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Triumph Rocket 3R & GT

Brawny British triples deliver tons of power and torque, at a steep price.

Originally launched in 2004, Triumph’s Rocket III has received a major overhaul for 2020, returning as the 88-pound lighter Rocket 3 R (roadster and GT cruiser). Notable upgrades include a displacement bump that makes this liquid-cooled inline triple the largest production motorcycle engine at 2,458cc, or 2.5 liters. Both new Rocket 3 models deliver a claimed 167 horsepower (up 11%) and 163 pound-feet of torque. Triumph has also streamlined the styling and added modern technology enhancements. Both bikes feature all-day comfort and internally wired handlebars, but with very different ergonomics. The R features wider, straighter bars and a more aggressive riding position, with a midbike foot location that can be adjusted vertically by 15mm, whereas the GT offers a small flyscreen, swept-back bars and feet-forward pegs that can be adjusted 25mm forward or back.

The GT features a larger stock pillion pad, with a brushed and height-adjustable backrest, but both versions feature rider seats roughly 30-inches from the pavement. All parts are interchangeable, so ergonomically the Rocket 3 could be configured for almost any rider via various accessories. Styling notes include a stainless-steel tank strap and brushed aluminum Monza-style fuel, oil and coolant caps. There are machined fins on the crankcases, head and cam cover, plus a hydroformed three-header exhaust, with brushed exhaust heat shields and end caps. Triumph’s signature twin headlights also include daytime running lights and are part of a full LED setup. The pillion footrests fold up invisibly into the frame. The new lightweight 20-spoke cast aluminum wheels are blacked-out on the R, but have exposed machining details on the GT. The co-branded Avon Cobra Chrome tires were designed for combined grip and high mileage durability, with a fat 240mm rear tire that Triumph claims can be ridden right to its edge, with only the footpegs touching down. The final drive is shaft, via a single-sided swingarm, with a fully adjustable monoshock in the rear, but only rebound and compression on the 47mm forks. The Showa suspension was adequate on the smooth roads ridden, but wallowed some in aggressive cornering. This could likely be dialed in with the available settings and more time. The overall sharp handling belies the mass of this bike. The engine received a new crankcase assembly, lubrication system and balancer shafts, totaling a 40-pound weight reduction. It is quiet when fired up, yet delivers a deep and satisfying sound on the throttle, and is Euro5 compliant.

The ride-by-wire throttle provides Sport, Road and Rain default ride modes, with user selectable ABS and traction control levels, plus a customizable fourth mode. A six-axis IMU controls traction and linked ABS, even while cornering. A new hydraulic clutch provides reduced lever effort, while engaging a smoother, stronger and lighter six-speed helical-cut gearbox, designed to handle the increased torque. Bringing this roughly 640-pound bike to halt are Brembo monoblocs, which felt very responsive. Additional technology includes a customizable TFT display, illuminated switchgear, hill hold, cruise control and keyless ignition. Heated grips are standard on the GT, but an accessory on the R. There is a 12V plug on the dash and a USB connection under the seat, along with a compartment large enough to hold the largest smartphones. Unfortunately, Bluetooth connectivity is optional, though it supports turn-by-turn navigation, audio, phone and GoPro integration, all controlled by the switchgear. A quickshifter and tire pressure monitoring area also optional on both models. There will be more than 50 accessories available, including luggage, comfort, style and security options. Triumph has already created a “highway inspiration” package, which boosts touring capacity with a luggage rack, 20-liter panniers, the quickshifter and Bluetooth connectivity. There is also a Triumph app for iOS and Android, for additional connectivity options. The bike looks fantastic, rides extremely well and commands “biggest” bragging rights. However, don’t expect it to be the fastest muscle cruiser, as power delivery comes as a never-ending supply of torque versus arm-ripping horsepower. The Rocket 3 R is expected at dealers now; MSRP $21,900 in black or red and GT $22,600 in black or silver and gray with red pinstripes. 

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