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Triumph Rocket III

Liquid-cooled, inline longitudinal triple
Valve arrangement:
DOHC, two intake, two exhaust valves per cylinder
Displacement, bore x stroke:
2294cc, 101.6 x 94.3mm
EFI, three 56mm throttle bodies
Wet, multi-plate clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive:

Wet weight:
Seat height:
Total length:
Cast alloy, five-spoke, 17 x 3.5 front, 16 x 7.5 rear
Front tyre:
150/80R-17 Metzeler ME880 tubeless radial
Rear tyre:
240/50R-16 Metzeler ME880 tubeless radial
Front suspension:
43mm inverted
Rear suspension:
Two dampers
Front brake:
Two four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake:
Two-piston caliper, 316mm disc
Fuel capacity:

Price: £11,999 OTR

Triumph Rocket III - The fun starts here!

Words by Adrian Percival, Pics by Simon Bradley and ADrian percival

It was with a little trepidation that I rode up to Triumph's local press fleet dealer, Windy Corner Motorcycles near Hinckley. My thoughts were centered around collecting and riding away the flagship of Triumph's fleet, the Rocket III. Was I going to enjoy it? Was it going to be easy to ride? Would I embarrass myself at the first set of traffic lights? All these questions and many more went through my head as I enjoyed the ride up on the twisty roads on my super slim Triumph Thruxton!

After a couple of hours on the road, a coffee stop and a chat with some other bikers I arrived to finally get a first glance of a 'lurking beast' awaiting my collection! My initial reaction was 'Oh my God, that's just enormous!'. This was heightened by the fact that this Rocket III had just about every accessory you could get in Triumph's catalogue fitted to it! I stared in disbelief at the huge motorcycle with its huge cruiser screen, extra running lights, leather panniers, footboards, gel cruiser seat, and so on, and so on, etc, etc!! This was a truly awesome looking bike just parked there and waiting for the unsuspecting me to get my first taste of 2.3 litre motorcycling!

The three-cylinder Triumph Rocket III has the largest proprietary motorcycle engine in the world and is undeniably the most powerful production cruiser on this planet. Is it too much, too big or too over the top - or simply could it be just too much fun?

I have heard in the past the typical response of some riders getting off the new Triumph, "", so with that in mind I was now eager to get on with it and ride this brute away from the watching eyes of the spectators gathered around. Whatever type of bike you ride, whether you are a true cruiser nut, a budding road racer, a die hard touring rider, or a purist vintage flat capper, it's all the same when you get on the Rocket III, this bike is absolutely nothing like anything you have ever ridden before, nor will it be anything you will ride in the future!

Having just dismounted a rather different type of bike I tentatively got on the Rocket and started it up, a low rumble and a slight side to side movement greeted me, this was not quite what I was expecting as it seemed rather too civilised for a bike of this size. I was still rather shocked at its pure size of this bike whilst I sat there contemplating my next move, the Thruxton I was leaving behind for a couple of weeks felt like a 50cc moped in relation to what I was now astride! So it was with a slight hesitation that I lifted the bike off its sidestand and felt the weight and balance of the Rocket. Somewhat surprised was my initial thought, where was all that weight, it didn't feel anything like I had expected to, yet somewhere down below it was there, lurking in the lower regions of that huge motor!

I snicked it into first and gently pulled away, to my surprise I could put my feet straight up on the big footboards at somewhat less than walking speed, mmm, nice balance I said to myself as I accelerated slowly and tried to act like I knew what I was doing whilst the sea of spectators watched on! I never was a very good actor and I failed miserably at this point, I was just not expecting the Rocket to surge away quite so fast at such low revs! As I shot away up the ever so short bit of road outside the dealers I realised that even now I was only just above idle speed, how powerful is this thing, what can it actually do when you get it into 2nd gear and above? Well after a grab of the well engineered brakes and a slow down to turn onto the main road I stared to find out as I got away out of the public view.

I had been on the Rocket for precisely 5 minutes before I realised that I was grinning like an idiot and couldn't stop! I had got past 1st and into a few other gears and the experience had exceeded every expectation I could possibly have expected...Fun is not enough to describe the Rocket, it far, far more than that. Unleashing the torque from the Rocket is an experience in itself, the 140 lb-ft plus delivers right off the stop and carries on forever, as you tear up the tarmac with the huge rear tyre you realise that it is never ending, and as the speed builds up you suddenly see why you just can't stop laughing like a drain!

The Rocket III, with its outrageous capacity and styling to match, is truly an action bike.. Yes, it's a hulk, and yes some people think think it's ugly or even an eyesore, but no one can call the Rocket III short on character. The Rocket is in its own class, this is one motorcycle with attitude and nothing can even come close to it. The overwhelming feature of this bike is undeniably its massive three-cylinder motor which boasts pistons similar in size to a Dodge Viper. The engine's exterior dimensions and overall styling is very automotive, but Triumph made it work and built nice touches into the exterior design, and a bike around it to be brutish enough to carry off the whole package. This bike is everything that a V-twin cruiser is not, the whirring burble of the triple when it bursts into life does not give away the true nature of the Rocket, take a look around and you will find a whole host of aftermarket pipes so one can make the Triumph sound truly evil and undeniably unique...

The torque produced by the 2300cc engine is amazing and not only that but it is very well managed. 141 ft-lb comes in by 2,500 rpm, but it feeds in right off the throttle and stays there to around 4,000rpm. By coincidence this is exactly the range of rpm where most street riding is done, so the Rocket III rider has all the grunt and none of the fuss of getting there before it fades away. Getting the revs up to 4,500 and beyond is then where the horses take over. there's over 132 of them by the time you get to 6250 rpm, and you have got to be brave to hang on then as the horizon looms up rather quickly!

Ride the Rocket for the first few days and you will soon realise there are times you do actually need both hands on the bars, and you need to be holding them tight. The first is when accelerate away either with or without a passenger, the Rocket makes no distinction between one or two on it! Snap that throttle open and your ever giggling head will be thrown backward fast, if there is actually anyone on the back then it will definitely go crashing into their helmet, but that's still not enough to stop you laughing though! The second instance is when you hit any ruts in the road at high speed, the taut rear suspension does have a tendency to kick your backside right out of the seat, but even that won't stop the giggles! On the normal road the bike does run a bit stiff on the suspension but this is an absolute necessity for its combination of weight, power and its low profile. Up front there are very stout 43mm upside-down forks and at the back twin shocks which are adjustable for preload only. The Rocket is quit a firm ride and can certainly jiggle the fillings about a bit on some roads, but on smooth roads and in long corners the Triumph takes them in its stride and will hold a solid and stable line without wallowing or feeling hinge-like in any way unlike most other cruisers! The ground clearance is very good by cruiser standards, the only time I caught it out was with the footboards, that's something I had come to expect, luckily they are hinged! The overall handling and steering is far from vague, its tight and well mannered and yet can be as exciting as you like considering the outright liberties you can take with this bike!! The only thing I would recommend is a smooth throttle hand and a firm grip, well after all it's just like riding a Bull Moose, and we all know what that's like don't we!!

Overall the Rocket III is a fantastic bike to ride, the shaft effect is minimal, what you tend to notice more is the big three-cylinder's torque effect at stops and during low-speed riding as it rocks the bike gently side-to-side. Changing gear is an easy task, although the transmission feels a little industrial. The overall gearing is spot-on for this monster of a bike, it pulls long and hard in every gear, and as you would suspect overtaking never needs a downshift...or a second thought, just twist and go...just like a scooter!!

In my couple of weeks with the Rocket I began to realise just how civil this big bike really is, It's an awful lot of bike to move around, but it goes just where you want it to go. The big Triumph stops well in every situation with its tandem Brembo 320mm four-piston discs up front, but you do have to use the rear two-piston 326mm disc just to complete the job. The brakes never showed any signs of fade either solo or two-up and every time the braking felt balanced and progressive.

The Rocket III is super-sized in every aspect, that's for sure, but having had numerous people try it out for size I couldn't find one person who found the ergonomics either uncomfortable or that intimidating. The seat height is surprisingly low for a bike of this size, at 29" it will fits most people and is definitely an advantage as anyone who rides a Rocket will need to have both feet on the ground at rest to support this 360kg beast! Many modern cruisers suffer in the placement of the instruments but not so the Rocket, the speedo and tach cluster is mounted high on the bars right below your line of sight, they are extremely easy to read and all the handlebar switches are pretty standard as well.

Looking at the Triumph Rocket III from a distance is like a cartoon drawing come to life. It's just impossible to ignore the bike's humungous stature, massive engine and the supersize 240 Metzeler rear tire. Look at the pipes and there are three exiting from the line of the motor, get to the rear and two are on one side and the other is opposite. The look of the silencers is a little odd in reality, somewhat reminiscent of an old Kawasaki 2 stroke, but somewhere out there will be a conversion to make it into three upswepts on one side, now that would look wicked!!

Out on the road and in towns wherever you go the Rocket commands plenty of attention. Other bikers, car drivers, pedestrians, even traffic wardens all want to know more about it, so whenever you park up just be prepared to talk for hours and keep smiling, not that that's so hard as you just know you'll be back on the bike in a short while. It goes without saying that I totally enjoyed my time with the Rocket III, it's just the biggest piece of fun in the motorcycle world. Many companies can build a bigger cruiser and a so-called performance cruiser but when it comes to building a better cruiser the Rocket has got them all beat. The Rocket is in essence a cruiser but bears little or no resemblance to current cruiser style, it has a design and poise all of its own and I doubt very much if any other manufacturer will ever manage to imitate it or better it, is is a pure piece of British eccentricity brought to life. The downside of all of this is that I had to take it back and learn to live without a Rocket III, its hard but hey life goes on!

The Rocket III was the last bike of 2005 that I tested and to be honest it was the highlight of the testing year for me. That bike was far more fun than I ever imagined when I was riding up to collect it, too much fun, to be exact, I only wish my garage was big enough to get one in permanently....


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