The Rocket III is the king of the displacement wars. We pit it against another hyper-powered cruiser motorcycle decked out in touring trim in our 2013 Triumph Rocket III vs Ducati Diavel Strada comparison article.
We had hoped to compare touring versions of high-powered cruisers. And while the Triumph Rocket III Touring gets a removable windshield, passenger backrest-luggage rack combo, fog lights, engine guards, hard detachable locking bags and a gel passenger seat, Triumph didn’t have one available at the time of the test. So we got a Roadster accessorized for touring with a windscreen and leather saddlebags instead, without the other features. The screen blocks a ton of air, but riders get a healthy dose of buffeting, too.
Climb on the Rocket III, and there’s no way around it – it’s a beast of a bike. With a 29.5-inch seat height, riders are more ‘on’ the bike, upright in the saddle with arms out wide and legs forward. The gargantuan 5.9-gallon gas tank is almost two feet wide and the bike tips the scales at just over 800 pounds ready-to-ride. Its mass can be intimidating at first but the more you ride the Rocket III, the more comfortable you become with it.
Twist the throttle grip before taking off and the bike lists to the left thanks to the pull of the Inline Triples’ longitudinal crankshaft. Rev it up, slip into gear, and get ready as the Rocket III lives up to its name with 131.97 lb-ft of torque available at only 2500 rpm. Power delivery is very linear and roll-on is excellent. Peak horsepower hits at only 5300 rpm and the powerband isn’t overly wide, so shifting a bit before redline will keep you in the meat of its prodigious torque. Despite being liquid-cooled, the 2294cc powerplant does heat up, particularly on the inside of a rider’s right leg.
While the Rocket III can pace with the Diavel Strada in a straight line, it’s at a definite disadvantage in the twisty stuff. Both bikes have fat 240mm rear ends, but the Rocket III Roadster requires more work at the bars, too. While it has plenty of ground clearance and is planted at lean, steering the big bike takes a deliberate and conscious effort. With the amount of mass it carries, riders want to make sure of their lines before diving in.
On the road, its Kayaba suspension is set-up necessarily firm and soaks up everything the road throws at it. A five-speed gearbox shifts cleanly while its cable-actuated clutch is easy to modulate, but the tremendous amount of torque it deals with leaves it less refined feeling than the transmission on Triumph’s Thunderbird. If you’ve got a little throttle applied when shifting, the shaft final drive will jack a bit.
Braking duties are the responsibility of big dual floating 320mm discs on the front with four-piston fixed Nissin calipers while a set of twin-pot Brembos squeeze the back. ABS comes standard. The front pairing is strong and could use a better initial bite but when used in unison, the big discs have no problems bringing the Rocket III to a stop. The ABS works smoothly when engaged but cuts in early and often and riders get a hint of the system pulsing at the lever.
As far at its touring credentials, its leather bags are deeper and bigger than the Ducati, capable of holding my 17-inch computer and backpack, but don’t lock. The aftermarket Triumph windscreen pushes plenty of air out of the way, but riders are still subject to buffeting. With tremendously large pistons, the Rocket III isn’t the most efficient motorcycle on the market as we averaged 29.5 miles-per-gallon. This equates to around 175 miles before requiring a fill-up, better than the Diavel Strada but not what you’d expect from a tourer. Yet we found it to be a slightly better base touring platform thanks to more storage capacity, longer range, and more relaxed riding position.