2020 Triumph Rocket III R

2020 Triumph Rocket III R

With thanks to John and the crew at Team Moto Triumph Springwood I spent a few days this week getting to know their Demonstrator 2020 Rocket III R … quite well.

Remember that Matchbox 20 tune “Let’s See Far We’ve Come”? Well that was ringing distantly in my ears as I wheeled out of the dealership onto Moss St and the heart of the Springwood motorcycle precinct on the new black behemoth.
I’d say I was as familiar with the earlier RIII models as any non-owner could be - and I was indeed very keen to see exactly how far they had come.

At the time of the original Hinckley Rocket III's release in 2004 I was the ‘token Aussie 'JAFA’ working in the New Zealand Motorcycle Press - and I was also serving as a ‘roustabout’ for Triumph New Zealand.

(It’s always worth denoting that ‘Hinckley’ - lest some ardent BSA enthusiast points out the original Rocket 3 carried the Birmingham Small Arms logo and was manufactured from 1968 at the Meriden plant).

But anyway, one of the tasks I was charged with back then was shaking down and running-in the first two Rockets in NZ prior to them being released to the general Press Corps for review. I also got to write up the tests for Kiwi Rider Magazine.

Between the writing and wrangling gigs, in the ensuing 7 years, I rode and tested every model, variant and colour way of the 2300cc monster. Tourer, Classic, Roadster and Standard. I even had one as a long-term test bike when blogging was still a pre-Facebook thing.

I counted myself quite an aficionado. I liked the bike. A lot. For a 6’5” heavyweight like me it was a great fit. It had serious mumbo and we impressed fellow RAT club members more than once with a nice wheelie or two.

Early Rockets had some shortcomings. The Touring Model’s range was not what a touring bike’s range should have been. The gearbox was clunky, all the different model’s ground clearance was nowhere near as good as the bike’s handling capability and it was pretty easy to start dragging the frame on the deck if you really started to push it. And it was very pushable. The by-product of which was that the back wheel started to lift off the ground sending its 340kg mass somewhat sideways with the type of butt clenching you can probably imagine.

It had plenty of good points too. The brakes were always good and it was a very comfortable and rewarding cruising machine.
However, as previously noted, most of this ‘hard won’ experience has now become completely redundant with the new and revamped RIIIR (and the GT and the TFC variants).

None of the reservations or shortcoming I’ve just quickly glossed over apply any more. The past few days have proved that. I’ve seen how far the mighty Rocket III has come.

Gone is the clunky, noisy gearbox, gone is the drive train slap and lash from the shaft drive. It's now all silky smooth and precise.

Gone are the forward controls, the limited lean angle and dragging hard parts. It now tips in beautifully.
Gone are the looks and style that I tended to look beyond because of how much I liked the copious torque and hammer of the older models.

It’s all been replaced with a bike that I look at it and go “Oh yes! What a peach! They got it just right.”
Now I use the mid controls and wide, flat bars to get weight off board or climb over the front wheel while hooking up the hill to Springbrook.

It’s become an upright, even a ‘standard’ riding position and ergonomic. It’s maybe not as cruiser-comfortable as the older models for us big guys, but the way you can ride it like a Sports machine more than adequately compensates. I was giving it 'a bit' - hitting 65kph around the 20kph signposted left and right-handers and didn't scrape anything - even when I was feeling for contact with my boot. Just its beautiful manners.

Now I listen pleasant growl of the great looking 3-2-1 exhaust.

Now I can dial in a variety of riding modes – rain, road or sport – or customise my own settings in rider mode.

Now I found a bike that has top notch Showa Suspension all round and those previously good brakes have been put on ‘roids with Dual 320mm discs, Brembo 4-piston radial monobloc callipers and cornering ABS.

The suspension has been upgraded to include Showa 47mm upside-down cartridge front forks with compression and rebound adjustment and 120mm travel - while the rear has a fully adjustable Showa piggyback reservoir RSU with remote hydraulic preload adjuster and 107mm of rear wheel travel.

This suspension package, the stiff Aluminium frame and swingarm, married to the bike’s relatively low centre of Mass (that the longitudinal 2500cc gives) combine for a bike that handles brilliantly for one that weighs 300kg (40kg lighter than previous models).

It’s as easy to perform low speed U turns as it is solid and planted on the Freeway - or through the long sweepers around the back of the Hinze Dam heading back to Nerang.

I didn’t get a chance to measure the fuel range properly over the few days I had the bike, but it ‘seems’ much better for the new 18litre tank and tune.

The TFT instruments are very pleasing to the eye and the amount of data they display is remarkable. In fact the whole package is. The lights, the switchgear – even the side stand and fold out passenger pegs are as they would say back in NZ "Sweet-as Bro".

All in all the new Rocket III has evolved into a tight, tidy, fast, great looking and accomplished motorcycle. A complete rework of everything I thought I knew about them.

If you think you know R3s – or you want to find out more about them, call in to Team Moto Triumph and see if you can score a ride on this beauty.

As far as one ‘old stager’ is concerned, it’s a bike that has come a VERY, VERY long way.