Triumph Rocket 3 – Ultimate Muscle Bike

The Triumph Rocket 3 is one of the most exciting muscle roadsters that the world has ever seen. It is certainly the most exciting bike to come out of the Triumph factory. 

At first the monster bike was considered a bit of a joke, overkill, a need to just be the biggest production motorcycle and for those who wanted a status symbol.

Over the years however, the Triumph Rocket 3 has become admired, enjoyed, accepted and even loved by owners and enthusiasts the world over. 

In this article we will skip briefly back to the origin story, review the current model, and dig into the details that we all want to know about the Triumph Rocket 3. Let’s begin.

Table of Contents

Triumph Rocket 3 – a brief history

So, I would argue the Triumph Rocket 3 got its start all the way back in 1969 when Triumph and BSA released a joint venture to compete with the groundbreaking (World’s First Superbike), Honda CB750 Four

The offering to the market was the triple-cylinder Triumph Trident and the BSA Rocket 3. Arguably the two should have been produced sooner than Honda to give Triumph the victory, but internal politics put pay to that and so I shall move on.

Fast forward to 2004 and an introduction of an all-new bike bearing the Rocket 3 name. 

Other than sharing a name and 3 cylinders like the original 1969 bikes, the new Triumph Rocket was a completely different animal. 

It started long before that in 1998, when Triumph wanted to deliver a big cruiser capable of competing with the bikes leading the US cruiser market like the Harley Ultra Glide and Honda Gold Wing GL1000.

Ross Clifford was Triumph’s product range manager and he was the man behind the research, identifying a need for a big bike. John Mockett, Triumph’s in-house designer, was designated with the task. Initially the intention was to build a bike bigger than 1600cc.

However, Yamaha and Honda both launched big cruisers just over the 1600cc benchmark so the ante was upped and the goal set at 2294cc.

Several prototypes were run through to get the bike right and it was 2003, before the Triumph Rocket 3 was unveiled in San Antonio, Texas followed by a European launch in 2004 and the International Motorcycle Show, Milan. 

It was met with praise and astonishment, and proved itself a hit around the world, with deposits being taken in Australia before any of the bikes had even landed. 

However, longer term it couldn’t quite find its place, neither being accepted by Harley lovers as a true competitor and not quite accepted as a true muscle bike either. Now, it is generally considered a cruiser and a great option as a touring bike. 

In 2018, Mark Holmes rode his Triumph Rocket 3 around the world covering 39,000 miles, as testament to both him and his machine.

Over the years the Triumph Rocket 3 has evolved and has seen various iterations most notably:

  • 2004 Original Rocket III
  • 2005 Rocket 3 Classic – Chromed to the nines, rider floorboards and touring bars
  • 2006 Rocket 3 Classic Touring – Same as the classic, with more tourer features like windscreen, saddlebags and pillion backrest
  • 2010 – Rocket 3 Roadster – Known as the ultimate street fighter muscle bike, and the best performing model so far with all new performance enhancing parts.

The classic, roadster and tourer version all lived throughout the production run with a few tweaks, until around 2015 when the Rocket 3 saw a quick blip to be re-examined and meet new emission regulations mainly under Euro 4 then Euro 5 regs. 

It was brought back in 2019/20 in the format that it remains in today. 

2020 Triumph Rocket 3 Review

triumph rocket 3 engine
The Triumph Rocket engine delivers more torque than any other production motorcycle

The obvious place to start when reviewing a motorcycle with the worlds biggest production motorcycle engine will be with it’s 2500cc beastly engine and the performance it produces. So that is where I will begin.

The Inline 3-Cylinder, Water-Cooled, DOHC, 2458cc, engine produces 165 horsepower at 6,000rpm and 221 Nm at 4,000rpm. That is a lot of flipping power and that level of world leading torque is simply a little bit insane. 

The 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 was re-introduced in Europe having had a small hiatus (the US didn’t suffer a break in production), and it was back with a vengeance to meet the Euro 5 regulations and to perform significantly better than its predecessor. 

It offers 11% more overall power and the most torque of any other motorcycle ever; the Ducati XDiavel is a monster machine, but the new Triumph Rocket produces 160 Nm more torque than the Italian at its peak.  

The engine had an overhaul with new crankcases and a host of other assembly parts; overall 40kg in weight was saved from the previous model. A lot of the reduction came from the new lightweight cast aluminum frame that Triumph opted for. 

To be clear the bike is still very heavy, there is no way around that fact, and trying to pedal the bike around on the drive is going to be a bit of a nightmare. It is, however, glued to the road, incredibly reactive on the throttle, power delivery is seamless, and feels very balanced. 

While some have said the combination of a super light clutch and throttle can make the bike feel a bit snatchy, it is just worth knowing in the back of your head to take your time and the bike will react accordingly. 

The clutch is a torque-assist hydraulic clutch which is what makes it super lightweight and aids rider comfort.

The bike is low-revving and final shaft drive ensures that you never feel out of control despite the potential power you are sitting on; the throttle is smooth and power inserts itself as and when it is needed. All 6 gears are very tall and you will hardly need to use 6th gear with 5th being more than adequate as a touring cruising gear for long stretches, thanks to the torque the bike packs. 

If you are ready for a more spritely style of riding the Rocket can offer you that; just be sure to remember your extra braking distance to account for the weight and make sure you commit in the bends – no fear. 

Once up and moving the weight is surprisingly forgiving and easy to forget, you will be surprised by the ability of the bike to handle even the sharpest of bends, check out Triumph’s 0-60 video later in the article. 

You could be forgiven for thinking the Triumph Rocket 3 will just plod along all day and be a true thumper. The bike begs for you to open it up and explore the range, the sheer size just takes some getting used to first.

Front and rear suspension comes from Showa and is of a quality that really is unrivaled. It is very unlikely that you will find a rider dissatisfied with the suspension set up on the Rocket 3, whether they ride alone or 2-up over some distance. A machine of this calibre and size needs to be appropriately set up and it is.

The lightweight cast aluminum frame, swingarm and wheels are very solid and confidence inspiring holding everything together and in its rightful place. Wires are internally wired through the handlebars and throughout the frame so everything is tidy. 

At just over 290kg dry it is essential the power-weight ratio is balanced correctly and it seems that Triumph have nailed this, with no complaints being made about feeling sluggish or on the contrary like your riding an ice skate in a rink. 

Traction Control also helps keep everything under control and calm, but this can be turned off if you want to be a hooligan, I would suggest there are more sensible bikes to do this on though.

So we have this monster bike, how does it stop? Brakes take the shape of Brembo discs, two on the front and one one the rear linked with ABS. The brakes are firm enough to make a point of stopping but are not too aggressive, thanks to the ABS a little harder pull on the front brake will kick in the rear to create a nice balance. 

ABS isn’t the only tech thrown into the Triumph Rocket 3, far from it:

  • A quick-shifter (Triumph Shift Assist) can be added into the package.
  • Torque-Assist throttle is standard
  • Traction Control
  • 4 rider modes – Rain, Road, Sport, Rider
  • Hill-Hold Control
  • Keyless Ignition
  • Cruise Control
  • Heated Grips (optional for R, standard for GT)
  • USB charge point and 12v handlebar socket
  • TFT Connectivity System can be added with accessory fitted bluetooth modules.

The TFT system offers the following features:

  • World’s first motorcycle integrated ‘GoPro’ control system
  • Triumph’s first ‘turn-by-turn’ navigation system built with Google – the first Google partnership with a premium motorcycle manufacturer 
  • Music and phone operation

Frankly the Triumph Rocket 3 is all singing and dancing when it comes to the tech it is packed with, riders will lack for nothing if such features are important to them.

Probably my favourite feature is the hill-hold control. With a bike of this magnitude, getting stuck in traffic on a hill isn’t going to be fun and being able to engage the rear brake and prepare for lift off again is a very useful addition to the package. 

When it comes to comfort and ergonomics there are slight differences in the R and GT models. However, across the board it seems that both bikes are very comfortable for some distance. The Triumph Rocket 3 R model encourages the rider to take that Roadster riding position and hunch just a bit further forward over the tank for handlebar reach, along with mid-mount controls. 

The Triumph Rocket 3 GT however, swings the bars back a little and has feet forward controls. 

Now while the seats are slightly different they are unanimously joined in that they are both equally comfortable. 

No, I haven’t gone mad, not yet anyway, reviews across the board all state that the Triumph Rocket 3 seat is comfortable and good for the long haul. It is unusual for this to be the case so Triumph have really pushed the bar and paid attention to the seat on this occasion. 

Further aiding rider comfort is the adjustable foot pegs on both models. You can adjust to get the right position for you and that is a novelty to have when riding distance as just small adjustments like that can mean you can keep going for a few more miles before needing a pit stop.

The fly screen on the GT isn’t huge, but does seem to take the edge off the wind for riders even those that exceed 6ft. It is, however, not adjustable. 

In terms of economy the Triumph Rocket 3 returns 160 miles per full tank according to Triumph’s figures of 41.45mpg. Taking into account the inflated idea of manufacturers’ economy figures and getting a bit more real, I would suggest around 135 miles a tank is more reasonable to aim for.

It feels rude to have left the styling of the Triumph Rocket 3 until last but it has to be said that the performance does win out on a bike of such scale. That is not to say that the Rocket 3 is not a good-looking bike. In fact it is stunning. 

I appreciated the old style Triumph Rocket 3, with the bulbous tank, it was all completely over the top. The new Triumph Rocket 3 is refined and ready to be taken seriously. It is a very attractive bike in both the R and GT model as the differences are subtle.

Twin LED headlights are the Rockets signature, the exhaust pipes make a statement but don’t stick out at funny angles, the symmetry is quite special. 

Monza style cap, stylish internally wired handlebars, intricate 20 spoke wheels, brushed aluminum tank strap and airbox cover among others give the bike an extra premium feel and elegance, with such details illuminating the raw beast shape of the bike overall.  

You can choose from over 50 accessories for the new Triumph Rocket 3 including a highway package to really make the most out of your bike to use for touring. The Highway Inspiration kit includes:

  • Sports panniers
  • Retractable mounting kit
  • Billet machined integrated luggage rack
  • Forged and machined round bar-end mirrors
  • Triumph Shift Assist
  • Triumph TFT Connectivity System

Color options for the 2021 Triumph include Korosi red, silver ice and cranberry red, silver ice storm grey and phantom black

You can check out and configure your Rocket 3 with the accessories here on Triumph’s website. 

There are some things that notably go against the Triumph Rocket 3:

  • Weight – it means that low/no speed maneuvers are very challenging.
  • The display control joystick is very close to the indicators and that can be annoying especially as most riders wear gloves which are not conducive with precision.
  • Sound has been described as disappointing, it would be nice for it to have a beefy racket to go with the nature of the bike. I fear emission regulations have had the final say over this. 
  • Fuel economy isn’t amazing and riders touring would probably like to be able to get a few more miles in before needing to re-fuel.
  • The price will likely affect accessibility for most potential owners.
Triumph Rocket 3

Triumph Rocket 3 GT vs Triumph Rocket 3 R

There are currently two models the Rocket 3 R and Rocket 3 GT, the R standing for ‘Roadster’ and GT ‘Grand Tourer’.

The main difference between the two is simply that the GT is built for more long distance touring and adapted as such:

  • The GT comes with a touring seat for rider and pillion and includes a brushed aluminium back rest for the pillion which is height adjustable. 
  • Ergonomically the GT offers forward footpegs adaptable in 3 positions, whereas the R has mid foot controls that can be adjusted in 2 positions.
  • Handlebars on the R are more roadster style sporty bars, the GT is fitted with more laid-back touring focused bars.
  • The R model comes with blacked out wheels but the GT has exposed metal machined wheels.
  • The GT is equipped with an extended fly-screen and heated grips as standard.

The majority of the specs remain identical as you will see in the next section of the article, the only differences are noted in the Dimensions/Weights section where there are some small differences.

Both of the Triumph Rocket 3 models come in a limited edition model, the Rocket 3 R Black and Rocket 3 GT Triple Black. 

These limited edition motorcycles are limited to a run of 1,000 units each worldwide. They feature a premium paint scheme such as three-shades of black on the GT Triple Black; carbon fibre parts such as front mudguards and generally more exclusive feel to the machines. 

Triumph Rocket 3 Specs

Engine and Transmission – 

  • Inline 3-Cylinder, Water-Cooled, DOHC, 2458cc
  • Bore x Stroke – 110.2 x 85.9
  • Compression – 10.8:1
  • Max Power – 165 horsepower at 6,000rpm
  • Max Torque – 221 Nm at 4,000rpm
  • Ride by wire – Fuel Injection
  • Exhaust – 3 into 1, with 3 exit silencers
  • Final Drive – Shaft Drive
  • Clutch – Wet, multi-plate hydraulically operated, torque-assist
  • Gearbox – 6 Speed

Chassis – 

  • Full Aluminum Frame
  • Swingarm – Single-sided cast aluminum
  • Front Wheel – 17 x 3.5in cast aluminum
  • Rear Wheel – 16 x 7.5in cast aluminum
  • Front Tire – 150/80 R17 V
  • Rear Tire – 240/50 R16 V
  • Front Suspension – Showa 47mm upside-down 1 1 cartridge front forks, compression and rebound adjuster, 4.7in (120mm) travel
  • Rear Suspension – Fully adjustable Showa piggyback reservoir RSU with remote hydraulic preload adjuster, 4.2in (107mm) rear wheel travel.
  • Front Brakes – Dual 320mm discs, Brembo M4.30 Stylema® 4-piston radial monobloc calipers, Cornering ABS
  • Rear Brakes – Single 300mm disc, Brembo M4.32 4-piston monobloc caliper, Cornering ABS

Dimensions and Weights –

  • Handlebar Width – ‘R’ 35in (889mm), ‘GT’ 34.8in (886mm)
  • Height without mirror – ‘R’ 41.9in (1065 mm), ‘GT’ 42in (1066 mm)
  • Seat Height – ‘R’ 30.4in (773mm), ‘GT’ 29.5in (750mm)
  • Wheelbase – 66in (1677 mm)
  • Rake – 27.9 º
  • Trail – 5.3in (134.9mm)
  • Dry Weight – ‘R’ 641.5lb (291kg), ‘GT’ 648.2lb (294kg)
  • Tank Capacity – 4.8 US gal – 18 litres

Instrument Display and Functions – 

  • TFT multi-functional instrument pack with digital speedometer, trip computer, digital tachometer, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, service indicator, ambient temperature, clock and rider modes (Rain/Road/Sport/Rider-configurable) – Triumph TFT Connectivity System can be added with accessory fitted Bluetooth module

Triumph Rocket 3 Price?

UK Rocket Prices

Triumph Rocket 3 R – £20,000

Triumph Rocket 3 R Black – £21,000

Triumph Rocket 3 GT – £20,700

Triumph Rocket 3 GT Triple Black – £21,700

US Rocket Prices:

Triumph Rocket 3 R – $22,500

Triumph Rocket 3 R Black – $23,700

Triumph Rocket 3 GT – $23,200

Triumph Rocket 3 GT Triple Black – $24,400

How fast can a Triumph Rocket 3 go?

MCN reports a top speed of 138mph, while other sources suggest around 145mph.

The bikes top speed may not be quite what some would expect out of such a huge motor, where it thrives is in its masses of world leading torque. 

Let’s be realistic there aren’t too many people taking a Triumph Rocket 3 to a track to really hit the top speed mark anyway racing against their mates on light sportsbikes. 

Triumph Rocket 3 0-60 times

When it comes to speed records the first machines that come into mind are SuperSports, bikes built specifically for the task like the Kawasaki H2 or the BMW S1000RR. 

It may therefore come as a surprise to know that the Triumph Rocket 3 R broke speed records in October 2019 at the Cartagena track in Spain, for completing 0-60 in 2.73 seconds. 

Triumph were keen to point out the model used was near enough a production bike with only weight removed being the mirrors and number plate.

You can check out the Rocket 3 R breaking the 0-60 speed record in the video below. Be sure to see how the professional rider throws the bike into the bends and overall proves the Rocket is far more than a beefy cruiser lacking agility and performance.

I would suggest that the average joe riding a Triumph Rocket 3 R might not reach such a quick time as this, the bike was in the hands of a professional rider. With that said, if the bike was pretty much a production model it is possible, if you want to give it a go at a drag strip. 

Is the Triumph Rocket 3 a cruiser?

Both the Triumph Rocket 3 R and GT version are considered to be cruiser motorcycles with comparisons often drawn to the unconventional cruiser of the Ducati XDiavel or the more traditional but still big Harley Davidson Fat Boy. 

The Triumph Rocket 3 is indeed a street legal motorcycle despite using “the world’s biggest production motorcycle engine at 2,500cc, delivering the highest torque of any production motorcycle you can buy with 221Nm @ 4,000rpm” Triumph

Triumph Rocket 3 weight?

The Rocket 3 R has a dry weight of 641.5lb (291kg)

The Rocket 3 GT has a dry weight of 648.2lb (294kg)

Final Thoughts

What a feat of engineering and design? The Rocket 3 has matured over the years and become more refined from a design standpoint. 

It made a statement on its first release with the huge tank, chrome accessories and simply screamed for attention. Now both the Rocket R and GT are sleeker, more subtle, but equally breath-taking with improved impressive performance to match. 

The Triumph Rocket 3 might not be for everyone but even those that don’t want to ride one can’t ignore the craftsmanship, brave design, and sheer muscles of the machine. 

As usual I am a big fan of the Rocket 3 from Triumph. In fact I am yet to find a bike that I haven’t at least warmed to in some way, I may have a problem. 

Triumph Rocket 3 - Ultimate Muscle Bike

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