“All I really need is third gear”. That was my initial thought after riding Triumph’s new Rocket 3 R roadster and Rocket 3 GT cruiser. While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, for most purposes the 3rd gear will allow you to trundle along serenely or blast through curves without breaking a sweat. In other words, The Rocket 3 R and Rocket 3 GT are torque monsters.
It’s not difficult to understand why. Triumph has wholly redesigned its Rocket lineup and the fruits of their efforts are startling. With a clean sheet design, the new Rockets up the ante over their predecessors by a wide margin.
Beastly Rocket 3 engine
Triumph started with a new 2,500 cc inline-triple engine that is now the world’s largest production motorcycle engine from a major manufacturer. The new engine pumps out a claimed 165 HP, a significant 11% more than the previous design. While that is impressive, it’s its torque that’s the star of the show.
Making a claimed 163 lb-ft of torque (221 Nm) at only 4,000 RPM, the Triumph says the new Rocket 3s make 71% more torque than the closest competition. You get almost the same level of torque from between 3,500 to 5,500 RPM. Better still, you get more than 147 lb-ft of torque from as low as 2,500 RPM all the way through to 5,750 RPM.
And, even with the added power, Triumph was able to shave a total of 18 kg from the weight of the engine by using a new crankcase (11kg), a new lubrication system (3.9 kg) and new balancer shafts (3.6 kg).
More, more, more
When compared to its predecessor, the new Rockets provide their torque over a much broader RPM range. The previous Rockets provide their best torque from about 2,500 RPM until about 3,300 RPM. From that point on, torque output declines quickly.
In contrast, the new Rocket 3 makes slightly less torque from 2,500 RPM to about 3,400 RPM. But then the new machines make significantly more torque all the way to their 7,000 RPM redline. That’s rich, smooth torque for an additional 3,600 RPM. Can you say broad, flat torque curve?
Both bikes feature a six-speed helical-cut gearbox. Shift action is smooth, if not a bit firm. The Rockets utilize a “torque-assist hydraulic clutch.” The company says it offers a lighter clutch action and reduced clutch lever effort to provide more rider comfort and control. From my vantage point, the clutch pull was not light, but it was not overly difficult either. Let’s say that it has an average pull.
Rocket 3; More than just an engine
While all that power and torque is nice, it doesn’t help if the bike isn’t capable, or fun to ride. Triumph has paid attention to this as well and has put together a package that provides exceptional torque with handling and comfort.
One of Triumph’s design parameters was to build a machine that provides an imposing, muscular stance and a dominating presence. While appearance is quite subjective, I think that many of you will agree that they have reached that goal.
The beautifully designed triple engine looks imposing on both sides. The three hydroformed hand tig welded exhausts clamor for attention on the right side while the left side provides a muscular and smooth looking view of the intake and crankcase.
Two big wide tires and wheels steal attention when stopped. At the rear, a big fat 240/50 ZR16 tire/wheel combination is mated to an aluminum single-sided swingarm with shaft drive. On the other end of the bike, a 150/80 ZR17 tire/wheel looks impressive and imposing. Both the front and rear tires are specially made by Avon for the Rockets.
With its beast of an engine, you may wonder whether Triumph had to design a new massive and heavier frame? The answer to that question is no. As a clean sheet of paper design, Triumph’s new aluminum frame weighs in at 13 kg (~29 pounds) and now weighs over 50% less than the one it replaces. And, it’s up to the challenge of the new engine. More on that later.
The new frame is not just the backbone of the bike but is an integral part of the machine. It uses the engine as a stressed member and houses the bike’s forward-facing air intake. All of the bike’s cables and hoses are optimally packaged using the space inside the frame. This gives the new Rockets a very clean look.
Mounted to the new frame are Showa suspension components. Upfront, a 47 mm adjustable Showa fork is adjustable for rebound and compression damping and has 120 mm of travel. At the rear, a Showa monoshock with a piggyback reservoir lets you adjust rebound and compression damping, as well as preload. This setup gives you 107 mm of travel at the rear.
Slowing and stopping
A bike with this much power and weight needs binders that will allow you to manage your speed and bring things to a quick and uneventful stop when called upon. To that end, the front end of the Rocket 3s feature dual 320 mm discs grasped by a Brembo M4.30 Stylema® 4-piston monoblock caliper. At the rear, a Brembo M4.32 4-piston monoblock caliper grabs a single 300 mm disc.
Assisting the discs and calipers is a Triumph developed linked braking system with cornering ABS. Triumph says the system ensures optimum brake force, optimized slip rate, and torque control. This is accomplished through the use of an inertial measurement unit (IMU) developed by Continental. To provide the appropriate ABS and traction control responses, the system measures roll, pitch, yaw and acceleration rates to calculate and understand the bike’s lean angle.
As roadster/cruiser machines, Triumph has kept with a minimalistic design look, but they have not skimped on available technology. To let you know what’s happening with the machine, Triumph has added its 2nd generation full-color TFT display package which provides more functionality than the previous Rockets. In a nice touch, the screen is adjustable for viewing angle which allows you to set it for best-personalized visibility.
What appears in the display is adjustable and controlled through the use of a 5-way joystick and illuminated switches. The system is nicely thought out so you don’t have to be a “rocket scientist” (pun intended) to set up the display and bike parameters.
Speaking of bike parameters, both Rocket 3 models come equipped with four riding modes. Throttle control is ride-by-wire which Triumph claims provide enhanced safety and control and which enables each of the four riding modes. The ride modes; Road, Rain, Sport and “Rider Configured” adjust throttle map and traction control settings to suit rider preference and riding conditions and are adjustable on the fly.
Hill hold control is also standard on both Rocket 3 models. It is activated by the front brake lever and will keep the bike from rolling backward by applying the rear brake when on a hill. If you don’t want the system’s assistance, it is can be turned off via the bike’s setup menu.
Triumph has also included a host of convenience items. Now almost a necessity for longer rides, both Rocket 3s feature cruise control as standard. A keyless ignition and steering lock are also standard. Since most of us have electronic devices, Triumph has included a 5 volt USB socket under the seat with a dedicated phone compartment.
The Rocket 3 GT features some convenience items as standard that are available as options on the Rocket 3 R. To increase riding comfort in cold conditions, the Rocket 3 GT features two-level heated grips as well as a Bluetooth module that allows you to control a GoPro, turn by turn navigation and phone and music operation. The heated grips and Bluetooth module are available as an option on the Rocket 3 R.
Fit and finish
The fit and finish of both Rocket 3 models are impressive. Metal is everywhere and plastic components nearly non-existent. The fuel tank features a Monza type flip-up cap and a recessed brushed tank strap. Brushed aluminum is everywhere, including the airbox cover, gas and oil caps, exhaust heat shields and end caps.
A really nice touch is the integrated folding passenger pegs. When folded up, they blend directly into the look of the bike. You really can’t see them. It’s not until you unfold them that you know that they are there.
The Rocket 3’s twin LED headlights stand out from the crowd and feature distinctive daytime running lights (DRL). They don’t look like anything else currently out there.
The Rocket 3s come in four color options. The Rocket 3 R is available in Korosi Red and Phantom Black, while the Rocket 3 GT is available in Phantom Black or Silver Ice & Storm Grey with hand-painted Korosi Red pinstriping.
For the first segment, I was astride the Rocket 3 GT with its forward set adjustable (back to front) pegs, relaxed reach to the bars, and shortish windscreen. Its “cruiser” layout is quite comfortable and relaxed. Long-distance riders needn’t worry that they will be uncomfortable over longer rides.
For the second part of the day, I rode the Rocket 3 R which is Triumph’s roadster class bike. It features a more upright seating position, adjustable (up/down) mid-mount footpegs and a wide version of a “drag” style bar. It’s less relaxed than the GT, (125 mm (~5 inches) change between the R and GT grip position) but it does provide just a tad more feel from the front end of the bike.
Let’s ride a Rocket
That’s enough about the bike’s features. Let’s talk about riding it.
Triumph rolled out the machine in Tenerife, Canary Islands. If you are not familiar with the location, the Canary Islands are located off the west coast of Morocco and Western Sahara. The islands are the result of volcanic eruptions and form craggy mountains rising out of the sea.
The roads are an amazing mix of smooth pavement with lots of twisties especially as they make their way through the mountains. It is not only beautiful but well suited to testing the handling and comfort of both Rocket 3s. Temps were in the low 70s until we entered the mountains where we rode through a cold wet cloud layer as we approached the tops. This gave us the opportunity to ride the bikes in both wet and dry conditions.
Once we left the hotel, we almost immediately headed up the mountains and found some significant twisties. There were a mixture of sweepers as well as some very long switchback corners. At almost all times, the pace was “brisk” giving us a good feel for the bike’s handling.
Despite its size, the engine doesn’t impose on your comfort and feels smooth and relaxed. As the pace and twisties increased, the engine was well up to the task. There’s so much torque, that you will not find yourself rowing through the gearbox. You can leave it in third gear and twist the throttle to get you to well over legal speed limits quite briskly. The available torque allows you to just lope along knowing that a simple twist of the wrist is all you need to do to get up to extra-legal speed quickly once again.
Although the engine exhaust has heat shields, some of that heat can reach your leg, especially on the right side of the bike. It was never uncomfortable, but it is there.
Handling and control
Frankly, I was quite surprised by the Rocket’s nimbleness. It looks like a big machine, but it handles like a far smaller one. Steering inputs are a bit on the heavy side (as you might expect in these types of bikes), but neither the Rocket 3 R or Rocket 3 GT exhibit one iota of wallow or running wide out of corners. Each bike went where you pointed it.
Ground clearance was excellent with the pegs touching down first. Triumph’s Chief Engineer Stuart Wood told me that only the pegs will touch down and after that, nothing else will until you run out of tire. For a bike of this kind, that’s quite extraordinary. It just leans, leans, and then leans some more.
As I said earlier, the pace was quite brisk. A couple of times I entered a corner a little faster than I intended and applied some braking. The bike did not exhibit any significant tendency to want to stand up or run wide. It stayed on its selected course.
During those times, I could feel the ABS kick in but it was not a juddering or stuttering feel. It was more like the bike squatted and hunched down instead of standing up. I found out later that it was the bike’s IMU calculating the lean angle and working with the linked brakes to calculate the optimal braking. As it figured out the best braking for the conditions, it applied not only the front but the rear as well. From my standpoint, the system worked very well.
Both Rocket 3 models feature an 18 liter (4.75 US gallon) fuel tank. At Triumph’s claimed 32.4 miles per gallon claim, that should give you about 154 miles before the festivities are brought to a halt.
Hefty by design
As we said earlier, Triumph wanted the Rocket 3s to have a presence. They are big, muscular and substantial in appearance. There’s very little plastic on the bike and most of the components and accessories are metal. All that brawniness can mean big weight, and while the Rocket 3s are no lightweights, they have been on a significant diet. Overall, the bike is more than 40 kg (88 pounds) lighter than the previous generation. No matter how you cut it, that’s a big deal!
Triumph says the Rocket 3 R and Rocket 3 GT dry weights are 291 kg (640 pounds) and 294 kg (647 pounds) respectively. That’s a significant amount of weight, but the Rocket’s chassis and the suspension handle it well.
Emissions & Service interval
The new Rocket 3s exceed Euro 5 standards. Even with this state of tune, the Rocket’s first major service interval occurs at 10,000 miles (16,000 km). That’s not bad for a big, powerful machine that will likely be used hard for most of its life.
Pricing and availability
The new Rocket 3 R and Rocket 3 GT should arrive in US dealerships around December 2019. The Rocket 3 R starts at $21,900 USD ($25,900 in CAD), while the Rocket 3 GT starts at $22,600 USD ($26,700 CAD). That’s a significant amount of money, but both Rockets are significant machines.
When all is said and done, I really liked both Rocket 3s. They are powerful torque monsters that handle well and are easy to ride. While the Rocket 3 R is designed to be “sportier” roadster version, the Rocket 3 GT can do anything the R can and is slightly more comfortable.
I’ll finish with one more thought. Even if you don’t think you’d like riding either of these bikes, you owe it to yourself to at least test ride one. Their combination of torque and in your face presence can be a bit intoxicating. It certainly was for me. Have at it!
Photo/graph image credit: Triumph