(This road test review of the 2014 Triumph Rocket III Touring was also published in the October 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)
Bigger is better. Go big or go home. There’s no replacement for displacement. Super size me! We were using those phrases a lot about 10 years ago. Back then, a gallon of gas cost about a buck-fifty and the players in the cruiser market were battling to see who could build the biggest and baddest. Hot on the heels of the 1998 Harley-Davidson Twin Cam 88 (1,449cc) and Victory V92C (1,510cc), in 2002, Star launched the Road Star (1,670cc) and Honda debuted the VTX1800 (1,795cc). Then word got out that Kawasaki would reveal the one to rule them all for 2004, the Vulcan 2000 (2,053cc), two liters of ultimate V-twin bigness.
By this time, the guys at Triumph working on a competitor for those bikes had torn up the engine blueprints so many times the shop floor was probably covered in confetti. The decision to go with an in-line triple evoking the earlier Trident and BSA Rocket III had been made early on, but as each competitor’s plans were discovered, it grew from a 1500, to a 1600 and a 2000 before the all-new Rocket III was launched in 2004 with a whopping great 2,294cc, making it the largest-displacement production motorcycle to this day. Several variations have since come and gone. Today we have two, the performance-tuned Rocket III Roadster making a claimed 146 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque; and returning for 2014, the more long-distance-oriented Rocket III Touring you see here, with a claimed 105 horsepower and 150 lb-ft.
Why bother detuning the engine for the Touring model when you could just use the gnarly Roadster mill? To move the power down low, real low, and improve the mpg. A huge cylinder bore of 101.6mm—four inches across—and stroke of 94.3mm allow the Triumph engineers a lot of tuning latitude in the liquid-cooled, 2,294cc DOHC engine with four valves and two spark plugs per cylinder. Changes to the Touring’s ECU and exhaust move the grunt down to the point that peak torque occurs literally just off idle. With a redline of only 5,800 rpm, peak horsepower is practically irrelevant, so it’s all about getting the torque peak to occur where a touring rider is most likely to need it. On the Jett Tuning dyno, our RIIIT made nearly 137 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel at 2,000 rpm, a shocking display of low-end twisting force that bests anything in regular production.
That much grunt is a Good Thing, particularly because everything about the RIIIT is massive, not just the motor. The radiator is car-sized, the fenders are enormous shrouds of steel and the 5.9-gallon gas tank is nearly two-feet across at its widest, partly because it conceals the EFI throttle bodies on the left and half of the airbox; the rest is under the bolt-on seat. If Mongo in Blazing Saddles had ridden a motorcycle instead of a Brahma bull, this would be it. With the addition of the formerly optional engine guards, quick-release passenger backrest/luggage rack and fog lights as standard equipment for 2014, the RIIIT tipped the Rider scale at 906 pounds, a good 90 pounds more than a Vulcan 2000 and just four pounds shy of a standard Gold Wing. This is a massive bike to push around that brings new importance to your parking technique; choose wisely.
The good news is that once you’re underway, the mass melts away and the RIIIT handles like a much smaller, er, huge motorcycle. Its dry-sump engine was kept as short and mounted as low as possible, and the handlebar is as wide as the day is long to ease the steering. Changes to the frame and swingarm, a smaller 16-inch front and narrower 180-series rear tire (vs. the Roadster’s 17-inch front and 240-series rear) speed up the bike’s handling considerably, enough that it can actually be ridden pretty briskly in the corners. Cornering clearance is ample for a cruiser, and when the floorboards do touch down the replaceable scrapers on them make a softer, less-irritating sound than the usual noisy grinding. Cruisers are a lot less popular in Great Britain than sportbikes, and some of that sporting preference has rubbed-off in the design of the RIIIT.
Blip the RIIIT’s throttle at a stop and the bike lists a bit to the left like a Moto Guzzi because of its longitudinal crankshaft. Once underway, there’s never a speed where more velocity isn’t on tap in a heartbeat. Passing takes place in an eye-blink without shifting; hills and canyon roads are blitzed entirely in third gear if desired; hot rods and Ferraris can be handicapped from a stoplight and you’ll still blow their doors off. The Triumph’s torque output does drop off steadily from its peak, however, so the urge builds more slowly than you might expect as the revs climb. Short-shifting well before redline is the name of the game here.
The Rocket III Touring’s 5-speed transmission shifts smoothly and easily despite having a cable-actuated clutch, and there’s a nice smooth spot in the power delivery at about 70 mph in top gear. A touch of driveline lash intrudes at times, but there’s no up-and-down jacking from the shaft final drive. Despite the 120-degree crank and balancer shaft, some vibration does creep into the grips at higher engine speeds, but it’s of a coarser variety that isn’t terribly bothersome. Thankfully the big engine is happiest on just regular 87-octane dino juice because of its low compression ratio of 8.7:1, though you still must pay to play since fuel economy hovers in the low 30s, giving the bike a range of less-than 200 miles from its 5.9-gallon tank. A rider with a tamer right wrist can probably improve upon our 31.0 mpg average, but what’s the point of buying the most mondo motored bike on the planet if you’re not going to put the whip to it?
When you do wick it up in the corners, the RIIIT is like André the Giant, a large but surprisingly agile Goliath that can surprise riders on smaller machines. It rides on good Metzeler Marathon ME880 radial rubber, and the simple-but-effective Kayaba suspension soaks up the bumps well front and rear. Those big triple disc Nissin/Brembo brakes with standard ABS stop strongly when used together, though the front could use more bite, and the ABS works smoothly when engaged with a just a hint of lock-and-release cycling.
Appropriately for Triumph’s mega-cruiser, comfort reigns supreme, starting with a wide, cushy, dual-density seat that holds you in place but still feels good after a long ride. Floorboards and handgrips are in natural positions that are not too stretched-out for an average-sized rider despite the bike’s 67.1-inch wheelbase. The rider already has to splay his or her legs a bit to get around the tank, and on summer days you’ll do so even more to avoid the heat pouring off the engine and radiator. Clutch and brake levers are big and non-adjustable, and while the heel-and-toe shifter works well, I would probably remove the heel portion so that I could move my left foot around more. Passengers are treated to floorboards and a big cushy pillion with a gel insert, and the backrest provides some security, though grab rails are lacking.
The now standard backrest/luggage rack is a nice piece; it can be easily removed as a single unit and locks on with a couple latches and the ignition key. Up front, the standard shorter “Look-Over” windshield adds ample wind protection with only mild buffeting and is also easily removed without tools, though a lock is optional. The bike is a touch more stable at high speeds without the shield installed, and certainly a lot cooler in summer. A taller one is available along with tons of other accessories. Running a narrower wheel and tire in back made room for the bike’s hard saddlebags, which can be removed simply by turning a couple Dzus fasteners and have solid, hinged locking lids that are keyed the same as the ignition. Capacity is on the small side at 15 pounds or 10 gallons each, and they’re narrow and kind of difficult to load.
Nice touches include a bright pair of fog lamps that work with both the high and low beams; good mirrors; and a chrome tank-top instrument nacelle that includes a fuel gauge and LCD display with 2 tripmeters, range, reserve range and a clock, all scrolled with a button on the right handlebar. Fit and finish are excellent, too, from the acres of high-quality chrome to that lovely new Cranberry Red/Phantom Black paint scheme for 2014 in addition to Phantom Black. Pricing for 2014 hadn’t been determined at this writing, though you can expect a few bucks more than last year’s two-tone cost of $17,299 thanks to the new standard equipment.
The Triumph Rocket III Touring is a big bike on a singular mission—to be the biggest, baddest bagger in the world. At this it definitely excels, but what’s really impressive is how well it accomplishes so many other things.
2014 Triumph Rocket III Touring Specs
Base Price: $16,999
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
Type: Liquid-cooled, longitudinal in-line triple
Bore x Stroke: 101.6 x 94.3mm
Compression Ratio: 8.7:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: At 10,000, then every 20,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: Multipoint sequential EFI, 52mm throttle bodies x 3
Lubrication System: Dry sump, 5.7-qt. cap.
Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Shaft, 2.846:1
Ignition: Digital electronic, twin plugs per cyl.
Charging Output: 574 watts max.
Battery: 12V 18AH
Frame: Tubular-steel twin-tube backbone w/ engine as stressed member & steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 67.1 in.
Rake/Trail: 32 degrees/7.3 in.
Seat Height: 28.9 in.
Suspension, Front: 43mm male-slider telescopic fork w/ 4.7-in. travel
Rear: Dual shocks, adj. for spring preload w/ 4.1-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual floating discs w/ opposed 4-piston calipers
Rear: Single disc w/ 2-piston pin-slide caliper
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 16 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.00 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 150/80-VR16
Wet Weight: 906 lbs.
Load Capacity: 449 lbs.
GVWR: 1,355 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 5.9 gals, warning light on last 1.6 gals.
MPG: 87 PON min. (high/avg/low) 34.8/31.0/28.8
Estimated Range: 183 miles
curious: what if you drop the bike, due to water cooling system and radiator?
You’ll likely scuff the engine bars only. Rad is fairly well protected.
It is a sin to detune such an engine in a way that cuts off 40 hp.
Whats the point anyway? For 100hp I dont need 3 cylinders. A big twin will do that job and sound better.
It is a lot of work and money to bring the ponies back! Really frustrating.
Not much work at all 350 bucks and you have more hp or tq than the roadster stock. add new pipes and air filter and get even more
I thought The Same. I’ve Owned Both. All that’s Needed To Bring Back The HorsePower And Performance Is re-Mapping. If You Want Even More, Just Add A Jardine Header Exhaust With Proper re-Mapping And you’re Back To 150 Plus Rear Wheel Horsepower With A Sound That’s Second To none.
BHP its got nothing to do with it. I’ve owned one for 2.5 years and the beast goes so quick because of all that torque. So easy to ride and all those twins are left a small speck in your mirrors come to think about most things are.
Please dont make dumbass comments if you have never had one or are a bitter Harley rider.
I only started riding motorcycles two months ago. I saw a 2007 rocket III on craiglist. I thought the bike was gorgeous. So, I decided to buy it, and I did. I asked the owner to put me behind him and give me a ride around the block. I didn’t know what I am looking for. We agreed on a price, and I asked the owner to deliver it to my house. I placed the motorcycle in the garage for one week, and kept looking at its massive size–it was scarry. I enrolled in a basic safety learning class and then I got my license. I fell in love with it. Then I purchased Suzuki Intruder 1500cc 2003 model to try to master it and become efficient rider. I rode the Rocket III for few hundred miles then I had to take it for maintenence. At the dealer shop I saw 2014 Rocket III Touring, I loved it. I brought it home with me. I didn’t test drive it because I was afraid of dropping it. It is so heavy. To go back home I had to drive 20 miles on the freeway. Once the bike rolls, the weight dissipates. It rides beautifully like a Cadillac. Controlling the bike was not a problem considering that I have only six weeks of experience. After one week, I rode to another city that was 55 miles away–no problem. When I got back near my house, I dropped the bike twice, once on the left and another on the right–talk of embarrassment. I was so pissed off that I was able to pick up the bike and ride it home. The embarrassment forced me to pick up the bike. I dropped the bike as I was making a turn and come to a stop while I turned the bar. One week later, I dropped the bike bike while making a U-turn from a stop on an very–very wide and clear street with no cars or pedestrians. Again, embarrassment made me pick the bike. This time I experienced a slight back ache but went away after taking Aleve. I investigated the bike for damage, but none was found–none. There was not even a scratch. And now, I bought a 2014 Roadster and a 2014 Yamaha Road Star 1700cc to go here and there with, and I am selling my BMW 750 Li. I have something much nicer.
do you still have the Rocket Roadster and do u like it more than the touring rocket.
i know this is 7 yrs later. but your supposed to start small. ive got 48yrs of riding and got a 2008 r3t and it is quite an adjustment. Almost dropped it turning sharp in a pkg lot. ive since adjusted but accidents can always happen. This bike it kinda top heavy and not agile at slow speeds. but i do love it. I admire hassans commitment and frankly brass balls.
I have just exchanged my Hayabusa for a Rocket 3 tourer. The bike handles very well but does not go like you would expect from a 2.3 litre lump. Apparently the Roadster does not handle as well but accelerates quicker
The engine gives out a lot of heat almost immediately so expect toasty legs
I found the shorter screen gives the rider a lot of buffeting. The tourer screen is much better.
The bike has also developed a annoying busing noise at the front end which i cannot find
My driving licence likes the bike. My body likes the bike. My brain loves the busa.
Will i keep the bike long term. At this moment I am not sure
2013 R3T got a remap, pipes, K&N, set the RPM to 7000, my bike is a force! We ran the bike up to 170mph (could have gone farther) in the Dyno w 147lbs of torque and 126hp. The stock map only allows a max of 46% fuel in at any given range. The remap opened the system to 100% and it’s killer!
What dies the 350 go towards?
Hi Tim just sold my Busa to get a works van was reluctant but had a few trips to Portugal (faro bike show) on it and was really comfortable for the first 2-3 trips but coming on 60 this year I’m finding it hard with my legs tucked back so have been looking at the rocket 3 for riding position but still wanted acceleration and a good speed after having the Busa for 10 years from new, but just learning that the hp has been lowered I’ll have to test ride ride one to see what I think, would be good if you could reply and let me know how your getting on with it cheers take care 👍
Just traded my BUSA for a touring… I am a little worried I will miss the rush of the Busa …. I seriously NEED to slow down though. It arrives on Wednesday.
Answer to what you do if you drop a bike so big,same as a harley,go to the nearest pub,have a beer , pay 3 of the biggest women you find there to go pic it up and park it,enjoy the beer. Problem solved. So simple. 🙂
After owning several classic old school Triumphs I decided to keep with the Triumph brand. I bought a Rocket III Tourer brand new and out of the box This being Hinckley Triumphs top of the line model apparently. The wife loved the comfort and storage and it was a beautifully built motorcycle . I rode the bike on a Friday night and parked it ready for a trip in the morning.
In the morning the bike wobbled down the road like it was on oval tires. I took the bike back to the dealer where I was informed that the rear tire was out of round and I must have ridden the bike up a gutter at speed, yeah right. I had a friend in the industry and took it to him for a second opinion. It turned out that tire manufacturer had supplied Hinckley triumph with a dud batch of tires.
I went back to the dealer who admitted that there was an issue. New bike with warranty no worries lets change the tires on the bike. Nope sorry sir we have to wait for Triumph New Zealand to sort out a deal with the tire manufacturer, yeah right. Four weeks later I get my tires, yeah right. Not impressed Triumph New Zealand. I rang the factory in England to voice my displeasure over this in my view unreasonable delay in rectifying a warranty issue three times. But hey who $%#@ am I, just the paying customer.
These new Triumphs are also ridiculously expensive to service because the valve clearances have to be physically checked with everything in the way having to be removed to just get to the shims. Ever heard of hydraulic lifters Hinckley triumph?
I got rid the Rocket III Tourer pretty early on in the piece and now own another real Meriden Triumph. I will never buy another Hinckley bike. Hinckley like to trade on the old name but actually fail to produce a traditional motorcycle. Buy a Kawasaki instead because that is what the new triumph’s really are anyway, just with one cylinder left off in most cases.
The new Bonneville is a dumpy, over sanitised, boring motorcycle to ride and resembles the old Bonnies in name only. Apparently these new ‘Bonneville’s are made in Thailand. I have the real thing and it is still interesting and engaging to ride than the new fake Bonnevilles even if the technology is circa 1963.
If you want a traditional old school cruiser buy a Harley because they at least still feel like a real motorbike even if every man and his dog has one. If you aren’t afraid of using a spanner buy a Meriden Triumph . Parts are cheap and readily available and they are a hoot to ride.
Hinckley triumph need to sort their distributer out here in New Zealand at the very least and in my opinion need to go back to the drawing board with the poor sad imitation Bonnies as well. They don’t cut the mustard. I can get parts for my 35 year old T140 easier and more cheaply than any of the fake triumphs and the factory at Meriden closed in 1983. WTF?
I am much happier now that I do not own a fake triumph and now enjoy the genuine article. I just couldn’t resist putting though my two cents worth on the new fake triumph (Kawasaki) motorcycles. Rant for the day done. Cheers and the best of British luck to all.
So you had a tire problem, didn’t get it resolved as quickly as you wish, and now the R3T’s, and ALL recently made Triumphs are garbage. What a bunch of whiny-arsed BS. I’ve been riding since the late ’60’s, and have owned and/or ridden virtually every category and many, many models of bikes… and I’ve had good performance and a satisfying ownership experience with my R3T (’14 bought new in ’15). I know of R3T’s that are well into the 130,000+ mileage category, whose owners say they’re the “best bike they’ve ever owned”, and here YOU are talking out of your tail about something you know nothing of, in reality. (Oh, and I’ve owned classic Trumpets and BSA’s, as well as H-D’s, Guzzi’s, Honda’s, Yamaha’s, etc., and the classic parallel twins required constant maintenance to keep ’em together and solid…. yet they sounded great and were a blast to ride.) “Rant” or not, I think you do a disservice to other potential Triumph owners by spewing such non-warranted bile.
Ive been watching this bike since 2009. I test rode the 2011 touring for a full day. The power and torque are outstanding but the bike is plagued with common reoccurring issues. Triumphs got a great idea but riding year round dictates that I have a reliable bike. I opted for the Goldwing over the Rocket tour because of those reoccurring problems (see r3owners forum). This isnt a matter of all bikes have their “thing” .. its a matter of, in some cases, these bikes leaving owners stranded with less that 1000 miles on a new bike sometimes multiple times. This would be a huge problem as I and my group frequently ride from Durham NC to the TN, NC,VA,GA,SC borders …too bad Triumph cant get these itmes fixed. Again .. check out r3owners.com
See my comments to poster above your post, here… and BTW, I am a member of the various R3 forums, and there really aren’t any more problems mentioned for the R3’s than for most bikes… forums are where folks go to complain, so it makes it SEEM like there are thousands of complaints, when in fact the complaint to ownership ratio is about like most brands, and better than some. NOT shilling for Triumph… if and when they treat me poorly, which they have not, I’ll deal with it appropriately, Meanwhile, as an experienced rider, I’m enjoying my Trumpet.
For the record, returning the missing 40 horsepower and 10 torque (and the willingness to rev to 6k cleanly) costs something along the lines of $25 to return. You need a good KKL cable built around the FTDi chipset to connect to the bike (lonelec.co.uk is a great source for this), and then the free TuneECU software and a free map you can get from the TuneECU web page. Takes minutes to do and after that this bike is more like the beast it’s supposed to be.
If you really want to go all-out you can hit up Carpenter Racing for their kit (or take the bike there if you’re in the US) and you can have 240+ horses for an investment in the $5k range or so (well, plus the cost of an aftermarket exhaust system). But the 145 you get with the ECU tweak is enough for a tourer.
it a fairly nice bike but develops transmission rattles that almost certainly will develope into troubles and here is where the harley and triumph are absolutely equal, both dealers will tell you oh the rattling noise is normal.
no such reality so for this reason owning one I can not recommend buying one. the honda Valkry does not rattle and Ive never heard Honda dealers say oh it just makes that noise. there is the truth of it.
Just a couple comments:
The lights you refer to as “fog lights” aren’t actually fog lights even though I believe that’s what Triumph calls them in the owner’s manual. They are driving lights. There’s always been confusion between fog lights, running lights, and driving lights. In fact, you can find two or three different definitions of running lights. Fog lights have to be mounted very low so they shine near the ground and below the fog. If they are above the fog (like regular headlights or the driving lights on the R3T, turning them on will actually make driving more difficult.
Someone mentioned having their R3T fall over. I know the feeling but, luckily, it only happened when stopping. The person here who had that happen probably knows the correct way to lift a large motorcycle that has tipped over but, if not, just do a search on YT. There are many videos on YT demonstrating the technique. What you do is sit on the edge of the seat with your back to the motorcycle and then grab something on the front and back – usually the handlebars and maybe the bottom of the seat. Then, starting in a crouch, lift the bike using your legs. It gives you MUCH more leverage and by doing it this way, you can lift a tipped bike that you couldn’t lift if facing the bike. If you are lifting a bike that fell over on the right side, put the kick stand down first to prevent it from going too far and falling over on the left. If it it fell on the left side, just be careful and don’t tilt it to the left.
Triumph officially calls them ‘Accessory Lights’. Would love a pair for my 2012 Rocket Touring but haven’t been able to find any.