Triumph Unveils Monster Motorcycle: 2300cc Rocket III

The British motorcycle company has a big one -- the 2300cc Triumph Rocket III. By Art Friedman

August 19, 2003: Triumph introduced the first motorcycle with a mass-produced proprietary engine over 2000cc today when the curtain went up on its new Rocket III, all all 2294cc model.

Triumph chose Texas, naturally, as the venue to reveal the biggest motorcycle, which features a 2294cc liquid-cooled DOHC 12-valve three-cylinder engine set in line with the frame znd driving the massive 240/50V16 rear tire through a shaft final drive. This "most bold step ever taken by Triumph" was designed to leapfrog the competition and put Triumph on top in the displacement race. It started out as a 1400, grew to 1500 and then to 2000 before the 2.3-liter engine size was finalized. Bore is 101.6mm with a 94.3mm piston stroke.

With a name lifted from a three-cylinder BSA model, which shared a 750cc three-cylinder engine design with Triumph in the late 1960s, the new 140-cubic-inch engine claims massive horsepower (140 at 5750 rpm) and huge torque just off idle. It boasts 147 foot-pounds of torque at 2500 rpm, but makes 90% of that at 1800 rpm. Triumph claims that its torque at 1500 rpm matches the Gold Wing at its torque peak. Triumph boasts a quicker 0-to-60-mph time (2.8 seconds) than a Suzuki Hayabusa and 0-to-100 times that will bury any cruiser. By counter-rotating some components, Triumph says it has eliminated the tendency of inline engines to torque the bike to one side when the engine is revved at a stop.

Conceived in America and built for and at the request of the U.S. Triumph distributor, the new cruiser was intended to be big, distinctive and strong. Price will be "under $20,000" Representatives called the Rocket III "the most historic bike in our [the new Triumph's] history. It will hit dealers in June 2004.

Despite the engine configuration, the wheelbase is a reasonable 66.5 inches. Triumph reps who have ridden the new motorcycle speak of "easy handling," despite the 6.6-gallon fuel tank. They claim a lower center of gravity than a Honda Valkyrie, which may be due in part to the narrow cross-section and the dry sump. The frame uses a twin-tube spine.

The front suspension is a 43mm upside-down fork, with dual 320mm rotors squeezed by four-piston calipers stopping a 150/80V17 tire. The back uses a two-sided swingarm with a pair of preload-adjustable dampers.

Stock colors are red or black, but there will be custom painted replacement parts among the 50 or so accessories that Triumph introduces with the motorcycle. The styling is sure to be controversial, in part because it is so unconventional. However, the early prototype we saw (which was not a ridable unit) also had some finish issues, such as a prominent fuel-tank seam, that we hope will be addressed before production.

Triumph implied that the Rocket III is the first in a new family of Triumph motorcycles, based on this engine. That series will presumably include touring-oriented motorcycles. The company obviously has made a big bet on the future of large-displacement motorcycles in the American market. We also hear that it is working on a much bigger air-cooled vertical twin than its current 800, something in the 1300 to 1600cc range. That motorcycle might use top-end components from the Rocket III


Price: Under $20,000
Standard colors: Black, red

Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, longitudinal in-line triple
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Bore & stroke, displacement: 101.6 x 94.3mm, 2294cc
Compression ratio: 8.7:1
Carburetion: Electronic fuel injection
Transmission: Wet clutch, 5 speeds
Final Drive: Shaft

Dry weight: 704 lbs
Wheelbase: 66.5 in.
Overall length: 97.6 in.
Rake/Trail: 32 degrees / 6.0 in.
Weight (dry): 704lbs
Seat height: 29.1 in.
Handlebar width: 34.6 in.
Fuel capacity: 6.6 gal.
Wheels: Cast alloy; 17 x 3.5 front, 16 x 7.5 rear
Front tire: 150/80V17 Metzeler ME880
Rear tire: 240/50V16 Metzeler ME880
Front suspension: Inverted, 43mm stanchions
Rear suspension: Dual dampers, adjustable for preload
Front brake: 2, 10.6-in floating discs, 4-piston calipers
Rear brake: 10.5-in disc, 2-piston caliper

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Dual headlights are used in part because they are a tradition for the new Triumph.
The Rocket Three looks most like a cruiser from this angle, though the 29.1-inch seat height will be regarded as too high by some.
That huge 240-section rear tire helps the 140 horsepower hook up.
Whether you love it or hate it, the engine defines this motorcycle.
Between the width of the rear tire and the power it had to deliver, a shaft was probably a certainty on the Rocket III.
The three-muffler exhaust system contains a catalyst, which helps the bike meet air-quality requirements everywhere in the world.
Instruments include a tach and a large LCD for the odometer in the speedometer.
We expect to see touring accessories, including a seat.
We can hear pipe makers salivating over the opportunies presented by the stock exhaust.
The upside-down fork has 43mm stanchions.