It's the handlebars that do it. One look and I'm somewhere between Peter Fonda and Starsky and Hutch. Triumph make no bones about styling this bike to suit the American market, and like it or loath it is certainly a striking looking bike.
But those handlebars?
I really want to like this bike because I am hugely impressed by Triumph. Midlands millionaire builder John Bloor has single handedly re-created the British motorcycle industry, an enormous achievement. In less than five years since the first bikes went on sale, he has taken nothing more than a name from industrial folklore and created a range of world-class motorcycles which sell like hot cakes. The first offerings were admittedly rather dated looking, but they were well made and reliable, and soundly engineered. The range has matured rapidly and now there are road burning sportsters (the Daytonas), tourers and sports tourers (the Trophy and Sprint), roadsters (the Speed Triple and Trident) and a growing range of the currently fashionable retro-bikes. The first of these was the Thunderbird, deliberately taking it's styling cues from the golden era of British bikery, the 50's and 60's, all pea-shooter exhausts and ribbed vinyl saddles. This, the Adventurer is a further derivation of the Thunderbird and brings the look up to the late 60's and early 70's, hence all the chrome plating, megaphone exhausts, single saddle and those handlebars. Huggy Bear where are you?
So here we have a thoroughly modern bike dressed up to look old, and aimed fair and square at taking some market share from Harley Davidson on their home turf. Harley meanwhile have an automotive goldmine of their own selling old bikes dressed up to look old, while the Japanese make ever more faithful copies of all of them. It's a funny old world.
This may seem a rather long-winded introduction, but bear with me, because when you actually ride the Adventurer it is difficult to know what to make of it. The bike is very obviously styled to be a comfortable cruiser, yet it's sporting rear suspension is way too harsh on anything other than smooth tarmac. Take it out on the motorway however and the armchair riding position makes it very hard work just to keep up with the traffic. The single seat certainly looks the part, but is not as comfortable as it appears and in less than an hour the dreaded NBS sets in (for non-bikers this means Numb Bum Syndrome, not a pleasant condition) which promptly limits your touring range. Then there is the engine, an absolute gem for sure, but in the wrong setting. This 900cc triple is as delightful an engine as I have tried, mildly detuned for this bike, but it still has a bright eager feel, with that snappy throttle action characteristic of a light flywheel. The whole point of a cruiser style bike though is to encourage you to cruise, yet this glorious engine wills you to go faster. I can't help but feel that a heavier flywheel and slightly taller gearing would have made it all a bit more relaxing, without overly harming the get up and go factor. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad bike, quite the reverse in fact, it just seems to have a bit of an identity crisis.
The good news is that it is a pussy cat to ride. It does not have the unwieldy top-heaviness of the larger Triumphs, no doubt a result of the lowered seat height and the width of those handlebars. For a 900cc bike it is surprising nimble in town traffic, which immediately builds your confidence, and for this reason alone I would recommend it to anyone looking for a first bike after passing their test. On the right roads, and at the right speeds it just exudes effortlessness, the trick being to keep to the sort of speeds that the styling favours, which fortunately happens to be the national speed limits, so it is inherently licence-friendly. It is also beautifully made, the paint is deep, the chrome is smooth, and every bolt head looks like someone deliberately chose it to look just so. This sort of attention to detail does not just happen by accident, someone at Triumph is clearly working very hard to get this right. I reckon it surpasses anything out of Japan bar Honda, and that is a major compliment. Best of all is that it has an indefinable difference to any Harley, Ducati or BMW, call it Britishness if you will.
I am sure the Yanks will love it, and they will have every reason to do so. This bike would be just great wafting down the Pacific Coast Highway in the California sun. My problem is that slogging up Halbeath Road, Dunfermline in the freezing rain is just not the same, and perhaps the fact that I spent a couple of unseasonably driech days with the Adventurer has made me more picky that normal. One thing is for sure though, come rain or shine, those handlebars would have to go!