Monday, February 18, 2013

Like a Rocket

Judge Grumpy on his Lawmaster
I took my bike in to the workshop to have some work done last Saturday. It's four years old, so the brake pipes ought to be replaced, and I mail-ordered steel-braided hoses. Replacing the hydraulics is a job I've done before on other motorbikes, so this time I wisely paid someone else to do the work.

It turned out to be an excellent decision: the mechanics had trouble bleeding the system and even resorted to dismantling the master cylinder to its component molecules in a fruitless search for a mechanical fault. Beloved Wife had dropped me off at the workshop, briefly looked around the showroom, declared how much she liked the looks of the cruisers, and then driven home.

The ongoing problem bleeding air bubbles out of the hydraulic system meant that my bike wasn't ready by 6.30pm after all. I suggested that if the shop would let me borrow a bike for an overnight test ride, it would take the pressure off the mechanics and they could finish the job on Sunday.

And so I found myself astride a 2011 model Triumph Rocket III Touring. By a staggering coincidence, this was the same machine that Beloved Wife had so admired earlier.

The Rocket III has the largest engine ever bolted into in a production motorcycle. It's a monstrous 2294cc in-line three cylinder water-cooled powerplant that produces massive torque at pretty much any revs. The Touring version that I rode is a bike that comes with a windscreen and panniers, and the engine has been tuned for cruising. There's an unfaired Roadster version of the same bike that produces 40 more horespowers and even more torques. I've a friend in Qatar with one of those, and acceleration coupled with no wind protection make a strenuous effort to pull his arms out of their sockets whenever he rides con brio.

The Touring version (105BHP and 150lb.ft, which is 78kW and 203Nm in Centigrade) encourages cruising. There's a very comfy riding position behind hugely wide handlebars in a capsule of still air. The simple clear polycarbonate windscreen is extremely effective at keeping the breeze off the rider. There's no tachometer, but this is hardly an issue because the bike accelerates strongly in any gear from pretty much any speed. As with a lot of shaft-drive bikes, the tail lifts when accelerating, and the front forks extend as the bike attempts to wheelie, and the overall effect is one of lifting her skirts and going for it.

At first, I got the impression that the handling wasn't up to much. Compared to my own Kawasaki 1400GTR the Rocket III seemed twitchy. But I think a lot of this is to do with the enormous handlebars that are over a metre tip to tip. Actually, the Triumph is very light to steer, considering its 395kg kerbside weight, but flickable it certainly isn't. There was a hint of a weave up at the national speed limit, but I think this was mostly me trying to see if it would. Cruising on straight and gently curving roads, the Triumph behaved impeccably. I didn't test the ABS, but it's a comfort to know that it's there.

I'm new to footboards and the cruiser style of motorcycle, and the rear brake pedal position took a little getting used to. The gearshift has both heel and toe, so it's possible to change up without scuffing your shiny shoes. I thought the five-speed gearbox was clunky. There are probably pieces of girder bridges inside to withstand the huge torques and pass them from engine to rear wheel without going ping.

As for equipment, the panniers are hugely long but very narrow. A 200mm wide top opening won't swallow a helmet. But a nice touch is the lids can be secured without locking them. Instruments are very basic, consisting of a single tank-mounted speedo and fuel gauge, and an array of warning lights. There's an LCD panel that houses the odometer and clock, two trip meters and tank range. The last lot are all accessible via a single thumb switch on the right handlebar. I should have liked to see a cruise control fitted to this cruiser.

I didn't ride it enough to measure fuel consumption, so the next bit is from the internet: I'd expect to be refilling the 22 litre tank every 250km or so. Nobody buys a 2.3 litre motorbike and expects it to be economical.

The three cylinders exhaust into a single manifold that then splits into two silencers. The example I rode had some rather loud aftermarket exhaust pipes that caused popping and banging on over-run. If I owned the bike I test-rode, I'd put the stock silencers back on.

Overall, I liked it. Definitely, it's a bike to put a smile on my face. And Beloved Wife likes the looks of the machine, which is a bonus. But would I buy one?

"Not this year," says Beloved Wife.

I returned the Triumph and rode my GTR home. I still like my sports-tourer more.

Thanks to DusejaMoto of Dubai for the test ride, and for fixing my brakes.

]}:-{>

1 comment:

Gnomad said...

JImping is an offence citizen....

Where are the twin 50 cal. Cannon?

 

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