It goes without saying that Triumph has some deep roots, and the factory has absolutely zero compunction about relying on past successes. Not to suggest it rests on its laurels, far from it, merely pointing out the depth of heritage Trumpet brings to the table. The Rocket III family of bikes benefits from this practice, and the Roadster and Touring models share roots that go all the way back to 1968 to the BSA Rocket 3 “Trident.”

Built to compete with other large-displacement cruisers in the American market, the Rocket III range really brings the pain to its competitors with an incredible powerplant tucked away within rides that seem somewhat familiar, even typical, to riders accustomed to the domestic scene. I must confess that I’ve been looking forward to looking at these bikes, primarily because, well, Triumph, but also because the aptly-named, Rocket family is going to hurt an awful lot of feelings amongst both the domestic manufacturers and imports alike. Let the games begin.

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

  • 2016 Triumph Rocket III
  • Year:
    2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Displacement:
    2.3 L
  • Price:
    15500
  • Price:

Design

2016 Triumph Rocket III High Resolution Exterior
- image 615953

The Rocket III range brings us two distinctly different rides based on the same base platform. First off, we have the Roadster that displays a fairly sporty bent for a bike marketed as a cruiser. Sure, the pullback bars and mid-mount controls places the rider in the “sitting in a chair” position that is easy on the back and conducive to low-fatigue riding. The overall panache is certainly more cruiser-ish than some of Triumph’s products, but I’m here to tell you that is just a veneer, a skin-deep impression.

he deep-scoop saddle and knee-hanger angles on the 6.3-gallon tank reveal the true colors of the machine beneath the façade. Triumph packed some real power into this thing (more on that later) that really pushes the upper limits of the “power-cruiser” category. Though the rider triangle places the pilot in the windsock position, the bars leave room for when you need to lean into the acceleration or shift weight to load up the front tire. Not quite the tame behavior common on cruisers, by any means. A mid-size P-pad cushions the passenger’s butt and pegs complete the backseat equipment.

Touring

2016 Triumph Rocket III
- image 671992

Now for the Touring model. A chrome-shrouded tripletree and upper fork cover with pimp lights and a windshield dress up the front end, and almost look to be torn from a history book for the classic flavor they deliver. The fuel tank is a bit smaller than the Roadster — but still relatively large at 5.9 gallons — and it carries a less-abrupt upper line, leaving room for the chrome, tank-mounted instrument console.

While the handlebars place the hands in a comfortable position, the angle on the bars after the riser places it in something of a tiller-steer position. Not my favorite feature, but I reckon they needed to keep the control cables clear of the windshield.

The Touring comes with 9-gallon (36-liter) hard bags, a small luggage rack, crash bars, ol’ lady retainer device (passenger backrest) and abbreviated footboards for said passenger. Oh, and it comes with the same engine as the Roadster, so this isn’t your grand-daddy’s tour bike, not by a long shot.

Chassis

2016 Triumph Rocket III
- image 671985

A twin-spine frame made from tubular-steel stock forms the bones, and a dual-sided steel swingarm houses the driveshaft for some clean, rear running gear. Both bikes carry a 32-degree rake at the steering neck, and feature dual, 320 mm discs with Nissin, four-pot calipers up front, and a 316 mm disc with a twin-pot, Brembo binder in back, all with ABS. However, the two begin to diverge at this point.

The Touring rides on 43 mm Kayaba forks that provide 4.72 inches of front-wheel travel in a traditional, right-side-up arrangement, and a pair of chrome, Kayaba, coil-over shocks with adjustable preload and 4.13 inches of travel. All-around, 16-inch, cast aluminum rims mount the 150/80 front hoop and 180/70 rear, and the rims come in a 25-spoke pattern. This leaves us with a 67.1-inch wheelbase and 7.2 inches of trail for good stability and tracking at highway speeds.

Now for the Roadster. It also runs 43 mm, Kayaba forks, but instead goes with the inverted variety for front end with more torsional resistance for hard cornering and a more aggressive riding style. A set of blackout Kayaba shocks buoy the rear, and come with a five-click preload adjuster. Like the Touring, the Roadster suspension provides 4.72 inches of travel up front and 4.13 inches in back. Cast-aluminum, five-spoke rims mount the 150/80 R17 front and 240/50 R16 rear hoops for a slightly asymmetrical setup. A shorter, 5.8-inch trail makes for a more nimble ride than the Touring model, but still trends more toward the stable end of the spectrum. The Roadster wheelbase comes in a skosh shorter than its sibling at 66.7-inches long.

Drivetrain

2016 Triumph Rocket III Exterior
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I could scarcely wait to get to the real showpiece of the Rocket III family, and here we are. Triumph made certain no one would be left wanting for more cubes — or more power. The factory crammed a massive, 2,294 cc mill into the frame — yes, you read that right, the family plant is bigger than many four-wheel cages on the road today with almost 2.3 liters of yummy goodness. This water-cooled, in-line three banger runs a tad oversquare with a 101.6 mm bore and 94.3 mm stroke. Plus, at only 8.7-to-1 compression, it won’t beat itself to death, and won’t bilk your wallet for premium fuel every time you pull up to the pump.

Electronic fuel injection manages the induction with the help of dual butterfly valves in the intake, one for your right fist, and another that permits the ECM to moderate the flow for smooth, consistent power delivery and fuel economy. Remember, “economy” is a relative term, keep the displacement in mind when you consider the 28.6 mpg/city and 35.9 mpg at a constant 75 mph on the highway. Economy falls off just a bit on the Touring with 27.3/city and 34.9/highway, no doubt from pushing the windshield and bags around.

And now for the pièce de résistance; the performance numbers. Hold onto your britches, folks. The Rocket III triple cranks out an astounding 163 pound-feet at a low, 2,750 rpm, backed up by 148 horsepower, and it produces 90% of that torque at an even two grand. Triumph doesn’t miss the opportunity to point out that this is more torque at idle than most superbikes manage to produce, even when wound up tighter than Dick’s hatband. Now, I don’t know if I could ever use all that power, but I sure would like to try. Don’t tell my wife....

Pricing

2016 Triumph Rocket III High Resolution Exterior
- image 615952

Prices vary depending on model and color choice. The Roadster starts at $15,500 shot in the glossy Phantom Black paint, though the matte Phantom Black will set you back another $250. Predictably, the Touring is a little prouder at $17,500 in the gloss Phantom Black, and a smooth 18 grand for the two-tone, Cranberry Red/Phantom Black finish. As always, the MSRP is more of a guideline than an actual rule, so you can probably expect a little wiggle room at the till.

Competitors

2016 - 2017 Honda Gold Wing / Gold Wing F6B
- image 672002
2016 Triumph Rocket III
- image 672003

Finding a head-to-head was kind of tough. Sure, there are plenty of cruiser/tourer bikes out there, but not many that can hold a candle to the testicular fortitude the Rockets bring to the table, and none that had quite the same aesthetic appeal. So with that in mind, I settled on the Goldwing F6B from Honda since it at least falls within the power-cruiser category with a more-than-two-cylinder engine, even if not quite as big.

I won’t even bother discussing the looks since they are about as similar as chalk to cheese. But to be fair, riders looking for a tour bike with some serious power will satisfy their vanity with performance, leaving aesthetics as a back-burner issue. Moving on.

In typical fashion, Honda declines to publish official numbers (one wonders why...) but I managed to get an average on dynamo-meter tests from reputable sources, and this is what I found. The six-cylinder, 1,832 cc Honda mill produces something around 117 ponies and 125 pound of grunt, not bad by most standards, except for Triumph’s. At 148 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque, the Rocket III Touring will absolutely blow the doors off the F6B, if it had any doors that is. I will concede that 99% of the time, this won’t matter that much on the open road or around town, but if you want the most you can get out of your ride, the Rocket III Touring stands head and shoulders above the competition.

Now for the price. At $17,500, the black Touring will save you a bit of money over the $20,499 F6B, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The F6B carries so many more nifty features for comfort, safety and entertainment, I would have to write a whole article to cover them all. Sure, the Touring does bring the power, but for someone looking for top-of-the-line comfort on long-distance rides, the Red Rider product beats Triumph, hands down. I’m not quite to the point where comfort trumps power, so my money is on one of the Rockets, but I can easily imagine a time when it may become more important to me. ’Til then, vroom vroom, baby!

He Said

“Wow. Just. Freakin’. Wow. I know Triumph is no stranger to performance, and hasn’t been for many a year, but to see this car engine shoehorned into a production bike is impressive indeed (rides like the V-8 Boss Hoss notwithstanding). I kind of view this line as sort of a sleeper bike. It pulls up to you at the light, and you give a little rev to invite some “friendly” competition, fully confident on your ride of choice. Light turns green, and you very quickly find yourself alone, and not ’cause you’re so far in front, wondering what the Hell just happened. Yeah, someone needs to learn to pick his fights better! I had, from time to time, idly wondered what happened to the Magnificent British Bulldog, and it looks like I just rediscovered it, big time.”

She Said

My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I’m not sure what to say. I’m having a whole love-hate thing with the Rocket. I love the power and torque, but the 2,300 cc engine is almost as big as what I have in my car. Literally. My car has a 2.4-liter in it and this is just 100 cc shy. That makes for an awesome bike, but it kinda sours me a little on one of the things I really love about bikes — the better-than-a-car fuel economy. Sure you can scoff at the pragmatist in me, but when my touring bike gets only a couple of mpg better than my car, I’m a little sad. If you want to put a car engine in a bike, go all out and do a V8 like the folks at V8 Choppers.”

Specifications

Model: Rocket III Roadster Rocket III Touring
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION:
Type: Liquid cooled, DOHC, inline 3cylinder Liquid cooled, DOHC, inline 3cylinder
Capacity: 2294cc 2294cc
Bore Stroke: 101.6 mm / 94.3 mm 101.6 mm / 94.3 mm
Compression: 8.7:1 8.7:1
Max Power EC: 148 Hp (109 kW) 5,750 rpm 106 Hp (78 kW) 6,000 rpm
Max Torque EC: 163 Ftlbs (221 Nm) 2,750 rpm 150 Ftlbs (203 Nm) 2,500 rpm
System: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection with twin butterflies and progressive linkage on primary butterflies 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 Stainless steel 3 into 1 into 2, large volume catalysts in front of chrome-plated silencers
Final drive: Shaft Shaft
Clutch: Wet, multiplate Wet, multiplate
Gearbox: 5speed 5speed
CHASSIS:
Frame: Tubular steel, twin spine Tubular steel, twin spine
Swingarm: Twin-sided, steel (houses drive shaft) Twin-sided, steel (houses drive shaft)
Front Wheels: Cast aluminium alloy 5spoke, 17 x 3.5 in Cast aluminium alloy 25-spoke, 16 x 3.5 in
Rear Wheels: Cast aluminium alloy 5spoke, 16 x 7.5 in Cast aluminium alloy 25-spoke, 16 x 5 in
Front Tires: 150/80 R17 150/80 R16
Rear Tires: 240/50 R16 180/70 R16
Front Suspension: Kayaba 43 mm upside down forks, 120 mm travel Kayaba 43 mm forks. 120 mm travel fully shrouded uppers
Rear Suspension: Kayaba black spring twin shocks with 5 position adjustable preload, 105 mm rear wheel travel Kayaba chromed spring twin shocks with 5 position adjustable preload, 105 mm rear wheel travel
Brakes Front: Twin 320 mm floating discs, Nissin 4piston fixed calipers, ABS Twin 320 mm floating discs, Nissin 4piston fixed calipers, ABS
Brakes Rear: Single 316 mm disc, Brembo 2piston floating caliper, ABS Single 316 mm disc, Brembo 2piston floating caliper, ABS
Instrument Display and Functions: Analogue speedometer featuring LCD odometer, trip information, clock and analogue tachometer featuring fuel level indicator, gear position indicator Analogue speedometer featuring analogue fuel gauge, scroll button on handlebars, LCD trip computer and clock
DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHTS:
Width Handlebars: 38.2 in (970 mm) 39.2 in (995 mm)
Height Without Mirror: 45.9 in (1165 mm) 46.5 in (1182 mm)
Seat Height: 29.5 in (750 mm) 28.7 in (730 mm)
Wheelbase: 66.7 in (1695 mm) 67.1 in (1705 mm)
Rake: 32° 32°
Trail: 5.8 in (148 mm) 7.2 in (184mm)
Dry Weight: 736 lbs (334 Kg) 789 lbs (358 Kg)
Tank Capacity: 6.3 US Gallon 5.9 US Gallon
FUEL CONSUMPTION:
Urban: 28.6 US MPG 27.3 US MPG
Constant Speed 56mph: 44.7 US MPG 43.2 US MPG
Constant Speed 75mph: 35.9 US MPG 34.9 US MPG
DETAILS:
Colors: Phantom Black, Matt Phantom Black Phantom Black, Cranberry Red / Phantom Black
Price: Phantom Black: $15,500, Matt Phantom Black: $15,750 Phantom Black: $17,500, Cranberry Red / Phantom Black: $18,000

Source: Triumph Rocket III Brochure

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