Handling is a mixed bag. It's tight and predictable, but it feels its size. It's one of those bikes that doesn't want to stay leaned over without constant handlebar input. When we first picked it up, this trait was overwhelming, but over the course of the test we fiddled with air pressure in the tires and found that it likes to be run near max pressure, which lightens up handling and helps it rail through corners.
Braking action is almost too good. We accidentally locked up both tires (not at the same time) more than once. The rear is very strong, especially on this bike that seems to have a front weight bias. The new Rocket III Roadster has ABS, and we're thinking it might be a nice addition for the Touring as well. Just to be clear, I'd rather have the power and learn to use it than have weak brakes and not have a chance in a real emergency. But then, I probably don't need to tell you that any Rocket is not a beginner's bike. Actually should the need arise, this is one of those machines that it's a better idea to avoid obstacles with the throttle. Not only does it have power to spare, it also doesn't get out of shape when wrestling it around to avoid stray cars. On more than one occasion I dodged an inattentive motorist that invaded my lane and the RIIIT was the face of composure.
Given its name and size, as you might surmise, the Rocket is a hell of a ride on the superslab. Freeway cruising is its forte, as its neutral ergonomics, endless power, and luxurious leather saddle make the journey fun. There are few bikes, regardless of expense, that you can so effortlessly pick your spot in traffic and accelerate to it without any downshifting or wind-up. Avoiding the deaf, dumb, and blind was never so easy. Triple-digit speed is just as easy, so it's best to keep a vigilant watch on the speedo and your right wrist in check. The bike does what it can to help you out with that, with apparently massive springs on the massive throttle bodies that power this beast-the throttle pull is brutal, and there is no cruise control. The bars are rubber-mounted and sport huge bar-end weights to cut down on vibration. This works very well, but there is about an inch of front-to-back movement at the bar, which feels weird in parking lot maneuvering. Vibration starts to creep into the bars at about 80 mph, which is good because it alerts you when you're beyond the speed limit.
The low windshield on our test unit was about perfect for a 6-foot rider, and I, for one, wouldn't like the taller shield that comes stock on the 2010 version. The adjustable backrest, which is standard on the 2010, was very nice, and very easy to adjust with a thumbwheel behind the mount. Since the backrest is attached to the seat, not the frame, it's easy to pull the seat and get to the battery underneath. Mileage and range are on the low side for a touring bike, and can vary wildly. On back roads (or just taking it easy) it can get up to 40 mpg, but stop and go or flat out bombing can see mileage dip well below 30 mpg.
Back roads are also pretty good on the RIIIT. It's nice to be able to pick a gear and pretty much never shift unless you want to. She's a big girl and needs to be pushed around forcefully in and out of corners, but unless the easily adjustable suspension is bottomed, it never gets squirrelly. Lazy, sweeping back roads are best, as they require the least effort to stay between the lines.
Getting on the gas between corners or accelerating to highway speed, the exhaust has a decent growl, but it's no V-twin. In fact at idle it sounds a little nautical, like a boat. The shaft-driven triple pulls to the right at a stop if the throttle is blipped, but not while moving, thanks to a counter-rotating driveshaft. The back end does rise a bit on the gas, but it's nothing we didn't get used to.