Ride Quality & Brakes
Forget the previous Rocket III’s cumbersome bulk, heavy-handed handling and basic running gear; the new Rocket 3’s chassis is totally different. A cast aluminium spine frame replaces the old twin steel tubes, helping contribute to an incredible 40kg saving over the previous bike, while steering geometry is sharper and the wheelbase is shorter.
As a result the Rocket now has a proper appetite for corners the old bike couldn’t dream of. Turn-in is easy, holding a line mid-corner needs little inside bar pressure, and flick-flacking from full-lean left to right (and still ending up where you intended) is absurdly accurate for a bike with a fuelled weight north of 320kg.
Suspension is by Showa, with 47mm adjustable upside-down forks up front, and an adjustable monoshock monitoring the shaft drive. No electronic adjustment though – the clickers are all manual.
The front’s set pretty firm, meaning you can haul hard on the flagship Brembo Stylema front brakes (even the rear brake is a four-pot radially mounted caliper) to generate huge stopping force without the bike trying to tie itself in knots.
Ride quality is generally good, though the short-travel shock (just 107mm) has to work hard and can feel bouncy. Drive hard and you can clearly feel the rear end of the bike jack up though, a result of the torque reaction from the shaft drive being unchecked by any kind of parallelogram setup.
The Rocket 3 comes in two flavours, roadster R and touring GT, with the main difference being riding position. The R has a higher seat, mid-set footpegs and narrower bars, giving a more aggressive streetfighter stance, while the GT’s lower seat, feet-forward controls and wider, higher bars give a relaxed, cruiser feel. Everything is transferrable between the bikes, meaning you can create whatever kind of muscle-power-touring-cruiser you like.
Into the bin goes the Rocket III’s 2294cc triple, replaced by this all-new, gruntier, smoother, cleaner, stronger and smaller 2458cc engine. Huge 110.2mm pistons eclipse the old 101.6mm items, while stroke is significantly reduced (down from 94.3 to 85.9mm) allowing Triumph to make a shorter motor.
Peak torque is identical to the previous Rocket III Roadster, at 163lbft, but the new motor holds onto that grunt for longer as revs climb. Where the previous Rocket’s torque curve fell away sharply above 2500rpm, the new motor has a much fatter, flatter delivery. As a result, headline power is up to 165bhp.
But as ludicrous as that might sound, the reality is that it’s immensely easy to use. All that prodigious power is carefully controlled by the ride-by-wire throttle and predictive, lean-sensitive traction control, while output is restricted in lower gears and top speed is electronically limited to 138mph. It’s a beast, but one of those big, fluffy, gentle, cuddly chaps from a Disney film.
The colossal torque spread means you can ride it however you like. Plonk it in one gear and dip into the immense grunt from 2500 to 5500rpm if you’re feeling lazy, or chase the 7000rpm redline and work the new sweet-shifting six-speed gearbox for maximum thrills. There’s even an optional two-way quickshifter in Triumph’s accessory catalogue, if you like changing clutchlessly.
Build Quality & Reliability
It’s a completely new machine from nose to tail, so only time and miles will deliver a verdict on reliability. Service intervals are set at a car-like 10,000 miles, suggesting the motor is in a fairly mild state of tune and Triumph have confidence in it.
Looking over the bike in the metal, everything appears high quality (as you’d expect for £20k). The exhaust headers are a particular highlight – the welds look neat, while the hydroformed curves are apparently a huge pain to produce.
Everything seems tucked away neatly – there are no vulgar cables or hoses dangling about anywhere, and wiring runs inside the handlebars. Details like the Monza-style petrol, coolant and oil filler caps are pleasing, while the clever flip-out pillion pegs are a neat design.
Insurance, running costs & value
Clearly it’s not a cheap bike, though an ultra-capacity extreme muscle cruiser never was going to be. The Rocket 3 R is £19,500 on the road – that includes almost all the gadgets, apart from the two-way quickshifter and the heated grips.
The GT version, which includes the heated grips, a flyscreen and a pillion backrest, is £20,200. Both are roughly on a par with Ducati’s Diavel 1260 S (£20,041). A Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114 starts at £15,825, but doesn’t have a fraction of the Triumph’s tech, torque, pose or poise. If you want to go properly left-field, a Moto Guzzi MGX-21 is £19,999.
Running costs probably won’t be any kinder on the wallet. Triumph claim the motor returns 41mpg, but our test ride suggests it’s closer to 35mpg. That 240-section, 16-inch rear tyre isn’t cheap either.
The Rocket 3 has with a high-spec electronics package as standard, including TFT clocks (taken from the Scrambler 1200), an IMU giving cornering ABS and traction control, multiple rider modes, keyless ignition, cruise control, hill-hold control, and nose-to-tail LED lighting.
There’s also a 12v DIN power socket above the clocks, as well as a USB charging socket inside a foam-lined cubby hole for your phone beneath the seat. Heated grips are an option on the R, but standard on the GT. A two-way quickshifter is an accessory for both bikes too, as is a set of (fairly small) Givi panniers.
Triumph are also in the final stages of signing off a Bluetooth connectivity module and smartphone app. Between them, they’d give the ability for you to answer your phone or control music with the bike’s switchgear, receive turn-by-turn sat-nav directions (powered by Google) on the clocks, and even control a GoPro action camera.
What else could a bike possibly need? Curiously, there isn’t a fruitier exhaust in Triumph’s accessory catalogue yet. A keyless filler cap would be handy too, given the keyless ignition and steering lock.