Sure the V-8 is an American icon, but in a motorcycle? We had to give it a try, afterall, how often do you get chance to ride a mammoth beast with a dry weight of 1100 lbs?
See the USA With a Chevrolet… Between Your Knees!
Apple pie? Yeah, it’s a flavorful dessert. But it crumbles badly whenever it’s waved around as representing what America is all about. So what icon truly, fully, proudly represents our nation? Did you have to ask?
The V-8 engine.
No pie, no atomic bomb, hotdog, hamburger, airplane, automatic washing machine, no nothing defines who we are as a nation of imperialist cowboy, gun-toting, religious refugees as powerfully as the V-8 engine.
Every American car of stature since the late ’40s has been powered by a V-8. A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, and a V-8 under every hood. Wasn’t that the post-War promise? Straight Sixes, or, God forbid, four-cylinder engines, are only for the underprivileged. What a horror it was when the neighboring boys discovered my father’s Chevy wagon had an anemic Six. The shame.
Every class in NHRA professional drag racing uses V-8s exclusively. NASCAR wouldn’t be NASCAR without the V-8. A V-8 put the go in the GTO. It made Mopar’s Bee super. You’d never have caught Steve McQueen in a Mustang without one. And don’t forget the Crown Vic.
Little engines are for all those little foreign countries with their little cars. Carroll Shelby took the sissy British AC and dropped a V-8 into the hole where a fruity European four-banger once lived. Sunbeam made its gentle Alpine into a Tiger with one. The Daimler 250SP was another Brit spyder made right by American iron. Ford whooped Ferrari by packing a V-8 into a car’s ass.
In 1990, Monte Warne started making a motorcycle expressive of the American dream. He put a V-8 between your legs. Born was the Boss Hoss, today’s only production V-8-powered motorbike.
When telling fellow journalists I was going to ride a Boss Hoss, they were stumped trying to figure out how to reply. I saw a lot of those pained faces you find on people wishing, dying, hoping to provide a funny retort, but having nothing come to mind. Maybe I should have prefaced this by saying my moto-journalist friends are generally a bunch of loud-mouths who fall all over each other at the slightest opportunity to toss out an uninvited and usually insulting opinion. But on this one they were confused. Most journalists haven’t yet ridden one of Warne’s Chevy-powered monsters. Most don’t know what to even think of the outlandish things.
If the 502 Boss Hoss and its 567 lb-ft of torque aren’t powerful enough for you, there are always extra goodies you can add on like nitrous kits, etc.
The “small” Boss Hoss is powered by a 350 cubic-inch Chevy engine, while the “bigger” bike has a 502 ci unit. The bikes are basically identical with the exception of that difference in displacement. The 350 puts out an approximate 355 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and the other engine has a claimed 502 hp. Torque is at numbers that absolutely dwarf comparison to any motorcycle on the planet: 405 lb-ft for the 350 and 567 lb-ft for the 502. Just quoting those figures make me have to go to the bathroom.
The Boss Hoss brand is all about excess taken to the most excessive excess possible, so hot cams are available, as well as tons of other high-performance engine mods. Most Hoss dealers are eager to help every Boss owner with mods, and many are prepared to install nitrous kits and other equipment designed to make grown men cry. I’ve heard of one bike putting out around 1,000 hp. Cry? That’s the kind of power that can make a man sob uncontrollably. That kind of power can be a religious experience.
Hosses come with pipes that are fairly open so the sound is sweet and unnecessary to modify. But of course you can. To make the whole package shorter, the water pump is an electric unit mounted off to the side, avoiding the added length of a front-mount belt-driven pump. There are heat shields over the exhaust manifolds – even on the warm day we rode, the heat coming off the bike wasn’t an issue.
Braking is taken care of with dual rotors and four-piston calipers up front and a single rotor with a four-piston caliper out back, whose rotor is the same 12.6 inches as the front two. It’s an impressive amount of stopping power for a bike of this weight and it should be noted that the rear brake is capable of providing serious affect for slowing the bike. I doubt anyone has yet done a stoppie on one of these things.
As archaic as one might think an iron V-8 is, the Hoss has many modern items found on sportbikes, such as an inverted fork with adjustable preload. The dual shocks out back also have preload adjustability. The last 15 years of Hoss development have been well spent, and the current version of the bike has carefully engineered geometry that fully meets the needs of the machine. Since the company encourages modifications to the machine, the engine can be easily removed by splitting the frame into two at a central seam. Just don’t try to place the powerplant on your workbench by yourself.
The Boss Hoss comes in two versions. It’ll cost you $35,000 for the 350 Chevy model shown above; opting for the larger 502 cubic-incher ups the ante to $41,000.
I admit, on my maiden voyage on a Boss Hoss I did feel trepid. But that wasn’t because of fears of its power, it was because I’d never before ridden a bike that requires a call to the AAA if I tip over while waiting for a traffic light. It gives “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” new meaning. A Boss Hoss has dry weight of 1100 lbs. That’s close to a Formula Atlantic racecar. Lifting one is like trying to pick up a downed horse; you don’t even know where to start. The ears? Maybe the tail? I’ll just crawl underneath it and try to stand up.
Boss Hosses (Bosses Hoss? Boss Hossi?) are actually smartly designed so that if they do tip over they don’t go over very far. But even fears of that are unfounded because the geometry of a Boss Hoss makes them shockingly kind and mild mannered at low speed. Truth is, I’ve never ridden any other cruiser that was so well balanced at low speed. The bike seems to balance by itself and if there’s the slightest hint of the weight biasing to one side, a slight nudge on the throttle causes the machine to smoothly right itself. It’s basically impossible to be wobbly on a Boss Hoss, even at 2 mph.
All Boss Hosses now have a two-speed automatic transmission that requires manual shifting. Does that make sense? I think so. There’s no clutch lever on the left handlebar, no matter how often you might try reaching for it. And to make all ex-racers happy, the Hoss has a race-shift pattern. Down for first, down again for second. Earlier Hosses had just a one-speed tranny, but the two-speed provides a smoother, lower revving ride on the open road. First gear will take the bike all the way to 80 mph, so second can be ignored if that gets your fancy. The way the transmission is set up it’s possible to stop and start in top gear, but doing so isn’t recommended and the bike will be noticeably sluggish on take-off.
All Boss Hosses now have a reverse, too. It is operated by a button located on the left hand controls and is locked out before a forward speed can be engaged, so there’s no chance of back shifting.
It’s is weird at first to launch a bike simply by turning the throttle. But take off is smooth and the bike communicates well with the rider showing how it likes to be treated. When at a stop, revving the engine, there is a certain amount of torque twist from the engine but it’s nothing radical. It just sort of pulls over a bit slowly, showing it likes to be blipped, just like every other bike.
A Boss Hoss has the strength of personality to transform the rider. No matter who you are you automatically ride a Hoss properly. And you don’t mind because it’s such a good show letting it be just what it is. The feeling of motoring along with a V-8 between your legs is cathartic. You feel special. I’ve never been much of a poser but the Boss Hoss made me want to pose even when I was alone. I found myself looking for polished tank trucks to ride along beside so I could admire how good my ass looked on this thing. Having a V-8 between your knees just makes the world a better place. It’s better than shock therapy. It makes a guy, or girl, proud. I wanted to call my father.
The Boss Hoss uses a two-speed automatic transmission that includes reverse. Gears are shifted manually, and first gear is good for up to 80 mph, so if your goal is to growl about town all you need to worry about is the throttle and brake.
Although cruiser riders spend 97% of their time cruising at moderate speeds, I had to see what the Boss Hoss would do if ridden with anger. Well, if you hold the throttle wide open and hammer into second gear at 60 mph you can make this generally very gentle giant slap you silly. All was fine and predictable until I attempted that full-throttle shift. At low speeds doing so is without worry, but at 60 or faster the engine is all wound up and things get critical. Normally, the torque twisting of the bike, caused by the longitudinally-mounted spinning engine, is dampened out while the transmission is engaged and driving the bike. Twisting the throttle any amount at any speed while the bike’s in gear is effortless and balls of fun.
At high-speed, when the Hoss is shifted up during a full-throttle run, in that short moment while the torque converter spins back up and the bike is between gears the torque of the engine is no longer dampened. This causes the machine to suddenly rotate over to the right, convincing the rider to quickly correct and pull the bike back up to the left with a hard push on the bars. But in the middle of initiating that, top gear comes on full and the bike rotates forcefully back to the left, where it’s already being steered. Cripes!
It was easy to get the bike back under control and this impressive experience cannot be attributed to any design flaw of the cycle. I mean, the damn thing has three-hundred-frickin’-fifty horsepower, what’d I expect? This is about what I expected and it’s about what I’d hoped for. I wanted the Boss Hoss to show the seriousness of its abilities and it did. So I tried another full-throttle shift. And then a few more. Oh yeah!
Used “properly,” since the Boss Hoss is a cruiser, means to roll around town cruising, preferably where there are lots of other cruisers and people to admire how you look with a V-8 between your legs. As luck had it, I was riding the Boss Hoss at a bike week where there were tens of thousands of those puny little V-Twin things made by every other bike manufacturer. Some of those things have 1,800cc. I hadn’t before realized how small that is. And that’s where I discovered the full meaning and value of riding a Boss Hoss.
While pulling up into packs of bikes at traffic lights, I noticed how most riders were blipping their throttles to show off to both themselves and others the mean-sounding power of their open pipes. Potato-potato here, potato-potato there, everyone has a potato-potato. Well, the Boss Hoss has a forty-pound sack of potato-potatoes.
To let the boys on their little bikes know I was there, I’d blip the hammering 350 cubic inches of American iron between my legs, showing them the sweet sound of a small-block Chevy. It always got their attention and all around me the blipping would stop. To sit on a Boss Hoss is to sit on the top of the cruiser throne. It makes you king of the herd, the alpha bull, leader of the pack, big-daddy Sun, da man. There is nothing that equals the Boss Hoss’s forceful proclamation to all the world – or at least to all on the immediate block – that you’re the guy with the meatiest Johnson. Hey kids, go blip your cute little Twins somewhere else. Get in line behind daddy.
Representing the summit thus far of motorcycle engine extremes, the 502 Boss Hoss gives you four-times the cylinders of a twin and 502 cubic inches displacement which coverts into… 8226cc!
I fully expected the Boss Hoss to be unrefined, cumbersome and an effort to ride at every speed, if not just to sit on. I know now those were biases without basis. I’m still unable to fully appreciate how easy the bike is to ride, yet I can no longer puzzle over the pictures in the company’s brochure showing a woman piloting one of them. I think your one-legged mamma could handle a Hoss.
Before riding a Boss Hoss, I thought they were an interesting option or freakish prank for lunatics but not something I’d ever be interested in owning. And anyway, I’ve ridden many bikes that are awesome performers that I’d equally not want to own because they just don’t do that something special for me that we all want from a bike.
Now that I’ve ridden a Boss Hoss I fully understand the attraction. It does do that something special for me. I could live with one of these things in my garage. I could easily see myself plowing – with the roar of American V-8 between my legs – through the filing din of V-Twin cruisers. I could be very happy knowing and showing that I am emperor big-Dick.
The Boss Hoss has evolved into a serious machine, successfully transforming a crazed concept into a bike that performs like a real bike should. I’m as surprised as anyone that I “get it.” I understand the enchantment of the Boss Hoss. I’d go so far as to say I think I “need” one.
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