Rocket, Yes. Roadster, No. It’s Big, Solid, And Powerful

Triumph takes a shot at the U.S. power-cruiser market with its Rocket III Roadster. Essentially a carryover from the last several years apart from price, the Roadster still runs the largest production powerplant in the world with its now-famous, 2,294 cc triple set in a very cruise-tastic package. To call it a “roadster” is almost tongue-in-cheek considering the mass of this thing, but the “rocket” part of the name is spot-on.

Continue reading for my review of the Triumph Rocket II Roadster.

  • 2015 - 2018 Triumph Rocket III Roadster
  • Year:
    2015- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-3
  • Displacement:
    2294 cc
  • Price:
    15700
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2018 Triumph Rocket III Roadster
- image 768300
Low and thick, the Roadster carries itself like a wrestler that doesn't suffer fools gladly.

It can be a tough thing to take on Harley-Davidson on its home turf, but that’s exactly what Triumph set out to do with the Rocket III Roadster. The U.S. power-cruiser market is awash with big-bore bikes from the likes of the MoCo, Indian and even remaining Victory stock and a plethora of Charlie-Davidsons, so there is no shortage of competition for this Brit. What is Triumph doing to overcome that?

Low and thick, the Roadster carries itself like a wrestler that doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Blackout components compliment the achromatic sheet metal that is available in a glossy finish Phantom Black or the flat Matte Phantom Black for an overall sinister look. Polished bits and chrome accents keep the thing from becoming an absolute black hole, but just barely. Stand next to the thing and you can almost hear the photons being sucked into oblivion. Is it too much? Nah, not a chance.

A vaguely American-style fender leads the way between beefy blackout usd forks with symmetrical twin headlights to light the way ahead. The fat continues back onto the 6.3-gallon teardrop tank that sports a broad, sportbike-like flange along the top ahead of an abrupt taper and precipitous drop to the pilot’s saddle. A generous pillion perch comes stock so you can share the fun with a friend right off the showroom floor.

Honestly, the Roadster is quite a departure from the norm for a company that mostly puts out rides with a lot more British DNA in evidence. The factory seems to be reaching for a look meant to appeal to the U.S. buyer base, but much like the many C-D cruiser builders, they don’t quite seem to nail it. Much like supposed “New Orleans-style beignets” with chocolate in the recipe, it just ain’t right. Yeah I know it’s subjective, and while it’s not a bad-looking ride overall, it does seem to be trying just a little too hard.

Chassis

2015 - 2018 Triumph Rocket III Roadster
- image 768299
By the time you oil it, fuel it and throw a leg over it you are looking at something in the neighborhood of a half-a-ton to keep under control.

Trumpet knew it was building a beast when it started, so it went with a twin-spine frame made of tubular-steel members for the strength it offers. A steel swingarm completes the standing gear and it pulls double duty as a housing for the drive shaft, a feature that keeps both shaft and rear-end appearance clean. Cast-alloy rims round out the rolling chassis with a fat 150/80-17 up front and even fatter 240/50-16 out back, so even though the bike itself is massive, the visual weight of the hoops help prevent it from looking too top heavy.

As far as the heft goes, the Roadters weighs in at 736 pounds dry, so by the time you oil it, fuel it and throw a leg over it you are looking at something in the neighborhood of a half-a-ton to keep under control. Toward that end, Trumpet threw on some serious brakes with dual, 320 mm discs and four-pot anchors up front, and even the rear is loaded for bear with a 316 mm disc and twin-piston caliper. An ABS feature helps prevent lockups, so you can actually get away with using the binders to their full potential.

As cool as the inverted front forks look — and they are stronger than standard stems to be fair — Triumph fell into the same hole as both of the major American manufacturers and all the copycat companies with a non-adjustable suspension system up front. I’m disappointed in the apparent shortsightedness, but not surprised, though it would be nice for Triumph to give the Big Two a much-needed jolt. The rear end comes with the obligatory preload adjuster, but nothing else in the way of ride tweakage.

Frame: Tubular steel, twin spine
Swingarm: Twin-sided, steel (houses drive shaft)
Rake: 32°
Trail: 5.8 in (148 mm)
Front Suspension/Travel: KYB 43 mm upside down forks/ 120 mm travel
Rear Suspension/Travel: KYB black spring twin shocks with 5 position adjustable preload/ 105 mm rear wheel travel
Front Wheel: Cast aluminum alloy 5-spoke, 17 x 3.5 in
Rear Wheel: Cast aluminum alloy 5-spoke, 16 x 7.5 in
Front Tire: 150/80 R17
Rear Tire: 240/50 R16
Brakes, Front: Twin 320 mm floating discs, Nissin 4-piston fixed calipers, ABS
Brakes, Rear: Single 316 mm disc, Brembo 2-piston floating caliper, ABS

Drivetrain

2015 - 2018 Triumph Rocket III Roadster
- image 768303
With massive horsepower and torque on tap, this thing can loaf along all calm and collected with the strength of 12 maniacs lying just below the surface.

The beating heart is the real selling point with this ride, and it ain’t no joke with a 2,294 cc, in-line triple that dominates the looks. Slightly oversquare, the mill runs a 101.6 mm bore and 94.3 mm stroke with a very mild compression ratio of 8.7-to-1 that is sure to give the bottom end a break from the stresses associated with the warmer end of the spectrum. In short; it won’t beat the bearings out of itself.

Don’t think that makes it weak, oh no, ’cause it turns in a solid performance on the dyno with 148 horsepower at a low 5,750 rpm and 163 pound-feet of torque at an even lower 2,750 rpm. That’s right folks, this thing can loaf along all calm and collected with the strength of 12 maniacs lying just below the surface. Normally you’d expect that torque to be felt as a rolling moment when you get twisty with it, but a counter-rotating crankshaft helps to mitigate that tendency for a stable ride.

As cool as all that is, Triumph still manages to miss an opportunity to impress, and we have the same lack of fandanglery with no TC or variable power-delivery modes to increase safety and flexibility. A standard clutch couples engine power to the five-speed gearbox and power flows to the fat rear wheel via the enclosed shaft drive.

Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder
Displacement: 2,294 cc
Bore x Stroke: 101.6 mm x 94.3 mm
Compression: 8.7:1
Max Power EC: 148 Hp (109 kW) @ 5,750 rpm
Max Torque EC: 163 Ft-lbs (221 Nm) @ 2,750 rpm
System: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection with twin butterflies and progressive linkage on primary butterflies
Exhaust: Stainless steel 3 into 1 into 2, large volume catalysts in front of chrome-plated silencers
Final drive: Shaft
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Gearbox: 5-speed

Pricing

2015 - 2018 Triumph Rocket III Roadster
- image 768315
MSRP is just under $16k, but that's a lot of bike for the money.

The (glossy) Phantom Black model rolls for $15,700, but the Matte Phantom Black finish bumps the starting sticker up to $15,950. Naturally, tax/tag/title/setup/whatever gets tacked onto that, and the MSRP is more like a guideline than an actual rule.

Color: Phantom Black, Matte Phantom Black
Price: Phantom Black: $15,700, Matte Phantom Black: $15,950

Competitors

2015 - 2018 Triumph Rocket III Roadster
- image 768318
2016 - 2018 Indian Chief Dark Horse
- image 733829
Non-adjustable front forks lead the way with a preload adjustment as the only tweak out back, so there's little in the way of ride control to be found across the board.

My first inclination was to hit the MoCo for a competitor, but since the demise of the Dyna family removed many of the models I might have considered, I decided to look at the resurgent Indian Motorcycle for my head-to-head. It seems to me that the Indian Chief Dark Horse might appeal to the same sort of buyer as would the Roadster, so here we go.

It goes without saying that the Chief has the right look. Indian is able to draw on its own historical roots for an all-American panache that simply cannot be duplicated by others. An effortless, classic vibe comes as part of the standard equipment package (wink, nudge), so I’ll give the Rocket a break and not labor the aesthetics; it wouldn’t work out in Triumph’s favor in this instance.

There is very little to choose between the two in the chassis department. Non-adjustable front forks lead the way with a preload adjustment as the only tweak out back, so there’s little in the way of ride control to be found across the board. Indian sports plenty of brakeage, and like Triumph, runs with an ABS safety net.

Indian’s big V-twin is a monster by two-banger standards, but at only 1,811 cc it falls well short of the two-liter-plus Triumph triple in both displacement and power. The Chief is well into power-cruiser range with 119 pounds o’ grunt, but it can’t touch the stump-pulling torque from Triumph’s monster mill. Triumph also enjoys a victory at the checkout with its under-16 K tag versus the $17,499 tag on the Dark Horse.

He Said

“The more I look at it, the less I like it, and that’s disappointing since I consider many of Triumph’s bikes to be pure sex-on-wheels. Maybe ’cause they make really nice-looking British bikes, but just don’t have the chops to make an American bike? Whichever the case may be, the Roadster is here, and is bound to appeal to somebody. Maybe Ray Charles would have found it attractive...”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I guess I’m Ray Charles, then, because I like it. I like the massive look. When I saw the power and torque numbers, I wondered if there was an optional fifth wheel available in the accessories catalog. On paper this bike looks very intimidating, but the weight is carried low so once you get on it, it’s very manageable. Just make sure you use the chinstrap on your helmet and hold on when you twist it. The seat is comfortable, and there’s virtually no vibration — even in the mirrors — once underway. It’s big and solid and powerful. I think it’s a little too much to handle for a beginning rider, but for someone with a mature skillset, it’s an awesome cruiser and tourer.”

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder
Displacement: 2294cc
Bore x Stroke: 101.6 mm x 94.3 mm
Compression: 8.7:1
Max Power EC: 148 Hp (109 kW) @ 5,750 rpm
Max Torque EC: 163 Ft-lbs (221 Nm) @ 2,750 rpm
System: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection with twin butterflies and progressive linkage on primary butterflies
Exhaust: Stainless steel 3 into 1 into 2, large volume catalysts in front of chrome-plated silencers
Final drive: Shaft
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Gearbox: 5-speed
Chassis:
Frame: Tubular steel, twin spine
Swingarm: Twin-sided, steel (houses drive shaft)
Rake: 32°
Trail: 5.8 in (148 mm)
Front Suspension/Travel: KYB 43 mm upside down forks/ 120 mm travel
Rear Suspension/Travel: KYB black spring twin shocks with 5 position adjustable preload/ 105 mm rear wheel travel
Front Wheel: Cast aluminum alloy 5-spoke, 17 x 3.5 in
Rear Wheel: Cast aluminum alloy 5-spoke, 16 x 7.5 in
Front Tire: 150/80 R17
Rear Tire: 240/50 R16
Brakes, Front: Twin 320 mm floating discs, Nissin 4-piston fixed calipers, ABS
Brakes, Rear: Single 316 mm disc, Brembo 2-piston floating caliper, ABS
Dimensions & Capacities:
Width Handlebars: 38.2 in (970 mm)
Height Without Mirror: 45.9 in (1165 mm)
Seat Height: 29.5 in (750 mm)
Wheelbase: 66.7 in (1695 mm)
Dry Weight: 736 lbs (334 Kg)
Tank Capacity: 6.3 US Gallon
Fuel Economy:
Urban : 28.6 US MPG
Constant Speed 56 mph: 44.7 US mpg
Constant Speed 75 mph: 35.9 US mpg
Details:
Instrument Display and Functions: Analogue speedometer featuring LCD odometer, trip information, clock and analogue tachometer featuring fuel level indicator, gear position indicator
Color: Phantom Black, Matte Phantom Black
Price: Phantom Black: $15,700, Matte Phantom Black: $15,950

References

2016 - 2018 Indian Chief Dark Horse
- image 733828

See our review of the Indian Motorcycle Chief Dark Horse.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: triumphmotorcycles.com, indianmotorcycle.com

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