Roadster is the latest version of Triumph’s 2.3 litre, 367kg behemoth to reach
these shores. It replaces the original Rocket III which was characterised as a
cruiser. With a boost in engine performance plus a revised ergonomics set-up
that includes conventional footpegs, along with other detail changes, the new
Rocket III departs from cruiser territory. It has as its new identity what
Triumph calls “the ultimate muscle streetfighter”.
priced the same as the bike it replaces despite picking up the extra horses and
ABS braking as standard fitment.
Rocket III range now comprises the ‘Roadster’ and its screen and hard-pannier
equipped sibling, the ‘Rocket III Touring’ that’s powered by a softer-tuned
version of the same big donk.
IT LIKE IT IS
to put too fine a point on it, the Roadster is basically a big brute of a bike
that goes like a Rocket – a big bike for big blokes. If somehow you haven’t
noticed its 2.5 metre overall length as you sidle up to it, the size factor
will be evident when you climb aboard. Here I’m referring to the size of the
tank that spreads out in front of you – “Let’s throw the picnic rug over it and
we’ll have lunch.”
there’s its weight as you pull it off the sidestand (and it’s a fair stretch
for the average left leg to reach the sidestand to drag it back). Once you’re
rolling, though, the bike’s weight generally ceases to be an issue,
new ergonomic package lifts riders and moves them forward. The new footpegs are
mid-mounted and positioned closer to the bike. So the old cruiser-style,
splayed-out knees, feet-forward posture is a thing of the past.
a magic moment when you fire up the 2300cc triple. This is a big, raw, gruff
bastard of an engine whose sounds and rhythms bear little resemblance to the
sweet cadences of Triumph’s 675 and 1050cc triples. Don’t read this as
criticism – it’s a character thing. It’s kinda like the way a big-block V8
rocks raucously into life, announcing its presence without subtlety, with raw authority.
claims a 15 per cent increase in max torque from this engine. Frankly I’ve no
reason to doubt it. The problem here is that the earlier Rocket’s acceleration
was already phenomenal. The fact that the Roadster’s performance is ‘phenomenal
plus 15 per cent’ is hard to gauge without a stopwatch. These things really
launch, and a well-ridden one can give litre sports bikes a serious fright.
throttle acceleration is one thing, but the Rocket III is just as impressive when
doing the gentle cruise. Fuelling is very accurate and efficient regardless of
revs and throttle opening. The torque and smoothness of the engine were put to
the test unexpectedly when I inadvertently pulled away from the lights, uphill,
in second gear on one occasion. No shudder, no struggle. It chugged off the
line happily, only alerting me to my sloppiness when I realised it was revving
slower than expected as it gathered speed.
consumption was better than I expected – about 17.5km/l on the highway and
14km/l around town
ME A CURVE
revised ergonomics give you a greater sense of authority over the bike –
stemming mainly from the rider being closer to the bars and having footpegs
that take some steering inputs.
a lot of the bike’s weight seems to evaporate once you’re underway, its size
can limit your ability to duck and weave through urban gridlock. Low speed lane
changing can be a bit un-smooth. I put this down to that W-I-D-E (240mm) back
tyre initially resisting your efforts to change direction, before surprising
you by admitting defeat and rolling into the turn. The big grin kicks in
though, as soon as the traffic thins out a bit or once you’re on the open road.
the logjam there’s a lot to enjoy about pushing a big feller like this through
the sweepers and even the tight bits. Like all big bikes it needs an early,
firm hand on the bars to initiate the turn and some pressure to be kept on the
inside bar to maintain your chosen line. But it handles the task quite competently.
The cornering clearance on the rider’s pegs is reasonable too. So you can swiftly
knock off a few kays of bends in quite a dignified and satisfying manner.
damping copes quite effectively in most conditions. Sure you’ll get some
thumping and banging from the rear and the inside footpeg will kiss the deck if
you strike significant bumps or surface variations mid corner. But it’s not
Achilles heel is the rear suspension performance. It’s not quite right. To me
the main culprit seems to be revised spring rates on the rear shocks. Triumph
tells us they have been softened by 20 per cent in the interests of ‘comfort
and control’. I can only assume this was to better suit US conditions.
In this country it means that you’re running them close to max pre-load for
most of your riding. Even then you cop some spine-jarring thumps over moderate
Nissin calipers and big discs provide heaps of braking power and reasonable
feel for a bike of this class. They dissipate the big machine’s kinetic energy
very efficiently and it’s reassuring to know that the ABS system is there ready
to intervene if things look like getting ugly.
JOY OF THE OPEN ROAD
is tops on the Rocket. I knocked out a 700km round trip one recent Saturday
afternoon and returned none the worse for wear (Went to check out a bike…
Bought it of course… I know… I didn’t need another bike…).
on the highway is such a delight with that big motor. There is so much torque
and it’s delivered with so much texture.
the bike laughs at the need for a six-speed box. In top it’s pulling about
2300rpm at 100km/h, a point in its rev range that accesses over 90 per cent of
its max torque. So you don’t need to change down for a swift pass. It could
almost get away with a four-speeder based on my stuff-up in town.
the highway this transmission issue got me thinking in a way that surprised me.
With any vehicle I’m reluctant to use an auto-trans. I like using clutches and
selecting gears – working with feel and judgement and timing – practising the tribal
crafts handed down from father to son. But on the Rocket it occurred to me that
if any bike could plausibly offer an auto-trans option, this would be it. This
isn’t a criticism of the rocket’s clutch and gearshift. On the contrary – the
clutch operates smoothly without excessive lever loads and the gearchange is
just fine. In particular it snicks into first with almost delicate ease (if you
can use the word delicate about anything to do with a Rocket).
you’re a big bloke who likes his bikes huge then you need to check out the
Rocket Roadster. Awesome is an often misused word. I’ll go with it here though
to describe the bike’s straight-line performance. In fact it’s addictively
$22,990 plus ORC it’s a lot of bike (and brutish performance) for the money
has been quite open about its intention to use the Roadster to take the Rocket
III out of the cruiser market-segment, where presumably its size and
performance proved to be a bit daunting to traditional cruiser buyers.
is less clear is where the Roadster now finds itself in terms of competition.
Triumph’s ‘ultimate muscle streetfighter’ label isn’t really market-segment
first glance you could line it up against a fine power-cruiser like the Victory
Hammer. But the Hammer’s 1760cc engine makes less than 100 horses, a figure
that just compete in the performance stakes with the Rocket’s 146 horses.
leaves me lining it up against Harley’s VRSC V-Rods and Yamaha’s VMax, both big
high performing bikes, boasting respectively 123 and an amazing 197 horsepower.
big, bad engine
big bad presence
very, very big
TRIUMPH ROCKET III ROADSTER
four-valve, in-line triple
Bore x stroke: 101.6 x
Compression ratio: 8.7:1
Fuel system: Electronic
Final drive: Shaft
AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type: Welded
steel, twin spine
Front suspension: Kayaba 43mm
Rear suspension: Kayaba
pre-load-adjustable twin shocks
Front brakes: Twin 320mm
discs with Nissin four-piston calipers and ABS
Rear brake: Single 316mm
disc with Nissin two-piston caliper and ABS
Wet weight: 367kg
Seat height: 750mm
Fuel capacity: 24 litres
Max power: 109kW
(146hp) at 5750rpm
Max torque: 22.5kg-m
at approx 2750rpm
Price: $22,990 plus
Test bike supplied
Pics: Ellen Dewar