RIDING THE BIG ONE ON TENERIFE
Tenerife, Spain. People who know me also know that I have a crush for big custom motorcycles. So, despite the excessively long travel time, I did not think twice when I was invited to try out the new Triumph Rocket 3 in Tenerife. Launched in 2004, the Rocket 3 is the production motorcycle with the biggest engine on the market: 2,458 cc. The 2020 model has been completely redesigned and it is offered in two packages: the sporty and mean-looking R, and the comfortable and equally powerful GT.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
I had seen the new Rocket on paper, in the press kits, so I had high expectations and was eager to see it in person. I was not deceived. This is a big imposing machine, with a great finish and a strong muscle-bike look. It has everything you need to get attention. We’ve been parading all day on the island and the tourists were captivated every time we would pass by. Tenerife is the largest island of the Canaries, and the volcano Teide is the highest peak in Spain. Planted in the middle of the island, it culminates at 3,718 metres. So a lot of curves and uphill roads to come; that will be ideal to test the nimbleness and manoeuvrability of this 291 kg machine.
I was assigned the GT to begin with, probably because of my white hair and beard . . . let’s give Grandpa something more comfortable!
The GT has a small windshield, a sissy bar, heated grips, and touring-style handlebars. The footpegs are located closer to the front (and are horizontally adjustable) to create a custom-like riding position. Other than that, it is identical to the R.
LET’S HIT THE ROAD
Since I am riding the GT, I might as well begin with the Road mode; it will allow me to fully appreciate the smoothness of the big powertrain. There are three other modes available: Sport, Rain, and Rider-Configurable. With the key fob in my pocket, I press the starter button and the three-cylinder engine comes alive with a great, powerful and deep rumble. I am eager to hear it at higher revs so I twist the throttle and that puts a smile on my face right away — a smile that I’ll keep all day long! I like the ride-by-wire throttle.
A few kilometres is all I need to see that this rocket is agile. Even at low speeds, I do not feel its weight. It must be said, though, that it is 40 kg lighter than the previous model, thanks in good part to the aluminum used for the brand new frame, single-sided swingarm and wheels. When we get to the highway, I twist the throttle to catch up with the guide. The acceleration is surprising; even in Road mode, I quickly reach illegal speeds. I can’t wait to try the Sport mode, and check how easily it can be selected. In the meantime, I concentrate on evaluating other aspects: the riding position and the comfort are fine, and the Rocket delivers a very smooth ride. I am not too enthusiastic about the small windshield, though.
We then leave the highway to get to the twisties; it’s time to select the Sport mode. As soon as we negotiate the first curves, I see that the big machine is nimble and easy to steer from one side to another. I was somewhat apprehensive considering the size and the length of the Rocket 3, plus the fact that it is fitted with a big 240 mm rear tire. Well, my worries turned out to be unjustified: it behaves in a very sound manner. Even if you push it deep into a curve, it stays on track without any drama. The only problem is that the forward-mounted pegs of the GT easily touch the ground. In straight lines, I am having a lot of fun enjoying the raw power of the big triple, and I can confirm that it does push hard! Of course, with such a big and powerful machine, you also need a powerful braking system. And that’s what you get: the Brembo Stylema front and rear calipers are linked and they deliver a faster and more precise braking power even into curves. The high-tech system even adjusts itself according to the way you ride. Of course, all the electronic riding aids are adjusted when you change riding modes. The Hill-hold control system is also welcome when taking off on a slope, considering the weight of the beast.
OK, my ride on the GT is over now because we stop for lunch. Next step: the higher mountain roads and the temperature drop aboard the Rocket 3 R. The afternoon is going to be sportier!
THE ROCKET 3 IN R TRIM
The Rocket 3 R fits right into the classic roadster tradition with a minimalist approach for a clean look, solid power and top-notch finish. The riding position is a lot sportier: the handlebars are flatter and moved forward, the seat is a little higher, and the footpegs are nicely placed, closer to the centre (they are adjustable vertically in two positions). The seat height allows people of all sizes to be at ease riding this motorcycle. The cockpit is very spacious, so that you never feel cramped.
I push the little button on the bar to select the Sport mode because I want to appreciate all the power and electronic functions of my two-wheeled rocket! The R delivers the same performance, has the same equipment (except for the heated grips) and offers the same stability as the GT. What makes it different is that it allows you to ride into the curves more aggressively because of its much sportier riding position and higher footpegs. You can really push it further and it will respond fine. And please allow me to say it — or write it — again: you do not feel its weight at all. In our climb to the highest summit of Tenerife, we rodee at a very fast pace into the twisties in varying weather (fog, cold, drizzle, a few drops of rain, sunshine) so I had the chance to ride the Rocket R in a wide array of conditions.
On both models, the suspension is by Showa. The rear monoshock is fully adjustable; the fork is adjustable for compression and rebound damping. Together, they perform very well in various road conditions. They provide a good comfort level for the pilot and an excellent stability. The Avon Cobra Chrome tires provide good grip.
The Brembo braking system is powerful and efficient. I used it extensively in the afternoon on the R and it always responded very well!
I was a little worried when came time to make the photo shoots, because they always imply a lot of low-speed manoeuvres and this bike is big. But despite the numerous U-turns in tight spots, I had no problems at all with either model.
The Rocket 3 is very well equipped. It’s got all the latest electronic riding aids: four riding modes, traction control, cruise control, lean-angle sensitive linked brakes with ABS, TFT colour screen, standard heated grips on the GT (optional on the R), etc. You can also connect your smartphone and GoPro camera and control them with the Rocket’s controls. The angle of the TFT screen is adjustable to get optimal visibility, a feature that’s especially useful in direct sunlight.
With the Rocket 3, Triumph offers a one-of-a-kind motorcycle. I was not so enthusiastic about the previous model, but this one is very convincing, in terms of both looks and riding experience. If I had to choose, I would pick the R. The style and the type of piloting induced by the riding position are a little closer to my personal tastes, but the GT is fine too. Both machines look good, they feature the quality finish we expect in this category, the engine is powerful and torquey, the ride is pleasant, they are very well equipped, and their nimbleness and manoeuvrability are surprising. As for the price, it is very reasonable considering what you get. It is not very different from what you would pay for other similar models.
If you have the chance to ride a Rocket 3, go for it. It is a worthwhile experience even if it’s not your type of machine to start with; you could be surprised!
Engine: Liquid-cooled DOHC inline triple
Displacement: 2,458 cc
Horsepower: 167 hp (claimed) @ 6,000 rpm
Maximum torque: 221 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
Fuel delivery: Electronic sequential multi-point injection
Exhaust: Stainless, 3 into 1 with 3 Arrow exists
Final drive: Shaft drive
Clutch: Hydraulically operated
Frame: Full aluminum
Swingarm: Single-sided, aluminum
Rear tyre (it’s English): 240/50 R16 V
Front tyre: 150/80 R17 V
Front suspension: Showa upside-down fork, 47 mm, adjustable for compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension: Showa shock with piggyback reservoir, fully adjustable, remote hydraulic preload adjuster
Front brake: Dual 320 mm discs, radial Brembo Stylema M4.30 monobloc calipers, cornering ABS
Rear brake: 300 mm disc, Brembo M4.32 monobloc caliper, cornering ABS
Display: TFT multifunctional instrument pack with digital speedometer, trip computer, digital tachometer, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, service indicator, ambient temperature, clock, rider modes
Seat height: 773 mm
Weight: 291 kg
Fuel capacity: 18 litres
Price: R: $25,900 / GT: $26,700