Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 11th August 2008

Even after four years, the Triumph Rocket III remains the biggest production motorcycle in the world, with a whopping 2.3 litre, three cylinder motor.

Once, Britain was in love in BIG engineering. Brunel’s ships, the Tyne Bridge, or Jodrell Bank radio telescope.

But Britain can still do big engineering. Like the Triumph Rocket III Touring. Alastair Walker took the beefy, 2.3 litre powered cruiser/tourer for a long weekend around the back lanes of Cheshire. He also took the pics.

Even after four years, the Triumph Rocket III remains the biggest production motorcycle in the world, with a whopping 2.3 litre, three cylinder motor.

The standard R3 makes a scary 140bhp but for the Touring version, the factory have tamed things a bit, with a mere 106bhp on tap. However, it still makes a hefty 154 ft/lbs of torque, at just 2000rpm. That means this 800lb touring bike, can do 0-60 in under four seconds and hit over 130mph. It goes like a V8 Aston Martin from the 70s, with loads of lowdown, meaty grunt – the noise from the Rocket Three’s pipes also add a retro growl to whole experience too.

At first glance you think the bike is simply too huge. It seems as long as some kind of small cargo ship and the two-tone paint, and swoopy styled hard panniers, give it the feel of a 50s Cadillac. Once you fire the thing up, get used to shifting your shoulders more than usual to counter-steer the brute at low speeds, and head out on the road, you discover that this British bruiser isn’t as intimidating to ride as it looks. It’s like a Rottweiler that has undergone Anger Management, a ‘gangsta’ that’s traded his guns in for a Craig David compilation…big ol’ softy at heart.

The 800-ish pounds of wet weight is carried really low, so once moving, you don’t feel it. You soon gain confidence on the big Triumph and find it handles better than typical rivals like the Harley Electra/Ultra Glides, or Gold Wings, although I’d say the big K1200LT has the edge on the R3 – the BMW also brakes far better.

The Rocket III Touring has narrower wheels than the naked version, a new frame, wheels and it handles with surprising finesse, plus has more ground clearance than you expect. The footboards are the first things to hit the deck, and you wouldn’t want to scrape that expensive looking exhaust, so it is better to take things fairly easy, but the bike’s raw, animal-like lunge eggs you on now and again. The Triumph 2300cc motor really is a torquey masterpiece, an engine with cojones, as the Spanish bullfighter’s say…

The bike feels a touch softer in terms of ride quality than the stock R3, but it’s still quite a firm ride overall. Passengers will love the big saddle, and adding a pillion does little to alter the steering, acceleration or handling characteristics of the R3 Touring. However, there is a downside – the extra weight overloads the front brakes, which are adequate solo, but lack the sheer bite that a bike this heavy machine needs at motorway speeds. There were a couple of occasions that I thought we might not stop in an emergency on the R3 Touring, such was the wooden, limp feel of the front discs. Not good on a 13K bike really.

Round the world on fill-ups?

OK, let’s be fair, not many people will buy this machine and take it on a trackday, or even ride it remotely near the edge of its performance. It is a touring machine – so how does it stack up as a long distance runner?

Well, it has touring extras like the adjustable screen, hard panniers and wide, comfortable seat, plus footboards rather than footpegs for the rider. Once behind that large screen, the windblast doesn’t affect you and the world whistles by in luxury. But on the downside, the Triumph lacks the music systems, gadgets and sheer luggage capacity touring giants like the Electra Glide or BMW K1200LT. The Rocket III also drinks fuel like an ASBO teenager locked in an off licence.

Now maybe that doesn’t matter too much if you have thirteen grand plus change to buy one, but I can see the day coming when bikes have the same CO2 tax regime as cars. The R3 Touring struggled to do more than 30mpg, even taking it easy seemed to make very little difference and that seemingly cavernous tank – some of which is actually below the saddle – holds just 22.3 litres, ( 5 gallons ) so you won’t be crossing Europe on two fuel stops, as the thing’s reading empty after 130-140 miles. This is no commuter bike.

It doesn’t really cut it as a two-up, luxury tourer either – the pannier lid hinges take up valuable space inside the panniers, which means you’d struggle to get much clothing, shoes, plus general `woman’ travel kit on board. An FJR1300, Pan-European 1300 or even a used ZZR1200 Kawasaki make the R3 look thirsty, bit lardy in the corners and a tad skimpy on luggage capacity.

Yet I still loved riding the R3 Touring, rain or shine. When parked, other bikers gather round to gaze in awe – they don’t look twice at FJRs/ZZRs etc – whilst little kids wave from car windows, and truckers beep like they acknowledge the HGV-ness of the Triumph. Looking at the engine you could imagine it might be a marine diesel…

The Rocket Three Touring has a certain brutal majesty about it, like a vintage Rock-Ola jukebox, the orginal QE2 or Led Zep in their 70s Hammer of The Gods heyday. This heavy motorcycle metal is in the same class as Lovell’s radio telescope, because it’s engineering you can see from space.

British, fast and bloody great fun. Now there’s an advertising slogan they haven’t tried yet…

Get Triumph motorbike insurance for the triumph rocket iii touring.

Vital Statistics

Test bike supplied by; Triumph Motorcycles, Hinckley, Leicestershire.

ENGINE 2294cc, in-line triple, four stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 12 valves
GEARS 5 speed
PEAK POWER 106bhp@ 5400rpm
PEAK TORQUE 154 ft/lbs@ 2025rpm
FUELING Fuel injection
FRAME Steel tubular type, twin spine layout using engine as stressed member
FRONT SUSPENSION 43mm Kayaba forks, non adjustable
REAR SUSPENSION Twin Kayaba shocks, 5 way adjustment for preload
BRAKES Twin 320mm floating discs at front, Nissin 4 pot calipers. Single 316mm rear disc, 2 pot caliper.
WHEELS/TYRES 150/80 16 in front, 180/70 16 in rear
SEAT HEIGHT 736mm /28.9 inches
DRY WEIGHT 358kgs/ 788lbs
FUEL CAPACITY 22.3 litres (4.9 gallons)
Buying Info
PRICE £12,799 OTR – single colour, £12,949 OTR – two-tone colours (June 2008)
EXTRAS Alarm/immobiliser, luggage racks, leather screen bag, pillion backrests, loads of chrome bits, highway pegs, extra lights etc.