Triumph Rocket III review

The Rocket handles, cruises and flies like shit off a shovel! Owners won’t be disappointed – the next time you get blasted on the quarter mile from the lights, it may well be the big beast from Hinckley

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Thu, 1 Jan 2004 - 12:01

Details
Manufacturer:
Triumph
Category:
Custom
Price:
£ 11999
Overall
4
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Few can match the sheer presence of this monster!
It is B. I. G. And we mean BIG. It may just be too much motorbike for some

The first thing that is evident as you walk around the Rocket III is that this is one big bike. From its glaring bug-eyed twin headlights to the huge snarling radiator, it looks ready for anything and woe betide any who get in the way.

The riding position is excellent. The foot controls are slung forward and the wide bars pull back nicely to offer supreme control. Ride 10 or 500 miles in one day and the wide plush gel-packed seat will remain 100% comfy.

The Rocket is a fantastic mix of classic lines, bulk and sleek sophistication without aping Harley. There’s enough chrome to keep you busy polishing for hours on a rainy Sunday afternoon! Triumph has even thought about solo riding, with an easily removable pillion pad.

The fuel tank is an integral part of the design package, with your legs slipping into the recesses making it easy to hug the tank. With a whopping 26-litre capacity, it has an average fuel range of 180 miles before the light comes on. If you ride flat stick everywhere, then this figure will drop below the healthy 42mpg, but riding as Mother Cruiser intended at 55-70mph will produce excellent fuel economy and a range that most tourers would envy. Then there are still four litres left on reserve...

The bars spread you wide like a sail making hard acceleration and consistent 100mph-plus speed a royal pain in the neck. And shoulders. And legs – and arms! Drop the revs back and cruise at 55mph and the Rocket III is almost perfection personified. The engine has a beautiful mid-range that feels happy at such a sedate pace, yet unlike a sportsbike doesn’t feel as if it is hassling you like a naughty imp to hit illegal speeds. Unless you want to!

The official figures are not to be baulked at. 147lb.ft of torque at 2500rpm, 140bhp at the giant 17kg crank at 5750rpm and a genuine 115bhp (est) feeding through to the rear wheel. Even with a total weight of 320kg, most of today’s modern sports bikes will be green with envy at these power statistics.

You’d think that a motorcycle displaying these dimensions would want to stick to long straight roads. Well, the Rocket doesn’t. With a genuine 120mph on the straights, she then has more than enough ground clearance (eight inches), to comfortably sweep through the twistiest of routes. This is made simpler due to the low centre of gravity that makes it a doddle to throw her from side to side. The only time she can buck under you is over the more potholed roads; otherwise she just laughs, shrugs her shoulders and gets on with enjoying the ride ahead.

I can’t believe how much torque is on tap from such low revs. Even in top gear burbling at just under 2000rpm, the engine doesn’t falter, or miss a beat. Instead, the fuel injection is crisp and the throttle just begs to be cracked wide open for that adrenalin rush, launching you forward in a controlled but explosive manner.

The power delivery can be very deceptive, however. Top gear roll-ons from 60-100mph feel almost sluggish at first. Try the same move again and glance briefly at the speedometer and you realise just how quickly that needle rises! No data equipment was at hand but a mental count – thousand and one thousand and two thousand and three thousand and four thousand and – 100mph. She had a ton up in just over four seconds!

The engine was always destined to be the focal point of the Rocket III – at 2.3litres, how could it not be? The three chromed header pipes all exit on the right, due to the position of the engine, but act as a visual cache. The engine also serves as an integral part of the chassis, bolting directly to the tubular steel frame and swingarm. Acting almost as a cross brace to the rest of the chassis, the engine strengthens the headstock for improved feel and stiffness of the front end.

A first for Triumph – and the world – is that the Rocket III engine is three years ahead in terms of emissions. It’s the first engine to have passed the stringent Cat 3 European Emissions laws due to hit manufacturers hard in 2007.

Basically, there are two catalytic converters in the exhaust collector box. They’ve been placed as near to the headers as possible, so that more gasses are burnt at an earlier stage, making the Triumph a greener proposition. Fuel injection was always going to be a certainty on the Rocket. Why? With huge 52mm throttle bodies, twin butterfly valves were needed and the easiest and most efficient way to control them was by ECU. Triumph has been able to produce a particularly smooth power delivery by doing so.

By dropping the power seven per cent in first and second gears and leaving third as a transitional gear, full power can be delivered in fourth and fifth in a safe environment, when on the open road, rather than filtering through busy traffic. Throttle response is almost instantaneous. Not surprisingly, the Rocket III produces more torque at idle than a Triumph Tiger’s maximum power output.

Shaft final drive is used by Triumph for the first time and this could be why the five-speed gearbox is the only potential downside to the Rocket III. Mostly slick, it did get lumpy after a while, with first often difficult to find at the lights.

As a bonus, the shaft is completely maintenance free. The clutch is light and letting it slip out from a standstill, it’s possible to hoist the front or spin up the rear, showing just how much power is initially available. Triumph has already made an aftermarket rocker gear change assembly and I think this would make an invaluable addition to both the styling and the ease of gear changes.

The standard exhaust note is disappointingly quiet, allowing you to move in on prey like a stealth bomber, unnoticed until the final strike. However, whack on the straight-through aftermarket pipes – minus the Cat converters – and she roars to life with all the finesse of a herd of wildebeest. Click down through the gears coming into town and she spits and farts like a cowboy. That glorious exhaust note of a Triumph triple with open pipes announces your arrival to all and sundry five minutes before anyone sees the front wheel!

The brakes are superb. To the front are giant 320mm twin discs with four pot calipers, taken directly from the 955i, which bring all of the 320kg to an almost instant standstill. I don’t think that I fretted once that she wouldn’t haul up with plenty of breathing space. Even braking down hard from a ton, she still had plenty of feel and bite to leave you concentrating on the road ahead, rather than preparing for Flintstone-style feet down braking.

The 316mm twin pot rear is equally solid and has been designed specifically by Brembo for the Rocket III. You sometimes forget in a world of sportsbikes that the back brake even exists. You almost learn to ride the brakes back to front when riding something this large, relying more on the rear.

The handling is phenomenal. With the engine set low in the frame thanks to the dry sump, the centre of gravity is so low it makes the Rocket supremely easy to manoeuvre at any speed and for any sized rider. Take your hands off the bars at 70mph and she doesn’t waver, filling you with confidence in the bike’s balance. Instead, she remains perfectly focused like an obedient pedigree at Crufts!

The 240 section rear may be for show – and could go down a few sizes – but it doesn’t affect the handling, except to accentuate the solid feel of stability. The price may make you think twice about performing endless burnouts, as it’s around the £300 mark for the pair!

Now, what does any discerning cruiser rider want to do once the bike is run in? Personalise and add as many aftermarket parts as humanly possible to an already gleaming steed. There will be 51 products by the time the Rocket III hits the dealers, with more to follow later in the year.
The first thing that is evident as you walk around the Rocket III is that this is one big bike. From its glaring bug-eyed twin headlights to the huge snarling radiator, it looks ready for anything and woe betide any who get in the way.

The riding position is excellent. The foot controls are slung forward and the wide bars pull back nicely to offer supreme control. Ride 10 or 500 miles in one day and the wide plush gel-packed seat will remain 100% comfy.

The Rocket is a fantastic mix of classic lines, bulk and sleek sophistication without aping Harley. There’s enough chrome to keep you busy polishing for hours on a rainy Sunday afternoon! Triumph has even thought about solo riding, with an easily removable pillion pad.

The fuel tank is an integral part of the design package, with your legs slipping into the recesses making it easy to hug the tank. With a whopping 26-litre capacity, it has an average fuel range of 180 miles before the light comes on. If you ride flat stick everywhere, then this figure will drop below the healthy 42mpg, but riding as Mother Cruiser intended at 55-70mph will produce excellent fuel economy and a range that most tourers would envy. Then there are still four litres left on reserve...

The bars spread you wide like a sail making hard acceleration and consistent 100mph-plus speed a royal pain in the neck. And shoulders. And legs – and arms! Drop the revs back and cruise at 55mph and the Rocket III is almost perfection personified. The engine has a beautiful mid-range that feels happy at such a sedate pace, yet unlike a sportsbike doesn’t feel as if it is hassling you like a naughty imp to hit illegal speeds. Unless you want to!

The official figures are not to be baulked at. 147lb.ft of torque at 2500rpm, 140bhp at the giant 17kg crank at 5750rpm and a genuine 115bhp (est) feeding through to the rear wheel. Even with a total weight of 320kg, most of today’s modern sports bikes will be green with envy at these power statistics.

You’d think that a motorcycle displaying these dimensions would want to stick to long straight roads. Well, the Rocket doesn’t. With a genuine 120mph on the straights, she then has more than enough ground clearance (eight inches), to comfortably sweep through the twistiest of routes. This is made simpler due to the low centre of gravity that makes it a doddle to throw her from side to side. The only time she can buck under you is over the more potholed roads; otherwise she just laughs, shrugs her shoulders and gets on with enjoying the ride ahead.

I can’t believe how much torque is on tap from such low revs. Even in top gear burbling at just under 2000rpm, the engine doesn’t falter, or miss a beat. Instead, the fuel injection is crisp and the throttle just begs to be cracked wide open for that adrenalin rush, launching you forward in a controlled but explosive manner.

The power delivery can be very deceptive, however. Top gear roll-ons from 60-100mph feel almost sluggish at first. Try the same move again and glance briefly at the speedometer and you realise just how quickly that needle rises! No data equipment was at hand but a mental count – thousand and one thousand and two thousand and three thousand and four thousand and – 100mph. She had a ton up in just over four seconds!

The engine was always destined to be the focal point of the Rocket III – at 2.3litres, how could it not be? The three chromed header pipes all exit on the right, due to the position of the engine, but act as a visual cache. The engine also serves as an integral part of the chassis, bolting directly to the tubular steel frame and swingarm. Acting almost as a cross brace to the rest of the chassis, the engine strengthens the headstock for improved feel and stiffness of the front end.

A first for Triumph – and the world – is that the Rocket III engine is three years ahead in terms of emissions. It’s the first engine to have passed the stringent Cat 3 European Emissions laws due to hit manufacturers hard in 2007.

Basically, there are two catalytic converters in the exhaust collector box. They’ve been placed as near to the headers as possible, so that more gasses are burnt at an earlier stage, making the Triumph a greener proposition. Fuel injection was always going to be a certainty on the Rocket. Why? With huge 52mm throttle bodies, twin butterfly valves were needed and the easiest and most efficient way to control them was by ECU. Triumph has been able to produce a particularly smooth power delivery by doing so.

By dropping the power seven per cent in first and second gears and leaving third as a transitional gear, full power can be delivered in fourth and fifth in a safe environment, when on the open road, rather than filtering through busy traffic. Throttle response is almost instantaneous. Not surprisingly, the Rocket III produces more torque at idle than a Triumph Tiger’s maximum power output.

Shaft final drive is used by Triumph for the first time and this could be why the five-speed gearbox is the only potential downside to the Rocket III. Mostly slick, it did get lumpy after a while, with first often difficult to find at the lights.

As a bonus, the shaft is completely maintenance free. The clutch is light and letting it slip out from a standstill, it’s possible to hoist the front or spin up the rear, showing just how much power is initially available. Triumph has already made an aftermarket rocker gear change assembly and I think this would make an invaluable addition to both the styling and the ease of gear changes.

The standard exhaust note is disappointingly quiet, allowing you to move in on prey like a stealth bomber, unnoticed until the final strike. However, whack on the straight-through aftermarket pipes – minus the Cat converters – and she roars to life with all the finesse of a herd of wildebeest. Click down through the gears coming into town and she spits and farts like a cowboy. That glorious exhaust note of a Triumph triple with open pipes announces your arrival to all and sundry five minutes before anyone sees the front wheel!

The brakes are superb. To the front are giant 320mm twin discs with four pot calipers, taken directly from the 955i, which bring all of the 320kg to an almost instant standstill. I don’t think that I fretted once that she wouldn’t haul up with plenty of breathing space. Even braking down hard from a ton, she still had plenty of feel and bite to leave you concentrating on the road ahead, rather than preparing for Flintstone-style feet down braking.

The 316mm twin pot rear is equally solid and has been designed specifically by Brembo for the Rocket III. You sometimes forget in a world of sportsbikes that the back brake even exists. You almost learn to ride the brakes back to front when riding something this large, relying more on the rear.

The handling is phenomenal. With the engine set low in the frame thanks to the dry sump, the centre of gravity is so low it makes the Rocket supremely easy to manoeuvre at any speed and for any sized rider. Take your hands off the bars at 70mph and she doesn’t waver, filling you with confidence in the bike’s balance. Instead, she remains perfectly focused like an obedient pedigree at Crufts!

The 240 section rear may be for show – and could go down a few sizes – but it doesn’t affect the handling, except to accentuate the solid feel of stability. The price may make you think twice about performing endless burnouts, as it’s around the £300 mark for the pair!

Now, what does any discerning cruiser rider want to do once the bike is run in? Personalise and add as many aftermarket parts as humanly possible to an already gleaming steed. There will be 51 products by the time the Rocket III hits the dealers, with more to follow later in the year.
Length (mm) 2480
Width (mm) 880
Height (mm) 1150
Dryweight (kg) 320
Seats 0
Seat Height (mm) 740
Suspension Front 43mm USD forks
Suspension Rear Chromed spring twin shocks
Adjustability Rear Adjustable preload
Wheels Front 17 x 3.5in
Wheels Rear 16 x 7.5in
Tyres Front 150/80 R17
Tyres Rear 240/50 R16
Brakes Front Twin 320mm discs, 4 piston calipers
Brakes Rear Single 316mm disc, 2 piston caliper
Tank Capacity (litres) 25
Wheelbase (mm) 1690
Rake (degrees) 32
Trail (mm) 152
Chassis Tubular steel
Cubic Capacity (cc) 2294
Max Power (bhp) 140
Max Power Peak (rpm) 5750
Torque (ft/lb) 147
Torque Peak (rpm) 2500
Bore (mm) 101.6
Stroke (mm) 94.3
Valve Gear DOHC
Compression Ratio 8.7
Ignition Digital - inductive type
Cooling Liquid cooled
Fuel Delivery Multipoint sequential electronic injection
Stroke Type Four Stroke
Drive Shaft
Top Speed

Score Breakdown
Overall
4
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