Triumph Rocket III review, test ride
28th Dec 2014 7:00 am
We ride Triumph’s flagship cruiser, the Rocket III, the largest production motorcycle money can buy, to find out how capable it is in India?
The Triumph Rocket III has an irrefutable following. The only motorcycle to bear this name besides the current one from Triumph, was the 1960's BSA Rocket 3. Although that was from rival BSA’s assembly lines, the motorcycle was powered by the very first Triumph triple engine. It had a short run though, and was never produced after the mid ’70s. When the Triumph motorcycle was launched in 2004, the name was brought back, but with a twist. This time, the Triumph Rocket ‘III’ featured the world’s largest production engine.
From the moment you lay eyes on the Rocket III, you will find yourself in awe of the sheer size of this Triumph motorcycle. The Rocket III is huge – really, it redefines 'mammoth-sized' in the flesh. The broad tyres, twin headlamps, wide handlebars, massive tank and engine, and the really wide-set exhaust pipes, everything adds to the size quotient. In fact, when you sit on the Rocket III, the tank seems like it rises till almost your chest. Take our word for this, when you lay your eyes upon a Rocket III, you can’t help but say, “wow, that is big!”
The front tyres are 150/80 rubber, mounted on 17-inch wheels, while 43mm upside-down telescopic fork performs suspension duty at the front. The motorcycle has Triumph-typical dual headlights that stay lit throughout. Matching with the headlights, chrome-plated instrument meters sit mounted on the handlebars. What really catches grabs attention though, is the Rocket III’s beautiful mid-section, with its massive proportions. The enormous fuel tank holds 24 litres of fuel. Below this sits the engine, with chrome exhausts running from it, till the back. The seat is set quite low, at 750mm in height, and the rear seat is detachable. Below the rear seat are the exposed rear shock absorbers. The rear wheel is also massive at 240/50 section, and looks quite impressive too.
Overall fit and finish on the motorcycle is top notch. This is Triumph’s flagship cruiser, and one would expect nothing but that the motorcycle is solidly built.
On the other hand, what is truly impressive is the massive engine. It boasts of figures which are quite hard to match. The 2.3 litre 3-cylinders are longitudinally mounted inside the twin spine frame. All of the 22.5kgm of torque is produced at 2,750rpm, and a maximum power of 146bhp is delivered at 5,750rpm. Cranking the motor is a most rewarding experience on a Rocket III. It takes a slightly long press of the starter button and there’s a noticeable twitch from the frame. And once started up, the entire frame shudders mildly, while the exhaust emits a muffled and throaty growl before settling down into a steady idle.
The Rocket III's clutch is not overly heavy, although its reach is not well suited for smaller hands. Even after we set it to the closest reach setting, it still proved to be a strain for a small hand to stretch to. Pull in the clutch, slot Rocket III into gear at the right rpm, and you will hear a loud clunk, as the driveshaft-powered bike transfers power to the rear wheel. Don’t get that wrong, for this 5-speed manual gearbox is refined enough to make you believe that it belonged to a completely different class of motorcycle. Let the lever go, and it engages slightly higher up the clutch action. There is so much torque even at engine speeds of close to idle, that the Rocket III creeps forward even on slight gradients. While powering the motor in the lower gears, you will need to exercise some caution; feeding the engine any extra fuel can cause uncalled for wheelspin and will send the rear wheel stepping out, despite the power being electronically restricted in the first three gears. Control your throttle inputs well though, and the acceleration that the Rocket III rewards you with is tremendous. So long as you’re riding in a straight line, all you have to do is hold on.
Under flat out acceleration, the power delivery feels like it tapers off towards the middle on the rev range. However, if you push the engine further, there’s still some more in waiting, and the Rocket III goes ballistic, pulling strongly till the tachometer needle runs into its redline. Most surprisingly, even at those engine speeds, vibrations stay minimal, and the level of engine refinement will leave you wide-eyed.
The riding position on the Rocket III is well balanced out. Handlebars sit well within reach of the rider, and your legs do not feel overly stretched out, allowing you to sit up straight. The broad handlebars are non-intrusive while turning the motorcycle, however the large turning radius can be quite a problem on such a heavy bike as the Rocket III. To make a U-turn and negotiate through heavy traffic could take some practice, especially on narrow roads. Navigating in fast paced traffic on a highway is not a problem though, and the Rocket III is quite manageable on that front. Ride quality is decent, because the Kayaba USD forks on the front and Kayaba spring twin shock absorbers on the back are spot on, and allow minimum unevenness from the road to filter up to you. The frame and the suspension work quite well together to keep the motorcycle stable while negotiating corners.
Talking about corners, long to medium sweeping ones are easy to get in and get out of. However, slightly tighter corners are another story altogether. The motorcycle tips in easily, carries itself well through the corner, but pulling out of the corner on a Rocket III is another tale. The burly Triumph needs too much of a push on the handlebars and a complete shift of weight, and even after all that you will struggle through.
Twin 320mm floating discs with Nissin four-piston calipers on the front and a single 316mm disc with Brembo floating calipers at the back perform braking duties. The brakes work well, no reason to grumble here. There’s a good solid bite, and nice feedback at the control levers, with ABS as standard. The Rocket III is not a forgiving motorcycle, and you need to get your head around its weight and large proportions before you throw a leg over and pin the throttle to the stop. It might be a bit intimidating for some, but some time spent with it and you do get used to the big machine. This is a mega sized power cruiser, and demands that you treat it with some respect. The engine acquits itself with massive grunt and adequate refinement, well suited to a cruiser like the Rocket III.
At a little over Rs 20 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the Rocket III is not a cheap bike. It might be a legend in itself, and one of the most powerful production motorcycles you can buy, but were I to advise someone to buy it in India, I would say no. Don’t get me wrong, for we have come away from our ride quite impressed with how refined the Rocket III is, and its road presence with its sheer size and power. However, the same factors do quite make it a shade too impractical, especially on our roads. The Rocket III is oversized, extremely heavy and guzzles fuel like the tank has a leak. There is, however, one solid reason we’d say you could look at buying the Rocket III, making it even a decent proposition, in that you were absolutely hell bent on buying yourself a distinctive bike, with immense presence and a formidable reputation that ranks this amongst the biggest, baddest motorcycles that money can buy.