Ridden: Triumph Rocket 3 supersizes your ride

Mathieu Day-Gillett
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Photos / Mathieu Day-Gillett

It’s hard to fathom just what a motorcycle rocking an engine the same size as a typical family SUV is like to ride, until you swing a leg over and hit the throttle. It’s just a bonkers idea that reeks of excess and seems to go against many of the principles of motorcycling.

Yet, Triumph has gotten away with not only making such a bike in the Rocket 3, but this model is well into its second generation as the undisputed king of muscle bikes.

Priced from $39,990, this large and in-charge motorcycle visually links back to Triumph’s most hooligan-inspired bikes - such as the original Speed Triple - with its twin headlights and burly engine proudly on full display. 

But unlike so many examples of excess in motoring, like Italian supercars, the Rocket 3 manages to maintain a guise of usability - which is quite perplexing when you hop on for the first time knowing nothing but the headline stats.

Triumph’s longitudinally mounted 2458cc three-cylinder engine muscles out 221Nm at 4000rpm, with 123kW achieved at 6000rpm. The second generation is a full 40kg lighter than the original platform, and even at over 300kg ready to ride, it has an immense power-to-weight ratio.

Despite its size and weight, the Rocket 3 lives up to its name. It’s the fastest accelerating model in the Triumph range: 0-60mph (96.5km/h) in just 2.7sec. It makes Triumph’s other sporty bikes seem slow in comparison.

It’s also surprisingly comfortable to spend longer stints in the saddle. The rider triangle places your legs and knees slightly forward, while the reach to the handlebars is near perfect. Then there’s the seat itself, which offers plenty of cushion for your behind while also ensuring you don’t fly off the bike backwards when you hammer on the throttle.

Dynamically, I found slow-speed corners more challenging than I’m used to, in part thanks to the massive tyres. The front is a large 150/80-17, while the rear tyre measures a huge 240/50-16. It’s about as large as motorcycle tyres get and yet I am still thankful for the traction control system, which prevents the Rocket 3 from smoking the rear tyre anytime you look at the throttle.

The technology suite on the Rocket 3 has everything you need, from the traction control system and ABS riding aids, to the multiple rider modes and cruise control. It’s all accessed from the handlebars and displayed on a TFT dash. This is where I found Triumph could make things better, as this generation of TFT feels cramped with its displays of information. Triumph’s latest TFT technology as seen on the Tiger 1200 range would be a definite step up here.

While the Rocket 3 R is hilariously excessive, priced at $1000 more is the more “sensible” Rocket 3 GT. This offers even more comfort for both rider and pillion through different rider ergonomics and revised seating, but still possesses the same raucous grunt as the R.

In GT trim, the Rocket 3 makes a little more sense in practicality terms, and its enormous torque is easily able to cope with even the heaviest of pillions and luggage loads.

Other brands have tried to muscle in on the Rocket 3’s turf, but none can quite match the burly Brit for sheer grunt.

What I guess I’m trying to say is that this is a bike that somehow fulfils expectations and goes against them simultaneously. If there is one thing you can be sure of, the Rocket 3 is aptly named.

PRICE: $39,990
ENGINE: 2458cc DOHC inline 3-cylinder
POWER: 123kW at 6000rpm, 221Nm at 4000 rpm
PROS: Wins Top Trumps hands down, comfortable, unimaginably quick for a bike its size.
CONS: Cramped TFT dash, bit of a handful in slow-speed manoeuvres.

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