Triumph's Newest Rocket Revealed - First Ride

Triumph Reworks Its Big Triple For The Land Of The Free

Motorcycle Cruiser World Exclusive!2007 Triumph Rocket Iii Touring

Triumph built the Rocket III for America, and for the land of goin' large, you'd think it would be the ultimate cruising motorcycle. Three cylinders, 2294cc and huge amounts of torque wrapped by a bike so big it almost qualifies for its own zip code? Well, it's done OK for Triumph in the States, but wasn't, to be frank, quite the right mix to really hit a home run. While it's certainly a unique motorcycling proposition, maybe it's a little too weird looking, slightly too intimidating to ride and maybe not quite best suited to knocking out really big days in the saddle.

None of which the very nice Mr. Simon Warburton of Triumph really wants to admit when I suggest as such. But, hey, I've got the only secret Willy Wonka Golden Ticket to a sneak preview-and ride-of the much rumored about, occasionally caught on spy-cam, brand-spanking-new Rocket III Touring long before its actual unveiling. So best use it not lose it, eh?

I'm ensconced deep in the heart of Triumph's Hinckley, Leicestershire, HQ slap bang in the middle of the U.K. Over coffee I ask Simon to talk me through the new Rocket III. He knows his stuff, so I just let him and my Dictaphone roll. "So, the Rocket III Touring-this is a com-pletely new bike. It's got a new frame, forks, wheels, fuel tank, exhaust system, redesigned parts in the shaft drive...the only thing essentially the same as the existing Rocket is the engine, though that's making more torque lower in the rev range thanks to the new exhaust..." At that point he turns his laptop around and shows me a crisp catalogue shot of the new bike. And it does look far different, as you'll have noticed by now.

"Touring's becoming more important, mainly in the States, but also from a worldwide perspective," he continues. "And we got a lot of feedback through our U.S. distributor and dealers from touring and cruising customers which we've taken onboard with the new Rocket. Some of it's cosmetic; the twin headlights on the original Rocket are very European, and the traditional cruiser rider wants a big, chrome headlight. We've also placed the instruments in the fuel tank, because that's where the majority of cruiser riders want to find them.

"The screen is spring-loaded and detaches in seconds. Again, because that's what our customers want. You'll notice there is now one exhaust pipe per side; a lot of riders didn't like the asymmetric two pipes on one side, one on the other layout of the original. We learnt that it's the little things that really matter sometimes."

"The Rocket III's very difficult to place in a niche, which we have to acknowledge is part of its appeal to many people. But at this high-end of the market, we're asking riders to make a stretch from an air-cooled V-twin to a liquid-cooled inline triple. We want to make the bike have that Triumph difference, yet not feel too different. The main thing we focused on was comfort, and we've done a lot of work on tuning the suspension and getting the seat construction just right. The Rocket III Touring rides and feels very different to the existing Rocket. The effort's gone into improving low-speed handling with much lighter steering at all speeds-but you'll soon figure that for yourself."

He's right, and I'm itching to get on the thing. So without further ado, I'm pitched out the back of the factory and examining the two Rocket III Tourings silently waiting for me. One is shiny as a new pin and looks very production quality, while the other is a scruffy, well-used development nail that looks like it came out of the dumpster. Trevor Barton, my Triumph riding chaperone, explains that the hack is actually the bike as it'll feel to ride, while the minter has just come back from the 2008 catalogue shoot and isn't a great runner (see "Where's Ma Mule?" sidebar).

Within 30 seconds and 40 feet on the new Rocket, I can feel what Warburton was going on about; this is a different bike. Gone is that wheelbarrow-filled-with-cement steering feel of the old bike, and absent is the need to really dominate the beast to get it going where you want it. It's noticeably easier at low parking lot speeds, and as we leave the Triumph compound, I realize that I'm not adjusting to deal with the Rocket, as I would before. There's no doubting this is still a big motorcycle, but it's a big motorcycle that now has a much more neutral, easygoing feel.

The giant powerhouse of an engine remains an impressive, if unattractive, piece of work. It shovels the bike at the horizon incredibly hard, and while the chassis is much easier to get along with, I think Triumph has rightly left the heart and soul of the Rocket alone. I do wonder, though, as we bowl through the Leicester countryside, whether this bike really needs a gearbox at all

We can't stay out for long-as the bike is still top secret from Triumph's perspective-but my brief saddle time gives enough of an insight into the new Rocket III Touring to form a preliminary opinion. To me, it feels like a more well-rounded machine than the original. Everything about it is just easier to deal with: the riding position combined with the narrower fuel tank, the lack of muscle needed to turn it and the comfort levels have indeed been cranked way up.

But the real key to this new Rocket lies not only in how it feels, but how it looks. As we finish up with some static beauty shots well away from prying eyes, I stand back and take a good, hard look at Triumph's new baby. The overall lines are very familiar, and the bike's individual features echo strongly a style of machine that's long defined the American two-wheeled heartbeat. Well, fair enough. However you dress that three-cylinder engine up, it's no Harley. But it is something else; it has a discernible character and soul quite its own. And to my mind, in a sea of bland clones, that's no bad thing. At least now the Rocket III Touring looks like it belongs.

Rocket III Touring TechThe Rocket III Touring's new clothes hides its new chassis; the most important detail of which is the narrow 16-inch rear wheel, which wears a 180/70 section tire (way down from its sibling's fat 240). Triumph has done this for two reasons: to lighten steering input and to get decent carrying capacity for the color-matched, detachable hard panniers. And at 10 U.S. gallons each, it's succeeded. The hard panniers open with the ignition key and feature tiny feet so they can stand up unaided.

Fuel capacity for the new design tank is 5.9 U.S. gallons-just under half a gallon smaller than the original Rocket. Seat height is 29 inches, which is slightly lower, and the wheelbase is a half-inch longer at 67.2 inches. Rake is set at 32 degrees, but trail has increased to 7.3 inches, compared to 6 inches. Dry weight is heavier because of the beefed-up frame, bags and screen. The rear brake is a 316mm disc and twin piston Brembo caliper, and twin 320mm floating discs up front are gripped by Nissin four-potters.

A new design 16-inch (rather than 17-inch) front wheel with 150/80 tire is for low-speed ease and composure. The suspension at both ends has been retuned for a compliant and comfortable ride. The steering geometry is a fraction steeper, and the Kayaba forks themselves are now 41mm shrouded telescopic items with 4.7-inch travel. The twin-chromed Kayaba shocks are five-way adjustable for spring preload and have 4.1 inches of travel.

Brand-new handlebars wear brand-new chunky switchgear and clutch lever, and both rider and passenger get completely new (and much larger) footboards to lounge their feet on. The rider also gets a heel and toe shifter. Getting the aerodynamics right at touring speeds took work: The screen's designed to push air around the rider with minimum "head bobbling." The instruments feature two odometers, fuel gauge, range-to-empty and clock, plus you can scroll between functions using a button on the switchgear. The indicators are auto-canceling with a time delay.

The 2294cc (140 c.i.) engine is completely unchanged, as is the gearbox and its ratios. Power is 106.3 hp, with a peak torque of 154.4 delivered at 2000 rpm.-AH

DresserTo The Nines
Tricking Out the Rocket Touring
As you'd expect, Triumph's rolling out a slew of bike-specific bolt-on bits (more than 35) to give Touring customers options for customizing the newest Rocket III. And the new parts catalog doesn't just list the usual suspects (though it does include a new light-bar kit, backrest and solo rack): There are additional cosmetic, as well as functional bits, too.

Our picks for the five we'd swap in first:

Other parts include:

  • Accessory Mufflers
  • Solo Bucket Seat
  • Solo Rack
  • Detachable Sissybar and Rack
  • Alarm
  • Leather Tank Panel
  • Leather Windshield Bag
  • Leather Sissybar bag
  • Light Visors
  • Billet Filler Cap
  • Chrome License Plate Surround
  • Saddlebag Trim
  • Saddlebag Dresser Rails
  • Custom Paint
  • Auxiliary Light Bar Kit
  • Heated Grips
  • Side Panel Protectors
  • Chrome Levers, Side Panels, Rear Footboard Covers
  • Lockable Filler Cap

Prices and projected availability weren't available at press time, so check www.triumphmotorcycles.com for updates.

2008 Triumph Rocket III TouringMSRP: TBD

Engine & Drivetrain
Type: 2294cc, liquid-cooled inline triple
Bore x stroke: 101.6 x 94.3mm
Valve train: DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio: 8.7:1
Fuel system: EFI
Transmission/Final drive: Shaft

ChassisFront suspension:41mm telescopic fork, 4.7 in. travel**
Rear suspension:** dual dampers, preload adjustable, 4.1 in. travel
Front wheel/tire: 150/80-16 tire
Rear wheel/tire: 180/70-16
Front brake: dual 320mm floating discs, 4-piston calipers
Rear brake: 316mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Rake/trail: 32 degrees/7.3 in.
Wheelbase: 67.2 in.GVWR: N/A
Wet weight: N/A
Fuel capacity: 5.9 gal.
**Seat height:
29 in.

Performance(at time of testing; final results TBD)
Horsepower:106.3 hp @ 5400 rpm
Torque:154.4 lbs.-ft. @ 2000 rpm

Gear:Helmet: arai sz ramJacket: shiftGloves: shift primerBoots: dainese quitoPants: shift torque street jean
The new Touring strikes a distinctly American-style profile, with large capacity, hinged saddlebags, a cush two-up saddle and spacious floorboards. The new exhaust system arrangement distributes one muffler on each side.
Where's Ma Mule?The bike I rode, XCT1, is what Triumph calls a T1.5 build. This is chassis mileage bike number 1, built with mostly off-tool (production) parts on the line with a few prototype bits. It covered 22,000 miles (the odometer says 13K, but it had new clocks fitted) and will do 30,000 miles before it's done. After that, it'll be completely stripped down and examined for wear and tear-a process repeated several times at different stages of each project. The early bikes can approach 100,000 miles before they're done. This particular bike will be scrapped, but T2 build bikes-built on the line three months before volume production starts up-are pretty much the final machine and get used for press launches and brochure photography. T1 build, in case you were wondering, is a bike built by the design team. In other words, a real prototype.-AH
Quick-Release Roadster ScreenThis detachable polycarbonate windshield offers a taller profile than the standard version and includes extra protection in the form of lower air deflectors. You can secure it to the bike with a lock kit (additional cost).
Engine Dresser Bars and Highway PegsWhat's a touring bike without crashbars? These add-ons look substantially beefy, and they're compatible with add-on highway pegs for a little bit of flash and extra comfort.
MirrorsOne of the four available mirror styles is bound to hit your styling sweet spot (though we're not exactly keen on this tapered-side-out design). There's oval or billet options, both with different stem choices as well.
Long-Haul Touring SeatSeems like this would be the first thing to be mounted up for a cross-country blast (or even if you're just rolling two-up for the day). This so-called "luxury seat" boasts a 17-inch width and can be fitted with an optional rider backrest to boot.