11 years of riding in ‘attack’ mode on a Hayabusa made me yearn for something a bit more laid back. I toyed with getting a Speedmaster or Bonneville America – but then I’ve always loved things that are a bit more extreme; and total respect to Triumph for producing something so delectably bonkers as the Rocket!
One thing I loved about the Busa – and would giddily recommend to anyone looking for a great ROAD bike – is having gobs of liquid torque. Torque’s where it’s at in my book and the Busa’s is colossal. But leap on the Rocket and you find it’s got even more. Masses. Canyons of the stuff. It makes every ride effortless, a world full of glorious snarling noise and tractor like pull. Overtake that wagon – just wind it open and the
torque explodes you past. Grin. Do it again.
It’s all about that engine with this bike. The noise, the power, the feeling, the performance. Mine came with the Triumph road-illegal pipes on it. It makes a noise like a Mustang at full chat, and crackles and pops like a wounded Messerschmitt when you wind it down. It might well be a carefully manufactured character (what isn’t these days?), but it works for me.
Brakes work well too. They’re four pot Nissins as used on Triumph sports bikes and they’re full of feel and stop the Rocket like throwing out an anchor. Mind you, that’s the opinion of someone coming off a gen 1 busa (notoriously rubbish brakes) so might not count for too much. My bike’s got some stunty adjustable levers courtesy of ebay on it which are great – twiddle with the settings and they bring the levers to just the right place where minimum movement gives maximum effect. Should’ve come as standard really.
But of course, it’s a cruiser so the handling will be shit? Well kinda yes and kinda not. You can tell the roads around Hinkley are twisty because the Rocket handles like no other cruiser. Give it to a sportsbike rider and they’ll think you’ve just thrown them on a wheel barrow. Me? Well I was surprised at how well it handles. There’s loads of ground clearance and you can have heaps of fun hauling it over to smoothly glide through bends then give it a handful on the way out. Massive grins. And so far, I’ve not even ground down the foot pegs so there’s even more to come from it.
Which is all very surprising, considering it’s a cruiser; a cruiser with a 240 section rear tire. It does feel a bit odd at first and takes some getting used to. Triumph obviously specced the tire purely cos it looks cool. Which does it for me. But that’s at a cost of handling. It’s a price I’m happy to pay but you can feel the handling’s compromised when you hit the twisties. Which is probably why the Rocket III Touring has a much more sensible 180 section rear on it (how puny ;).
How does it feel? Well, you can feel you’re having to haul the bike over across the tire before it banks. It’s sort of weird at first but I don’t notice it now so I’m more than happy with it. And when every time you walk towards the bike from the rear and something inside you grins and growls, then you’ll be happy to live with the compromise too. Why does a wide rear look so mean? I’ve no idea but it does and it’s great.
Another great thing about the Rocket III is that you can blast along happily, overtaking cars and having a hoot. But when you want – or if the queues of cars are just too long – then you can sit back and cruise and still enjoy just being aboard the bike. You don’t even have to change gear – stick it in fourth and it’ll pull from sharp bends all the way to fast sweepers nearing triple figures. Purrrrfect.
So what about other stuff – mpg, reliability, comfort. Dull but important stuff?
Well, if I’m highway blasting, tank range is 177 miles (consistently till dry) but motorway is well over 200. That equates from high 30 to high 40 mpg. Which is OK for a 2.3 liter engine I’d say. Reliability? Well mine’s been great but I’ve not had it long. Early ones suffered a few problems with clutches and drive shafts but most will have been sorted by now, and apparently the latest ones are great as Triumph has sorted the niggles themselves, as you’d expect.
Well I fitted Triumph Comfort shocks myself which sorted out some of the rear end choppiness – but again, later models are apparently sorted in this respect too. I do intend to fit some pulled back bars on mine as I tend to hunker down over the tank with the ones I’ve got, but that’s probably just personal preference as I want to be more laid back still. But the seat’s pretty good and it’s all round a pretty smooth ride.
I tend to think of the Rocket III in these terms: If you’re after a normal cruiser, this probably ain’t it. Indeed, I’m not sure the Rocket really hit the nail on the head in the abnormal cruiser market either! My reading of things is that the Rocket didn’t really do it so they had to release the 1600/1700 Thunderbird v-twin range to have another go at cracking it. However, if you want a cruiser that handles, has acres of power and is a bit different, this is probably the one. Part cruiser, part muscle bike, totally over the top engine that handles and looks mean as a pitbull with a chain saw.
If you like to get noticed, love your torque and love crazy over-the-top engineering, give one a go – you’ll love it.