They have enormous displacement, sheer power and a beguiling swing, but in any case they have character. MOTORRAD drove with three stately cruisers, Triumph Rocket III Touring, Harley-Davidson Road King Classic and Moto Guzzi California Vintage, to stroll along the coast of southern France.
Pierre says he has a Norton, a two-cylinder 750 Commando. There was also a BSA in his garage, the Rocket 3 with three cylinders. One of the last ones built before the end of production in 1971. The talkative old man taps his peaked cap, reaches into the inside pocket of his blouson and fingers out his wallet. “Here, I still have them all,” and shows his driver’s license, which is valid for all classes. “But riding a motorcycle is no longer possible today. Unfortunately.
“Pierre is well over 80. His eyes sparkle at the sight of the Triumph Rocket III Touring, which looks so completely different from his Rocket 3 and here together with the Harley-Davidson Road King Classic and the Moto Guzzi C.alifornia Vintage at the photo shoot on the promenade of La Ciotat on the Côte d’Azur sparkling chrome in the glaring midday sun. The brawny Triumph did it to him. With his walking stick he points to the huge, black cylinder block. “How much cubic capacity and power does it have?” More than three times as much displacement as his Norton or BSA, exactly 2294 cm³, 107 hp and a torque that does credit to marine diesel engines here in the port: 209 Nm. And that at speeds just above idle.
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Under palm trees: the Triumph Rocket III Touring, Harley-Davidson Road King Classic and the Moto Guzzi California Vintage.
Along the promenade and in the narrow streets of the coastal town, the Triumph steers like an oil tanker through a marina. And when you are maneuvering and turning, you can get one or two beads of sweat onto your forehead. But when it rolls, it is not only more manoeuvrable than its even more sedate sister, it can also be steered neutrally into curves, drives cleanly without being disturbed.
The new frame with revised steering geometry and the narrower 180 mm rear tire have achieved a lot here. In addition, the stately comfortable seating position behind the windshield, which can be removed with one hand, is ideal for enjoyable tours. Pulled wide and far back, the handlebars feel good in your hands. The 22 liter fuel tank is expansive. A shortcoming that only short-legged people feel because their feet cannot safely reach the ground. Among cruisers, the Triumph is a real tourer, with which you can easily take the route: Comfortable to set up, but so stable and directional that you can – where allowed – even sweep the track at 180.
The brakes have the heavy touring safely under control. Even with a full cast. ! With that you are en suite in Cannes. Hey, Louise, did you hear? ”But Louise has already moved on. She knows her Pierre. If the motorcycle sees it, it can take time. Pierre’s gaze falls on the Harley-Davidson Road King Classic, whose starter motor with its ugly bang brings the mighty V2 to life and immediately sets it in motion. With its nostalgic leather bags, the beautiful two-tone paintwork, the whitewall tires and the shiny chrome on every nook and cranny, it looks like a real gem. Pierre still associates Harley with the Knuckle, Pan and Shovelhead engines from the 1960s with a capacity of 1213 cc. But the Road King Classic with its latest stage of the Evo engine is as far removed from this Harley generation as La Ciotat is from Milwaukee. Even if it doesn‘t seem to have changed much from the outside.
The Americans have long since increased the displacement, improved the two-cylinder down to the last screw, made it stronger and more stable. 1584 cm³ displacement, 82 hp and a torque of a full 129 Newton meters at just 3500 rpm have the Road King Classic, born in 2008, in power. Handlebars, mirrors, windshield, headlights, the entire front wheel vibrate with centimeter-wide amplitudes in time with the ignition sequence. However, only when the vehicle is stationary. Because when you shift into gear and drive off, vibrations are an end. It now pampers its driver very gently, with soothing, mild vibrations. A feeling like a full body massage. The best thing about it: a beautiful V-twin symphony plays in the background. With a sophisticated active exhaust system, in times of Euro 3, the engineers have managed to elicit sonorous tones from the elastic Big Twin, depending on the position of the throttle, which make every motorcyclist’s heart beat faster. Pierre is visibly delighted when the Harley slides back and forth for the photographer with a gentle thump on the promenade, as if it were floating on cloud nine.
These three strong ladies get the ground going.
And no matter how impressive the sheer force of the Triumph Big Block, the sound makes the music. Especially since the Harley is no slouch, but always balances over 110 Newton meters on the crankshaft between 1500 and 5000 rpm. It hardly matters in which of the six gears it is currently moving. She always pushes ahead properly, because she has enough strength.
With every small increase in the number of strokes on the crankshaft, the Road King is gaining ground, overtaking maneuvers with small sprints are quickly done. The driver can enjoy the area in peace, accompanied by the feeling of security that everything is under control. In addition, the Road King is almost a hundredweight lighter than the Rocket, and because its tires are narrower, it swings much more easily and effortlessly through the winding streets of the region. Their lower seat height and the tank, which is narrower at the knee than the Triumph, are ideal for smaller people. The brakes work properly and even have ABS. Pierre only knows the terrible stoppers from the 60s that hardly deserve their name.
On the Harley, calm is the order of the day. Your chassis is defined between soft and spongy, does not want to be driven, otherwise it will lurch. It is hard to think of a really lean angle. Earlier than on the Triumph, their running boards sparks across the rough asphalt. So take it easy on the winding country roads of the French hinterland and drive out every bend and bend in a clean line. This is how you come to Cannes relaxed and in a good mood. Only Louise would look a little wrinkled on the slightly sloping seat cushion without a sissy bar. “It’s been well restored,” mimes Pierre on the quay, pointing to the night-black Moto Guzzi California Vintage, whose sweeping bench is adorned with a blinding white strip of artificial leather. But the old French are wrong, mistaking the Vintage for an 850-T3 in California. This is how the Italians came to the Côte d’Azur in the early 1970s to go on vacation. This California is brand new and the last update of the Italo classic. Dressed up with a windshield, additional headlights, curved fenders, suitcases and chrome trim, it fits perfectly into the group picture with Rocket III Touring and Road King Classic.
There is only one problem: the displacement. That’s what you need if the power is to come from the cellar. But with 1064 cm³ there is no state to be made in this field. After all, a measured 78 horsepower gallops within reach of the Road King.
The 90-degree V, which has always been air-cooled, shakes itself like a wet poodle when starting, snorkels out of the airbox, groans, delights itself before the first hard, metallic-sounding burns force the Guzzi drive to run smoothly. Then it rumbles unabashedly, tilting briefly around its longitudinal axis with each throttle. Just like before, untamed, wild, although modernization also found its way into him in the form of an injection. Pierre is thrilled, as the ground shakes beneath him from the trembling and pounding of the massive V-Twin. In his old clique, this was often referred to as a cement mixer. “If they only knew,” hisses Pierre and takes in the bassy rumble from the two Lafranconis with relish. Driving a Guzzi, he is sure, it is still the same today as it was in the past. Right. The journey back in time to the 1970s begins with the push of the starter button.
Thunder and lightning on two wheels: the Triumph Rocket III Touring.
Klong, in the corridor and go. The driver begins his journey on low stalls with his knees pulled up so far that they stick out over the tank flanks. And don’t really want to become one with the motorcycle. Bad conditions for comfortable tours. Although your feet rest on rubberized running boards, you have to lift them centimeters high to switch or brake.
Strange in times when ergonomics and ease of use are at the top of the engineer’s specifications. And not that easy, because the five gears want to be engaged with force, otherwise you inevitably end up between them. The brakes have become significantly better than in the 70s, but a well-measured pressure with a floating foot on the pedal of the integral brake has to be practiced. If you want to take things faster on the Cali, you have to be prepared for the poorly damped spring elements. But it goes deep in curves, because the running boards are high and the lean angle is enormous for a cruiser. In any case, driving Guzzi is funny, downright entertaining.
Between idle and around 3000 rpm, the Vintage stomps, trembles and trembles like an old fishing cutter on the high seas, only to then allow itself a slight breather. But from 4000 tours she pulls herself together again, offers all her strength to hurry away in a staccato of combustion chamber detonations. The California Vintage disappears on the horizon of the waterfront promenade like a thunderstorm. It’s time for Pierre to say goodbye too. His wife Louise is sure to be waiting for him at home. First of all, however, he wants to go into the garage, pull his Commando and Rocket 3 out from under the towels and try to bring the old darlings back to life. To hear and feel them, even if he can no longer take them to promenade.
Good Vibrations: this trio rocked the coast of southern France.
Three characters, one idea: sit back, cruise and enjoy the world on two wheels. Each of the three cruisers succeeds in their own way. The mighty Triumph impresses with the power of displacement. Cool, casual, confident, inconspicuous and quiet. Only their sheer irrepressible strength keeps the driver in suspense. Harley cherishes and cares for the mighty V2, perfects it in sound and vibration, thus delivering enjoyment without regrets. Rough but warm, the unabashed rumbling Moto Guzzi spreads between Rocket and Road King and provides entertainment with natural charm.
Touring cruiser? why not?
Harley-Davidson Road King Classic
Most people prefer to travel with someone. Although it can sometimes get on the nerves of fellow travelers. They are always hungry, have to go to the bathroom or smoke, but they disagree. In short: they can stink after three days. And yet it’s nicer to have someone with you. Because it increases the chance that simply covering a distance will turn into a journey.
A motorcycle can also be the companion. For example one that drives so nonchalantly to the right and left that you can hardly notice anything from it. A machine as inconspicuous as a first-class butler. So none of these three cruisers. These machines can actually annoy, stress and challenge you. And it happens that they don’t stink for three days. There may be more perfect travel companions. Hardly more entertaining. Because with these cruisers the chance increases considerably that the trip becomes an experience.
Data: Harley Road King Classic
The gleaming chrome V-Twin is not only something for the eye, but also something for the ear.
Air-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke 45-degree V-engine, 1584 cm³, 60 kW (82 PS) at 5200 / min, 129 Nm at 3500 / min, multi-disc oil bath clutch, six-speed gearbox, toothed belt, double loop frame, telescopic fork, ø 41 mm, Double disc brake front, ø 292 mm, rear disc brake, ø 292 mm, front tires MT 90 B 16, rear MU 85 B 16, weight 355 kg, tank capacity 22.7 liters, price including ancillary costs 21,735 euros
Data: Moto Guzzi California Vintage
Pure nostalgia: robust, shaking engine, leg shields and chrome-plated instruments.
Air-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke 90-degree V-engine, 1064 cm³, 54 kW (74 PS) at 6400 / min, 94 Nm at 5000 / min, two-disc dry clutch, five-speed gearbox, cardan, double loop frame, telescopic fork, ø 45 mm, Double disc brake front, ø 320 mm, disc brake rear, ø 282 m, front tires 110/90 VB 18, rear 140/70 VB 17, weight 290 kg, tank capacity 19 liters, price including ancillary costs 15,590 euros
Data: Triumph Rocket III Touring
The British Lady shows herself at her best.
Technical data: water-cooled three-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, 2294 cm³, 79 kW (107 HP) at 5400 / min, 209 Nm at 2000 / min, multi-disc oil bath clutch, five-speed gearbox, cardan, steel bridge frame, telescopic fork, 43 mm diameter, double disc brake at the front , ø 320 mm, rear disc brake, ø 316 mm, front tires 150/80 R 16, rear 180/70 R 16, weight 400 kg, tank capacity 22.3 liters, price without additional costs 18990 euros
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