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Very rarely in life, one gets a chance where they see the past and the future together. The rarity of this occasion lies in the fact that time is never stagnant. An example could be Valentino Rossi. Those who have known him for as long as he has been racing can still imagine him racing those 2-Stroke 500s alongside the modern-day GP machines. It is a sight like no other.
We recently got an opportunity to do something of that sort. Hard work had a part to play but so did luck… to some extent. So here we bring to you the same motorcycling recipe of big with two different servings: III and 3.
III signifies the illustrious past and 3, the glorious future. If the prevalence of the threes has not given it away yet, let us tell you that we are talking about Triumph Motorcycles. Specifically, the Rocket. We recently added the Rocket 3 R to our garage and in the few hundred kilometres that we have ridden it for, it has only solidified our belief that it is more than deserving of all the superlative titles motorcyclists relate it with.
But the Rocket 3 is not an infant. It has grown quite a bit. When it comes to special motorcycles like the Rocket 3, origins are just as important. A fortunate happenstance helped us put together this… show… where we have the Rocket III from the past running alongside our own Rocket 3. We reiterate… it was a sight like no other.
How was the Rocket born? Well, Triumph was looking at the American market and they wanted to make a big cruiser. After a lot of research, they planned to make one with a 1,600cc engine. But then, there were quite a few motorcycles in that displacement category. Then, someone at Hinckley decided that they were going big. 2,294cc big. And that is how the Rocket III was born.
Around 140 bhp of power. More than 200 Nm of torque. 300+ kilograms (dry). The Rocket III was the talk of not only the town but the whole wide world. It was big and comfy and looked great and all. But the torque and the humongous 240-section rear tyre were what stood out the most. Then those who got to ride it expected a usual-cruiser deal. But they were in for a rude awakening as the Rocket III could accelerate from nought to 100 km/h in time that was comparable with superbikes and hyperbikes.
The cylinder config for the Rocket III was, predictably, an inline-3. Something that has become a sort of a trademark of the British marquee. Only, in the Rocket III it was mounted longitudinally. Despite being brutally quick and mind-bogglingly big, the Rocket III had another surprise up its sleeve and this one was really a surprise. It was a breeze to ride. Something not a lot of big motorcycles can boast of.
Still, the best part about the Rocket III remained the pride that Triumph took in making a motorcycle like that and making it work too. Perhaps that is why they kept working on it. Improving it and changing it in the way that made the Rocket III something that everyone could relate to. And perhaps that is why the Rocket was able to carve a niche for itself. Let us explain.
See, the Rocket III was conceptualized to be a cruiser and it was. But with time, Triumph realized that it could be much more than simply a slave to a particular category. So they came up with a roadster variant which had mid-mounted controls and steered it in the direction of streetfighters.
So the cruiser they set out to build invariably became a power-cruiser and the streetfighter direction made the roadster a muscle bike… yes, like the 4-wheeled species, the two-wheeled one has the class too and it’s all thanks to Triumph.
While the Rocket III that we rode (thanks to Hoonigan Motorsports) brought back some memories and allowed us to recall how it all came to be, our own Rocket 3 R was waiting to amplify all those sensations that the older Rocket invoked. Triumph somehow managed to make the Rocket 3 ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller’ at the same time.
First and foremost, the engine. The longitudinally mounted inline-3 engine now sports a displacement bumped up to 2.5 litres (2,458cc to be precise). What that entails is more power, more torque and more refinement. While ride-by-wire gave rise to a throttle smoother than ever, the 6-speed gearbox with shaft drive accentuates all the distinct traits of the engine with 167 Ps of power and 221 Nm of torque being the most prominent ones of those.
On paper everything is rosy and out in the open, it is even better. The Rocket 3 R is setting records in 0-60 mph runs. 2.73 second… 2.73!! It is a big brawny muscle-cruiser alright but those numbers can shame quite a few superbikes out there. Despite the nerve-racking acceleration, we like the rideability of the Rocket 3 R the most. Tractability was the call of the day and tractable it is.
On the Rocket 3 R, you can be one or two or three gears higher and even then it won’t feel lacking. The in-gear acceleration is nuts. You can easily overtake the fastest on the road without even downshifting. 221 Nm of torque is a lot but still… that’s just phenomenal. It is like all of the rev-range and all of the gears are just dripping with grunt waiting for the right command from your right wrist.
This trait also makes the Rocket 3 a surprisingly easy bike to ride even in traffic. The hydraulic clutch has a light action and the torque assist ensures botched downshifts aren’t met with the fury of the massive reverse-torque. One of the things that the older Rocket lacked was the sound. That has been remedied too.
In addition to looking super cool, the exhausts pipes emanate a soul-stirring note and it gets better and better as you accelerate. Accelerate and let the throttle go, and the pops and crackles make you grin like a little kid. And it does that not only to you but the bystanders and your fellow road-mates too.
Moving on, another trait that made the Rocket special was the handling. Well, the Rocket 3 R dials all of those feelings to 11. A full-aluminium frame and some more materiales-exotica mean that the Rocket 3 has lost quite a bit of heft. Nearly 40 kilograms if you are a sucker for numbers. The motorcycle now weighs 291 kg (dry). Get what we meant when we said ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller’ at the same time?
The reduction in weight and the wide handlebars (that give you a whole lot of leverage) mean that the Rocket 3 R can be ridden in ways bikes like it aren’t supposed to be ridden in. 47mm Showa USD forks (compression and rebound adjustable) and fully adjustable Showa shock at the rear accentuate those traits. They may feel a little stiff on less-than-ideal roads but once you show it some good tarmac and a few twists, you’ll know why it is that way.
In the case of motorcycles like the Rocket 3 R, one can only imagine the impact of the sheer inertia when it is on the move. Superb acceleration and equally impressive braking (thanks to the dual 320mm discs at the front with Brembo M4.30 Stylema callipers and cornering ABS) mean that the weight transfer is serious and the suspension has to be taut to lend the Rocket 3 R the ability to handle as it does.
Last but not least, the TFT multi-functional display. This is what truly reminds one of the age that we live in and how much the Rocket has grown. Instruments include digital speedometer, trip computer, digital tachometer, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, service indicator, ambient temperature, clock and rider modes (Rain/Road/Sport/Custom). There’s an option to add the Triumph Connectivity system with the fitment of a Bluetooth module.
Every time we ride the Rocket 3 R, we can feel everything that the inception of its development in 1998 and its introduction in 2003 entailed. We first saw it in 2006 and we were amazed at how it didn’t just leave tyre depressions on the road with its massive rear tyre and joint-jarring torque.
Finally, after a long time, we have it in our garage and we can tell why it is an iconic bike for Triumph and why they have kept on making it better. Because when it all boils down to bragging rights, we know that simply putting the FOB of the Rocket 3 R on the table wins us that particular battle.
Now, just to let you know, III to 3 is not the only evolution that the Rocket went through. That one happened in Hinckley. There is one that happened right here… in the xBhp Garage. The evolution of Rocket 3 R into the #SoulRocket.
The Rocket 3 R is a beast of a motorcycle and there are no doubts about that. A 3-cylinder engine displacing 2,458cc? 165 Bhp of power and 221 Nm of torque? Those… are a lot. But as always, everything comes at a price. Numbers like those, even more so. Here, the price to be paid is the stress on the engine.
With a Bore x Stroke of 110.2 mm x 85.9 mm, one must think that those strokes fall into the cruiser category and hence the torque, but then, it may not rev a lot either. Except, the Rocket 3 R does. The peak power arrives at 6,000 rpm and it can rev up to 7,000 rpm which is nothing short of exceptional.
The Rocket 3 R has Castrol POWER1 as its recommended engine oil. Why? Because numbers like those and engineering like that works best with the best. And with the arrival of the new Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE, we now know what the best is. For our Rocket 3 R, we went with Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE 15W50 which comes with full-synthetic technology and a 5-in-1 formula.
When it comes to high-performance engines, mineral oils cannot hold their own simply because of the supreme demands and tough conditions. Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE is fully-synthetic engine oil that is engineered to perfection so that it not only suits but thrives in engines like the one on the Rocket 3 R.
The much talked about 5-in-1 formula ensures that the engine oil delivers better performance on the five major fronts that work towards a better ride for both, the rider and the motorcycle. The first one is, of course, acceleration which Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE maximizes by optimizing the friction between the moving parts.
The second one is protection which is a by-product of the friction optimization but is also affected by the grade of the engine oil. Since Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE is available in a variety of grades, it is suitable to virtually any motorcycle and a diverse range of climates. The third one is a smooth ride and the fourth one is enduring performance which again is a result of the superior engineering that has gone into creating Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE.
Last but not least, the fifth aspect which is cooling. Massive engines like the one on the Rocket 3 R generate a momentous amount of heat and while the liquid-cooling takes care of it for the most part, there are still some components that do not have the benefit of active cooling. This is where the engine oil comes in and in our experience, we can tell that Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE is a champion in that department too.
Ultimately, pun intended, the performance of Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE in our Rocket 3 R and the deep respect that we had for the engineers that have manufactured such a fantastic product, we decided to give an ode to them in a special manner- the concept, and the realization, of the #xBhpUltimatePowerDuo which the #SoulRocket is one half of.
Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE is available in a wide range of grades so if you have an internal-combustion engine plonked between two wheels, there’s one for you and chances are, your motorcycle will thank you for it. You can buy Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE here.