We Ride The Largest Production Motorcycle Engine On The Planet

 

The first time I ever laid eyes on the original Triumph Rocket III some years ago, the predecessor to the current Rocket 3R, I was fairly astonished, to put it mildly. Triumph, the brand of the iconic Bonneville, the single carb T series, the quintessential bikes of my father’s generation and more recently, the incredible triples of the Street, Speed and Daytona machines, was building this monstrosity? What the heck, Triumph? I straddled one in a local dealership once, and it felt like a water buffalo to my rather diminutive stature, both in girth and reach. I’ve ridden all kinds of Triumphs, from my father’s old TR6 and Bonneville 650, to a Trophy 1200 (didn’t enjoy it), a Sprint 955 ST (loved it), a Street Triple 765, and most recently, my beloved Bonneville 900 Street Cup. I’ll stick with the smaller, more traditional Brit bikes, thank you very much.

Then I rode the all-new 2022 Triumph Rocket 3R Black, and underwent a drastic paradigm shift.

The 2022 Triumph Rocket 3R Black strikes an imposing pose.

Triumph offered us a few weeks with a brand new 3R Black limited edition, and my response was, “Oh, absolutely! Phil will love this, being a much larger human than me,” as I just figured he’d be the primary “wrist” during our ride and review of the behemoth bike. I picked the bike up from Brian, Triumph’s go-to guy for prepping new machines for press reviews, to trailer it back across the insane maelstrom that is Atlanta traffic to my domicile in northeast Georgia. While strapping up the bike on my hauler, Brian quipped, “Rob, you really need to ride this bike yourself, not just Phil. Trust me, you won’t be intimidated by it.” He informed me that while the new Rockets have received a significant bump in displacement, from about 2300cc to 2500cc, they’ve lost over 100 lbs, from 797 lbs to about 668 lbs, full fluids. “They carry their weight low,” Brian observed, “are quite maneuverable and easy to handle at slow speeds. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you’ll enjoy it too.”

Upon returning to my residence in the open country of northeast Georgia, I took Brian’s advice and suited up for a quick spin on the beast. Fired her up, clicked into 1st, released the clutch- and rolled forward, smooth as warm butter over bread. No overwhelming urge to surge, just a fluid, easy clutch engagement, a smooth roll-on at the throttle, and shifting was light and easy. Okay, this might be more fun for a little guy than I anticipated. I took an initial 30-mile loop out through the late afternoon, rolling down country roads frequented more by cows and horses chewing cud and watching through fences as I rode by, than by automobiles. Perfect roads to get acquainted with an unfamiliar motorcycle.

Phil, our resident “digital media guru” and I had decided to approach the Triumph Rocket 3R from an angle we’d never reviewed a motorcycle before- how it fits and feels to a smaller rider, and how it fits and feels to a larger rider. For comparison purposes, I am all of 5’8”, about 155 lbs., whereas Phil is 6’2”, and about 230 lbs. For further perspective, I’ve always enjoyed standards, sport bikes, “nakeds” and the like. Phil, after growing up on dirt bikes, has been a street tourer/cruiser guy. The new-gen Triumph Rocket 3R is all of these, yet none of these. It’s been dubbed by moto-media as a “power cruiser”, like the Ducati Diavel, Suzuki Boulevard M109, and the venerable Yamaha V-Max, to name a few. And yet for sheer mass, nothing on the planet can come close to the Rocket 3R, in terms of displacement, horsepower and torque. Its a two-wheeled monster roadster that stands alone, practically creating its own class.

We absolutely love this blacked-out livery and look.

Okay, here’s some obligatory specs and digits for you gearheads:

The Triumph Rocket 3R Black is a limited edition, with Triumph only producing 1000 of this particular livery. But all of the R and GT models are running the new 2458cc in-line water-cooled triple, with a bore/stroke of 110.2 x 85.9, making 165 ponies at 6000 rpm, and 163 foot lbs. of torque at 4000 rpm. She’s got a 6-cog gearbox with a hydraulic, torque-assist clutch, propelled by a bevel-box shaft drive which doubles as a massive yet comely single-sided swingarm. The 3R rolls on a 150/80 R17 front tire, and a huge 240/50 R16 rubber boot out back. She’s got Showa adjustable forks fore, and a single adjustable Showa hydraulic shock aft. The Brembo brakes front and rear are 320mm and 300mm discs respectively, dual fronts and a single pinching the back. We’ve shared the wet weight above, but not only is the weight carried low as Brian stated, the set height is a nice 30.4 in., an easy throw-over for my smaller stature. The bike hauls 4.75 US gallons of go juice, but given the massive powerplant, the weight, and frankly, the rather hooligan way I particularly was given to riding it (my apologies Triumph, it’ll need new footpeg knobs. Couldn’t help myself.), we were getting low 30s mpg with it. That’s still not too bad, really. We refueled about every 165 miles.

The Triumph Rocket 3R is outfitted with ABS, switchable Traction Control, four ride modes (Rain, Road, Sport, and Rider Config), and a cool feature I’ve never seen on a motorcycle- Hill Hold. Activating this feature enables the rider to maintain position while stopped on inclines without trying to balance brake, clutch and throttle, and the bike won’t roll back. Once the rider releases the clutch and rolls on throttle, the feature seamlessly disengages as the bike moves forward. I tried it out on a couple of uphill stop signs I knew of, and I’ll be a son-of-a-gun, it worked. For a giant motorcycle like this, its another of the many confidence-inspiring features this big beauty possesses.

The TFT module has several display settings the rider can set it up in- Quartz, Chrome and Daylight, and a wide variety of data that can be arranged for display on the screen. All of which is easily found and configured via menu, home, and toggle switches on the left grip. I fiddled with it one afternoon in the garage, and had it pretty much figured out and set up to my liking within about 20 minutes. The Rocket models all employ keyless fob ignition, with a key that can be flicked out for access underseat. Beneath the pillions lie the battery, fuses, a small storage chamber with USB port, and a service plug-in port for shop diagnostics.

Beautiful fit and finish.

Okay, back to the overall fit, finish, and feel of this behemoth of a motorcycle. I must say first, the looks and lines of the 3R Black just knock me out. I find it both bad-@$$ looking and utterly beautiful. The exposed right side wheel and tire, the two exhaust pipes exiting right, with a single exiting left below the swingarm/shaft drive, is nicely done. An in-line triple with splendid intake and exhaust covers on either side, braided cables throughout, and brushed metal engine casings set against an otherwise all-blacked out bike is stunning. Oh, and those dual headlights! Wicked-looking, rolling down the highway or seen from a rearview mirror, I love them. This bike was a head-turner everywhere we rode it, and elicited a great many questions, quizzical looks, and selfie requests. There’s nothing like it on the road.

Let’s get to some ride impressions from myself and Phil, since most riders will fall somewhere around or between our disparate sizes.

“I’m Back In Black”


Rob’s Riding Impressions

The keyless ignition requires the rider to be up close to the bike, and on the right handlebar grip, the ignition button when pressed (with clutch in) spools up the fuel pump, runs a quick system check on the TFT screen, then opens all the chosen rider options before firing the beast. Thumbing the starter, the deep guttural growl of that massive triple is distinctive. I’ve never heard a bike that sounds like it. I’ve always loved the sound of a growling triple (my ’99 Sprint ST had a mean-sounding aftermarket exhaust), but nothing I’ve ever heard compares to this basement rumble.

Clutch action is smooth and fluid, not heavy as I expected. Shifting up and down through the six-speed gearbox is solid but light, practically effortless, due to the hydraulic engagement. Such a refined clutch and gearbox on so massive a machine. 6th serves as an overdrive essentially, and I rarely clicked into it around town. I did utilize it a few times on state highways, running a tad faster than I should have, and she just deep-hummed at speed, almost yawning at me. In keeping with the smooth shifting action, the throttle roll-on is also smooth and fluid, not jumpy like some sport bikes and power cruisers. Which is good, as I’d hate for this beast to get away from me at launch. Yet as the rider twists for more, the Rocket 3R responds with arm-stretching torque and power. Half a six-cylinder car engine underneath the rider is quite awe-inspiring, visceral. Roll-on power is massive, but under confidence-inspiring control.

This beast is a beauty.

I found the rider triangle a bit uncomfortable. The footpegs position is neutral and perfect, but the reach to the bars stretched me forward, then with wide grips, I was stretched wide as well. I’d have to get somewhat narrower bars and pulled back some. Taller riders over 5’10” or so will find the reach much more comfortable, as evidenced by Phil’s impressions below. I kept the Rocket 3R primarily in Road mode, but spent an entire day scurrying around in Sport. I found the gear ratios tightened up some, the throttle response was much more immediate and aggressive, the ABS and traction control sharper, and the fuel gauge shrunk quicker. Triple digits are easily and rapidly reached in all ride modes, even in the lower gears. Not divulging how we know that…

I became comfortable quickly on the Rocket 3R, which surprised me. Aside from the bar reach, in no time I was diving the beast deep through corners, accelerating out with confidence, and tossing it around like a much smaller standard or naked sport. Almost. With its low, centralized mass and huge tires, I can’t call it effortless in corners, but it dives in, holds a line, and straightens up back on throttle way better than a massive machine normally would. The perfect “super power cruiser”, two-wheeled “roadster”? I’m impressed, that’s for sure.

My conclusion? This beast is a beauty.

Senior editor Rob in and around Monroe, Georgia with the Rocket.


Phil’s Riding Impressions

Whether we realize it or not, we are always subconsciously making comparisons in our minds. Short vs tall, fat vs thin, fast vs slow, beautiful vs not so pretty, etc.  It’s no different when it comes to motorcycles-  Harley vs Indian, Triumph vs BMW, Ducati vs Aprilia and so on. You get the idea.  So when we at Road Dirt had a chance to toss a leg over this brand new 2022 (only 6 miles on the odo) Rocket 3R Black and review a bike with the largest production engine on the planet, the only trouble we had was finding anything to compare it to.

As Rob mentioned, I’m a tad taller and heavier than he is and most of the bikes we’ve reviewed to-date have been a bit small for yours truly. One day over a fish tacos lunch I told Rob, “If Triumph ever offers us a Rocket to review, I’m all in.” I felt the bike had the size and horsepower my lanky frame would need. They called, they offered, and now was my chance to ride a Triumph that might fit me.

The Rocket just looks fast even standing still.

Just having returned from a business trip, I waited in the garage for Rob to roll up on this beautiful beast to get a look at it. I must say, I was not disappointed.  The curb appeal was instant with subtle yet very European design cues. The single sided swingarm housing the drive shaft offers a beautiful view of the cast aluminum rear wheel while the exhaust is braided around the frame and engine like a pastry straight out of the British Bake-off. Triumph paid attention to every detail right down to the Triumph logos in the center of the twin headlights. This “Black” limited edition we straddled included enough gray, silver and brushed aluminum accents to balance out the overall look of the bike. The Rocket just looks fast even standing still, and I was about to find out the rumors of it’s 0-60 speed were not rumors at all.

Once Rob got me up to speed on the big Triumph, the electronic ignition and instrument cluster sprung to life and I took off.  The first thing I noticed was the absolute smoothness of the clutch and transmission. Being a Harley guy, a tap on the gear shifter usually involves a “clunk” and then easing out a heavy hydraulic clutch. Not on this Rocket. Even with 2500 cc’s to the driveshaft, the hydraulic clutch and tranny are clean, crisp and buttery smooth when running up through the 6 speeds. There is no jerking or twisting of the frame, which is comforting considering the single sided swingarm and drive shaft are one unit, as opposed to a belt or chain drive and dual swingarms.

Digital media specialist Phil enjoying some throttle therapy astride the big bike.

Triumph has engineered the gearing and torque ratios with a very forgiving powerband. In corners where you should be rolling through in second gear and end up in third, the bike powers out without so much as a whimper. The power is just there, with no hesitation.  The powerplant loves to run long in the teeth, and 5th gear feels like you could run it up well into the triple digits before shifting into 6th, but alas, why would you?  Speaking of cornering, when I dove the Rocket 3R into our local twisties, the bike felt like it wanted to tuck itself in like banging a Supercross berm and then shooting itself out of a cannon into the straightaway.

Most of us riders really enjoy the sensation of speed and acceleration, in a straight line or in twisties, and if that describes you, then the Rocket 3R is a machine you really should sample. I have to say, I’ve ridden the Harley LiveWire which doesn’t have a clutch or transmission and thought that was the fastest bike in the world at 0-60 in 3.0 seconds. The Rocket 3R can do that in 2.6 seconds with a clutch and tranny-  impressive doesn’t describe how quick this bike is. Couple the Rocket’s straight line speed with the smooth Brembo brakes and you have a sport cruiser that feels very comfortable in and out of turns while blasting past your buddies on the straights.

The Rocket 3R is a fun, fast yet comfortable, compliant motorcycle designed for around town riding, day trips to hit mountain twisties and could even be ridden long range with the right accessories (Check Triumph’s accessories page). As Rob and I both demonstrated, the rider triangle is accommodating for a variety of rider sizes and should be strongly considered by anyone looking to ride a great looking bike that is crazy powerful yet supremely manageable. Wherever we rolled through towns the bike was an attention-grabber, pedestrians stopping to gaze at the wonderful design elements of the bike and that beastly powerplant. As we observed this phenomenon, we could see people’s minds churning, trying to find a reference for what they were gawking at. All I could think was, “Forget it sir or m’am, there is no comparison to what you are beholding.”

My only questions are, (1) can I make room in the garage for one, and (2), will the wife approve?

For more on the Triumph Rocket 3 series, click here:

Triumph Motorcycles

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2 Comments

  1. Kenneth Baker

    I was the only bike to ride to the introduction party in Nashville a cold November day in 2019. One of the highlights was the newly restyled Rockets.
    They really looked like Triumph had changed direction from heavy cruiser to Diavel fighter. I liked the new direction, the bike looked lighter and more agile. I’d like to have a weekend on one.
    But, there’s always a but. The Rockets I’ve seen in everyday life haven’t been stripped down, want to be lighter, want to go faster types. In my experience they have been dressed up with big windshields or even Bat-wing fairings, big seats with back rests and luggage carrying capacity. In other words, they have been used as “Not-a-Harley” but will do the same thing and faster.
    I hope the new version sells enough to stay around.

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Great comments, Kenneth. The one downside I see is with the OEM accessory offerings. The GIVI luggage packages look very sportbike-cool, but have limited capacity. The old Rocket III could be kitted out as a decent tourer, whereas this rear-stripped roadster is now limited as a long-distance tourer, like you said. But I agree, I think they fired a shot across the bow of the Diavel, as well as the other power cruisers in the class. We liked it, of course, crazy fun to ride. I’ll be looking in the aftermarket for more substantial touring packs.

      Reply

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