Triumph’s current model lineup includes a handful of cruisers, but none are what you’d call traditional. From the middleweight America and Speedmaster—both Bonnevilles in drag—to the Thunderbird parallel twin and the class-of-one Rocket III, these are all unique alternatives to the conventional, classic-styled V-twins that currently define the cruiser segment. But with cruisers accounting for roughly 50 percent of all motorcycle sales in America, that trend is impossible to ignore. The two Triumph cruiser prototypes shown here, spied undergoing testing in Spain, suggest that Triumph is now aiming directly at the fat-fendered heart of the heavyweight cruiser class.
You’re forgiven for mistaking the full-dress bagger for a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, as we did at first. Look closely and you’ll see that it actually appears to be a Triumph development chassis—complete with adjustable billet headstock—fit with the 1597cc parallel twin from the Thunderbird and then hung with Harley-Davidson bodywork and controls, including the Tour Pack and Batwing fairing. Interestingly, the wheels appear to be from a Victory Cross Country model. This machine provides a fascinating glimpse at Triumph’s prototype development process and a step beyond typical benchmarking, allowing Triumph engineers to assess exactly how the class leader’s best attributes apply directly to their platform. It makes good camouflage, too.
This makes perfect sense. Touring cruisers are a lucrative segment, and Harley-Davidson’s FL models have defined that segment for decades. Any worthy competitor will have to at least match, if not exceed, that bike’s best attributes. But Harley’s hard-bagged bikes aren’t Triumph’s only target—spy photographers also captured evidence of a Road King-styled touring cruiser that also appears to be based on the Thunderbird chassis, with the same liquid-cooled, 1597cc parallel twin for power. The addition of soft-sided saddlebags, a removable windscreen, spotlights and deep-skirted fenders completely transforms the musclebike character of the Thunderbird, making it appeal to a much broader segment of the current cruiser market that prefers classic American styling.
It’s easy to dismiss these prototypes as derivative, but there’s no denying this is where the market sits—Road King sales no doubt dwarf those of Thunderbirds. Triumph was once renowned for following its own path with bikes like the Rocket III, Speed Triple, and three-cylinder Daytona sportbike. Lately, however, the company has also found success by designing products perfectly aligned with current market trends, like the Tiger and Explorer adventure bikes and the Trophy sport-tourer—any of which could be cynically called BMW knock-offs. Why not target Harley-Davidson next? If they can create a functional facsimile of the FL with just enough unique Triumph character to stand apart, they will be worthy—and successful—additions to the cruiser marketplace.