09/04/2015

    Triumph Rocket III Review – First Ride

    It’s nearly 4pm, and I’m at the Triumph dealer in Pune. My palms are sweaty, and I’m a little agitated. I’ve already been handed over the keys to the Triumph Rocket III – it comes with the world’s largest engine on a production motorcycle – but now I need to get on it and ride for 450 kilometres to Goa. Never in my life have I been so intimidated by a motorcycle. I put my gear on, adjust my backpack and saddle up. This bike is terrifyingly heavy, and tips the scales at 367 kilograms when ride ready – and it takes every muscle in my body to turn it around and head down the street. Thankfully, the bike isn’t as wide as the handlebar might imply and the seating position is upright and comfortable. So, after I turn the Rocket around, I engage the first gear and I’m off.

    I’m taking it easy on the city streets, so I can get the hang of how this machine handles. So far it seems very easy to manoeuvre in light traffic, and the highway is just in sight. Finally an open road, so let’s see just what this Rocket can do. With the slightest twist of the throttle, it zooms ahead so fast that I have to fight to regain my composure. It was nothing short of neck-snapping acceleration! The next time I brace myself, lean forward a bit, grip the massive fuel tank with my thighs, and twist all the way to the end. The full 221Nm of torque kicks in at just 2,750rpm, and the Rocket blasts off – literally. It’s the most exciting acceleration I’ve experienced since I rode the BMW S1000RR, and it’s terrifying at first. The Rocket certainly demands respect. However, the massive size of the bike has its advantage – and, on the highway, it feels solid to ride. Moreover, it’s size and weight disappear once you’re on the move – and it becomes very easy to ride. The engine is fantastic as well. It has brilliant low and mid-range torque. You get instant throttle response, even when under 2,000rpm in a high gear – it is great for all types of riders. The engine redlines at 6,500rpm, and when you are cruising at 150km/h it stays under 3,500rpm. On the whole, it’s extremely refined and there are no vibrations at all.

    Four hours into the ride, and I was in love with the bike. The engine, the chassis, and the suspension are simply fantastic, and combine to offer phenomenal ride quality with easy handling. The only thing I didn’t have too much praise for was the transmission, which seemed to be a little clunky. Gearshifts are loud, and you need to press down with some force for it to respond. It’s not bad once you get used to it, and, luckily, you don’t need to shift much since there’s plenty of torque right through the rev range.

    Overall, the bike is pretty effortless to ride and any competent rider can handle it easily – despite its intimidating looks. It performed very well on tight roads, and in traffic as well. It could be used in the city with ease too, but it will require some physical strength to move it around. Otherwise, it’s more comfortable and powerful than any other cruiser out there. And it’s certainly got the kind of road-presence that makes you feel like you could take on a truck and emerge the victor. The name Rocket is a fitting one for a bike such as this – one that feels it could well be used for intergalactic travel!

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