Rear suspension units were softened off over the previous model for a more comfortable ride and the seat height upped by 10mm to 750mm. The best change was the moving of the footrests back by 100mm and down 20mm to make the seating position more natural, read comfortable, than the old custom feet forward style.
The Roadster did a good job of hiding its 367kg (wet) weight and was actually a very easy, nimble bike to ride. Ground clearance wasn’t great, but the footpeg blobs were replaceable. Good brakes, too. ABS was standard on the Roadster and tuned nicely for big braking action before chiming in.
Handling was more machete than scalpel, but it got the job done and was surprisingly capable for a lump that could create its own solar eclipse.
The 2294cc triple-cylinder has been around in various guises since 2004 but in 2009 a ruck of mods upped torque to a mighty 163ftlb, and power to 146bhp. The revised exhaust layout including bigger volume silencers was the reason for the power increase – and incredible noise at high rpm.
Forward thinking was crucial along with a right foot that’s poised over the back brake to settle matters down, but that roar as the engine reaches 5000rpm or so was a treat.
Gearbox shift mechanism was updated for sweeter shifts and the clutch and shaft drive were beefed up to cope with the extra output… and tomfoolery the Roadster eggs you into.
There were a few reported niggles with the very first Rocket models e.g. rear shaft drive seal. Chrome finish could suffer if not looked after carefully.
MCN spoke to Adrian Clancy, head mechanic at Total Triumph in Taunton, Somerset, about living with the Rocket III.
"We get quite a few Rocket IIIs in, but they’re only really ever visiting for tyres, brake pads and services. The early bikes had a silver engine and I think it was 2006 or 2007 that they went to black engines and the colour change coincided with a lot of upgrades to the engine and gearbox to keep engine noise and harshness down and to make them a bit more refined.
"There are some things to watch out for on them, and the biggest issue I’ve seen over the years is dodgy ignition switches. You turn the ignition on and if you fiddle with the key the ignition can cut out – we’ve had to change quite a few barrels over the years.
"They’re also heavy on rear brake pads, which is to be expected, and heavy on rear tyres, which probably goes without saying. Some riders complained about clutch slip on really early models, but I remember the clutch springs being upgraded on later bikes.
"There were also customers complaining about an oil leak coming from the side of the engine. It turned out to be a preservative that was sprayed on the bike while it was stored. It was cleaned off before sale, but some of it would get trapped behind the side-mounted oil tank.
"When the engine got up to temperature the preservative would melt and drip down the side of the engine and look like an oil leak. If you see one that’s been sitting up over winter or in a showroom for a long time you might see fork seals starting to leak.
"But more often than not, all it takes to sort it is to dry it off and go for a road test. The seal isn't damaged, it just relaxes and allows a tiny weep of oil out, so going for a spin will make it good again.
"The later you can buy the better. If you stick to the black engines you’ll be alright and if I had to narrow it down I’d say one from 2009 on is the one to go for."
The Rocket III holds its value well so don't expect to see many low mileage second hand bargains.
Insurance group: 17 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.
Shaft drive for reliability and low maintenance was good. ABS also good. And heavy use of black coating throughout the bike was okay for the styling exercise. Little details like the addition of digital readouts for fuel range, gear indicator and time of day were also nice touches. To sum up: it’s all there and it works – this includes the biggest production motorcycle engine ever.