At first glance, it is easy to dismiss Triumph’s Rocket III Roadster as a gimmick. It does not fit neatly within the line-up of British style and retro feel that is so closely associated with the Triumph brand, and it is hard to imagine the sales pitch that got this bike from design stage to reality. On paper, it is a monster. Over 140 hp and nearly 150 ft-lbs of torque place it more in line with a muscle car than a refined European two-wheeled machine. To understand what the hell the boys from Britain were thinking releasing this bike, it helps to know something about Triumph’s unrelenting quest for speed.
In 1955, a German race team held the official land speed record on two wheels with their NSU breaking the 180 mph barrier and inspiring a team of Americans from a small shop in Texas to attempt to dethrone the Germans in a show of Post-War patriotism. Out of this desire, The Devil’s Arrow was born. A one-off, rocket-shaped fuselage was attached to a lightweight frame and fitted with a Thunderbird 650 engine, which was a parallel twin design filled with methanol.
This allowed a young flat-tracker named Johnny Allen to climb inside the cobbled-together speed machine and tear across the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1956 to reach a world record speed of 193.7 mph. Since that day, Triumph has had an obsession with being the world’s fastest. They held the land speed record from 1956-1970, using a number of rocket-like designs to hold off the competition, and in recent years, have embraced their history and regained a passion for holding the land speed record.
So, what does this mean for you, the rider? Well, not to sound too obvious, but speed. More specifically, torque.
The in-line three-cylinder dominates this bike, but Triumph has done a great job of building the rest of the components around the engine with a sense of balance and the rider in mind. The first thing you will notice when you twist the throttle is that with massive pistons needed to create the 2297cc displacement, and the firing sequence of the engine, the entire bike sort of…twists.