Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.
More than a month ago we revealed Triumph’s plans for a revival of the Rocket III and now the bike has been officially confirmed as a headliner for the firm’s new ‘Triumph Factory Customs’ range.
It was shown this evening alongside the Thruxton TFC, a range-topping Bonneville derivative dripping in carbon fibre and exotic components.
The Triumph Factory Custom range will be a new line-up of limited-edition models sitting right at the top of Triumph line. The Thruxton TFC and the new Rocket TFC will be limited to just 750 examples of each, with the Thruxton going on sale first.
Triumph describes the idea of its TFC line as ‘ultra-premium’ and they’ll be priced to suit. The Thruxton comes in at a hefty £17,500, with deposits being taken now. Full details of the new Rocket, likely to carry an even higher price, are due to be revealed on 1st May.
The Rocket may be the second machine in the TFC range but it’s the much more significant new model.
The old Rocket III, launched back in 2004, was the largest-capacity full-production motorcycle ever made, with a purpose-designed 2294cc three-cylinder engine. And while it slipped from the firm’s European line-up a couple of years ago in the wake of Euro4 emissions rules it remains on sale in the all-important North American market.
But this new Rocket TFC – Triumph is bafflingly calling it a ‘Concept’ despite confirming it for production – isn’t just a prettified version of the existing Rocket III. It’s a completely new bike from nose to tail.
Although Triumph hasn’t revealed any specifications or technical details yet, the engine doesn’t appear to share any of its castings with the existing Rocket. The cylinder block, cylinder head and crankcases are all new, and it’s hard to imagine many of the internals are carried over unaltered. The overall layout and size appears similar, although for years there have been rumours of the Rocket growing to 2.5 or even 2.6 litres in capacity.
With Ducati’s Diavel moving the goalposts in terms of performance for this sort of muscle-cruiser, Triumph is sure to be getting a lot more power from the engine. The old model managed 147hp, but the new one is likely to easily surpass that, hitting 180bhp or more without breaking a sweat. And its huge capacity means unrivalled torque.
Of course, the Diavel also showed that bikes like this don’t have to be excessively heavy, and that’s another area Triumph has looked at. The new bike appears to use an alloy frame instead of a steel one, and the design is far sportier than the cruiser-style Rocket of the past, with massive upside-down forks, Brembo radial calipers and a rear monoshock instead of the old twin-shock suspension. There’s a single-sided swingarm, too, adding to the Diavel-baiting appearance, while the exhaust is a stubby affair with two exits on the right and a third on the left hand side – a layout that was first seen on the original 2004 Rocket III.
While the first version of the new Rocket will be the limited-edition Rocket TFC seen here, it’s unimaginable that Triumph will have put so much development work into a bike that will be restricted to 750 sales worldwide. As such, the carbon-laden TFC is sure to be followed by a lower-spec, mass-made machine. Badges on the sides of the bike suggest it will be simply called ‘Rocket 3’ – with the Arabic number replacing the Roman ‘III’ of the previous model.
In fact, there will probably be multiple versions of the bike; it’s easy to imagine Triumph mimicking the way it’s turned the Bonneville line into a multi-faceted model range, and using the new Rocket 3 as the basis for everything from bobbers to tourers and feet-forward cruisers. Watch this space for more information as it appears.
The Rocket TFC might still be a way from production but dealers are taking deposits for the Thruxton TFC right now – so if you’ve got £17,500 burning a hole in your pocket, be quick.
It’s instantly clear that the bike is based on the bullet-faired ‘Track Racer’ version of the Thruxton R, but the improvements are more than skin deep.
Carbon fibre has been used wherever possible in the fairing, side panels and seat, helping cut 5kg from the bike’s weight down to 198kg dry. Meanwhile, the 1200cc parallel twin gets an extra 10hp from a titanium Vance and Hines exhaust, new mapping and revised riding models for rain, road and sport. Inside lies a new, lighter crankshaft and balancer shafts, high-compression pistons and revised ports. The cam cover is magnesium and even the engine covers are thinner-walled to make them lighter.
The suspension is new, too. Ohlins NIX30 forks replace the Thructon R’s Showas, matching the remote-reservoir Ohlins shocks at the back, and there’s a Brembo radial master cylinder to go with the radial calipers from the same firm.
Elsewhere, changes from the normal Thruxton include a machined billet top yoke, black anodised wheel rims, a leather seat, brushed nickel mirror centres, special instrument faces and badges and a brushed alloy ‘Monza’ fuel cap.
Each of the 750 examples gets the usual ‘limited edition’ treatment – a numbered plaque on the headstock, a certificate signed by Triumph CEO Nick Bloor, a branded bike cover and even a book to chart the bike’s build process.