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I dont know how you determine wich handles better. Most of my bikes are kawasaki and they all outhandle the bird. Yes they have some inherent problems but only at speeds and lean angles that the thunderbird cant achieve to begin with.
I wont get into picking the bikes apart that supposedly handled back then as I have ridden most and beaten most threw the turns with so called inferior handleing Jap bikes. What I will say is that The thunderbird handles well for what it is but it can not hold any one of my old Jap bikes threw the turns as they all will outrun/outperform it.
My thunderbird gets ridden hard and I have no chicken strips on my tires and am already threw the feelers and into the pegs of the bike. So I feel I am ridding the bird to its full potential and am capeable of making a fair comparison since I have the old bikes right here in perfect working order and do ride them on a regular basis.
My most regular riding buddy has a 2007 Vulcan Nomad 1600 and when he really decides to get serious I cannot hang with him in the corners. I do not know if this is the bike or his superior riding skills. Would be fun to get one of you more experienced riders to follow him up some twisties. I know I'm not super aggressive in the corners because I have nearly 7,000 miles on my bike and my pegs aren't even half ground down yet.
 

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Theres a guy who regularly rides the tail of the dragon on a gold wing and there are lots of guys even on sport bikes that admit they can't hang with him. So yeah, riding skills are certainly a big part of it until you compare bikes with the same rider. If you put your buddy on a bird he might have stop and have a smoke till you catch up. I've been behind at least one harley guy i could just barely keep up with and had a few sport bikes pull over and let me pass because they couldn't get me off thier tail. Those aren't just made up or exaggerated experiences either, i mean it. It's all about the rider. I do think your buddy on a Tbird would smoke himself on his vulcan.
 

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I rather like the visual of him smoking himself! I raced him on Sunday - flat out he hits about 110 - I was in 5th gear and had some left over. Let him know later...oh by the way...I had another gear!!!!! Would trade that extra gear in tho for his riding skills - time and miles, I know will hone my skills. I've thought about taking one of those advanced riding classes but really I think I could learn just as much talking to and riding behind guys better than me. Come on, Daz...Road Trip!!??
 

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In many cases its the rider. I would assume in this case its the rider and agree with dazco that he would smoke himself if he were to run the thunderbird around a timed course against his vulcan. providing he has a little seat time to get a good feel of the bike.

Following a better rider does help but really learning to push a bike requiers track time and proper instruction for most! Please dont overstep your ability while trying to become better! Remember on the street we have to consider the possability of other riders and drivers if something were to happen.
 

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Ok gents - here is an example of rider skill just dominating the bike. You could give this guy a Honda 250 and most of us probably couldn't keep up. This is pretty impressive.

 

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Besides the fact that you guys are nutz, I take comfort in the fact that I can ride as hard as I want without any problems. Since what I want pleases me and is less than you guys need, I'm in pig heaven letting me know what the limits are!
 
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