When Triumph blurted the first Hinckley Rocket out of the factory way back in 2004, the motorcycle world was kinda incredulous. ‘How many litres did you say?’ It was the bearded lady in the marketplace – intensely novel and fun to look at, but would you want it in your shed?
The whole deal reminds one of those oft-told stories where the huffing and puffing portly person gets super fit and changes their life around.
Yes, it was high time for Triumph to rub the ageing design off the whiteboard and bring the big beast rocketing into 2020.
This is just the fifth Rocket update since it was launched in 2004, and 2020 marks the first significant upgrade to the engine. ‘Significant’. Remember that word.
It seems Triumph has given up on its early 2000s policy of price-pointing motorcycles and instead opted for a doctrine of providing quality componentry as its big calling card.
Of course, there’s always a trade off, and Triumph no longer holds the crown as the aggressively well-priced offerings in the marketplace. It’s a not so subtle shift in market positioning and so far, it’s working.
Back to the new bikes. How has Triumph gone about the monumental task of reigniting significant interest in the Rocket nomenclature?
Well, it hasn’t mucked around. This thing is a totally new jigger, with the DNA of the earlier bike well intact.
The new Rocket 3 comes in two variants, the roadster R and touring GT, with the major differentiation centred around riding position.
The R has a higher seat, mid-set footpegs and narrower bars, delivering a more stripped down hot-rod persona, while the GT’s lower seat, feet-forward controls and wider, higher bars deliver a chilled, cruiser take.
The forward-mounted GT pegs allow horizontal adjustment — a stock position, and back or forth 25mm. The tools to carry out this adjustment are to be found under a cover under the right side of the seat.
That donk. Triumph’s kept the same basic engine set-up – a longitudinally mounted vertical inline triple with a 120-degree crank, employing a driveshaft rotating in the opposite direction to stop the possible torque reaction that could otherwise easily fling you over the front fence and into the next suburb.
In one of the few areas where the new bike is larger than its predecessor, the oversquare 2458cc inline-three is 164cc greater in capacity than the outgoing Rocket 3.
Performance numbers can only be looked at through a welder’s mask, such is the red-hot nature of some of the data. While 123kW at 6000rpm, which is up 11 per cent over the previous model, is not to be sneezed at, it’s the 221Nm of peak torque at just 4000rpm that gets your attention.
The new bike’s suspension is from the house of Showa; the rear monoshock has a remote reservoir and is adjustable for preload, rebound, and compression. The 47mm fork is adjustable for rebound and compression only. Brakes are by Brembo; monoblocks controlled by a cornering ABS system developed by Continental. The bike rolls on Avon Cobra Chrome tyres; 150/80-17 front and 240/50-16 rear.
The electronic suite is impressive indeed. A five-axis Continental IMU enables that cornering ABS and cornering traction control. There are four riding modes, one programmable, that modifies throttle response and traction control on the fly. Cruise control is standard.
The ignition is keyless, as is the steering lock. To help you keep track of the motorcycle’s functions, there’s Triumph’s latest TFT display, which is configurable in numerous functional ways. Lighting is all LED, and there are DLRs. A hill-hold function is a nice standard touch. Under the seat, you’ll find a USB charging point.
So, Triumph Australia is quite excited about the new bikes and to celebrate all that merriment, took a few media heads on a road ride that set them free around the hills in the north west country outside Melbourne. Think, Gisborne, Mt Macedon, Trentham, Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. That sort of thing.
In a decision that must have been made over a few glasses of red wine, the marketing boffins over there at Triumph HQ decided to allow the gathered mob to run up the legendary Rob Roy Hillclimb.
It’s actually a benign 695 metres of bitumen with a fabulous history, situated in the imaginatively named Smiths Gully.
Much hilarity was the order of the day and really offered a good opportunity to experience the stump-pulling wonder that all that torque delivers.
We sent INFO MOTO’s ideas man James Brandt along, and he came away pretty impressed. Over to you Jimmy…
“The first thing that came to mind when I eyed up the new bike was ‘It’s big’.
“Also, from the cockpit, I noted the quality of fit and finish. There’s not a wire showing, there is brushed aluminium all over the shop and fasteners are perfect. Top marks there.
“It really is all about that torque though. From 60kmh to a hundred and plenty, the thing pulls and pulls. It’s all very comfortable and controlled, but the numbers this thing spins up are other-worldly.
“The ergos are good too. The clutch pull is incredibly light. Remarkably smooth, and the lever features simple adjustability with a twist of a knob.”
The seating position is good, and at 182cm, Jim considered it right on the money. “I reckon it doesn’t matter whether you are tall or short, you’ll kinda fit here.
“The R is sportier for sure than the GT,” Jimmy adds.
“The gearbox is brilliant. Dipping the clutch to match revs on downshifts is not an effort, and clutchless upshifts were always quiet and positive.”
There’s a squillion personalisation options available for the new Rockets and they are interchangeable.
In short, you can build the bike you want, mixing and matching across the range – handlebars, seats, flyscreens, and footrests, for example – can be swapped over. And Triumph’s already got 50-odd factory accessories, so there’s stacks of permutations.
The luggage includes black 20-litre panniers, a 12-litre tank bag, and nine-litre tail pack all made for Triumph by Givi.
The TFT dash will link to the rider’s smartphone and provide turn-by-turn navigation, and the ability to retrieve text messages — a feature that is thankfully available only when stopped.
It’s all controlled from a “joystick” button on the left handgrip that might prove more intuitive than some other manufacturers’ systems. Electronic cruise control comes standard, as do heated grips on the GT model. (Warm hands are an option on the sportier R.)
A better thing. More money, more grunt, more sophistication… more bike. It won’t suit everybody, and it really creates a niche occupied by only a few other brands, Think Ducati Diavel, Harley-Davidson FXDR – that sort of thing.
What it does do is give Triumph bragging rights. We can’t see 2.5 litres being topped anytime soon. And, by extension, you can claim top dog honours too.
It’s not just a hero design exercise though. It’s a well finished, well thought out motorcycle that operates dynamically brilliantly. We like it.
SPECS: Triumph Rocket 3/Rocket GT
Type: Inline 3-cylinder, water-cooled, DOHC
Bore x stroke: 110.2 mm x 85.9 mm
Compression ratio: 10.8:1
Fuel system: Electronic fuel injection
Claimed maximum power: 123 kW at 6000rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 221Nm at 4000rpm
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate assist
Final drive: Shaft
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame: Full aluminium frame
Front suspension: Showa 47mmupside-down 1+1 cartridge front forks, compression and rebound adjustable. 120mm travel
Rear suspension: Fully adjustable Showa piggyback reservoir RSU with remote hydraulic preload adjustable. 107mm rear wheel travel
Front brakes: Dual 320mm discs, Brembo M4.30 Stylema® 4-piston radial monobloc calipers, cornering ABS
Rear brake: Single 300mm disc, Brembo M4.32 4-piston monobloc caliper, cornering ABS
Tyres: Avon Cobra Chrome tyres; 150/80-17 front and 240/50-16 rear.
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Claimed dry weight: 291kg/294kg
Seat height: 773mm/750mm
Fuel capacity: 18 litres
Colours: Rocket 3 – Korosi Red, Phantom Black
Rocket 3 GT – Silver Ice and Storm Grey with a Korosi Red pinstripe decal, Phantom Black
Warranty: Two-year/unlimited kilometres
Prices: $27,990/$28,990 plus ORC
Bike supplied by: Triumph Australia