Light Touring on the Triumph Rocket 3
As every video or published review indicates, as well as sales data, the Triumph Rocket 3 introduced in 2020 is an extremely capable motorcycle.
Which is odd in and of itself, because at first, or so at least it seemed to me, it looks like it would not be good for much but stunning onlookers with its totally outlandish appearance and specifications.
I bought it because the video reviews of the press launch impressed, because I liked it when I sat on it, and because its very outlandishness appealed.
But since purchase, almost 10,000 miles and 17 months or so ago, it has surprised me on a frequent basis.
Is it good for everything? No. After a year, I purchased a new 2020 Bonneville T 120 to replace the 2016 version I traded in for the Rocket, and now I have all the motorcycle bases covered that my 74-year-old frame desires. I have been riding for 54 years, and thanks to working in the business in my second career, I have ridden 510 (!) different motorcycles. I have gone as fast as I wanted and faster than I should have, too many times to count. I have ridden or owned sport bikes from 250-1200cc, humongous tourers, adventure and dirt bikes, electric bikes, large and small scooters, trikes and reverse trikes, etc. Been there and done that, and not done with riding for hopefully many more years.
Although I was greatly surprised by the handling of the Rocket, which is far better than I expected, and have been consistently delighted by the massive torque and power, and how great it is for riding two up, it turns out it is also great fun for touring. Sort of.
Depends on what the term means to you. I have ridden from Seattle to Florida on a motorcycle, Seattle to Minnesota and back and Seattle to San Francisco and back several times. I think of touring as any multi-day ride. Your dictionary may differ.
Years ago, my friend Pat explained his theory of the four-day ride, and it goes like this. Day 1: you are excited to be off on an adventure, and the day is terrific. Day 2: An awesome ride, as you are no well and truly into the trip. Day 3: Still great fun, but thoughts of home start to creep in. The responsibilities you left behind start to nibble at your brain. You begin to miss loved ones, etc. Day 4: It has been a great trip, but your own bed beckons at the end of the day. The ride home is pleasant in anticipation.
This concept works very well for me. Although I live alone, there is a lady in my life I start to miss, and I am concerned for, of all things – my cat! Daphne is blind and needs eye drops twice a day. Although my wonderful duplex neighbor Peggy spends time with Daphne mornings and evenings while I am gone, and administers the eye drops, we have learned by experience that Daphne will eat very little when I am not home.
So, rather than the one-to-three-week trips of decades ago, “touring” on the Rocket 3 is mostly 4 days at a time. Ironic, since it would be more comfortable and capable for the longer trips than any of the bikes I rode back then.
My most recent trip was actually much shorter than planned, but still great fun. Mine is the GT model, with the factory semi-hard saddle bags, plus a magnetic tank bag and an extra bag strapped to the passenger seat. Here is what I pack:
Triumph pants/bandana Boots / socks
Underarmor top t-neck
neck scarf t-shirt
Rev’It jacket Helmet
Socks 2 Jeans
Undies 3 Rain jacket
Tee-shirts 3 Eddie Bauer top
Tire repair kit First Aid kit
T-neck 1 Spare gloves
Tobacco stuff Compressor
Toiletries kit/ charger Water
Vans shoes Swim suit
Registration Owner’s manual
Sunglasses maps, route sheets
Phone Visor cleaner
Hearing aids Hat
About money. I took $400 in cash on two four day rides this summer, and did not spend a penny on either one. The cashless society has arrived, but I like the security of just in case funds.
This trip would be challenging because of two random threats: The Covid virus, and forest fires. The original plan was to ride into Canada and repeat a fantastic trip from two years ago, but entry across the border appeared iffy at best, and I changed the entire route to stay in Washington state two days before we left. That proved prescient, as Canada shut the gates again the morning we left.
What we usually do is romp over the North Cascades Highway to Twisp, which is highly recommended, but the late-breaking news of fires and smoke and long lines of traffic behind a pilot car in sketchy areas caused us to change course the morning of the ride. We took the easier route of Highway 2 to Leavenworth and on to Cashmere for a fine pulled pork sandwich lunch, and then up 97 and Alt 97 all the way to the Camaray motel in Oroville, where we have stayed often.
On the road the Rocket is mostly humming along, barely delving at all into its prodigious abilities. Yes, there is some wind noise and wind pressure, but I prefer that to huge windshields. The price for this can be bicep fatigue at the end of the day, but not much. Increased weights and reps at my local YMCA workouts have now removed even that.
The seat is comfy all day, although I am not sure why. I do not even bother with padded riding shorts these days. Because of the forward pegs, standing up for periods, as I have done for years, is not really practical, but just scrunching around from time to time seems to help.
Again, I think the thrice a week workout at the YMCA help. My little opinion, supported by almost no evidence, is that a lot of seat discomfort on many motorcycles can be alleviated or eliminated by getting the seat of the rider, not the motorcycle, toned up.
One trait of the Rocket 3 is of note. You may find yourself on a winding back road out away from everything on a beautiful day, the ride marred only by someone in a 40-foot-long mega-motorcoach trolling along as fast as he or she can go, which is not very. When an opportunity to pass appears, you do not want to waste it, and you also want to make room for your buddy or buddies behind you to pass as well, so you shift down to 5th and give the beast its head. When you get to 90mph or so, still accelerating at an exciting pace, you may find that the wind wants to blow your boots off the pegs.
Clamping your legs firmly against the tank before you hit the launch button will help this.
After dinner, we pondered our Saturday ride. There was surprisingly little intel on the state of the forest fires. The original plan was to head East on wonderful winding roads to Molson, Chesaw, and on to Curlew, before heading South to our destination in the small town of Wilbur. We asked everyone who might know, and the consensus (which proved to be incorrect) was that the road to Chesaw was OK, but nobody knew if we could get to Curlew.
Reluctantly, I changed the route. Good news, South and Southeast would get us away from the fires, and would include a road I had never ridden. Bad news – it would be a very short day – only 130 miles.
South to Omak and then Southeast on 155, and what a great road! However, we came across a big neon pink fabric sign that warned of fire activity ahead. And then one that warned of fire crews ahead, and then one warning of fire equipment entering the road. Several of each of these, but by the time we reached Nespelem we had seen none of any of the sights we had been warned of. A quick break at a tiny store in Nespelem, and the nice woman explained the several signs of flash flooding we had also seen. The land had been so dry for so long that when rain came the water would not sink in but run rampant. But it had not rained. Yet.
From Nespelem East there is a little road you have to know where to find, and it romps up and over the hills to reach 27, and that takes you South to the Keller ferry and on to Wilbur.
Once across the Keller ferry we paused at a park, since we had all day to go not very far. As we left, it began to ran. First a little, and then a lot. The road rises out of Keller into a series of steep switchback corners that are marked at 15 mph. A Rocket 3 is not fond of 15 mile an hour corners, or to be fair – I am not. This is really true when there are actual WAVES of water cascading across the apex. Fortunately, no traffic, so I just let the Rocket meander to the left-hand lane on right corners.
Of course, we got to the motel in Wilbur before the room was ready, so we ate at the “famous” Billy Burger next door, and then spent a very lazy afternoon.
For Sunday, I determined, based on almost no data, that the intended route for Saturday would be doable in the opposite direction. A slight yaw to the left to stop at the always impressive Grand Coulee Dam, and then North to Nespelem and East on the same road we had enjoyed the previous day, and North to Republic. North of Republic I really wanted Pat to experience a fantastic car and saw mill museum. Alas, it was closed, and I think permanently.
We paused at the Ranold MacDonald Memorial and no, not Ronald. Ranold was a man who lived a life that was so exciting and important that he crammed about 140 years of adventures and accomplishments into the three score and ten years he was allotted. It will make you wonder what you have done lately.
The Rocket was in its element, rolling along in the sun and riding waves of torque, with ample acceleration on demand and amazing brakes when needed, such as when we would come across deer, or cows, or whatever.
We stopped at Molson, my favorite almost ghost town. The sign says 36 residents, but the lady in the excellent museum told me they have nowhere near that many.
Back to Oroville and the Camaray Motel, to prepare for the run to home on Monday.
Looked to me like we could do the reverse of the planned Friday route and make it across the North Cascades Highway. Since we were going home and had already stopped at every scenic vista on previous trips, we pretty much just rode. Three hundred miles with two stops. I told you the seat was comfy.
Ironically, I found out later that my route choices were perfect. We were never delayed by fires and rarely smelled smoke, although we did see lots of damage from this year and years past. It turns out that the routes I picked worked on the day selected, and none of them would have worked on any of the other days.
Better lucky than good.
If you like these missives, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, www.davidpreston.biz has years of other reports and meanderings on all sorts of topics, some of them not about motorcycles! Oh, and links to m books available from Amazon.
Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!
Copyright 2021 David Preston