Cruiser motorcycles take their muscular, aggressive style directly from American bikes of the 1960s. They ooze classic film-star style and tough-guy attitude. Not surprisingly, they are one of the most popular types of motorbike on the market today. Nearly every major motorcycle manufacturer sells cruiser or cruiser-inspired bikes, and two of the biggest names in this field are Harley-Davidson in the US and Triumph Motorcycles in the UK. In this article however, we shall leave Harley-Davidson to one side and take a look at BMW's R1200C cruiser, as well as the Triumph Thunderbird.
BMW's cruiser was in production for around seven years, starting in 1997. During this time, BMW manufactured a reported 40,218 R1200Cs bikes. Not known for its cruiser motorcycles, the R1200C was something of a departure for BMW, and the bike was very much an attempt by the automobile giant to tap into the huge cruiser market. This is in stark contrast to Triumph, for which updating old models is a major part of its modus operandi. The Triumph Thunderbird, for example, is just one of a range of vehicles that take old-fashioned petrol-soaked power as an aesthetic starting point.
Nonetheless, the BMW R1200C is a confident entry into the cruiser family. It was designed by the head designer at BMW, David Robb, and featured a combined passenger seat/backrest, and smart, chrome styling. Several changes were made during its production run - from small modifications such as upgrading the rear light bezel to chromed metal (it had been previously made from plastic) to major changes such as the introduction of anti-lock braking. In 2002, BMW launched the R1200CLC, which came with many upgraded features including a CD player, heated seats and GPS (as an optional extra).
BMW ceased production of the R1200C and associated models in 2004, and have not attempted another cruiser bike as yet. The reason given was that its 1,170 cc engine was at odds with current fashions in the cruiser market - but the company did say that they may consider creating another cruiser in the future.
The Triumph Thunderbird is one of the British manufacturer's most powerful cruiser bikes, with an engine capacity of 1597 cc. It is also available in a souped-up version with a 1699 cc engine - the Triumph Thunderbird Storm. Visually, the bike aims for a much more aggressive look than BMW's model, with exposed engine parts and huge exhausts. The original model is available in one colour - 'Phantom Black', whilst the Thunderbird Storm comes in matt black.
The modern-day Thunderbird is named after an older bike, which was manufactured from 1949 until 1966. The name has subsequently been used three times for new models, though the newest version - with its modern components and black-as-night styling - bears little resemblance to the original Thunderbird. The latest Triumph Thunderbird model was announced in 2008 and was introduced in 2009. The first models were offered with an optional clutch cover that featured the original Thunderbird logo, which was designed by famed motorcycle designer Edward Turner.
In a match-up between American and British motorcycle manufacturers, this article looks at the benefits of the Triumph Thunderbird and the BMW R1200C. Both bikes are based on classic 'cruiser' designs.