Triumph Rocket 3 R & GT (2020) – Launch Review

BikeSocial
By Michael Mann
MannOnABike BikeSocial's Web Editor. Been riding bikes since 1984 and writing about them since 2013. Commuted in Central London for 10 years, fast and smooth road rider, does a reasonable job in a track day quick group. 6 ft and 14 st.

 

Such was the popularity of the new but limited-edition, £25k, Triumph Rocket 3 TFC revealed back in January 2019, that all 750 of the UK allocation sold out before the first one was even delivered. Fast forward several months and instead of basking in their success, Triumph revealed this pair of beautiful brutes as the Rocket legend lives on; these are the brand-new, full production Triumph Rocket 3 R and Rocket 3 GT.

   

This new Rocket line-up hosts the same and completely new 3-cylinder, 2.5l engine as that ever-so-slightly more glamorous TFC version – making it the world’s largest production motorcycle engine.

BikeSocial was among a select few who got to see the pair of high-performance muscle roadsters close-up at the Triumph factory, and you can see our interview with Miles Perkins, Triumph’s Head of Brand Management, here… as well as hear the bike fire up:

 

Triumph Rocket 3 R and Rocket 3 GT: introduction, walk around and engine start!
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BikeSocial got in early to look around the bike, talk about the details with Miles Perkins, Head of Brand Management for Triumph, and hear it start up for the first time.

 

 

Power-to-weight

The old Rocket III, launched back in 2004, previously held the title of being the world’s largest production motorcycle engine, 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 Euro 4 emissions rules, it remained on sale in the all-important North American market.

With a massive overhaul, the new pair of Rockets and their Euro 5 friendly, liquid-cooled, triple-cylinder engines deliver 165bhp @ 6000rpm, 11% more power that the outgoing model and, with an enormous figure of 221Nm (163 lbs-ft) @ 4000rpm, the highest torque of any production motorcycle too. Over 200Nm is delivered from just 2500rpm and doesn’t dip below that threshold until 5750rpm, with a red line at 7000rpm where the bike still offers 160Nm (more than Ducati’s X Diavel S at its peak).

18kg has been saved in the engine weight alone with new crankcase assembly, new lubrication system comprising of a dry sump and integral oil tank and new balancer shafts among the many new and ‘mass-optimised’ parts in the completely revised engine, which is being used as a stress member.

A total weight saving of 40kg has been achieved predominantly due to a new aluminium frame with a forward-facing air intake and hollow spine, plus those engine components, while the new Rocket 3 can also boast a host of rider features and technology.

 

 

Top spec electronics suite and comfort

These muscular beefcakes also come equipped with some high-end tech and components available to production motorcycles such as Brembo Stylema Monobloc brakes, which have only graced the likes of the Ducati Panigale V4 and Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory.

Adjustable front and rear Showa suspension is coupled with Triumph’s latest generation TFT instrument where, via the illuminated switch cubes, Cornering ABS and Traction Control, four riding modes (Road, Rain, Sport and Rider-configurable), all-LED lighting, Hill Hold control, cruise control are among the options that can be controlled.

Keyless ignition is a modern feature while heated grips (standard on the GT, as an accessory on the R), quick shifter (up and down), a tyre pressure monitoring system, integrated GoPro system and turn-by-turn navigation are optional extras among the 50+ in the Rocket 3 dedicated range.

This pair of high performance muscle roadsters are differentiated by the foot peg position (although both are adjustable), handlebar design, seat and seat height, back rest and so much of these differences are available as official accessories.

The detailing and quality of finish on the roadster pair in the flesh is of the highest standard. The internal wiring through the handlebars offers a fresh, clean appearance while the brushed shields of the triple header exhaust system of this iconic model stands loud and proud and draws the eye. Another rather chic part is the design of the pillion foot pegs which fold over twice to then seemingly disappear into the fairing.

A 20-spoke cast aluminium 17” and 240mm-wide rear tyre is imposing yet required when 221Nm and 165bhp are on offer and Avon Cobra Chrome tyres have been developed specifically for the Rocket 3 pair.

The Rocket 3 GT boasts a brushed aluminium pillion backrest although both models can be easily changed from a twin seat set-up to a single seat look.

Differences between the Rocket 3 R and Rocket 3 GT: roadster-style handlebars while the GT’s are more touring-oriented. 750mm seat height on the R, while the GT is 773mm though the foot peg position is adjustable with two vertical options on the R and three horizontal positions on the GT.

 

Triumph Rocket 3 R and Rocket 3 GT: First Ride Review!
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BikeSocial's Michael Mann reports from the press launch of the two model range from Tenerife

 

2020 Triumph Rocket 3 Price & Availability

The confirmed UK prices for the Triumph Rocket 3 R retailing at £19,500 and the Rocket 3 GT retailing at £20,200.

Both models will be available in dealers from early 2020 around the end of January or early February. By then the bikes will be fitted with the full Bluetooth-compatible version of the TFT screen that connects with the free ‘My Triumph’ app and enables the rider to control phone calls, messages, music, the built-in turn-by-turn sat nav by Google as well as GoPro operations. The models we rode at the press launch weren’t equipped with this functionality, unfortunately. The one demonstration bike that had been fitted certainly seemed jam-packed with technology but for all the whizz-bang brilliance of a bike being able to do everything listed through just one TFT display, I’m a little hesitant about the multitude of distractions.

The two models also come with catalogue of 50+ official accessories from luggage to styling to security.

 

Above: have you ever seen a torque graph like it?

 

Power and torque

The gargantuan engine is the obvious talking point about the Rocket 3 and when a torque figure of 221Nm is banded about, you sit up and listen. To put that into context, a Panigale V4R makes 112Nm, almost half of the Triumph’s. That said, the Ducati weighs more than 100kg less. Nevertheless, with massive figures like that comes responsibility when it comes to the physics of weight plus power divided by scenery.

For all its brawn, the new Triumph applies itself to the road in a seemingly unnaturally brilliant manner. It might not be the easiest to shuffle around at low or no speed but it’s well balanced and comes with a sublime power application and light clutch action. The initial 1 degree of throttle turn is the tiniest bit snatchy but remember (how can you forget) that your right hand is controlling a 2.5 litre engine and it’s really nothing to worry about.

The TFC version of the Rocket 3 was unveiled back in June of this year and the UK allocation of the limited edition run of 750 sold out quickly. If it can make 180bhp then I can’t see why the R and the GT can’t, although setting a limited-edition model that has a £5,000 premium on top of the full production version may have something to do with that.

 

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

An almighty roar that is expected from a monstrous 2.5l, three-cylinder engine is instead replaced by a more docile rumble with added pitchiness from the rather distinctive triple header exhaust run on their way into a combined cat box (no, not where Fluffy does her business) and out again via the triple silencers – two on the right side and another left. It’s a sound we all know and love from a three-cylinder only with an added bit of bulk this time. Power and torques figures alone are striking but when they’re pulling and pushing a 294kg motorcycle around, and that’s just the dry weight remember – Triumph aren’t so hot at dishing out wet weights – those big numbers are put into perspective because as smooth as the throttle may be, the 165bhp is soon soaked up by the shaft drive and the effort required to shift you the bike on its travels. Because it’s a low revving engine not designed for out-and-out performance, you never feel out of control; the 2458cc heartbeat grabs you by the scruff of the neck and envelops you in a real riding experience that is often missing in the more numb machines on the market.

That said, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a ploddy cruiser. The throttle connection is mint and when you’ve sorted you’re braking distances for the more energetic style of riding and committed to the corner, the Rocket 3 accelerates with hard and fast with charming panache instead of attempting to tear your arms off.

A six-speed gearbox can be assisted by an optional extra quickshifter if required but for a bike of this size I prefer the old-school methods of using a clutch, it offers that sense of mechanical masculinity. Six gears may be the modern requirement but the number is just an indication, each gear is tall enough with a long and lazy rev range courtesy of all that torque and fifth has plenty of low down grunt and touring ability as was evident along the stretch of dual carriageway on the press ride. A fellow journalist claimed to have seen in excess of 150mph on one particular stretch so once wound-up, the Rocket is quite well propelled.

Typically for a big bike like this, a shaft drive offers a lower maintenance cost method of propulsion as opposed to the chain or belts on others.

The latest version of the Rocket 3s engine is a whopping 18kg lighter than the outgoing version despite the increase in capacity – 11kg alone has been saved with the new crankcase assembly – and it’s easy to ride at any speed. Having said that, it still prefers fast to slow and is at its happiest with throttle still opening, trying to rip the top layer of tarmac from Tenerife’s oh-so-smooth roads.

 

 

2020 Triumph Rocket 3 Economy

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, unsurprisingly press launches are not the most the most economical although do give us an indication of worse case scenarios – Triumphs (calculated) claim of 41.45mpg from the 18-litre tank should result in 160-or so miles between fill-ups yet the 34.2mpg I witnessed, according to the TFT display, would return a 136-mile range.

 

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

Size is obvious but dexterity less so. For a giant of a bike, Triumph’s engineers have worked so hard at reducing as much mass as possible; 40kg in total over the outgoing model primarily by introducing an all-new aluminium frame and swing arm as well as shaving 18kg with a new engine. Yet even its dry weight still tips the scales at 291kg (R) / 294kg (GT) so it’s a good job the power and balance of the chassis complement its road handling.

In conjunction with some well-refined traction control setting, model-specific Avon Cobra tyres keep the Rocket 3 heading in a straight line as opposed to sitting and spinning (except when you fancy being a hooligan and turn TC off) and even the massive 240 section rear tyre leans well into the corners with no sudden lurch as you tip the bike in. A muscular performance cruiser/roadster are words that usually go together except in this case. I rode the Keanu Reeves-inspired Arch KTGT1 last summer which has similar traits, a whopper of an engine in a chassis still designed to iron out the corners and the Triumph does just the same. You can’t go bowling in too deep because the geometry won’t allow any form of apex finding but set the bike up well on the approach and entrance and reap the rewards of all that torque on the corner exit.

Manually adjustable USD Showa front forks lurch a little under hard braking and then rebound just as urgently although with the dynamics of such a machine all can be forgiven because making adjustments to calm that down will have a detrimental effect on the ride quality. The rear Showa unit is a plush system and following another Rocket 3 ridden by the experienced guide riders at close quarters demonstrated how much it soaks up – while it jiggles about over the bumps, the rider appears as though he’s gliding through the air.

 

 

2020 Triumph Rocket 3 Brakes

Almighty dual 320mm discs assisted by top spec Brembo M4.30 Stylema® 4-piston radial monobloc calipers and cornering ABS function perform spectacularly when considering the bulk and performance of the Rocket 3. At the rear a single 300mm disc with Brembo M4.32 4-piston monobloc caliper compliments. I’ve never been much of a rear brake user but on this occasion, it settles the bike well and the ABS isn’t too intrusive.

Initial bite and is firm without being aggressive while the gradual increased pressure is consistent yet powerful. Because they’re linked, using just the front brake lever will also add a little rear stopping performance too for added balance.

 

 

Comfort over distance and touring

The R’s riding position is more suited to the constant second and third gear corners of varying tightness around Tenerife’s spectacularly scenic mountain roads with its peg position slightly further back and handlebars that require a little extra reach. Yet the GT with its fly screen is the preferred option for the longer open road stretches. The screen is ideally located and, while not adjustable, suited my 6ft frame with plenty of protection.

This iconically silhouetted Rocket 3 comes with 20-spoke, cast aluminium 17” front and 16” rear wheels and for the eagle eyed, the wheels between the R and the GT have slightly different finishes. Usually I don’t find roadster types that comfortable – Harley’s Street Rod or Triumph’s own Bobber are crucifying on my coccyx yet the comfort of the seats on the R and the GT, made me happy to soak up the miles. On a press ride there’s never normally more than 50-miles at a time without a stop for photos so only a full tankful of miles will allow me to judge long range comfort concerns.

Triumph has moved some way to alleviating my worries by providing adjustable foot peg positions and interchangeable handlebars between the models; yet another example of some top British engineering and classy, well thought out ergonomics.

Stacks of ground clearance helps achieve some sportier cornering angles without fear of scraping away your foot pegs and a reassuringly consistent cornering feel is only hampered if you get on the gas a little early which tends to drag you towards the edge of your lane.

 

 

Rider aids and extra equipment

The angle-adjustable full colour, second generation TFT screen is relatively user-friendly and sophisticated, all of which is operated via the illuminated home, mode and 5-way joystick handlebar-mounted switches. Once the ‘My Triumph’ app is fully developed, which will be in time for when the production models arrive in dealerships, there’s plenty of options and personalisation to learn and get used to; from rider modes to traction settings, sat nav and GoPro controls as well as display layouts too.

Hill-hold control is operated by a squeeze of the front brake lever at standstill which automatically applies the rear brake, handy when waiting on an incline or decline. Keyless ignition, cruise control (via one two-way rocket switch) and heated grips (optional on the R) as well as an under-seat USB charging point and conveniently positioned 12v socket in front of the handlebars are all examples of the rider-specific attention to detail of this model.

 

 

Rivals

It’s easy to spot there’s not one production bike with an engine of this size yet alternative powerful cruiser types come in the form of Ducati’s XDiavel or Harley-Davidson’s Fat Boy. The Arch KR-GT1 or Indian Chief Dark Horse would be considered as alternatives but the Rocket 3 duo stand alone with the combination of power, electronics and flexibility in terms of riding styles.

 

Ducati X Diavel S

Harley-Davidson Fat Boy

Price

£20,195

£19,115

Engine

1262cc liquid-cooled, 8v L-twin

1868cc, Milwaukee-Eight 114

Power (claimed)

152bhp @ 9500rpm

93bhp @ 5020rpm (claimed)

 

Torque (claimed)

93lb-ft (126Nm) @5000rpm

114lb-ft (155Nm)

Transmission

Six speed, belt final drive

Six speed, belt final drive

Frame

Steel trellis

Cast aluminium

Suspension

(F) 50mm USD forks with preload, rebound and compression adjustment

(F) Showa "Dual Bending Valve"

 

Suspension

(R) monoshock adjustable for preload and rebound damping

(R) Showa rear monoshock

Brakes

(F) Twin 320mm discs, four-piston calipers

(R) 267mm disc, twin-piston caliper

(F) 4-piston fixed

(R) 2-piston floating

 

Tyres

(F) 120/70 ZR17

(R) 240/45/ ZR17

(F) 160/60 R18

(R) 240/40 R18

Wheelbase

1615mm

1665mm

Seat height

755mm

675mm

Weight (wet)

247kg

317kg

Fuel capacity

18 litres

18.9 litres

Top speed

145mph

-

Fuel consumption

44mpg

50.4mpg

 

 

Above: colour options of the Rocket 3 R and GT

 

2020 Triumph Rocket 3 verdict

Handling its weight both low and well in terms of centre of gravity, the Rocket 3 is surprisingly lithe in the faster corners and plods around the slower hairpins with a degree of accuracy not usually affiliated with a machine of its size. The novelty of the overrun pop-pop-pop soon wears thin but the Rocket 3 is a one-off. Even rivals aren’t similar and for uniqueness, it rules.

Triumph’s Event Manager quipped, “The Rocket 3 is such a head turner. I haven’t done a launch with a bike before that gets so much attention from everybody around. They are desperate to have their photo on the bike.”

And he’s absolutely correct. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion of course but I’ve never seen such positivity for any bike via our Facebook and YouTube channels as with this latest incarnation of the Rocket family. At c.£20k the price tag will frighten many, so might the size but once taken on a test ride there’ll be plenty writing a cheque. The riding competency, magnificent engineering feat and attention to detail will soon make the price justifiable, or at least understandable.

If you were to compare it to an ice cream then it’s a full factory effort with everything included – weighty and tasty; twin waffle cone with flakes in each, hundreds of thousands and sauce. If it’s a take-away burger then it’s a Supersized meal. And if faced by the World’s Strongest Man in peak fitness, devouring 26 eggs for breakfast, the Rocket 3 would tut and munch 27 before demolishing a couple of 16oz T-bones for the sake of it. As the guy from the 90s sitcom ‘Game On’ used to say, it’s a “double hard b*stard”. Come to think of it, I’d like to see how the Triumph fairs against a strongman when pulling a bus…

For football enthusiasts look at it this way, Peter Crouch’s physique shouldn’t have allowed him to end up with the International goals-per-game ratio and a career successes he achieved. So, rather than make assumptions based on size, why not give the Rocket 3 a ride and then judge how it handles.

 

Three things I loved about the 2020 Triumph Rocket 3…

  • A demure ability to provide all that power and torque without scaring the living daylights out of the rider
  • Engineering brilliance with such refined attention to detail
  • The character of the motor, chassis and electronics combined to create such an enveloping ride

Three things that I didn’t…

  • Proximity of joystick to indicator switch
  • Price tag will alienate many
  • Riding position on the R isn’t conducive to big miles

 

2020 Triumph Rocket 3 spec

 

Rocket 3 R

Rocket 3 GT (same except where marked)

New price

£19,500

£20,200

Capacity

2458cc

 

Bore x Stroke

100.2 x 85.9mm

 

Engine

Inline 3-cylinder, water-cooled, DOHC

 

Power

167PS /165 bhp (123 kW) @ 6,000rpm

 

Torque

163 lb-ft (221Nm) @ 4,000rpm

 

Transmission

6 speed, Shaft, bevel box

 

Average fuel consumption

41.45 claimed

 

Tank size

18 litres

 

Max range to empty (theoretical)

128 miles

 

Rider aids

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

 

Frame

Full aluminium frame with single-sided, cast aluminium swingarm

 

Front suspension

Showa 47mm upside-down 1 1 cartridge front forks

 

Front suspension adjustment

Compression and rebound adjuster. 120mm travel

 

Rear suspension

Fully adjustable Showa piggyback reservoir RSU

 

Rear suspension adjustment

Remote hydraulic preload adjuster, 107mm rear wheel travel.

 

Front brake

Dual 320mm discs, Brembo M4.30 Stylema® 4-piston radial monobloc calipers, Cornering ABS

 

Rear brake

Single 300mm disc, Brembo M4.32 4-piston monobloc caliper, Cornering ABS

 

Front tyre

150/80 R17 Avon Cobra Chrome

 

Rear tyre

240/50 R16 Avon Cobra Chrome

 

Rake/Trail

27.9°/134.9mm

 

Dimensions

889mm 1065mm (WxH)

886mm x 1066mm (WxH)

Wheelbase

1677mm

 

Seat height

773mm

750mm

Dry weight

291kg

294kg

Warranty

10,000 miles / 2 years

 

Website

www.triumphmotorcycles.co.uk

 

 

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