A visible-pump/UV-probe transient absorption is used to characterize the ultrafast dynamics of bacteriorhodopsin with 80-fs time resoln. We identify three spectral components in the 265- to 310-nm region, related to the all-trans retinal, tryptophan (Trp)-86 and the isomerized photoproduct, allowing us to map the dynamics from reactants to products, along with the response of Trp amino acids. The signal of the photoproduct appears with a time delay of ~250 fs and is characterized by a steep rise (~150 fs), followed by addnl. rise and decay components, with time scales characteristic of the J intermediate. The delayed onset and the steep rise point to an impulsive formation of a transition state on the way to isomerization. We argue that this impulsive formation results from a splitting of a wave packet of torsional modes on the potential surface at the branching between the all-trans and the cis forms. Parallel to these dynamics, the signal caused by Trp response rises in ~200 fs, because of the translocation of charge along the conjugate chain, and possible mechanisms are presented, which trigger isomerization. [on SciFinder (R)]