Torque. I love the stuff. The more the merrier. You can keep HP, PS, KW and such figures, I’m not really all that interested. It’s the low down shove that I think makes the difference between going fast and feeling like you’re going fast. When Carrol Shelby challenged passengers to grab a $100 bill from the dash of an accelerating big block (427ci or 7 litre) AC Cobra it was the colossal motor’s torque keeping his cash safe, not horsepower.
In the world of motorcycling the Triumph Rocket has held the title of torquiest production bike since its launch in 2004. And rather than bow to ever tightening emissions regulations and kill-off the Rocket, Triumph have given it an overhaul for 2019. But the changes are more than just updated paint jobs and a smattering of LEDs.
At the heart of the new Rocket 3 is a gargantuan 2500cc longitudinal mounted three cylinder engine, now with revised internals. Yes, two-and-a-half litres, each cylinder’s swept volume is the thick end of 850cc. It’s 11% more powerful than the previous generation model but most importantly kicks out 221nm of torque, at 4,000 RPM. In isolation that’s just a number, but to put it into perspective here are a couple of comparisons.
The 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob – Ride Report here – was a hoot to ride, especially in the 114 cubic inch guise, a mere 1.9 litres. That thing lolloped along at seemingly no revs and on demand rotated the earth beneath its wheels to give an exacerbating feeling of surge. The Harley only packs 155 Nm of torque.
At the other end of the spectrum is Ducati’s tech filled Diavel 1260, which uses a positively tiny engine, at just 1.26 litres, and is an absolute animal of a machine by all accounts (I keep meaning to borrow one and find out for myself). It has huge power for a bike with footpegs in a silly place and according to reviews there’s also bucket loads of torque on tap. Well, a milkmaid’s pale perhaps – 129 Nm. Stating the obvious but that’s nearly 100 torques less than the Rocket 3.
OK, so the Rocket is winning Top Trumps so far but surely weight is its achilles heal. Well yes, it’s not exactly a featherweight. Although the engineers up in Hinckley have shaved 40kg off the original 2004 model’s kerb figure there’s no getting away from this being a beefy unit. But not as bad as you’d think. At 291 kg dry it’s 11 cans (regular sized) of baked beans lighter than the Harley Fat Bob. Admittedly the Diavel 1260 is positively anorexic at 244kg dry but again, for further context, the Triumph Tiger 1200 Explorer is designed for crossing loose and slippery terrain, and those weigh a girthy 260kg. And I’ve spanked one of those off-road and it felt perfectly fine.
Anyway, a long winded way of trying to put spec sheet digits into some perspective. The Rocket 3 has, on paper, a monumental amount of grin inducing, kick-in-the-pants shove. At some point soon I’ll have the chance to take one for a spin but for now here’s a bit about what’s bolted to that engine.
Firstly, there are two versions, the R and the GT. Both are fitted with the Brembo Stylema (a new reduced size monobloc caliper) brakes which haul the burly beast to a stop and look classy in the process. An adjustable 47mm Showa cartridge fork and remotely adjustable Showa rear shock aim to deliver handling more in line with the rest of the Triumph’s range. If you’ve never ridden one, they’re renowned for sweet handling in general and the chassis have been dead set on making sure the Rocket 3 isn’t going to let the side down. To look at their Bobber you’d think it’d be mediocre at best, but when hustled it’s huge fun.
The latest generation multi-functional TFT dash delivers full phone and bluetooth connectivity, and there’s the usual plethora of riding modes too. In addition to cruise control there’s Hill Hold control, which makes a load of sense, especially when a pillion and luggage could nudge the Rocket 3 close to the half tonne mark. The ignition is keyless and so is the steering lock, very wise. I’ve seen people on big bikes tugging at their bars while parked on an incline, trying to wiggle the key to unlock the steering…. no thanks. And for neatness all the wiring for this electrickery is routed inside the handlebars.
Triumph use the term Muscle Roadster rather than cruiser, but it’s not just a traffic light dragster. Comfort was at the top of the design brief and the ergonomics have been engineered to give actual all-day luxury. The R model has mid position footpegs which are height adjustable (2 positions) and a 773mm seat height with pillion pad behind. The GT version has a touring type saddle (lower at 750mm), with a passenger backrest. The GT pegs are horizontally adjustable (3 positions).
With a seat height that low even short arses should be able to confidently flat-foot the Rocket and lofty folk won’t be too crunched-up either. I’m Joe Average so all bikes kind of feel OK to me, but there are bound to be all sorts of guys and girls on the launch so we’ll let you know everyone finds it.
There’s a red one, and a black one in the R model and silver/grey or black in the GT. Which all look smart, especially as Triumph are very much treating this as a flagship model and kitting it out with premium components, fasteners and finishing details. I wouldn’t have any of these though…. I’d have the TFC version – see the photos of that here – and I’d probably fit the backrest to save leaving pillions at the traffic lights.
If spinning planets while touring is your thing, go for the GT and throw a credit card at the accessory catalogue. There’s a range of specific luggage for the adventurous types and a Google powered turn-by-turn navigation system, which when combined with the GoPro and bluetooth upgrade options means you can control your music, phone and action camera all from the stock handlebar switchgear.
I’d also go for the Shift Assist upgrade too, which allows clutches shifting both up and down the ‘box. Despite the Rocket being fitted with a super light slip-assist clutch, the less time spent trying to modulate all those torques the better. That said, there’s cornering ABS and traction control which will both work no matter how far over you crank the Rocket.
I’ll reserve judgement on the Rocket 3 until I’ve ridden one but for now I wonder whether the modern world needs a 2.5 litre motorcycle with more torque than a sports car. No, it really doesn’t. But thank goodness such things exist, for now….