‘I’m afraid we don’t have the bike available right now,’ were the words I was dreading to hear having asked Triumph if I could borrow one of its bikes. ‘But we can send you a Rocket 3 Roadster in the meantime,’ they continued.
To be frank I really didn’t know what to make of this news. You see, I like what you’d call more of a ‘sports’ bike: Bars low down and far away from you, feet tucked-up under your backside, that sort of thing. As such the thought of a big, heavy ‘cruiser’ wasn’t really igniting my enthusiasm.
Seeing the Rocket 3 emerge from the van it was delivered in didn’t do much to change my position. It was huge. It makes a Harley Davidson Sportster look like something you’d commute on, but setting aside my reservations I decided to go for a spin.
Sitting on the big Triumph the first thing to note is that it is extremely comfortable. The gel-packed seat is complimented by the forward-mounted foot controls and the bars feel well-placed, if a little widely-spaced. At least, that’s how it feels sitting on the tarmac outside Hangar 8…
Although the 2.3 litre triple will sound familiar to owners of smaller-capacity three-pot Triumphs, the Rocket 3’s motor is in fact completely different. It’s bolted directly to the swing arm and the frame which has a bracing effect in theory. It feels extremely smooth, too. The standard exhaust’s note is perhaps wanting for a little more ‘theatre’ but the typical three-cylinder bark and rasp is still there.
Pulling out on to the road the first thing to strike me is the gearbox, which snicks up through the ratios with a sharpness I wasn’t expecting. I was still marveling at how pleasant this was when my attention was drawn by the power delivery and throttle response. Whopping great dollops of torque are available from below 2000rpm, and at no point does the motor protest my attempts to make it bog down. It is astonishing. It’s turbine-like in the way it whisks you – very quickly – in to licence-losing territory.
In fact, the only thing that can slow the Rocket 3 down is the person riding it! The widely-spaced bars mean that you effectively form a parachute with your body which means that travelling at higher speeds is a bit of a challenge. I actually found hanging on to it to be great fun!
That the bike goes well isn’t so much of a headline. The Rocket 3 Roadster is the most powerful of its species and the advanced motor puts out 146bhp and a shattering 163lb ft of torque. No, where the bike finally turned me from a sceptic in to a smitten, giggling wide-eyed fan-for-life was the way it covers ground along a typical ‘bikers’ kind of road. Forget straight-line ‘cruising’ (although it’s perfectly adept at that), the Roadster is a ‘musclebike.’
Sure it’s not going to match a well-ridden sports bike, but if you want to entertain yourself on a tasty section of A-road then it’s… I almost hesitate to say this… it’s phenomenal, not just ‘good’ or ‘surprising.’ The centre of gravity feels very low, although the ground clearance is high, which gives you great confidence if you want to get some decent lean angles on. Oh and the brakes are simply beyond reproach, with a wonderful, progressive feel to them. Dynamically, every last thing about the bike just fills you to the brim with confidence.
On top of all of this it’s beautifully made, uses tasteful analogue gauges with discreet digital displays, has a range to embarrass most bikes and pulls down 45mpg unless you’re determined to cane it everywhere.
You will have gathered by now that not only did the Rocket 3 Roadster surprise me, it won me over like few machines I’ve ever experienced, be they of two wheels or four. Yes, as much as those who know me will be amazed to hear it, I love this bike and would recommend it to anybody.