Or is too big at two and a half litres only just big enough?

I have ridden a Boss Hoss, and I can tell you that those things are too big. I’m 5’ 11” and check in at 210 pounds; an average sort of bloke. The Boss Hoss simply stretched my imagination too far; I thought it was going to fall over at any moment. It may be right form you, it ain’t right for me.

When I rode the first Triumph Rocket III at the Australian launch, I never felt as if the bike was physically too big for me. Performance-wise maybe; I was actually glad that there was a limiter on the revs you could extract from the mighty triple in the lower gears. But once I was used to it, the bike felt fine. The Tour version with its somewhat narrower rear tyre in fact felt just right, and I put a few thousand kilometres on one in the Australian Outback, where the bike was definitely at home. I took it out to meet its friends at the rocket proving grounds at Woomera in the South Australian desert. (It’s the bike in the opening photo.)

The original Rocket III Tourer goes to meet its friends out in the South Australian desert.

There were more than 400 paid-up orders for the Rocket in Australia before the first one had hit the docks. But then there were also a lot of barely used ones for sale not long after they were delivered, as some of the buyers found that the bike was, in fact, too much for them.

There won’t be 400 advance orders for the new, bigger and more powerful Rocket III. That will be partly because there are only going to be 750 of them, and though we don’t yet know how many of those will reach Australia shores, I suspect it won’t be more than maybe 20. I also suspect that all of those were sold the moment the bike was announced.

Yes, there is definitely a touch of the Diavel about the Rocket III.

This Rocket is the second model of Triumph’s new limited edition Triumph Factory Customs. The first was the TFC Thruxton in this series that’s clearly based on Harley-Davidson’s Custom Vehicle Operations bikes. But although the concept might be based on an idea from Milwaukee, the bike is going for the throat of a motorcycle from Bologna. The Ducati Diavel is the bike in the new Rocket’s sights. That only gives it one real opponent, unlike BMW’s new 1800cc (sheesh, only 1800?) hunka-dunka cruiser, which will have to compete in a crowded field with the many models from Milwaukee and Spirit Lake.

Building on the legacy of the old Rocket III launched in 2004, the new bike has been updated in just about every way possible. The stump-pulling three cylinder engine has grown to 2458cc, the biggest motorcycle engine in current production. It also has the torquiest engine at 163ftlb and it produces a staggering (truly) 167bhp. The technical wizardry that has made this possible includes such things as titanium valves and an absolutely up-to-date electronics package. It includes four riding modes and a quickshifter and autoblipper. Between you and the wheels are 47mm fully-adjustable Showa cartridge forks and a fully adjustable piggyback shock. Braking is by Brembo with an adjustable radial master cylinder operating on a set of top-spec Stylema calipers like the Panigale V4.

A clean and intelligent layout greets the rider.

Safety is assisted by lean-sensitive traction control and cornering ABS. Naturally the bike has cruise control, hill hold control, keyless ignition and tyre pressure monitoring. Up front is a full-colour TFT display which will pair with your phone using the optional Bluetooth dongle to give you the ability to play music and take calls, access Google maps and take advantage of GoPro integration.

Bottom pampering for one, or two? Given the power, perhaps there ought to be a seat for four…

The styling looks pretty successful as well, moving away from the tugboat looks of the original Rocket III to something much more elegant. Depending on the use to which you intend to put this behemoth, you also have a choice of a single or dual seat, both beautifully styled.

It’s one of only 750 around the world. What if you mortgaged the twins?

And now we come to that critical question. Since it is pretty much inevitable that Triumph will follow up the TFC with a regular (and slightly more affordable) standard version, we really should ask: is two and a half liters a realistic size for a motorcycle engine? Never mind “does anyone need this”; nobody needs it. But will enough people want it to make a standard Rocket III, probably augmented by a touring version as before, a viable part of Triumph’s or anyone else’s lineup?

What do you think? Would you buy one, or an equally large bike from another manufacturer?

 

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