Performance Motorcycle Comparison: Triumph Rocket III vs. Yamaha V-Max

Big guy versus bad guy. Performance cruiser motorcycles head-to-head. Triumph's new 2053cc Rocket III triple meets the 2005 Yamaha 1200cc V-Max V-4.

Photography by Rich Cox

2004 Triumph Rocket III
MSRP: $15,990

Type: l-c inline-three
Valve arrangement: dohc, 12v
Bore x stroke: 101.6 x 94.3mm
Displacement: 2294cc
Compression ratio: 8.7:1
Transmission: 5-speed
Final drive: shaft

Weight: 803 lb. (wet), 763 lb. (fuel tank empty)
Fuel capacity: 6.6 gal.
Rake/trail: 32.0 deg./5.98 in. (152mm)
Wheelbase: 66.5 in. (1690mm)
Seat height: 29.1 in. (740mm)
Front suspension: Front 43mm inverted fork, non adjustable
Rear suspension: dual shocks adjustable for spring preload
Tire, front: 150/80HR17 Metzeler ME880
Tire, rear: 240/50ZR16 Metzeler ME880

Corrected 1/4-mile: 11.21 sec. @ 120.54
0-60 mph: 3.54 sec.
Top-gear roll-on, 60-80 mph: 3.11 sec.
Fuel mileage (low/high/average): 33/35/34
Cruising range (exc. reserve): 180 miles

2005 Yamaha V-Max

EngineType: l-c 70-deg. V-four
Valve arrangement: dohc, 16v
Bore x stroke: 76.0 x 66.0mm
Displacement: 1198cc
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Transmission: 5-speed
Final drive: shaft

Weight: 631 lb. (wet), 607 lb. (fuel tank empty)
Fuel capacity: 4.0
gal.Rake/trail: 29.0 deg./4.69 in. (119mm)
Wheelbase: 62.6 in. (1590mm)
Seat height: 30.1 in. (765mm)

Front suspension: 40mm fork adjustable for air pressure
Rear suspension: dual shocks adjustable dual shocks adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping
Tire, front: 110/90V18 Dunlop F20
Tire, rear: 150/90V15 Dunlop K525

Performance Corrected 1/4-mile: 11.30 sec. @ 119.84 mph
0-60 mph: 3.55 sec.
Top-gear roll-on, 60-80 mph: 3.69 sec.
Fuel mileage (low/high/average): 29/40/33
Cruising range (exc. reserve): 106 miles

Off the Record

Age: 45
Height: 6 ft. 3 in.
Weight: 210 lb.
Inseam: 35 in.

I'm constantly, consistently amazed by what people are willing to do with this whole cruiser thing to get some attention. At first all you needed was a new Harley to turn heads at Chuy's. Then everybody had one, which meant writing a huge check to Jessie James or Arlen Ness or those Orange County Chopper lobotomites. Once upon a time, an 88-inch Milwaukee twin really was officially big. Now Kawasaki's top-of-the-line Vulcan comes with a two-liter V-twin; bigger than any engine that doesn't live under a hood. As if that wasn't enough already, there's this 2.3-liter Triumph thing. Plenty of people more discerning than I already love it. Whack the throttle and it pulls with the same hypnotic velvet whoosh that Dad's 440-inch Chrysler New Yorker did. Trouble is, the Triumph feels like it weighs only slightly less than the '70 New Yorker. Its comic-book styling is perfectly proportional if your significant other is built like Jessica Rabbit, but it's too much for me. This just in: Bigger is not necessarily better. If the idea is carting the biggest engine imaginable from place to place for others to ogle, I'll load a blown 526-inch Keith Black Hemi in the back of a pickup. Or maybe I just don't get it. On second thought, I'm sure I don't.
-Tim Carrithers

Age: Frequently
Height: Barely
Weight: Patiently
Inseam: 30 in.

Even before he took the name Muhammed Ali, Cassius Clay was a brash, colorful, trash-talking loudmouth. His Olympic gold medal almost automatically made him a contender for the heavyweight title. The reigning champion, Charles 'Sonny' Liston, was Clay's antithesis: a sullen, mob-connected thug with the hardest punch in boxing. At the weigh-in, he predicted that he'd knock Clay out in the second round, if not sooner. The bookies seemed to agree, making the champ an 8-1 favorite.

When it came time to compare the brash, over-the-top Rocket 3 with the long-reigning power cruiser champ, I felt the same way. "Sure the Rocket is big and a media darling," I thought "but the V-Max'll knock it out." And in a straight fight - on the drag strip or between traffic lights, for example - the Yamaha can still outpunch the Triumph. Riding the 20th Anniversary V-Max reminded me why this two-wheeled thug has so many fans. But...

I'm not damning the Triumph with faint praise when I say this: the Rocket simply works better than the V-Max as an all-round motorcycle. And let's face it: the bruiser-cruiser class is all about attitude. People shouted "What is that?" from crosswalks, gave me the thumbs up from cars; one rider on a Honda 919 stared so long he almost crashed. That's why the Rocket 3 is the new champion in this category. Is it the next V-Max? Ask me again in 20 years.
-Mark Gardiner

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