2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster

Road Test Review

Remember the scene in Blazing Saddles when the hulking, dim-witted thug Mongo (football star Alex Karras) rides into Rock Ridge on an enormous Brahma bull? Well, if Mongo wised-up and rode a big cruiser motorcycle instead, it would have been this Rocket III Roadster. Just substitute a pair of handlebars for those colossal pointy horns.

We often describe certain bikes as massive, but they’re all wannabes compared to the Rocket. Everything on this mega motor­cycle except its 27 mpg is genuinely giant, from the 6.3-gallon fuel tank with a heart-shaped top big enough for two tankbags, to the 150/80-17 and 240/50-16 Metzeler Marathon bias-ply tires, the latter on a 7.5-inch wide wheel. The tractor-sized engine as stressed frame member dominates it all, of course, as does its power output—the huge liquid-cooled, 2,294cc in-line triple has 4-inch pistons the same size as a Chevy 350 V-8’s. The last time we dyno tested a Rocket in 2004 it made 127 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel—more torque and displacement than any other production motorcycle. Heck, that’s more than most compact cars.

So naturally Triumph had to fix this insanity for 2010…and make the new Rocket Roadster even more powerful. Say good-bye to the 2009 Rocket’s and Rocket Classic’s measly 140 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque at the crank; the new 2010 Roadster replaces them and gets a bump to 146 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 163 lb-ft at 2,750. This bike will easily start out from a stop in third gear, and it accel­erates more like a cruise missile than any rocket. We’re talking a Yamaha Vmax-like power-to-weight ratio now but, of course, we’re still talking 806 pounds of fully fueled Rocket, too. That’s only half the weight of a Brahma, but it still takes a rider who at least feels as stout as Mongo to hustle the Roadster around at low speed, not to mention have bull-sized cowbells to dare engage its warp drive. That 240 rear tire and almost 67-inch wheelbase make turning the big Rocket a high-effort, leisurely affair, though at speed its Incredible Hulk-like agility and generous cornering clearance are surprisingly fun.

Triumph had the good sense to move the Rocket’s seat forward and its footpegs rearward and down this year, so that you can scoot back and lean into the wind at speed, taking some strain off your hands and arms. New mufflers have a combination semi-truck/Porsche-like baritone rumble that is righteous and attention-getting, and—for the first time on the Rocket—anti-lock triple-disc brakes are standard. The new stoppers are eye-poppers, indeed, but even though Triumph softened up the spring rate on the dual shocks in back this bike still does not welcome bumps. Hide a kidney belt under your leathers.

The 2010 Rocket III Roadster also sports a nice new pair of gauges and improved shifting, and comes in any color you like as long as it’s Phantom metallic or Matte Black. Surprising, because stealthy it is not, very fast and fun (and did I mention large?), it is.