2011 Rocket IIIRaw muscle might not be the first thing that comes to mind when exploring the Englishness of things.
The Triumph Rocket III is a very English motorcycle, however, and like the Beefeaters that guard the Tower of London, the Rocket has been provided for generously in terms of a large physique. Whether you as a rider have to be built like a Beefeater or Rugby player is another matter, but you do need long arms and big hands.With last year’s Rocket III Roadster, Triumph decided to keep it simple and offered a generous version of Hobson’s choice when it comes down to color options. You could have it in Black or Matte Black. In 2011, the Roadster will be available in black, red, and blue. The best news about the Roadster is its massively powerful improved triple engine. The 2.3-liter mammoth now produces a staggering 163 ft/lbs of Torque @ 2750 rpm and 146 horsepower @ 5750 rpm. New ergonomics are in place for a more comfortable ride and the suspension is softer than the old Rocket III. Added to this is a newly developed ABS system for the Rocket. I have tested all the various Rockets since its launch and spent countless miles on them. Despite this, nothing can quite prepare you for the share size of the beast if it has been a while since the last encounter.The Triumph Rocket III Roadster is not for the faint hearted and, by design, it’s made to intimidate. The seat is a little higher and closer to those big handlebars and the footpegs has been moved back a little. These to allow shorter people to enjoy the Rocket III experience more. As much as I love riding the Rocket III, I dread having to park it up for the night, as it involves backing it up a gravel patio to reach a concrete pole to safely chain it to. Reverse like on the Honda Gold Wing would allow you to park front in a lot more than you can now. The Rocket III Roadster is more suited to pure cruising than the first generations due to softer suspension and more humane ergonomics, but at a cost. The softer double rear shocks give a wallowy feel after accelerating hard and sudden, as well as after hard braking. This feel is amplified when carrying a pillion passenger. I prefer the older and harder set-up, and can’t see any improvement at all in a softer set-up. The thing with the Rocket III Roadster is that it’s only so much cruising you want to do when all that power and torque lurk around begging to be used. If you produce cruisers with two-figure horsepower, then fine – soft comfortable suspension is only suitable. But, for a 146 horsepower muscle beast with mind blowing amounts of torque, I prefer a better performance set-up in the suspension department.Handling apart from the soft suspension, set-up is very good and it feels better than ever to lean the Rocket III into corners. The big chunky handlebar gives you great leverage over what’s underneath. This massive motorcycle naturally needs massive tires and the rear is a 240/50-R16 and the front a 150/80-R17. The Rocket III Roadster is weighing in at 809 pounds ready to ride, according to Triumph, which is a whole lotta bike to stop. The Nissin ABS set-up works surprisingly well on the Rocket III Roadster, and ABS is actually a bit of a relief as it’s not always the easiest thing in the world to know what’s going on under those tractor tires. When really riding on the limit, the brakes are not overly impressive, and I did miss a little more power from them in this scenario. For everyday riding, they are more than good enough, but let’s not forget that the Rocket III Roadster is no ordinary bike. The front tire helps that 43mm Kayaba inverted fork a lot with suspension duties under heavy breaking. The footpegs scrape, yet when they do, it hardly upsets the handling at all. What does happen, though, is that you start feeling very little with your feet. It is a weird feeling going fast on the Rocket III Roadster because of that ferocious in-line 2.3-liter triple. You can’t underestimate the feeling of having Rocket propulsion underneath you, and it’s always going to be the best part of the whole Rocket III experience. This is why there’s no satisfaction in cruising along because you know what it can really do. The Rocket III Roadster wants really badly to be an oversized brutal streetfighter because at rest still it looks slightly corpulent. It is nearly all those things, but not quite. The problem with the Rocket III is that it looks like a cruiser and, hence, it is a cruiser – the world’s fastest as such on the seventh year running. Anyway, full throttle down a straight, emptying all the five gears, it feels like the Rocket III Roadster is hovering over the tarmac whilst the overindulgent amount of torque tries to break my arms at the elbows.Acceleration-wise, carrying a heavy pillion doesn’t seem to have any effect at all, but when braking you need yet a few more yards in front of you. The sound from the 3-1-2 exhaust is satisfying, albeit not impressive. The way it satisfies is by brutally progressing from as little as 1000 rpm with a raw increasingly angry sound like nothing else. As soon as you twist the throttle there is no doubt that there are 2.3 liters of undiluted brutal fun underneath you. The Rocket III Roadster is also very easy to launch from first gear due to massive amounts of torque just pulling you forward from the word go. Now, there is a problem with the Roadster and that is that Triumph for some foolish reason has limited the fifth gear to 120mph. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had some health and safety thinking behind it, and that’d annoy me so I’m leaving it at that stating the fact that top speed is around 120mph and it’s reached so fast that it’s disappointing that it has to end. The five-speed gearbox is in a smooth and evolved state and easy to use.The 2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster is one of the most exciting bikes in the world to ride, and it’s a cruiser. Its proportions are oversized, but it doesn’t take long to get used to it and as soon as you are on the move it obeys. It is typically British to make something quite spectacular, and then do your best to understate it as best you can and then undermine it slightly by removing its top-speed capability. The Nissin ABS brakes work satisfactorily, but look like they’re from the 1990s and should be a little bit more powerful than they are. The ergonomics works well for me and the changes are subtle but effective. The best part of the Rocket III Roadster is its engine, with its 146 horsepower and 163 ft/lbs of torque. The only shame in 2011 is that you’ve only got two products to choose from should you want a Rocket III – the Roadster and the Touring. Triumph, have you got no imagination?