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The Numbers Game : Rocket 3 TFC

triumph rocket 3 TFC studio shot side angle triumph rocket 3 TFC studio shot front angle headlight

In the Rocket 3 TFC , a classic power cruiser returns in limited numbers as a Triumph Factory Custom and signals the dawn of a new era for the segment.

This is an interesting and somewhat unexpected play on the part of Triumph Motorcycles, an all-new Rocket 3 TFC. The numerical ‘3’ has replaced the Roman numeral of the original Rocket III, but fortunately this is not the big development. The bike now boasts a bigger, yes you read correctly, 2500cc engine. 

The new mill, as one would expect, produces the greatest torque in a mass produced gas-powered motorcycle. The numbers are 163 foot-pounds torque and 168 horsepower. We could just stop there because in essence, like the Rocket III, the Rocket 3 “is” those figures, they are the bike’s raison d’etre. However there is some other stuff worth considering.

triumph rocket 3 TFC studio shot rear angleWhile blinking back the shock of a new Rocket 3 and those power numbers, it is the styling that definitively moves the power cruiser from somewhere in the late 1990s into the teenaged new millennium. In truth, the original Rocket III back in 2004 didn’t have to worry about being on the cutting edge of style. It had the giant inline triple motor—everything else was verging on irrelevant. 

This new Big 3, with strong hints of Ducati Diavel in its single-sided swingarm and shortened rear subframe, has a far more muscular and athletic appearance than the backend heaviness of the previous bike. The new version has lost a staggering 88 pounds over the old Rocket III. That alone counts for a few more ponies—as if the bike needed them.

As the last three letters suggest, the Rocket 3 is a Triumph Factory Custom. But considering the TFC lists at a sobering $33,000, something has to give. What stays and what goes in regard to carbon fibre bits, Showa rear suspension and hydroformed header when a standard Rocket 3 hits the street remains to be seen. 

The Rocket 3 TFC is a limited production run: only 750 will be built and each will carry a number to let owners know in what order their bike came off the assembly line. Alas it appears that however many Rocket 3 TFCs were allocated to Canada, all have been spoken for. But there is a wait list to which you can apply if you’re hoping some early bird suffers pre-order remorse.

The Rocket 3 in all its unique big piston glory serves as an unusual flagship for Triumph. The base Bonneville is the factory’s bread and butter but it’s a touch prosaic in terms of flash and Kawasaki is suddenly stamping out W800 Cafes for Canada again so the Bonneville is faced with a competent replica. 

But the Rocket 3 is Triumph’s alone – no one else does it and, therefore, no one else does it better. Which is a good place to be. That the bike is a cruiser in a cruiser challenged world (Triumph jettisoned the Thunderbird and Bonneville America) is refreshing. And mark these words cruisers: will come back meaning Triumph may now be ahead of the curve.

Whether future cruisers will look like the Rocket 3, which has in a brief 15 years created an iconic niche, or BMW’s big new boxer-based cruiser is unknown. Should they be gargantuan heavyweights? Certainly not all of them but there is room for those special few at the top. 

While Harley-Davidson works at diversifying from strictly cruisers with bikes like the LiveWire, the PanAmerica and an upcoming street-fighter, other manufacturers are doubling back into the cruiser segment, albeit with limited and niche efforts (hello “not-a-cruiser” Diavel.)

So much for flashy Rocket 3 TFC, what about the standard Rocket 3? There will be one and judging by Triumph’s other TFC offerings we can hazard a guess at its price range. The Thruxton R costs 29 per cent less of the Thruxton TFC, while a base Thruxton is 40 per cent less. Using those metrics, we can expect the sticker on a standard Rocket 3 to land somewhere between $19,800 and  $23,450. As the lone Rocket III listed on the Canadian website is the Roadster at $17,500, this range is a reasonable bet come showroom time.

John Molony Canadian Biker Issue #343


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