Triumph Rocket 3 2020 review

The all-new Rocket 3 2020 was unveiled in Tenerife, and that's where Visordown headed off to in order to test this eagerly-awaited bike.

Bucket list amounts of power and torque; Styling and details that are second to none; Comfort on both versions was good
19l tank empties fairly quickly when you’re having fun; ABS at the front was a tad too intrusive for my liking; Ground clearance on the GT

The Rocket 3 2020 is a proper 'big bike'. Yes, the term can be loosely tagged on to most new motorcycles in one form or another; after all, to the manufacturers who build them, every bike is a big bike in either size, weight of expectation or performance on an end of year sales report. But there are very few bikes that can compete with the new Triumph Rocket 3 on all of those counts.

To begin with, lets just clear one thing up regarding the new beast from Hinckley. This is not a Euro5 circumnavigation effort. Yes, the old bike was killed off by the Euro regs' but there are almost no crossover parts from the old to the new. From the ground up, the new Rocket 3 is just that, completely new, inside and out.

Rocket 3 2020: Colours, Variants, and Price

There are two versions of the machine available, the Rocket 3 R and the Rocket 3 GT. Beneath the skin, the bikes are the same, with the R being a more stripped back and raw machine, while the GT has a smattering of creature comforts included.

The R features mid-set rests, slightly swept-back bars and a low-level seat with no backrest. The GT has a small fly-screen, comfort seat, forward controls, bars that sit 105mm closer to the rider and a small adjustable backrest to prevent your pillion being gobbled up by that huge 240 section rear tyre!

Both versions come in Phantom Black, with the Rocket 3 R also available in Korosi Red and the Rocket 3 GT having a two-tone Silver Ice & Storm Grey option that includes a Korosi Red pinstripe decal. There are also some additional cosmetic differences, but essentially the rest of the two motorcycles are the same.

The Rocket 3 R comes in at £19,500 and the GT is £20,200.

Rocket 3 2020: Engine

One of the main factors that make the new Rocket 3 a ‘big bike’ is that monster engine. At 2458cc, the new unit is the biggest engine currently available in a production motorcycle. Despite being around 200cc larger than the old unit, the 2020 version has been slimmed down massively, with a new crankcase assembly, dry sump, and balance shafts all contributing to an 18kg weight saving over the old model's motor.

Performance figures for the bike are also suitably impressive, with 165hp delivered at 6000rpm and 221Nm (163ft-lbs) of torque arriving at 4000rpm. The torque is really what this bike is about, and it’s all located in one of the flattest and chunkiest dyno curves you’ve probably ever seen. The engine while exciting and eager to hurtle you at the horizon with the merest flick of the wrist is still manageable and not as intimidating as you’d expect from such a large machine. The numbers backing the bike up would also make it the ideal machine to load up with passengers and luggage for a cross-continent jaunt – just keep an eye on the fuel gauge!

One factor I noticed on the press ride was that the GT, with its feet-forward riding position. would mean your right leg was resting on the trick looking hydro-formed exhaust headers. Not a bad thing on a freezing winter commute, slightly more uncomfortable on a summer’s day though.

Rocket 3 2020: Suspension

At 291kg (293kg for the GT) there is no hiding the fact that the Rocket 3 is a bloody big bike. And big bikes need to be supported by decent suspension. Thankfully, Triumph has enlisted Showa to suspend the new Rocket 3 with some equally chunky 47mm fully adjustable front forks and Showa piggyback shock with remote pre-load adjuster at the rear.

It’s a plush set up that never really felt out of sorts unless you were hammering hard on the anchors from silly speeds over some less than perfect road surfaces. Other than that, it has all the support that you’d expect from a big naked, just with less feedback from the road as the massive balloon-like tyres neuter out much of the advice you’d normally get from the road.

Rocket 3 2020: Brakes

Following the suspension is, of course, an equally butch braking system, which I’m pretty sure has more surface area, braking pressure and rotational mass than any other set up. Here we have a set of Brembo Stylema four-piston calipers up front that bite down onto 320mm discs, and a 300mm disc and Brembo four-pot caliper at the rear.

All the brakes are fed through a six-axis IMU, which calculates the lean angle, road speed and braking pressure to help prevent any embarrassing moments. To be completely honest, I found the ABS a bit overzealous, cutting in quickly at both ends when slowing in a straight line on a dry road, with audible chirps from the tyres as the system cut in and out. It’s not a track bike though, and certain aspects of the set up are there for the diesel strewn roundabouts we all encounter at some point.

Rocket 3 2020: Handling

I’m steering clear of the road-testers old adage, ‘the weight melts away on the move’. It doesn’t, you can still feel the mass of the bike, but it’s carried in such a way that getting a hustle on down your favourite B-road will be surprisingly easy, fun and quick. Triumph has built an all-new frame for the 2020 Rocket 3 which helps to add up to an overall 40kg weight saving over the previous model. One advantage of riding a bike of this size, weight and with such strong suspension beneath it is that it feels extremely planted in the turns. There was never any nervous twitches or head-shaking moments out on the road, just a sure-footed and balanced feeling that the chassis was more than up to the job at hand.

It’s faster steering than you’d expect too, with the front tyre (150/80 x 17) dropping the bike on its ear in a bend with surprising ease and accuracy. It’s never going to be as quick steering as a sports-oriented machine, the near 28° of rake and 5.3 inches of trail see to that, but with some persuasion and forward planning you can still knit together apexes with surprising efficiency and the bike remains super-composed and stable at above motorway speeds.

Of the two bikes one stood out as being markedly better in the turns than the other in the form of the R. It’s mid-set pegs would take longer to deck out – the GT found the limit a matter of metres after leaving the hotel – and the handlebars on the R being closer to the forks gave a more direct feeling in low and high-speed corners, at the slight expense of some comfort.

Rocket 3 2020: Design

The keynote speech form many of the modern classic Triumphs is the fit, finish and detailing of the bike, and the new Rocket 3 does not disappoint. The handlebars have cables and wires routed inside them for a clean, sleek look. Even the frame is designed so many of the control systems, wiring loom and so on, are hidden inside the frame and away from prying eyes.

The exterior look of the bike is just as well thought out, with neat design and styling touches highlighting the key areas of the bike, helping to create a look that is both imposing and attractive. If you’ve not seen the new Triumph in the flesh, I’d recommend it. The pictures don’t really do it justice.

Rocket 3 2020: Equipment

The bike is fitted with Triumph’s latest generation TFT dash that will, at the time the bikes hit the showrooms, feature the Bluetooth connectivity system that allows turn by turn navigation and call answer and cancel through the left-hand switch cube.

The Rocket 3 also features four riding modes, Rain, Road, Sport, and Rider, with Rider being a user-configurable setup that allows you to turn off certain things and tune the settings to your preference. For most of the day, I rode in Sport mode, with the traction control turned down and the throttle response being the most direct option available. In this setting, the bike's electronics were at their lowest possible state – without turning off the TC manually – and the only real intrusion to the party was the ABS as I mentioned earlier.

Should I buy the Rocket 3 2020?

The original Triumph Rocket III (2004) quickly cemented itself as the halo product in the Triumph range. It had a versatile nature that could lend itself to scratching with the sportsbikes on a B-road, carrying a couple of folk cross-continent or even plodding along on a winter commute. For fans of the original machine, fear not; none of those attributes have been lost. What we now have is a lighter, leaner, better equipped and more environmentally friendly Rocket, it’s also no doubt better to ride, faster and I’d say better looking than the old bike to boot.

If you’re new to these kind of big-CC, oversized bikes and fancy a go on the new machine, you have to know what you’re getting into when you ride it. Expecting it to do all the things your lightweight naked motorcycle could do is like judging a fish’s ability to succeed by asking it to climb a tree. You’re only going to find faults that actually aren’t there.

If you never rode the original Rocket III, there is a lot of refinement, style and one huge, 2.5l reason to get yourself a test ride on the new model. I guarantee you will come back from that ride with a smile on your face.