2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster Comparison

Bart Madson | August 11, 2010
2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster
The Rocket III Roadster utilizes fatter tires front and rear, with a wider profile to the bike in general compared with the Star.

Braking is another area where the Yamaha gets the edge thanks to higher-spec components. The dual 320mm disc with six-piston caliper fronts make for a terrific bite, with the Brembo master cylinder delivering superior feel at the lever. The rear on the VMAX works well too, also sourcing a Brembo master cylinder.

The Triumph’s four-piston Nissin calipers up front (also squeezing on 320mm discs) do a fine enough job, with the Brembo rear also working well considering what its bringing to a stop. They can’t compete with the Yamaha, however, in feel and stopping power. The Triumph ABS system also threw us off some. While the VMAX ABS cut in is more pronounced, the Nissin Triumph system glitched more than once, with a stiff front lever pulsing and requiring a stomp on the rear pedal to get things sorted out.

2010 Star VMAX
Less than 100 miles on a tank of gas? Put’s a damper on the VMAX’s fun factor.
2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster
The Triple’s exhaust headers cut a distinctive styling line for a ride that is unique in motorcycling. Triumph has also hit with its black and chrome coloring for the Roadster

Real World Limitations

Neither of these bikes are the best choice for the practical rider or daily commuter. The ridiculously high power stats may snatch the headlines, but real world shortcomings fill up the footnotes. First up is the VMAX, and topping our list of gripes is its delightfully horrible fuel economy and sub-100 mile range.

This time around our VMAX testbike registered 28 mpg efficiency. This improves on the 24 mpg exhibited in our previous test. Credit the hundreds of freeway commuting miles, where reasonable speeds see the Star sip fuel at 30 mpg. Yet our observed efficiency is misleading as the four-gallon tank should easily yield triple-digit range, yet not one rider in our office got beyond 100 miles on a tank with the fuel light flashing frantically at 80 miles, often times sooner. The fact is it’s nigh impossible to ride the VMAX at “reasonable speeds”. Most typical fuel stops were back down in the 22-25 mpg range.

“Probably the biggest complaint about the V-Max is the fuel,” notes Ken. “First of all it only goes maybe about 100 miles on a tank of gas and that is if you are riding fairly mellow. I can’t do that so I averaged about 80-some miles per tank and that’s just silly.”

The VMAX has some more oddities unexpected for a special order bike retailing for $19,500 ($5500 more than the Triumph). Overall the styling is a definite hit, and particular features, like the polished aluminum on the air scoops, ooze quality. But then riders notice things like the front turn signal indicators, which wobble around at speed. The key is another point of contention, being ridiculously huge and not fitting all the way into the key slot, let alone your pocket where it makes the owner look like the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album cover. While the large tach, inset digital speedo and shift light look nifty, the hooded instrument console is difficult to read while at speed. One last complaint, the Yamaha’s kickstand comes down at a strange angle, requiring particular attention at stops.

2010 Star VMAX
The Star VMAX instrumentation features
a prominent tach with inset digital speedo.
2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster
The Triumph instruments are plain but easy
to read at speed.

The Triumph may snicker as we berate the Star’s range, but it’s not a whole lot better at 30.6 mpg (at least by motorcycle standards). Its larger 6.3-gallon tank should deliver well over 150 miles, but again that’s only with a reasonable throttle hand – something hard to find aboard the Triumph too.

The biggest strike against the Triumph, however, and one we’ve already harped on, is its sheer size. The Roadster’s a behemoth and feels like one. I’m not a diminutive man, but I felt like one trying to muscle the Triumph out of my driveway every morning. Pushing 800-plus lbs backwards and turning around in a 5-point pivot at 7:30 a.m. – that’s too early to break a sweat my friends! Once it gets some momentum the Trumpet commends itself well as lower speeds, but in stop and go traffic there’s another grievance – engine heat

“I cannot believe how much heat radiates from the big Triple when you are riding around in town,” says Ken. “With the headers routed out the right side the riders inside thigh is subjected to serious high heat. When you’re riding around the countryside it never is an issue but in traffic it is a real nuisance.”

Style wise though, the Rocket III Roadster is a looker. Those three exhaust headers on the right side are trademark, something completely unique in the motorcycle world. Sure the radiator is ginormous, but the new dual exhaust looks better than the awkward three-pipe configuration of the original Rocket. As for the blacked out theme, we’ve enjoyed the recent styling trend in the cruiser ranks and the Roadster hits it square on the head. Black and chrome at every angle. It looks fantastic – at least to our monochromatic sensibilities.

2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster
Two unique rides with power stats to spare but very different personalities. As always, picking a favorite comes down to personal preference.
2010 Triumph Rocket III Roadster

Instrumentation from the dual gauge tach and speedo may be plain, but it’s easy to read. Triumph also added a clock, fuel gauge and gear position indicator on the Roadster. View from the wide mirrors were clear and buzz free. Overall the fit and finish is decent, with a few quibbles, like the cramped space for the key between the ignition and steering head, and we noted the badging on our test unit starting to peel off. As for the $13,999 MSRP, it’s a considerable savings from the VMAX.

Conclusion

As sometimes happens with comparison tests, the differences between the two bikes overshadow the head-to-head performance matchup. This was definitely the case here. Where the VMAX felt heavy and awkward compared to the B-King, it transfers the same fate on the Triumph. Perhaps the only real conclusion we can draw from our two comparos with the VMAX is that it’s a difficult bike to classify, splitting the difference between high-performance sportbike and power crusier.

The Rocket III Roadster, while taking on more traditional performance cruiser qualities, is itself a motorcycling oddity. The biggest engine on the road today, it churns out endless miles of rubber burning fun. We’d love to pit it against fellow cruiser heavyweights, where we suspect it would fair quite well.

It all comes down to horsepower or torque. Take your pick. Either one will bring plenty of grins.

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Bart Madson

MotoUSA Editor | Articles | Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for 10 years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to motorcycle racing reports and industry news features.

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