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Is Bigger, Better? Triumph Rocket 3 R

What has two headlights, two wheels and a massive 2.5-litre engine? More importantly, is such it even a good idea? We find out with the Triumph Rocket 3 R.


It’s hard to fathom just what a motorcycle rocking an engine the same size as a typical family station wagon is to ride until you do. 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 which is well into its second generation and is the undisputed King of muscle bikes.

Priced from $39,990, the Rocket 3 is motorcycling at its most extreme and perhaps it is also motorcycling’s ultimate mechanical expression of excess. But unlike so many examples of excess in motoring (think Italian supercars) the Rocket 3 somehow maintains a guise of useability. A fact that 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 a full 221Nm of torque at 4000rpm and with a peak power of 123kW achieved at 6,000rpm. The second generation is a full 40 kilos 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 is the fastest accelerating model in the entire Triumph range, rocketing through 0-60mph (96.5kph) in just 2.73 seconds. Yet 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 fitted to the Rocket 3. 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. If anything, 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.

The ignition system is also of the keyless variety, which means no more searching for your key in your pocket after you’ve put on your gloves. However, you do need the key for the fuel cap which is hidden under the cool-looking Monza-style flap. Annoyingly for a bike in this price range, the fuel cap screws off and then needs to be put somewhere while you fill the Rocket’s 18-litre fuel tank. Surely Triumph could find a way to make the keyless fuel cap system from the Speed Triple and Tiger 1200 models work in the Monza style.

The Rocket 3 R is hilariously excessive, but priced at $1000 more is the more touring and pillion-friendly Rocket 3 GT, which offers even more comfort for both rider and pillion through a different rider triangle and revised seating. In GT trim, the Rocket 3 makes a little more sense in practicality terms, with its enormous torque easily able to cope with even the heaviest of pillions and luggage loads.

What I guess I’m trying to say is that this is a bike that somehow fulfils expectations and goes against them simultaneously.

Sure, it has all the brawn you could possibly want, but it is also much more manageable than it looks on paper thanks to its suite of electronics and great ergonomics.

Yes, it has its downsides like its weight, but it is no different to pushing a Harley around the garage.

The answer to the question "is bigger, better?" will depend on the circumstances. While there are plenty of pretenders to the muscle bike crown, the age-old saying "there's no replacement for displacement" comes very quickly to mind.

There is one thing you can be sure of, however. The Triumph Rocket 3 is aptly named.

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