Triumph Rocket III - Nostalgic Motorcycle - Off Idle

Once in a while a bike really gets me, really touches a nerve. Most recently, that bike is Triumph's rippling Rocket III. I wouldn't say it makes me feel "emotional," at least not by the modern designation of the term. It's not like my eyes well up or anything (though nearly, in that joyous anticipation of wild-ass acceleration). Sure, as I get off the bike at roadside stops, people might say I'm maniacal as I gesticulate dangerously and cackle like some crazy hen. While I was first getting to know it, riding the Rocket III would also freak me out occasionally-inducing a rift of terror that was quite emotional, especially in tight fast corners when it can suddenly feel like a supercharged Greyhound bus. But when I say the new Triumph really gets me "right there," that's not what I mean at all.

It's deeper than all that. The Rocket III sparks some kind of memory pathway that leads to a deep, inviting pool of personal nostalgia. There are other bikes there, memories of the first bikes I rode and loved back in the 1970s when I was young and in lust with speed: Yamaha's crazy two-stroke RD400 and Honda's 400 Four, a wild little brute of a bike. Remember? Honda's CB750 of the late '60s has its own pedestal in my mental museum, though it's vanquished by Kawasaki's amazing KZ1000 when I see that in my mind's eye, just as the world turned toward that groundbreaking "Super Four" when it was released in '72. As I grew older, I nurtured the lust for power, never giving into comfort or style. One of my favorite '80s bikes was Suzuki's GS1150e. Looking back from modern bike standards, I'm not sure why that particularly boxy standard stole my heart, but man, I loved it. The late-'80s V-Max was and remains one of my all-time favorite street rods. And heck, I don't even have to hunt for recollections-the same bike is still on showroom floors! My next big turn-on was Kawasaki's ZX-11 when it was first introduced in '89. I bought one two weeks after giving birth to my daughter in '92 as a cure for postpartum depression (it worked like a charm). I didn't get to ride it much for the first year, but having it sitting there (in the living room like a shrine) kept me connected to my past, and also linked me to a future when my boobs would no longer have a job, and diapers would become a distant, smelly memory.

It seems that at least once or twice each decade a bike comes along that fits into this daisy chain of machines that leads me straight back to my youth. Before the Rocket III it was the reincarnation of the KZ as the ZRX1100. Before the retro Kawasaki it was Triumph's Thunderbird Sport.

Let me confuse you by saying that the Honda Valkyrie is actually the bike that captured the lion's share of my devotion over the past decade. The standard version and the flash-the-cash Rune are my reigning favorite bikes. Other motorcycles I favor-the Vulcan Mean Streak, the Yamaha Venture Royal Star, various Harleys and the Suzuki Volusia-have nothing to do with my personal nostalgia trip. They don't touch me in the same way the Rocket III does. It's a different platform. A personal chord.

Because you can't define "nostalgia" in general terms, can you? Sure, everyone talks about how classically styled V-twin cruisers are nostalgic, and I guess that's true in a universal way. That heart-shaped engine is part of our heritage, part of our history as a nation...as a people with ideas and loyalties. But personal nostalgia is something worlds away. It's an inimitable history that connects our current being to our youth. For me it's things like Dr. Pepper in an ice-cold glass bottle, black licorice, drive-in movies and the hot grease smell under the hood of a steel-bodied, big-block muscle car. So many threads linked together by a dozen or so motorcycles that seemed, at least to me, to be more about their engines and maximum output than pleasing everyone. There's no real rhythm or reason, really. No logic trail for what becomes nostalgic to us during the course of our lives. I suppose, more than anything, it's about what makes us feel most alive along the way.

And let me tell you, when a fully throttled Rocket III hits 2500 rpm, there is no sleeping. -Jamie Elvidge

Tell me what motorcycles are nostalgic to you and why at jamie.elvidge@primedia.com.