Rocket 3 - King Rocket

‘Roll-on, Roll-off’. This is an expression that every new Rocket3 owner will become very familiar with. Roll-on? All day, every day. Why? Because it’s an intoxicating thing to do when you are Captain of the World’s torquiest ever motorcycle – 221 NM, believe it or not. In fact, why change gear? Don’t bother, you don’t need to. You could cog-swap, however, simply because it’s probably the nicest motorcycle gearbox you’ve ever used, and it’s a pleasure... But you don’t need to. IF you miss a gear on this bike – rest assured, it’s YOU. You’re doing something very wrong. So, just wind back that throttle. The torque is linear, immense – and seamless. And never ending – though you will never actually need to use more than 4000 rpm to show a clean pair of wheels to every game in town. Fueling? Impeccable, throughout the range.

Roll-off … ? Police cars, speed cameras, city limits – because you are scared by the speed you are doing – all of these are completely legitimate reasons to roll off – or, maybe, just so you can roll back on again. Perfectly good reason. Oh, and to hear the fruity popping on the overrun – though you will need a pipe to properly appreciate that confection, the standard ‘R’ is way too quiet like an Exocet in ‘Stealth’ mode.

The astonishing thing about this bike, is that, once on the move, it does this very weird thing; it shrink-wraps itself around you. Before you get astride it, it looks enormous, once onboard – and MOVING – you actually forget it’s a Rocket3, it steers and manoeuvres like any other modern roadster – you can even filter with it, and at the lights the low cut seat and wide bars mean the considerable mass never threatens to overwhelm.

I have to put my cards on the table here – it was with some trepidation that I accepted this assignment; I’ll explain. A couple of years ago I borrowed the original Pure Rocket3, and took it on a cross-country thrash to Stratford upon Avon. And I didn’t like it that much. Considering I’ve covered thousands of miles on big Harley’s, BMW GS Adventure’s et all, this surprised me.  I just couldn’t make sense of the thing; it wasn’t endearing to me. The engine didn’t feel that powerful, and at 2.3l, I guess I was expecting it to. I remember this massive tank spreading my legs in-front of me, an OK riding position, but sitting a little too high to really feel confident with the bike’s balance. I wasn’t going to be filtering, (an essential part of a working motorcycle’s repertoire …), anytime soon. For getting in and out of events – the city – racetracks – basically anywhere, this machine was never going to be on my shopping list. A great idea, mediocrely executed – with apologies to those that love their ‘classic’ Rocket3’s. I have been told that for very tall, physically enormous riders, the original concept was a firm favourite, that I get.

Roll forward, the new decade. I know this bike is coming, it’s on my radar. I remember doing a thousand miles on Ducati’s Diavel when first launched, and having a ball on that motorcycle, though it didn’t really make ‘sense’ – or fit in to any obvious ‘bracket’. Ducati, like they did with the Monster, creating a new category. Very clever marketing. I guess Rocket3/2 had that sort of ‘vibe’. When Kev. From Pure called me up to wish me ‘Happy New Year’, talk soon became about the 2020 road test series, and the season opener which had just, literally, hit town – enter the Rocket.

Despite the sh***y weather and road conditions, I turned up nervously on January the 24th with helmet in hand. Well, actually in my SUV, (don’t judge; it tows the race car …), the roads were too slimy and the weather too cold to dig out either of my bikes, in optimate-induced hibernation for the winter.

After the usual excellent ‘walk-a-round’ and briefing from Pure’s stellar sales guru ‘Dom’, I slung a leg over this new icon from Triumph, the Rocket3-R. First observations of this ground breaking motorcycle were NOT ‘it’s big’, but more, ‘it’s beautifully detailed’. And it is. Custom shops won’t appreciate this level of finish and individualisation from a factory-stock motorcycle – but customer’s undoubtedly will. Unlike my Harley, where I had to spend the cost of the bike again, the Rocket needs a ‘pipe’ and a screen. Maybe some soft luggage – when they make some – and that’s you done. Probably just as well, with the base bike topping out at £20k. But customer’s will be mad for the detail, it is beautifully done. This is ‘Triumph’ moving everything up a gear – and taking a gamble doing it. Let me explain:

My 2010 Scrambler that I bought new was a budget take on ‘lifestyle’. It looked damn cool, in Steve McQueen matt-metallic green, but that was because Triumph ‘owned’ the DNA for this kind of  low-tech parallel twin. Look closely at the Thai cycle parts, electrics and suspension and you quickly realised that you get what you pay for in life. Consider my last eight bikes before had been Ducati’s; the last five, different flavours of Monster. I had been used to something way better styled – and engineered. The Scrambler did the job – and I loved it for its retro cool, and it generally delivered me on time and safely over 1000 miles, but I knew that my next bike would be more sophisticated. Why? Because the Soviet-era build quality could be wearing, however neat the concept was – and despite the fact I had big fun and covered lots of touring miles. And some design elements were straight lame – who designed the 2010 Scrambler speedo ‘binnacle’ – you should be ashamed. Overall, no regrets, good motorcycle, but simply not compelling. I didn’t HAVE to replace it with another one. Not good for building the ‘brand’.

The 1200 Scrambler I tested in 2019 broke that mould into a thousand pieces, with its Brembo brakes and Ohlin’s suspension – and sufficient power and torque to eat up God’s highway at a decent rate. Plus a much funkier ‘look’. Yes, don’t kid yourself that look is not the key criteria to MOST bikers. My pass/fail guide is, when I see my bike parked up somewhere as I return to it, I have to be inspired by my choice. I always want to think ‘yeah, that’s my baby’. That is why we bikers spend so much time on customising our rides. Style. It’s key.

This Rocket3 is yet more authoritive again. It has a superb level of kit and detailing. OK, I couldn’t work the suspension hard because of the lack of tyre temperature, but I can tell you, on my ride form Pure to Classic Performance Engineering and back, it behaved impeccably. Define?

As soon as you are on the move you will completely ‘get’ the ergonomics; sculpted low seat with a little bum-backrest cut into it – because you are going to experience astronaut levels of thrust, (221 NM’s – the World’s torquiest motorcycle, bar none), the cutaway that means that a 5’ 11” guy like me can put both feet on the ground – the low centre of gravity that means it NEVER makes its vast heft felt in a bad way – the wide bars and raked out chassis that is passively ‘anti-wheelie’ – all of these conspire to make you forget those big numbers, and relax in to what is a really enjoyable ride. Rocket3-R’s engine pulls the rug right out from underneath Harley’s new electric concept – it delivers torque in EXACTLY the same way a big electric motor would; i.e., from zero RPM, and in a totally linear, seamless – explosive way.

In deference to my – Pure’s - test bike’s 600-mile old engine, I kept my RPM down to around 4000 – and so will you. – regardless of mileage. If you wind this bike round to the red line on anywhere other than a runway or empty motorway, you will not be long for this life. Put simply, if you wind the motor on between 3-4000 RPM you will be accelerating so hard you will need to consciously remember things like breathing and blinking – it’s the easiest thing you will have ever ridden to get going VERY quickly. And super smooth too. Last year I tested the BMW K1600 – with its silky-smooth six-cylinder engine. Triumph’s 2.5l inline three is every bit as smooth – but with more character – and, dare I say it, better fuelling. It’s a better motorcycle engine all round. And I really enjoyed the BMW, don’t get me wrong.

Fuelling. In pursuit of emissions and economy, I imagined this would be the stock bikes compromise – I’ve ridden enough 1850 Harley’s to know what a compromised fuel map can do – it’s so lean off idle you nearly stall at the lights. Not this Superfortress, she pulls from the throttle stop with all the finesse of a Scalextric controller. You want 1% throttle? No problem. 27%? Fine. The full stoichiometric all the way through. Congratulations Triumph. Maybe you can share that knowledge with BMW ...

January is not the best month in the UK in which to evaluate ANY motorcycle – much less something with this much torque. It’s pretty clear the tyres never get any temperature the whole journey. It’s not that I’m not a ‘hardcore’ biker, (I’m not), but even with heated gloves and heated neck collar, a naked hyperbike that punts up to 90 clicks in a heartbeat adds substantial windchill factor. I was damn cold. And so was the bike.

Nevertheless, this is a very quick motorcycle – with massive ‘street presence’ – even with the whisper quiet standard ‘R’ exhausts. People treat you with respect – reverence, even, similar to the ‘vibe’ when you ‘commute’ on a Diavel. The industrial strength and size radial Brembo’s are sensational, hauling the speed off like an aircraft carrier arrestor hook. Truthfully, this only makes you use the throttle harder, and hang on to it longer. The Showa suspension is pretty much perfect – magic carpet ride, more Range Rover Evoke than Maserati Gran Turismo, but for the owner of this motorcycle, I’m going to guess that is the right ‘pitch’. And, regardless of what broken and banded road surface I traversed, I couldn’t make the Rocket shake its head or squirm. It’s planted.

The massive rear Avon Chrome matched with a chunky front that give the ‘R’ a distinctive ‘bobber’ stance are well matched, it’s not a fast steering bike, but boy, is it accurate. I found I would pick a line and squeeze open the throttle as I clipped the apex – you will always know where you are going to end up on the Rocket3. Probably in jail.

I have to retest this bike in summer to see how it handles ‘spirited’ riding, (or, at least that’s my excuse), but first impressions are incredibly positive. I know from speaking to the early adopters that they love this motorcycle, not just like, love. I get that. There is no question that the price will be a major challenge for some would-be owners. Plus, arguably, no one needs anything this big either. But that’s not the point. I do some work for Ford Motor Company – it was all I could do to stop myself getting a 99-year PCP on a ‘Bullitt’ V8 5.0 Mustang …

I can’t afford a Ford GT – I can’t even afford a Fiesta actually - but one slip of the pen and I could just about have bought a ‘working man’s muscle car’. In that context, and in the World of clever, seductive financial products, the £20k Rocket represents sensational value for money – it will stop people in their tracks for, by ‘icon’ standards, ‘mini-money’. And if you like riding, you have a fantastic summer ahead in the saddle, pretty much guaranteed.

Plus there is one further serious consideration here: I have a feeling that, just like the 5.0 V8 Ford, this concept of mega-motorcycle may, for a multitude of reasons, be living on borrowed time.

My advice? Get a road-test, if it moves you, and you can - get one. Your children will likely not ever have the opportunity …

Steve Deeks is a classic racer, event presenter, trainer, pilot – who grew up with, loves, and extensively rides, bikes

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