It’s the run up to Christmas the s**t’s hitting the fan and everything needs to be sorted at work, final presents to be bought and the weather is restricting ride time. Then out of the blue, a message pops up from Steve Bailey at Staffordshire Triumph “Fancy taking one of the most eagerly awaited bikes out for a test ride? We need a real person to give us their views on it, not some journo”.
My immediate thought was that Steve wanted me to take out the recently launched Speed Triple which would have been fun. “I’ve got a new Rocket 3 coming in early next week, you would be one of the first to ride it?” I’m awake! Now you’ve got my attention! Two and a half litres of Cruiser, probably 5 years in the making, what an opportunity. “Looks like the 23rd is half decent weather, we should have the PDI done by then, are you free?”
So, I’ve now got to play hooky from work too. Hey, the boss will understand and there are a lot of colds and flu about… It’s 11 degrees, low sun, and there she is hiding around the back not to be launched for another month.
First thoughts, now that’s a big bike! Seat’s quite low, the tank is huge, then you just look at it and realise how beautiful she is. Everything appears to have been sculpted out of a single block of marble, the lines are so smooth, nothing is out of place, this has been designed from the bottom up. Climb on board and you sit quite low and almost become part of the bike. It’s a little firmer than you initially expect, keyless ignition so no need to take your gloves back off, press to turn her on, clutch in, press again and she springs into life. What a glorious sound, how will electric bikes ever catch on, the solid purr almost gentle growl as she ticks over.
This is almost a third of a tonne of machine, £20k, not even launched and I’ve got the side stand up and clicking her into gear! Reality hits, I’m going on the road with this monster of a machine over twice the sized motor of my current bike. Gentle away and into the traffic, the urge to nail it just to see what it can do is tempered by respect for this masterful piece of engineering.
So the route, if you know Staffordshire Triumph, there are 4 roundabouts to negotiate and a sharp sweeping right before you hit the A500, the sort of right you just want to scrape the pegs on, throttle back and she glides to 70 mph effortlessly. It’s a Cruiser so I take the M6 junction 16 - 19, she copes fine hardly any wind buffering this feels big even on a motorway which even on my current bike can feel like you are a bit vulnerable but not on the Rocket. She feels at home. 6th gear, you would be forgiven to think Triumph would make this a real cruising gear with the need to drop to 5th once in a while… Hell no. 6th gear is so responsive, ease on the gas and she just pulls, let off and the engine braking easing you back down. My initial fears have gone. Is it going to be too big? Is it going to be too heavy? Is it going to handle, or will I have to fight her around every movement? No… This is a joy, my smile is at silly kid level and I’m still on the M6!
So, the M6 becomes the A556 towards Chester, still a dual carriageway, still the home of the cruiser. A few more bends, traffic lights to launch from and I even try a cheeky filter, low speed inching through. A police bike is at the lights to my right, I’m away first just knowing he’s clocked the bike and sure enough, two sets of lights later and he’s right behind me. We forget they’re bikers first and police second. He’s taking a good look and realises it is what he thought it was. Ease her away from the lights and then soon it’s a left down the lanes towards Oulton Park!
Well, I did give it some throttle and yes it does 70mph within the blink of an eye. Smooth hard acceleration, hard on the brakes, back on the power around the bends playing the gears. This is as much at home through the bends under sport bike pressure, throttle again and you are passed 1, 2, 3 whoa this is way more fun than I was expecting!
Off through the lanes out of Oulton Park towards Tarporley and onto the Whitchurch Road. This beast is flowing now, my confidence is up a few notches, out of one of the many villages power on past a car coming out of the 30 the back-end twitches on the white lines which brings me back to the real world! Then take the A525 to Audlem, out to Nantwich then back to Triumph. A good 2 hours of pure fun, a cheeky winter ride on a very special machine. I then get on my bike which is only just 3 years old to ride home and realise quite how brilliant the Rocket is and how much in those 3 years bikes have moved on.
A huge thank you guys an early Christmas present through a dreary period where bikes are often hidden away for the winter, no get out and ride you can always get the hose out when you get back.
Wrong side of 55
Wrong side of 14 Stone (Nearer 15!)
Current bike: Bonneville T120 Black