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Bike Profile - Posted Friday 24th February 2012

2007 Triumph Rocket III
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Many people have an opinion about Triumph's capacious cruiser. Brian Oakley has bought two of them, and explains the attraction...

I recently found myself in a cash-rich yet motorcycle-poor situation. This in itself is a minor miracle in these uncertain days. I was plainly in need of another motorcycle. What I required was a practical machine, both economical and affordable, a bike that mirrors the malaise that affects all thing financial. I required not just any old bike but a metaphorical bike for all seasons, a Swiss-army-knife machine. So…

I bought a Triumph Rocket III.

Memorial to riders who perished while trying to pull their bikes backwards away from the curb... 2007 Triumph Rocket III

I have to admit to owning a Rocket III once before. While I have always been somewhat slow on the uptake, you would have thought that one fairly severe course of shock treatment ought to have been more than sufficient. I had in the dim-and-distant owned one, oh way back in 2005 or so, after a spectacularly lucky interlude involving an unregistered T140 Royal Wedding. After disposing of same to a friendly but fiscally frivolous American, I bought the Rocket III on a whim, and at absolutely no cost. My thought process being that if Triumph were insane enough to make a 2300cc motorcycle then it would be churlish not to try one.

I loved it. Indeed I liked it so much that I went to Croatia on it during the balmy June months and followed that with a trip to Andorra in the September. Here was a bike that was just made for simple continental touring. Two-up with full luggage weighing in at nearly half a ton (literally): strangely, it worked.

An interlude involving a moist road surface (it really does rain in Spain you know), a multi-car pile-up and super-slippery tarmac as well as my own inadequacies as a rider meant that I fell off it on a narrow motorway outside Bilbao. Hmmm, not in the plan that one. My dislocated shoulder popped out and back in again, so I rode on to San Sebastian, boarded the Biscay ferry, returned via Plymouth and then sold the bike in a huff.

So heavy, it absorbs all the ligth around it... 2007 Triumph Rocket III

Since then a number of bikes have been tried and tested.

A 1998 Thunderbird: very nice bike but the riding position didn't suit. A 2001 Tiger 955: very nice bike but the riding position didn't suit. A couple of elderly triples, a T150 and a T160, but the riding position didn't… you're beginning get the picture I think?

As time's winged chariot has rattled past me, I have not escaped unscathed. My 20 years as a reluctant tile-fixer has left me with a condition which when translated from the original Greek means 'Knackered Knees.' This self-inflicted malaise means that the riding position of a 'cruiser' style machine suits me best.

So I pored over the small ads and the internet. All my contacts were… well… er… contacted, and then just as all hope was almost dashed, the barbarians were banging at the door and my metaphorical keep was very nearly breached, I spotted the very one. Luckily for me it was in Basingstoke, just half a day away.

After filling up with fuel and supplies for the 400 mile round trip, I beetled down together with long suffering Better Half, Pam as co-pilot. I viewed, then tutted. I thrust a stubby digit and pointed at imaginary flaws. No little muttering was indulged in, but in the end it was near-mint so I just bought the blighter. It showed just 3700 miles on the speedo which for a four year old bike isn't too shabby. Even had a full (as full as you can get with such low mileage) service history from proper, bone-fide Triumph dealers no less.

A rare and fuzzy shot of the other side of the bike... 2007 Triumph Rocket III

The Rocket III came with a quantity, nay a miscellany, a cornucopia no less, of genuine Triumph accessories. It has heated doo-dahs, fog lamps, screens, panniers, a kitchen sink, patio doors, oh yes, most definitely fully loaded. We struck a simple deal (I paid what he wanted) and I rode the rascal home.

So what is a Rocket III really like? Not just as some kind of show-pony but to actually put miles on?

Well, obviously you spend the first 10 miles or so desperately searching for the footrests, because they aren't where one might expect them. They're much further forward, seemingly near the front axle. Once found, never forgotten.

The rear brake, as is often the way with this style of bike, is a snarling beast. It really, REALLY does work, so I remember to be ultra-careful. Locking up the back wheel is a distinct and easy-to-accomplish possibility.

The nearside footrest is where you control the gearbox (traditional I believe, these days). The gearchange is sort of clattery but accurate. All five gears (it could manage very well with three) are very easy to find, but it is a little clunky. Strangely this bike seems more 'mechanical' in the gearbox department than my 2004 machine. Perhaps it needs some miles? But hey, it works just fine.

Handlebars too wide to show... 2007 Triumph Rocket III clocks

The handlebars are v-e-r-y wide, and yet the cable clutch is surprisingly light. Equally unusual in this type of machine; the front brake is extremely powerful. They were liberated from the old T955i Daytona parts-bin and as such are of Nissin manufacture and very potent.

When discussing weights and tonnage even, it is better to utilise nautical terminology here. Let's not beat around the bush, Rocket IIIs are heavy. No, no, no, that just doesn't cover it. That would be like saying Black Sabbath are a little on the loud side. Rocket IIIs are not in fact made from any elements found on this planet. Triumph clearly found the remains of a collapsed star somewhere near West Bromwich and after extensive research used the base elements of same to build the bike.

It even *looks* weighty... 2007 Triumph Rocket III
Rockets on Right Now......

Weighty? Well, yes, corpulent even. There is really no escaping the fact that the Rocket is indeed the Big Bertha of the motorcycling world. In short, it's a right bloater.

Pushing the Rocket III around can be tiring enough and manoeuvring it backwards is at times just plain impossible, as I found at a café near Paris, when I neglected to reverse into the kerbside. There was just the slightest of cambers and, I kid you not, when trying to leave it was as if somebody had welded it to the floor. An elderly French lady assisted in my predicament and the rest of the genial folk on the tour only laughed.

But it truly is a big 2300cc lump. However, when on the move at any speed above walking pace this nonsensical machine performs a miracle of Merlinian proportions. It sheds huge amounts of weight (it's that alien technology). The engine propels the machine with manic-meteor-like velocity. It isn't that there aren't faster bikes (there are many, many quicker machines), but none produce the torque of this plainly ludicrous power-plant. It make around 80 ft/lb at tickover which then increases to around 140 at under 4000rpm. This is the seven-litre Ford Galaxy 428 motor of the bike world.

I took my previous Rocket III up to 140mph on the autobahn in Austria. It's not an experience that I would like to repeat on a daily basis, but the fabulous engine is without question the bike's crowning glory and no mistake. The motor constantly consumes a gallon of fuel every 40 miles and so with its five gallon tank actually has a decent touring range. The rear tyre is of clearly ridiculous 240 size and you have a choice of two, either a Metzeler or an Avon; it's there for show rather than any practical reason, I'm fairly certain.

The handling of the bike is (damned with faint praise) better than you would imagine. It is a sight easier to perform a car park slow turn than on a T312 Trophy, f'rinstance. On that trip to Andorra we accidentally took what became the road from hell. This turned out to be a mountain switchback fest of monumental proportions, about 15 hairpin bends almost on top of each other, and all at walking pace, in the pouring rain, excellent… As we approached another blind one, through the dingy mist I could make out a car in some kind of trouble and on my arrival there was a 1963 Renault Dauphin performing a three point turn in order to get around one of the tighter corners.

NOT perfect territory for a Rocket II clearly, but manageable all the same.

The standard rear shocks are poor, harsh even, and really have to be on the 'must replace' list. Also the standard seat is a pain. I use a Corbin Dual tour on mine and 450 miles per day every day for two weeks is proof positive that this version is a satisfactory design. The genuine Triumph heated grips have two settings; HOT and F-HOT, so are just peachy. A decent screen is essential for touring with this style of riding position and I go for the Triumph sourced Roadster or 'patio door' screen that they sell. I also have a fancy clock and fuel gauge set-up and, perversely, the fuel gauge works in an oddly accurate manner, which really isn't my normal experience of these accessories.

Mama's squeeze box not shown... 2007 Triumph Rocket III exhaust

You are also given the option of a variety of exhaust/silencer systems. As standard it comes with super-silent LE Velocette-like mufflers (and muffle they surely do), complete with a catalytic converter. Triumph (the scamps) will sell you a cat bypass pipe and a set of Triumph off-road pipes. These pipes are like sticking your ear-ole down the exhaust port of a Rolls Royce Merlin engine. My good chum and neighbour Phil, who lives opposite to me, will vouch for the melody. Clearly he can hear me leave but he also says that, were he hard of hearing, then the rhythmical way that his letter flap opens and closes as I pass would also be a clue.

The Rocket III is, as The Who once said 'Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy. Although I always had a soft spot for the 'Orrible Who, but I can't quite explain why I like Triumph's Rocket III so much. They just glide along like some magic bus… I can see for miles on this bike.

There really is no substitute for cubes: when on the road I'm free, a proper Happy Jack…

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