Presence. It’s something the Rocket III Roadster has in abundance, and just staring at it in the Triumph factory car park I feel slightly intimidated by its looks, as well as the numbers. 2294cc and a kerb weight of 367kg mean I’m going to give it some respect.
Triumph has changed tack slightly by pitching the Roadster as a musclebike, rather than the cruiser the previous bike was. The Rocket III line up has altered to accommodate this change by getting rid of the standard Rocket III and the Cruiser variants, leaving this bike - the Roadster - and the Tourer as the only choices available.
The first thought provoking moment rears its head as we leave the factory gates, as a slow and tight S-bend leads onto a roundabout and the open road. I’d noticed the 240 section Metzeler Marathon rear tyre before I climbed aboard, but it really takes some positive input from the bars to get the Roadster to turn, which is a bit unnerving to begin with to someone who is more used to sportier bikes with 180 section rears that just drop into turns at the slightest thought.
Fortunately, to go with the bike’s mean street image, the Roadster comes equipped with wide enough bars to make manhandling it through turns not too much of an ordeal. What’s also noticeable even so early on as I negotiate the car park and exit of the factory is how well balanced the Rocket III feels for such a large heavy bike. This would later be demonstrated by Triumph’s stunt maestro Kevin Carmichael at Bruntingthorpe, as he effortlessly completes impossibly tight figure of eights at no more than walking pace.
Out on the roads around Hinckley and the Rocket is a surprise. While tighter corners take a bit of planning to get round, the overall experience of the handling gave me a big smile on my face, and then when you find a clear straight, that huge 2.3 litre engine can be unleashed. Which is where I was left a bit cold.
Admittedly, I think I must have built up the power delivery in my mind and formed an opinion of how it must feel before even turning the key. In the pre-ride presentation an impressive looking graph caught my eye showing the new Rocket III having 15% more torque and 6% more power.
How can 146bhp and 163ft.lb torque not manage to knock my socks off when I really open it up? Although it is very fast, the power plant builds power progressively like a turbine, there’s even a whir to go with it as the speed builds. It’s the kind of smoothness that is the goal for most manufacturers when it comes to engine characteristics, but it seems to be lacking that indefinable something we all look for in a bike: soul.
I was expecting a real kick in the teeth like Yamaha’s V-Max, but it just never happens. It feels strong at low revs as it should with three 101.6mm diameter pistons thumping up and down, and there aren’t any noticeable holes in delivery, but there’s just not the top end rush I expected as the needle reaches its 6,500rpm redline.