2009 Triumph Rocket III Touring

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Gummiente
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2009 Triumph Rocket III Touring

Unread post by Gummiente » Wed Oct 14, 2009 9:35 pm

When Triumph first introduced the Rocket III several years ago, it seemed to me that it was an answer to a question nobody had asked. I just could not see a market – or a reason – for stuffing a water cooled 2.3l, longitudinal inline triple into a massive chassis and coupling it to a big jeezus rear tire. But obviously Triumph knew what they were doing because it has been a steady seller since its inception, so when I was recently offered the chance to demo ride one; it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

The offer came courtesy of my friends John and Rhonda at J&R Cycle in Stayner, Ontario. They have sold an average of three of these behemoths each year, so if anyone could give me the lowdown on this bike it would be them. John has been using a Rocket III as the shop demo bike and his own personal ride every year since they began selling them; his choice this year is a nice black Rocket III Touring. I showed up at noon on a chilly but sunny day and talked with John and Rhonda for a bit prior to swinging a leg over it. I found out during our chat that, yes, it has an incredible amount of power and I was cautioned to be gentle on the throttle, especially when in a corner. There is no traction control or ABS offered on these bikes, so it totally up to the rider to stay out of trouble. Well, actually, there is a form of traction control in the first three gears in that the computer will adjust the ignition timing if a certain RPM is exceeded, reducing the power transmitted to the rear wheel. However, one has to be going at a pretty good clip to activate it, so it is for all intents and purposes useless at low speed on a road covered in wet leaves, for example.

Fit and finish is very good and most of the visible hardware is either chromed, painted or made of stainless steel which gives the bike a very classy look. The top loading, locking saddlebags are very large and easy to open, although the hinge and latch mechanism intrudes a bit into the usable space. One would have to take care when closing the lid on a fully packed unit, as the hinge will end up compressing the top layer at least an inch. The windshield has a well thought out quick release mounting system that is better than anything else I’ve seen out there. The windshield itself is very thick but a bit on the short side, while the small wing deflectors on the bottom at each side don’t seem to be large enough to deflect anything other than a suicidal mosquito. I suspect they are made that way so as not to hang up on the large radiator when turning the bars from lock to lock.

The first thing I noticed when I got on the beast was the sheer size of it. This is one big girl. But despite the size it was fairly easy to pick up off the sidestand. I sat there with both feet on the ground flicking it from side to side and was surprised to feel it respond like it was a much smaller and lighter machine. The handlebar controls were logically placed and easy to reach and operate, although I found the clutch and brake levers to be a tad long for my tastes. The mirrors, although small, are well placed and the long stems angle out to give a very good view of what lies behind. I did not like the handlebars themselves, as they are way too wide and placed too close to my torso (although part of the problem may be my ample torso). I found out afterwards that John had installed pullback risers on this one, while the other Touring model on the showroom floor had the standard set. However, after sitting on that one I still found the bars to be too wide – not an issue with normal riding, but it does make slow speed manoeuvres more tricky than they need to be on a bike of this size.

John saddled up on my Road Glide to lead the way (he is one of the very few people in this world that I trust to ride my bike) and I set out to follow him. The seat was very comfy and the gearshift lever easy to find without having to sneak a peek, but as soon as the bike began to move I noticed something that I did not like at all. The gas tank is so wide, even at the back, that my knees were splayed outwards at a very awkward angle. The combination of bolt upright seating position, wide bars and “Olympic gymnast doing the splits” knees position made for a very awkward and uncomfortable first few minutes on the road, but I did begin to adapt to it after a while. I figure I could get used to the wide seat and tank, but I would definitely need narrower bars if this were ever to become my bike. The floorboards were well placed and the unobtrusive heel/toe shifter was easy to use. The throw on the linkage is very short, though, and a few times I ended up one or two gears higher than I wanted to be because of double-tapping the lever to make sure it had actually moved. But once I got used to that, the gear changes were butter smooth, save for a bit of driveshaft lash when I didn’t quite match the road and engine speeds. The clutch requires very little effort to actuate, but I found the engagement point to be too close to the bars. The throttle was a little stiff to roll, but that’s actually good because the last thing you’d want on a bike like this is a touchy throttle.

And that is because it has ungodly amounts of torque and power. Great, horking vats of bubbling, frothy torque just waiting to be unleashed with a flick of the wrist. I found this out by accident at one point when I looked up from futzing with the gas tank mounted speedo/info display to see John way off in the distance. It was a straight and traffic free county road, so I goosed it – and in an instant was at a licence revoking speed with the arse end of my Road Glide suddenly getting bigger in my sights. I nailed the brakes and the monster slowed like I’d just flung an anchor off the stern. And suddenly I saw the appeal of this bike; Go Fast NOW, Stop NOW, Repeat. All day. In any gear. Giggling all the while like a 10 year old school boy hopped up on sugar and turned loose on the Biology class frog collection.

I finally began to relax and enjoy the ride. And it was an enjoyable ride, with very little vibration felt in the seat, on the handlebars or at the floorboards. The mirrors are, for the most part, clear at all throttle settings although they get a bit fuzzy under hard acceleration. Or maybe that was just my eyes blurring from being forced back into my skull. Did I mention this thing has gobs of torque? The suspension was taught, but not to the point where it was affected by sudden bumps, giving good feedback as to what the tires were up to at all times. The big tires increase the amount of time it takes to roll from left to right on a twisty road, but the neutral steering makes it an effortless task. For such a big bike it is surprisingly light on its feet, although I wouldn’t recommend chasing down any sportbikes with it.

As I had suspected, the windshield is a bit short. It does a great job of keeping the wind off the upper body, but leaves the head exposed and would offer little, if any, protection in a heavy downpour. I was thankful I had chosen to wear my flip-up full face today, because my mug would have been frozen off by the windblast otherwise. A check with John after the ride confirmed that there was no height adjustment or any other sizes available. Those little wings at the bottom do nothing to deflect wind blast from the lower legs; in fact they barely manage to keep the knees out of the breeze. In a strong headwind, I found that I actually had to clamp my knees against the sides of the gas tank to keep them from being further splayed apart than they already were. Soft lowers (aka crash bar chaps) would be a wise investment for colder weather, although I’m not sure if that product exists for this bike yet.

After the ride, I stayed and chatted with John and Rhonda for a bit and got answers to all of my questions. A 180/70R16 rear tire is a lot of rubber to leverage over the rear rim and I was shocked to find out that a replacement costs over $500, balanced and mounted. That kind of coin buys me front AND rear skins for my Harley, with enough change leftover to grab a 6-pack on the way home. Service intervals, after the first checkups at 1,000km, are every 5,000km and average about $300-$400. The valves need to be checked every 12,000km which, if shims are required, can set you back $500 in labour alone. There is an extensive list of accessories available to personalise the bike to suit individual tastes, but knowing Triumph they will not come cheap.

So, if you are wondering whether or not the Rocket III Touring will find its way into my garage, the answer is no. Not by a long shot. I do like the bike a lot more than I’d expected and enjoyed the demo ride, but there are too many things that just don’t light my fire. Like the wide gas tank, wide seat, short windshield and overkill of a motor, for example. Even at a surprisingly low $18k MSRP, it is a lot of money to spend for bragging rights as to who has the “biggest” toy. To me this bike just seems to be little more than a set of saddlebags and a windshield tacked on to a well engineered “look at me” platform with a honkin’ great engine room. Narrow the tank by a good 3”, put a more sensibly sized rear tire out back and drop the displacement from a ludicrous 2.3l (come on, that’s bigger than most cars, fer chrissake!) down to a more fuel efficient but still powerful 1.5l and it would go a long way towards me changing my opinion. Sometimes too much is really too much.
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Re: 2009 Triumph Rocket III Touring

Unread post by jstark47 » Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:51 pm

Gummiente wrote:Great, horking vats of bubbling, frothy torque just waiting to be unleashed with a flick of the wrist.
<<snerk!>> You can surely turn a phrase, Gummi!!! :laughing: :mrgreen:
Gummiente wrote:Narrow the tank by a good 3”, put a more sensibly sized rear tire out back and drop the displacement from a ludicrous 2.3l (come on, that’s bigger than most cars, fer chrissake!) down to a more fuel efficient but still powerful 1.5l and it would go a long way towards me changing my opinion.
Wonder if you've just described the new Thunderbird? Haven't paid it much attention aside from walking past one on a showroom floor a couple of times.

My problem with the Rocket, aside from the sheer bulk, has always been that ungodly ugly billboard of a radiator.
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Re: 2009 Triumph Rocket III Touring

Unread post by Gummiente » Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:41 pm

jstark47 wrote:Wonder if you've just described the new Thunderbird?
Funny you should mention that. I'm on the list to demo ride it (weather permitting) when it arrives at the dealer sometime within the next few weeks. But I'm already sceptical of it from a styling point of view; it just looks too VTX/Vulcan/Warrior to me and not even that lump of a parallel twin eases the assault on my eyes.
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Unread post by koji52 » Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:46 pm

Nice review! I saw a Rocket III last weekend. Don't care too much for the look or the size but that thing can move!
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Unread post by joolz » Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:56 pm

Must admit the R3T needs a different size rear tyre- How about the 240/50R17 on a proper Rocket? :lol:
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Unread post by koji52 » Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:59 pm

joolz wrote:Must admit the R3T needs a different size rear tyre- How about the 240/50R17 on a proper Rocket? :lol:
YES! :twisted: I love the 240mm rears.
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Unread post by IronPonies » Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:26 pm

Got this from a Victory mechanics newsletter. They mentioned the problem with air cooled engines and emissions. What they hinted at is that the Rocket III maybe the way their headed. They described larger engines with water cooling. Though Victory will probably do better styling than Triumph. :roll:
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Unread post by paul246 » Sat Dec 12, 2009 9:56 am

"Narrow the tank by a good 3”, put a more sensibly sized rear tire out back and drop the displacement from a ludicrous 2.3l (come on, that’s bigger than most cars, fer chrissake!) down to a more fuel efficient but still powerful 1.5l and it would go a long way towards me changing my opinion. Sometimes too much is really too much".

That sounds more like the Valkyrie, which I believe the Rocket3 was aiming at back in the day.

The Valkyrie was way better looking, too, IMO.
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Re: 2009 Triumph Rocket III Touring

Unread post by momule » Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:34 pm

IMO the Rocket is a good example of "just because you can, doesn't mean you should". I enjoyed the statement that the OPs dealership sold an average of 3 per year...is this supposed to be a successful sales figure?
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Re: 2009 Triumph Rocket III Touring

Unread post by mogster » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:06 pm

My fella has a Rocket III '06 without all the poncy touring plastic. It is an awesome bike & we have had great adventures two up. Admittedly it is a show off bike but in a quiet British sort of way :UK: as it can sneak up & surprise people with it's discreet triple engine.

He has considered selling it as now I have my own bike do we really need a big two up? He discussed swapping it for a Thunderbird but I feel why settle for the little brother version.

It is juicy & petrol over here is a ridiculous price but, as long as he just uses it for fun & doesn't need it for commuting we will be keeping it.

BTW when he first got it & before we had a backrest fitted he took me out. As a pillion there is nothing to hold onto (except rider) & I could feel the torque through my feet! I was scared silly & remember slapping his legs to make him slow down as I thought I was going to get dumped on the road :lol:

Another fun memory was having a bit of a duel with an H-D. Don't know which model it was but it was big & also 2 up. The rider obviously thought we were out for a Sunday stroll & kept squeezing past, then we overtook etc. Finally when a long straight opened up my fella decided he had had enough & opened the Rocket up. The H-D team took the bait & game on.......................we left them for dust :lol:

Ok it's a bit juvenile but it was fun at the time.

2 more quick stories -

The Rocket got us to Scotland & back for a 3 day trip to bury a good friend at very short notice & quickly!

When we got stopped for a minor highway infringement on the Isle of Wight copper 2 was chatting to me. He commented that the bike was more powerful than the police car & before I could stop myself I said that we needn't have stopped. Luckily he saw the joke & pointed out that as we were on an island they would have found us pretty soon! :lol:
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