Triumph Rocket 3 GT Test

Triumph Rocket 3 GT


An Evolution of Awesome

“Insane, incredible! It has a car engine, it will suck the wind from your lungs,” and other incredulous exclamations of shock and awe abounded when German manufacturer Münch launched the Mammut or ‘TT’ in 1966.

The headline grabbing, NSU car engine powered, ‘behemoth’ had an unbelievable 1000cc capacity and was touted as the fastest, most powerful and expensive motorcycle of its time. 

Since then, we’ve been fed a steady diet of modern motorcycle engine capacity increases and similar sentiments. 

In the years after Münch we saw the huge Norton 850 of the early seventies break the mould again.

Later that decade, the Kawasaki Z1300 was perceived as equally mind blowing, with the presses of the day declaring that the manufacturer, “Has gone overboard in many people's minds”.

Over the next 20 years Yamaha and Honda introduced cruisers with capacities of 1600cc, 1800cc and 1900cc respectively.

Harley-Davidson continued their upward spiral as well. A seventies Shovelhead was 1212cc (74cui) and over the ensuing 50-plus years its lineage has evolved into the 1920cc (117cui) M8 that sits on showroom floors today. It’s been a steady progression of capacity and power from Milwaukee too. 

In the nineties, American custom builder ‘Boss Hoss’ unveiled their famous 8130cc (496cui) Chevy-powered bikes and trikes and it seemed almost … reasonable.

Real Britannia

When Triumph decided to up the production bike ante with the 2300cc Rocket III in 2004 the ‘pure craziness’ reactions were unsurprising. 

In fact, Triumph countered many of the objections and protests from Press and Government alike by stating that the bike would be governed for maximum speed and tuned exclusively for torque. 

And what a torque monster those first units turned out to be. It was also remarkably well-mannered and comparatively easy to ride bike – for a ‘juggernaut’.

It was never perfect, but it was mightily addictive. Its cornering clearance didn’t match the capability of the motor and chassis, but it was a muscle cruiser of the highest grin-inducing order. I rode one every chance I could get and spent considerable saddle time on every model and variant since.

When Mick rang and said Peter Stevens Importers latest ‘R 3 GT’ Press bike was headed to Queensland, I was stoked, and kind-of knew what to expect. Particularly since spending a weekend with a Rocket 3 R Dealer demo in early 2020 (HEAVY DUTY #170).

Even so, the number of times I muttered to myself, “That’s awesome!” over the two-week test period still surprised me. 

R v GT Differences

The latest GT is essentially the same bike as the R with better touring inclusions, particularly for tall riders. 

I was as comfortable as I have ever been on a stock motorcycle. The rider’s saddle allotment and the ergonomics are fantastic. Shorter inseams will find its 750mm saddle height manageable too.

The passenger back rest is clever and offers some height adjustment, but the passenger accommodation, for the world’s largest production motorcycle, is one of the few gripes I have with the machine. 

It’s a pillion seat for a reasonably small passenger and the only thing I can find that was actually better on the previous (2300cc) models. The way the rear pegs fold up and in to disappear is also very clever, but for a ‘Grand Tourer’ …

The small fly screen keeps some wind off the torso but isn’t big enough to introduce helmet buffeting – tick. 

The forward controls can be adjusted by simply unbolting and relocating them, which gets a very big tick. 

The internally wired handlebars are reasonably wide and pulled back at a nice angle although I had a real love-hate relationship with the bar-end mirrors. They do provide outstanding visibility and clarity but are a hinderance in heavy traffic and lane splitting. 

Still on the handlebars, the switchgear is well sorted and illuminated. 

Once I came to grips with the nuances of navigating through the various options, I found the adjustable angle TFT instrument pod very easy to live with. 

It can display an array of ride data with two selectable screen styles and mode options available, all of which are scrollable from buttons and a toggle on the left-hand switch block. You can even personalise the start up screen welcome message. Again, very clever.

All this makes for a very comfortable ride that’s easy to relax into – or conversely get a knee out and move around on the pegs when you need to get busy on a twisty bit of road too.

How does it handle?

Simply put, incredibly well. 

Erik Buell told us 20-plus years ago that the total mass of a motorcycle isn’t as important as its centre, ie how low and close to the middle of the bike the COM is has enormous effect. 

When you look at the GT and its specs … the massive 240/50 R16 rear and 150/80 R17 front rubber, around 300kg wet weight and 1677mm wheelbase, traditional wisdom says it shouldn’t handle as well as it does. But the way the motor sits low and central in the aluminium frame with the low-down drive train go some way to confirm Buell’s theory. 

Perhaps it’s aided by the Avon Cobra Chrome tyres that were developed especially for the bike, but the ‘fat tyres don’t steer’ is a convention this bike destroys. 

It handles superbly, especially considering that 240 rear. The low COM means that it’s surprisingly nimble on a back road, solid, planted and very stable on the freeway, and a delight do a tight U-turn or low speed manoeuvre as well. Remarkably so.

It just felt beautifully balanced no matter where I rode it. Triumph claims that it’s 40kg lighter than its predecessor. On a rough surface it feels like more. 

That’s further enhanced by the cornering clearance, which is the best of any feet forward motorcycle I’ve ridden so far. I managed to scrape the pegs once in the two-week test and I had to seek out my favourite off-camber corner to do it. 

I also spent the first sessions of the test backing off the suspension. It has high-end Showa adjustable suspension as standard. It’s two-way adjustable up front and 3-way at the rear. 

After a few days of rattling my fillings after dialling in the owner’s manual’s ‘sport’ settings, I gradually reverted to the softest or ‘comfort’ settings and found it made very little difference to the handling in normal conditions – but made being aboard much more pleasant.

Even on the softest settings it remains a reasonable firm ride with 120mm of travel available on the 47mm USD forks and 107mm available on the rear monoshock (with piggyback reservoir and remote hydraulic preload adjuster).

Stopping a bike that is so fast and heavy obviously needs a serious braking package and that’s done with impressive Brembo Stylema Monobloc 4-piston callipers and dual 320mm rotors up front - and a 300mm single at rear. Even Mick would give this rear brake a tick. 

It has an advanced, cornering enhanced ABS with an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). This unit also provides cornering traction control - in case you grab too much of anything. Which brings us to the powerplant.

Oh! That Motor

The longitudinally mounted 2458cc liquid cooled triple has an over-square bore and stroke of 110.2mm x 85.9mm (For reference, the latest 117 cube M8 is 103.5mmm x 114.3mm.) 

It employs a raft of high tech – from the ride-by-wire throttle to advanced fluid dynamics in the cooling system. 

“I bet we could easily coax a lot more out of her!” Simon Yates said to me when I told him the bike develops 165bhp @6,000rpm. 

I’m sure that’s the case too, but for normal riding, it doesn’t really need more power, because like the earlier incarnations, it is tuned for torque. Great big, beautiful gobs of it. 221Nm @ 4000 rpm in fact. 

It’s a short-shifter’s delight that rolls-on to warp speed in the blink of an eye. It will also lazily trundle along in top gear at 45kph.

The motor is very smooth right across the rev range, even at idle. There’s a hint of triple vibration through the bars cruising at some speeds, but it’s merely a hint. 

When encouraged, it is (as you would expect) a very fast motorcycle. I spent a lot of time riding with the cruise control engaged because it’s all so effortless and easy for the speed to creep over the posted limit. 

Just breathe on the throttle and off it shoots. When you do find an opportunity to give it a real handful, it’s glorious. The stock exhaust system sounds (and looks) great doing it too. It’s a rich and unique triple note. 

There are four riding modes available, Rain, Road, Sport, and Rider. The latter allows custom individual preferences for traction control, throttle response and much more to be saved. 

The power is fed through a slick, six-speed gearbox with a Torque Assist (slipper) clutch. It’s sure shifting, and almost notch-less on upshifts, in fact it did take a few days to get used to the meeting zero resistance when changing up. Downshifts have a more definite click into gear, however. It gave no false neutrals, and it was very easy to select the big green N on the dash when stationary. 

The single sided swing arm incorporates the shaft drive housing and differential. It has a tough, heavy machinery look to it, but it’s very far removed from the clunkiness, slap and lash that came with old school shaft units. It can be made to slap, but it takes a concerted effort. Overall, it’s very efficient and it adds to the liner smoothness of the torque delivery. 

The Whole Package.

It is one of those ‘celebrity’ bikes that everyone wanted to know about. The most common comment I fielded, either online or when I stopped, was “It looks like the Bat Bike” or just, “Wow!”

The technology is first class, and the safety systems and ride enhancements are also well sorted. 

The cruise control is easy to engage and adjust and the hill-hold control is equally effective. Simply squeeze the Brake lever firmly when stationary and bike won’t move till the clutch is released. I get that if you are experienced enough to be considering buying a 2.5litre motorcycle you should have more than enough nous to perform a hill start, but there are times when I do find this feature useful. Mostly while fumbling for the garage door opener on my sloping driveway. 

Heated grips are standard on the GT and there’s a handily located 5V USB accessory outlet adjacent the instrument display. 

The keyless security fob worked perfectly - unlike some other Triumphs I’ve ridden lately. 

The modern LED lighting is funky and effective, but I don’t think anyone is a fan of the rear-guard assembly, plate and indicator holder. Fortunately, there are aftermarket tail tidy options available now. 

Apart from that, I thought it looks as good as it goes, with a great stance and compelling lines.

The silver and traditional Triumph red swoosh paintwork as tested adds $900 to the basic black starting price of $35,490 ride away.

Also Add These

Other optional accessories to consider would be Triumphs ‘Shift Assist’ which enables gear changes without clutching. For those times when you really need some added hurry up.

I’d also add Triumph’s TFT Connectivity System. Bluetooth that enables turn by turn navigation, phone feature management, GoPro functionality and much more - for around $380. (It should be a standard inclusion). 

There is a range of luggage, rack and touring accessories available for the GT, as well as a range of customising doohickies. To get the breakdown on range and pricing, point your web browser to triumphmotorcycles.com.au and navigate to the ‘configure’ section. 

Conclusions.

From the time I helped un-crate and rode the first example to arrive in the antipodes back in 2004, I’ve been a huge fan of this motorcycle. It’s a big bloke’s special and its massive torque has always delivered me directly to my happy place.

At some cost. It’s obviously not a bike to buy if you are prone to sweating on fuel economy or worry about running costs.

Triumph claims fuel consumption figures of 6.82 l/100km but I suspect that’s with considerable moderation of the right wrist action. 

I got between 220 to 240km from the 18litre tank before the warning light came on and the trip computer showed 80 to 90km range left. 

It spends a lot of the time getting between corners doing not much more than idling, but it can be thirsty if you push it. It also takes a little while to settle in to riding it in a taller gear than normal bikes would require. 221Nm remember? 

A quick online search shows that the Avon rear tyre will set you back a touch over $400 and how long it lasts will be equally dependent on wrist action. 

But then, frugal moderation and being conservative isn’t what the Rocket 3 GT is about at all. 

It is about the incredible thrill of accelerating from 0 to 100kph in 2.73 seconds.

It’s about the hugely satisfying surge of torque that winding the throttle on in any gear delivers. 

It’s about presence, feelgood and being very comfortable on a great handling feet forward motorcycle that can pull to warp speed in the blink of an eye. 

But mainly it’s all about the reason that many of us got into motorcycling in the first place: it’s just incredible fun.

Where do we go from here? I don’t know what the future of the internal combustion engine capacities holds … but if history keeps repeating, look out Boss Hoss! 

It will be glorious.

WOULD I OWN ONE?

In a heartbeat. Always loved a Rocket. But it couldn’t be my only bike. The co-pilot and I have been sharing a saddle for 40 years. She looked at this one and just shook her head. 

WHAT I WOULD CHANGE?

The mirrors. They affect lane splitting. 

The rear indicator and plate holder. Tail Tidy please.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

The passenger accommodation. It’s an XXL bike with an S pillion perch.  


GUTS & BOLTS

GENERAL:

TEST BIKE: Peter Stevens Importers

MODEL: Triumph Rocket 3 GT

Price as Tested: $36,490 Ride Away*

ENGINE

TYPE: Inline 3-cylinder, water-cooled, DOHC

CAPACITY: 2,458cc

ESTIMATED POWER: 165bhp @ 6000rpm

ESTIMATED TORQUE: 221Nm @ 4000rpm

FUEL SYSTEM: Ride-by-wire, fuel injected

EXHAUST: Stainless 3-into-1 headers with 3 exit silencer / CAT box

FINAL DRIVE: Shaft, bevel box

CLUTCH: Hydraulic, torque-assist

GEARBOX: 6 speed

FRAME & SUPSENSION

TYPE: Full aluminium

FRONT: Showa 47mm upside-down 1+1 cartridge front forks, compression and rebound adjuster. 120mm travel

REAR: Fully adjustable Showa piggyback reservoir RSU with remote hydraulic preload adjuster, 107mm rear wheel travel.

SEAT HEIGHT: 750mm

RAKE: 27.9º

TRAIL: 134.9 mm

DRY WEIGHT: 294 kg

FUEL TANK CAPACITY: 18 L

WHEELS & TYRES

F RIM: 17 x 3.5in cast aluminium

R RIM: 16 x 7.5in cast aluminium

TYRES: 150/80 R17 V - 240/50 R16 V

F BRAKE: Dual 320mm discs, Brembo M4.30 Stylema® 4-piston radial monobloc calipers, 

Cornering ABS

R BRAKE: Single 300mm disc, Brembo M4.32 4-piston monobloc caliper, Cornering ABS



Bahnstorming BMW K 1600 B.

BMW has entered the game. 

In motorcycle parlance, ‘Bagger’ is a term used to describe a large touring motorcycle that is equipped with panniers or hard luggage, perhaps even a top box.

Typically, Baggers also have concessions to style and aesthetics, such as a ‘slammed’ rear end or enhanced bodywork and paint – it’s a significant market share and now BMW is getting in on the action with the latest K 1600 B – for Bagger.

Original Models

The K 1600 GT and GTL models were released in Australia in 2011 and they set a benchmark for performance in luxury touring bikes, but they were ‘pure’ tourers, without the styling cues that sets the Bagger market apart. 

Now, that’s all changed, and what a fabulous motorcycle the new model is. 

At its heart is a four-stroke oil and water cooled, in-line six-cylinder engine with 4-valves per cylinder that displaces 1649cc. 

It’s an exhilarating powerplant that produces 160 horsepower and 180Nm of torque at 5,250rpm. 

That power is fed to the rear wheel via multi-disc oil bath clutch, a sure-shifting, crisp six-speed gearbox and very direct lash-free shaft drive.

Chassis To Match

It’s all slung in a chassis that is as equally well performed. The suspension is proprietary BMW, with a Duolever front end and central spring strut. The main advantage of this system is that ‘fork dive’ or compression of the front suspension under hard braking is virtually eliminated. 

The rear suspension is BMW’s Paralever set up and it works in perfect harmony with the front. Both systems are electronically controlled, and their settings are switchable on the fly.

Tipping the scales at 344kg fuelled up and ready to ride means stopping this high-performance monster requires serious braking power too. 

That’s handled by twin 320mm fixed rotors with 4-piston calipers up front and single 2-piston at the rear – all with lean angle optimised ABS. 

Best of the rest

The rest of the raft of high-tech throughout the machine is equally impressive. From the high definition TFT display and the huge array of information and infotainment options it supports, to the 3 fly-by-wire riding modes that accommodate ‘Rain’, ‘Road’ and Dynamic’ settings. There’s a hill-hold option, Industry best cruise control, adaptive headlight, self-cancelling indicators, a slip control clutch and many more features to add to safety and comfort.

It also has an array of luxury inclusions like heated seats, heated grips, an adjustable power windscreen, an outstanding navigation system and impressive infotainment and phone integration.

Value for money.

With a base price of $41,125 the K 1600 B is at the upper end of the luxury motorcycle market. The test bike has optional Manhattan Metallic Paint ($350) and 719 Forged Wheels ($2,500) fitted as well, but it’s a bike that you get what you pay for.

A bike that stacks up well in Queensland conditions with fabulous performance, class leading technology, safety enhancements and great comfort throughout. 

A real Bahnstormer. 

Forcite MK1S Motorcycle Helmet

Why was I enthusiastic enough about a helmet to sign on to the Forcite Ambassador programme?

Well, there are a number of reasons. 

It really all started 42 years ago, in 1980, when I hollowed out the foam over the ears of an open face helmet so I could fit the clunky headphones of my brand new, original, Sony FM Walkman inside.

Yeah - not the smartest thing I’ve ever done – nor is it the dumbest, but back then it represented the first real opportunity to put stereo music in a helmet … and … it didn't work very well at all. 

I basically had to be right in the city centre for the FM radio signal to be strong enough. 

But I persisted because I've *always* craved music on a ride. And I understand that’s not for everyone, but to this day rocking a playlist on a ride is part of my joy. 

When portable tape players became available that was even better – no static – and I could choose my own programming on cassette.

From there I’ve been right on top of every advance in the Tech: From portable CD readers to a miriad of different players - and on to the Mp3 revolution, ear buds, Bluetooth and an ensuing range of devices, iPods, phones and even lately, my watch. 

42 years of it experimenting and improving – but now I’m thinking and hoping that this maybe the ultimate. This helmet has a dedicated Harmon-Kardon sound system built in. And No need to scoop out the foam.

But that’s not the only feature that sings to me. 


Press Record.

I started regularly contributing to Motorcycle Magazines in 2002 - and have been testing motorcycles and allied products in print for over 20 years now. 

As an adjunct to that print media work, I also started producing bike test videos, right back when You Tube was in its infancy. 

I spent a lot of time fabricating movie camera mounts for motorcycles. With better success that that first Walkman, but they were still very primitive. 

My first attempts used tape Camcorders, the movies were published at 360x240 pixels, and they shook like crazy. 

But as that tech evolved, I followed that as well – to digital cameras and then on to a succession of action cameras – and have always sought new ways of mounting or wearing the devices. 

Now *this* Helmet has a 1080 60p camera built-in that is operated remotely. 

It’s even located close to what I consider the best aspect or position for recording on board.

The other issue I’ve long wrestled with for capturing video on a motorcycle is sound quality. 

Microphones don’t like wind and conquering the bluster on a bike has remained an ongoing challenge. 

This helmet has 2 microphones inside, designed to cut wind noise and it has a liner specified to do the same. Jiminy! I can’t wait to get amongst it on a test bike. 

And then there’s Navigation.

When relocating to a new city or touring on a bike, I’ve tried a number of different navigation devices to find a solution there too. 

I’ve put devices like Garmins on my handlebars and I currently have a Beeline interface that works quite well, but this helmet has a Heads-Up Display that works in concert with its app to give guidance, warnings and other alerts.

Even Happier Days!

There’s plenty of other features that tick my boxes too … its high safety rating, Carbon Fibre style, the ability to take phone calls on the go – all of its features are all laid out on the Forcite web site – but enough with my story

I’m now off to suss out how it all works, figure out where I’m going to store the helmet to charge it, read the instruction manual thoroughly, then go for a ride and start video capability testing. 

In the meantime, if you’re interested in purchasing a Forcite Helmet, use the Code ‘DAVE5’ at checkout and you’ll get a 5% discount on the purchase price as well as a Free Pinlock visor.

BMW K 1600 B Testing begins.


An assortment of slack-jawed yokels and cap-askew ‘yoofs’ gawped in bewilderment as the BMW K 1600 B purred past them along the waterfront. 

On-board, I smiled inwardly, knowing that even the baggy jean and skateboard brigade acknowledged the sheer presence of this machine, and I imagined what their expression would be like if I really made it growl.

Like most of the motorcycles with six-cylinder engines that I have ridden, when you do give it a handful, it growls – and this 1600cc gem has just enough exhaust aperture to make it impressive. 

After picking the test bike up from Morgan & Wacker BMW in Brisbane I had a quick blast down the M1 before looping back around the Bayside to home and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Switching the bike to ‘Dynamic’ mode is a thing. A very real thing. (Morris, Russell. - 1969.)


I then spent a few hours drilling down into the technology and coming to grips with the myriad of settings available, particularly for the on-board infotainment and navigation – and have it fully sussed. 

It was all very intuitive. It does need the ‘BMW Connect’ app installed on your phone for the nav to work – but that was seamless too. 

There is a phone caddy with USB-C charger above the 1920 x 720 HD instrument screen and said screen now displays my playlists and gives navigation guidance with phone and media controls available via the left hand switchgear – all outputted to my in-helmet earphones. 

I’ll be vlogging this one hard on my You Tube channel too - once I build some collateral.

It’s a meaning thing, a really meaning thing.


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