Ron  Betist
Ron Betist

The Triumph Rocket 3; roadtested

3 februari 2022

To top off three consecutive weeks of riding big (or should I say GIANT?) bikes I was offered the opportunity to test the 2021 Triumph Rocket 3 R for a full seven days. And what a week it turned out to be!

Big bikes; in search of superlatives

The prelude to this week was composed by the BMW R18 Transcontinental and the Indian Roadmaster Heritage. Both machines are fitted out with 1.800 cc engines and pack an impressive amount of ‘oomph!’ in the torque department as well as in the horse stable.

I am happy to ride nearly any bike but there are those that give you extra pleasure. The BMW R18 and the Indian Roadmaster are sort of similar bikes, in spite of the totally different styles. I try to adopt myself and my riding style as much as I can to fit to the bike I am testing. On most occasions, I managed to keep my inner demons and the hooligan safely locked away in the panniers of those bikes. But the Triumph is a naked bike without such storage options.

Do I like it?

When Triumph launched (pun intend) the Rocket back in 2004 the whole world thought the engineers in Hinckley had gone completely bonkers. How much fun these guys must have had when they were designing that machine though. Truth be told, being a caféracer afficionado, I was never a big fan of the Rocket. I just did not see the point in creating such a monster cruiser with a rear tyre fatter than fitted on most cars and a stonking 2.3-litre engine between your thighs.

As said, those engineers must have created it to shock and surprise – and they managed to do just that. It was impressive and scary. Still leaving the happy few with a whopping grin as they summoned its ungodly torque.

The Triumph Rocket 3

The Triumph Rocket 3: three times lucky

With all of the above in mind I was never really tempted to try this bike out. But with the new 2021 ‘3’ design - which is a major improvement in my view - the time was right to swing my leg over the seat and hit the launch button.

It's an imposing € 30.000+ motorbike that comes in two editions – the R, and the more laid-back, long-distance GT. The latter comes with footpegs mounted forwards, a decent windscreen and a pillion backrest over the back wheel.

Powertrain

Both Rocket 3 ‘R’ and ‘GT’ trims share the same powertrain. Triumph is in a league of their own, fitting the largest production motorcycle engine in any motorcycle: 2500 cc’s over the previous 2300 cc’s.

While increasing the number of cc’s, the madmen at the Hinckley R&D department managed to shave off nearly 17 kg’s compared to the Rocket’s predecessors thanks to all-new aluminium frame. It weighs 291kg without any fluids. It's still a substantial chunk of metal. The motorcycle now produces class-leading 167 hp at 6000rpm (redlining at 7000 rpm) and a mammoth 221Nm of torque at 4000 rpm.

All this power goes through a six-speed helical gearbox with a ‘Torque Assist’ hydraulic clutch. The bike I rode was fitted with a quick-shifter, which is as an optional accessory. When called upon, the horses in the stable are led to the rear wheel using a longitudinal shaft drive to give the rider all the fun he (or she) is ready to handle.

Styling of the Triumph Rocket 3

Triumph gave the Rocket 3 the limited edition treatment with only 1000 examples of each of the R & GT variants globally. Upping the exclusivity game, each Black edition Triumph will receive a Certificate of Authenticity and a customizable motorcycle VIN for each bike.

Moreover, for an already incredible-looking motorcycle in the flesh, the attention to detail has been taken to the upper echelons, giving it an even more menacing appearance. Common between both variants is carbon fibre front mudguard, completely blacked out exhaust fenders, heat shields, end caps, and an exquisite crinkle back powder coating on the engine’s intake covers. Besides, Triumph further enhanced the bike with the front mudguard holders, headlight bezels, fly-screen, radiator cowl, and so on.

The list doesn’t stop there as Triumph’s designers gave a black anodized finish to the bike’s handlebar clamps, yokes, riders, fork lowers, brake and clutch pedals, rider footrests, heel guards, and the innovative folding pillion footrests.

Triumph really attended to even the smallest of details and managed to put the icing on the cake with the black anodized paint job and a magnificent aluminium finish on the bar-end mirrors.

The differences between the Triumph Rocket R and Rocket GT

All the similarities aside, the main differences between the R & GT variants include a slightly sportier stance for R with the mid-positioned footpegs, wide handlebars, a matte black livery with a blacked-out Triumph logos and a glossy white stripe running down the centre of the fuel tank.

For the riders who are more adult than me, the GT variant has more relaxed ergonomics for the rider & pillion with forward-set footpegs, an adjustable windshield, an easy-to-reach handlebar with heated grips. Passengers are cared for by mounting an adjustable backrest.

Furthermore, it gets a triple black paint scheme with ‘50 shades of black’ on the fuel tank to distinguish itself from the sporty sibling.

Ride baby! Ride!

I mentioned before this is an imposing bike. Definitely not fit for novice riders. Still it get less scary once you are on the seat. The seat is mounted low, and the weight is buried low in the chassis. So although it takes an effort to get it off the side stand, it feels nicely balanced. The engine fires up and wobbles the bike gently to the left-hand side.

As I set off on my first flight on the Rocket, it immediately felt like home. It is a gentle giant when you treat it as such. It is an amazingly easy bike to ride. It really handles like a Triumph Street Triple. The engineers have done an incredibly good job there as well. Everything about it is impressive as you'd expect with this much torque,. Pulling away is simply a case of easing the clutch lever out. My brain told me to short-shift up into second gear before giving it the spurs, but my inner demon was hitting the adrenaline pump switch. It was not before long that my hooligan persona was the pillion passenger, whispering sweet nothings in my ear…

Fast, faster, fastest

There are more than enough electronics aboard to make you feel confident enough to open the throttle once in second gear. That’s where the band starts playing! Before you realize the front wheel is no longer touching the tarmac and the 24cm-wide rear (240/50 R16!!) tire digs in for traction. As a result you launch yourself forward at warp speed. The fact that the Rocket pulls this mind-bending, vision-distorting trick from just 2000rpm onwards, makes for an utterly hilarious ride. You just feel like you are constantly on a drag strip and you're just in it for the ride, hanging on for dear life.

It is hardly surprising the Rocket 3 has set a Guinness World Record of 2.73 seconds to 0-100 km/h. Me being me, I got overly self-confident rapidly. While on a slightly wet highway, cruising at around 120/130 km/h, I shifted down and hit the throttle to overtake the car in front of me. Suddenly all warning lights on the dashboard flared up as the rear started twisting just before the minions in the traction control department decided to help me out.

Whoaa! That was an exciting moment. Yes, the torque is truly unbelievable. Never before did I experience such powers on a bike.

The Triumph Rocket 3; who needs one?

I asked that same question when riding the BMW and the Indian too. The amount of money you’d spend on bikes like that is extreme. All of them are in the €30.000+++ segment. The BMW and the Indian go up to €40.000 easily once you start selecting the available options.

The Indian Roadmaster Heritage and the BMW R18 Transcontinental are ‘luxury liners’. You can have miles for breakfast and be home for dinner still after a full day of riding, still feeling quite relaxed.

Answering the ‘why’ question with the Triumph Rocket 3 was much harder. It is not a bike you take out to commute on a daily basis, nor is it a machine built to go on long road trips (I’d do it still, just for the fun of it). So who is this meant for?

Even my contacts at Triumph had some trouble coming up with a defining response. However we all seem to agree that is a fun machine for those who are in it ‘for the ride’ as Triumph puts it in their corporate slogan. If you are lucky enough to sit on a lot of ‘disposable income’ and want to stand out from the crowd, this is the definite motorcycle to go for.

If you are such a lucky person, I can only say: ‘Go for it! You only live once!’

Triumph Rocket 3 Electronics

Being the top of the line model in Triumph’s line-up, the manufacturer fitted a whole suite of electronics to enhance the riding experience:

  • Triumph Shift Assist (up and down quickshifter)
  • Heated grips (standard on the Rocket 3 GT)
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring system
  • Advanced 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) measures the roll, pitch, yaw & acceleration rates of the bike in real-time and unlocks features such as Lean sensitive traction control and cornering ABS keeping the rider in safe hands at all times
  • Full-color TFT display instrument cluster
  • Preinstalled with Triumph’s ‘My Triumph’ app with support for smartphone music, calling, & navigation controls
  • Unique to Triumph motorcycles, you also get GoPro controls
  • Both motorcycles get 4 Riding modes: Road, Rain, Sport, and a Rider configurable mode to adjust throttle response and traction control
  • Added are Hill Hold Control, Cruise control, keyless ignition, steering lock, and fuel cap opening
  • LED lighting all around with twin LED headlamps with integrated DRLs, LED tail lights, indicators, and a number plate light
  • Advanced lightweight aluminium frame
  • Suspension - Showa’s monoshock RSU with a piggyback reservoir at the rear and a massive 47mm Showa USD front forks with compression and rebound damping.
  • Stopping power comes from Brembo Stylema ® radial monobloc 4 – piston calipers with two 320 mm dual discs and a never-before-seen four 4-piston Brembo caliper with a single 300 mm disc
  • Tires & rims: 150/50 17-inch Avon Cobra Chrome tires with a blacked-out 20-spoke cast alloy wheel at the front and an incredible 240/60 section R16 tire with an intricate cast alloy wheel at the back
  • Track+ and Protect+ tracking and alarm systems

Conclusion

The Rocket is a superb machine and more. It handles phenomenally, the power is awesome and you can enjoy the bike in any way you want. You can ride it as a cruiser or race it around. It is really up to you, your experience, your mood and your testosterone levels.

The setup of the fully adjustable Showa suspension is so well done that you'll just ride the Triumph Rocket 3 like a regular street bike. It will tempt you to stick your elbows out and punch it into corners like a Speed Triple on steroids.

The riding position on the R model is relaxed and inviting you to just ride on. The brakes are magnificently strong. Those Brembo Stylemas are of superbike standards. They do their job very efficiently and you need them on a bike like this. Yep, the rear brake is ripped from the front of a sports bike. And it's a good thing too – you'll want to use the rear brake to settle it in corners and hammering it really helps bring you to a stop in a straight line, unlike on most bikes.

The Rocket gets the same TFT dashboard as mounted on the Triumph Scrambler 1200, and it has an 18-litre fuel tank which will get you just over 200 km’s. Unless you are like me of course. I needed a pit stop at around 180 km.

This bike is unfortunately not for rent through MotoShare, but for the more experienced riders among us it may be worthwhile to pitch one of the Triumph dealers to see if a memorable test ride is an option. You could - of course - rent every other Triumph bike imaginable on MotoShare!

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