Here’s what else was done to the bike for the final makeover

HID headlight
Dunstall style megaphones – what a lovely throaty trumpet sound they have!
New 1/4 fairing (fairing and TBS front fender and partially bobbed rear fender all done and painted to match)
New 17″ Excel front rim from Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim in California (did a good job) matched with TBS front end with the dual discs and dampening adjustments) vs. the 18″ front wheel, single disc on the Bird. This combo is MUCH better. I now have proper stopping power!
New fork tubes by Frank’s Maintenance & Engineering in Evanston, Ill (did a good job) and gaiters
17″ TBS rear wheel replaces stock 16″ Bird rear – again, major improvement in handling
New Conti Motion tires front and rear
Partially bobbed TBS rear fender
New Lucas style rear tailight with new, smaller turn indicators front and back
TBS rear gas mono shock replaces Bird mechanical one
M-bars (with the folding bar end mirrors) although may have to change those – custom bars? – to find the right riding position for me especially for the longer hauls. I’m getting too old to be bent over for long periods of time!
Custom made solo seat that is REALLY comfortable for long hours in the saddle even if she is a bit on the large side – but hey, so’s the ass in the saddle! 🙂

Really pleased with the final product – a Thunderbird/Thunderbird Sport hybrid. She looks, sounds and runs GREAT and is definitely MY Tbird now.

Keep up the great work with your site. Like many others I check it out regularly to satisfy my motorcycle porn habit and really appreciate it! Thanks

Maybe the most underrated of the modern Triumphs. Great power and classic looks. you’ve really done a great job with her!

Thanks for the pics!



  1. Hi Motoguru

    Watch the Insurance auctions for a salvage TBS. That’s what I did and I got one for a good price. That’s where the engine and other parts came from for the switchover. Good investment since parts for the Tbirds/TBS/Legends/Adventurers are getting harder to find and expensive. Unfortunately with most bikes involved in collisions it’s the front end that takes it. I had to replace the rim and spokes (Buchanan’s) and fork tubes (Frank’s Engineering) but the discs, reservoir and cables and forks (with dampeners) off the salvage bike were OK. Still ended up spending over $1K in parts plus labour. At least you have a 17″ front wheel on the Legend. The stock Thunderbird had an 18″ so had to replace. The difference in stopping power and suspension is a significant improvement though – well worth it. The single disc isn’t good enough I don’t think for the power of that engine. Good luck on your hunt.


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