Big Baggers: 2008 Triumph Rocket III Touring Triple treat.
Photography by Jeff Allen
A small confession here: I was prepared not to like the Triumph because I rode a standard Rocket III cruiser a few years ago and found it long, heavy, wide and reluctant to change direction. These negative factors were mitigated only by the neat engine architecture, which reminded me of a Henderson Four engine I once bought to put in a Pietenpol Air Camper homebuilt airplane. But that’s a story for another day, when someone’s eyes need glazing over.
In any case, I was quite pleased to get on the new Touring version and find that the redesigned frame and narrower tires had turned it into a fine-handling road-burner and perhaps the motorcycle it should have been all along. Also, its stylishly integrated hard bags and superb wind flow past the short, look-over windscreen won me over instantly. As it did most of our gang.
And then there’s the power and torque. The Rocket’s 2.3-liter Triple sounds and feels like no other motor here. It has a slightly harsh, industrial-tool whine to it that’s nevertheless engaging for its deep growl, and it produces willing, effortless torque that will pull this big beauty rapidly uphill (Hill? What hill?) any time, in any gear.
The Suzuki actually makes three more horsepower, but the Rocket is in a league of its own for torque: 139.1 ft.-lb. at just 1950 rpm. Or 25 more than the next-best Kawasaki’s 114.1.
Yes, you say, but it needs it: This is a seriously heavy bike at 866 pounds. Right you are. You’ll need the help of two boys and a dog to get this thing out of a bad parking spot, but once it’s under way (under weigh?), much of the mass disappears and the Triumph’s engineering excellence begins to surface.
Ride quality is superb, and both ends of the taut-but-compliant suspension work with you to iron out washboard corners and road waves. The brakes have a firm, linear touch, and the bike turns in with quick precision and holds its line effortlessly in corners. After only a few miles of twisties, you realize this is a thoroughly developed chassis from a company that takes handling seriously.
The big Triumph can be hustled down a winding road, confidently.
The ride-friendly dynamics are augmented by a pretty good seat and what is probably the best windshield in our group. It looks low and minimal but seems to direct wind—and wind noise—successfully over your helmet, or perhaps off into outer space where it can do no harm.
What the Triumph offers is a sophisticated completeness. Like those folks from Milwaukee, the Triumph people in Hinckley took your desire for travel seriously and developed a bike to do the job. The Rocket III is a superb motorcycle, torquey, smooth, comfortable and capable.
But, yes, it is too big and heavy. Nevertheless, it was picked as best bike by three of our eight riders, and made top three for all the others. A Triumph of engineering over sheer mass.
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