The Boss Hoss
by bj max
Have you ever been up close to a P-47 Thunderbolt? The first thing you notice is the massive R-2800 Double Wasp Pratt and Whitney engine. Your eyes may be diverted to the sleek lines of the fuselage or the crystal clear canopy now and again, but they will continually wander back to that big eighteen cylinder engine. Same thing with the Boss Hoss. The first thing you notice is the engine. Your eyes may be drawn to the mammoth rear tire for a moment, or the oversize fuel tank, but inevitably they will return to that enormous eight cylinder engine nestled under the fuel tank. It’s kinda’ like meeting Dolly Parton and trying to concentrate on her new guitar.
I strapped on my helmet and stepped over to this incredible machine and sat myself down on the stylish, but thin, Mustang seat. With a height of only twenty five inches, I felt as though I was getting in the motorcycle instead of on it and I could easily flatfoot the ground. The wide handlebars fit me perfectly and I felt comfortable immediately. I reached under my left thigh, turned the key and was rewarded with a gyro-like whine from deep within the innards of this celebrated machine. I looked around for the starter button, spied it on the right handlebar, and while the instruments energized a silly grin slowly crept across my face. When the LED readout displayed the odometer reading, my signal that all was ready, I gulped, wiped my sweaty palms on my pants, then timidly placed my thumb on the little black button, held it there for a few seconds, took a deep breath and announced to no one in particular; fire in the hole!
About a month ago, I received an e-mail from our esteemed editor, Victor Wanchena. The message informed me that a review of the Boss Hoss V-8 motorcycle would be forthcoming and his eminence wanted to know if I would be interested in the assignment. Would I be interested? That’s like Obi Wan Kenobi asking Han Solo if he would be interested in riding the Imperial Speeder they just captured. What a silly question.
The Boss Hoss motorcycle is the brain child of Monte Warne, industrialist, commercial pilot, airframe technician and all around gearhead up in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Monte built the first Boss Hoss for himself, then rode it to Bike Week to show it off. Response was encouraging so he decided to try and market his creation and today, with thousands of Boss Hoss motorcycles on the road and dealers in ten foreign countries and twenty two states including Minnesota, I think it’s safe to say that his efforts were a success.
I had the privilege of riding one of those early Boss Hoss V-8’s. I wasn’t the big wig writer back then that I am today, but somehow I worked up the nerve to call Boss Hoss Cycles and ask for a ride so I could write a magazine article about it. To my surprise, they agreed and I hot-footed it up there before they could change their mind.
The first thing that grabbed my attention when I walked in the front door was a framed Cycle World cover hanging on the wall with a picture of Monte bestraddle his creation. What in the world am I doing here, I wondered? Every magazine in the country is doing stories on this guy and here I am impersonating a journalist trying to get my foot in the door. I suddenly got cold feet but before I could escape Monte stepped from his office with his hand out. We shook, said a few words and to my surprise, he treated me, not as an impersonator, but as if I were a real writer. I got my ride on the Boss Hoss that day and my story.
Fast Forward to 2009. This time my Boss Hoss experience was pre-arranged by the higher up muckety-mucks at MMM. And wouldn’t you know it, on the morning I was to pick up the bike I woke up sicker than a mule. And to make matters worse, it was cold and miserable outside. Sugar Booger insisted that I stay in bed. Said I was too sick to go anywhere. No way, uh uhh. In my mind this assignment legitimatized my claim as a moto-journalist and nothing short of the bubonic plague was gonna’ keep me from going after that motorcycle.
I arrived at the Boss Hoss complex sniffling and sneezing around ten AM. I was amazed at how the place had grown. The old offices were the same, but there were several new buildings scattered about. The parking lot had doubled in size and all the trappings of a small factory were evident. They even had a NASCAR type hauler with Boss Hoss plastered all over it, a sure sign of success in the south. I was greeted by Chief Operations Officer, Rad Hunsley. I liked Rad from the get go. He was friendly and cordial and answered all my questions no matter how dumb they were. His head was jam-packed with every last detail of the Boss Hoss and I was soon overwhelmed with information.
Rad gave me the fifty cent tour of their spotless twenty two thousand foot factory. As we strolled up and down the assembly line, he explained various aspects of production and pointed out features of the bike that are usually hidden by bodywork. Yep, they have an assembly line. Not as long as Ford or GM maybe, but nevertheless, it was an assembly line. After snapping several pictures of the bike in various stages of construction, I was led through a side entrance to a parking lot where I was introduced to the Boss Hoss that would be mine for the next few days.
It was a coal black SS and looked for all the world like a prop right out of the latest Batman movie. Workmanship was top shelf and every part and piece was all Boss Hoss; no aftermarket crap on this thing. Fit and finish was superb and the bike looked lean and mean; something I did not expect considering the size of the power plant. I would understand why, later. I ran my hands over the chrome- plated controls, caressed the beautifully curved handlebars and lovingly stroked the gleaming valve covers. What a motorcycle! I could hardly control my emotions and almost giggled as I stood there licking my chops and rubbing my hands together. Rad explained in detail the inner workings of the bike, but I don’t think I heard another word from that point on. All I could think about was gettin’ my hands on this fantastic machine and hittin’ the road.
My loaner was the latest model in the Boss Hoss lineup. Officially it was a BHC-3 LS3 SS. (Boss Hoss Cycle, third model, LS3 engine, Super Sport). A full three inches shorter than other models, and at one thousand sixty five pounds, it was also forty five pounds lighter. It was noticeably more compact, too, earning its Super Sport moniker. The SS was powered by the just-released 376 cubic inch Corvette LS3 all aluminum engine. The LS3 comes cocked from the factory with computer controlled, multi-port fuel injection, hydraulic roller cam, roller rockers, and sturdy, six bolt mains. Well insulated ceramic coated, custom “Hugger” headers, protect the riders’ legs from excessive heat while funneling spent gasses through dual exhausts.
This particular bike was a test mule and even though it reads LS-2 on the side panel, the new LS-3 engine had been fitted and had just completed motorcycle certification by the EPA. The LS-3 boasted twenty more ponies than the LS-2, boosting horsepower to a whopping four hundred and forty five. That’s three hundred and twenty five more than my 1800 Wing. Riding this thing is gonna’ be like stepping out of a Piper Cub and strapping on an F-18 Super Hornet. I could hardly contain my glee and almost peed in my fancy Aerostich ridin’ britches just thinkin’ about it.
To harness all this power Boss Hoss builds its frames on a custom jig, right there in the Boss Hoss factory. Hefty 1.5 inch, 4130 chrome molly tubing is bent and welded on site by ANSI AWS certified welders. The patented two piece frame wraps around the drive train assembly by splitting the two halves, and according to Boss Hoss this allows the bike to maintain its compact design and contributes to its light feel and nimble personality.
That big V8 needs a rock solid drive train to transfer all that power to the rear wheel. Nesco of Cookville, Tennessee provides a compact and Boss Hoss specific, two speed semi-automatic transmission and the Gates Rubber Company supplies the 1.7 inch wide, Kevlar reinforced Polychain drive belt. Propelling a bike of this size and power requires some serious rubber out back, too, and Boss Hoss has chosen an Avon 230/60-15, the biggest motorcycle tire money can buy. Up front, two brawny 63mm inverted, fork stanchions clamp a 130/90-16 tire in place. To get all this weight woe’d up, Boss Hoss turned to Brembo for clamping power in the form of dual, four-piston calipers up front and a single unit on the back.
Controls are about what you would expect. Hand brake lever, master cylinder, starter button, self canceling turn signals, dimmer switch and reverse button. Oh yes, this baby has a reverse gear and it needs it. But unlike the Gold’s Wing’s electric reverse, the Boss Hoss relies on engine power. Press the button and give it some gas. Theoretically I guess it would do two hundred miles an hour backward, but Boss Hoss doesn’t recommend it. Neither do I. I played with the reverse gear a couple times and just above idle it worked just fine, leaving me in complete control.
Gauges include a speedometer, tachometer, coolant temperature, oil pressure, voltmeter; the usual suspects. The speedometer has an LED screen in the center where you can toggle through total mileage and trip mileage, and to a back up digital speedometer. Below the speedometer, turn signal arrows blink on either side of a unique fuel gauge with ten miniature lights that descend from full to empty as you suck up fuel. I gassed up with the gauge showing a quarter of a tank and it held 6.3 gallons so it seems to be fairly accurate. If the gauge is off a bit, procrastinating riders will appreciate an error in their favor. Dual chrome gas caps doll up the oversize 8.5 gallon gas tank, but the left side is a dummy for aesthetic purposes. The Boss is a thirsty beast. I averaged 20.4 mpg, a tic under advertised consumption. Accessories for the SS include optional, lockable hard bags, tour pack and other assorted ge-gaws.
Geared up and seated comfortably, my thumb hovered over this innocent looking little black button on the right control pod. There was a lot of power between my legs, and I’ll admit to being just a tad nervous. I hesitated a moment, then pressed that little button and that big torque monster roared to life and tried to wrench the handlebars right out of my hands; wiping a silly grin off my face in the process. Just starting this thing is exciting. When it fires, all that torque tries to twist the motor out of the frame. Of course, strong aluminum motor mounts prevent this and the result is an electrifying twist to the left. It was intimidating at first, but once I realized that the bike wasn’t going anywhere, my silly grin slowly returned. The engine settled into the rumbling purr of a snoozing tiger, pulsating with power from one end to the other. I jerked the tiger’s tail and was thrilled by a ripping snarl from the exhaust. Hot dang! I was grinnin’ like a possum eatin’ green persimmons and I ain’t even put this thing in gear yet.
I sat there a minute, took a few deep breaths and tried to mentally prepare myself to get this thing off the lot without dumping it. It was, after all, a heavy bike, but to my surprise when I lifted it off the stand it felt much lighter than anticipated. Foot peg placement was feet forward, something I wasn’t used to, but the foot controls are adjustable. Just loosen two hex head bolts and slide the foot pegs, brake pedal, gear shift, the whole shootin’ match fore or aft. This feature was new to me, but I don’t know if it’s unique to Boss Hoss or not. Either way, it’s a handy system.
I reached for the clutch lever to put the bike in gear then realized that there ain’t no clutch lever; mainly because there ain’t no clutch. Never did quite get used to that. Every time I stopped I found myself reaching for that non existent lever. There’s no gear shifting to speak of, either. Just press the foot selector down one notch and go. The Boss Hoss will do a hundred and twenty in low so you never have to shift again if you don’t want to. But if you’re in a hurry, it does have overdrive.
I rolled out of the Boss Hoss lot and headed south. At sixty MPH, the engine was spinning at 3,000 rpm. Hard to read that itty bitty tach though, so I could be a tad off. Shift into overdrive and it drops back to 1,800 and that would mean a substantial fuel savings over the long haul, lending credence to the necessity of overdrive. The semi-automatic worked well, although it did have a few quirks. For instance, if you are cruising in overdrive, you have to remember to manually down shift to low when coming to a stop. I forgot to do this the very first time and when I tried to accelerate away, it was obvious something was wrong because the bike bogged down. I stopped immediately, down shifted to low and all was well. But it still bugged me to have to remember this little peculiarity. And shifting to overdrive is anything but smooth. You get that same torque twist that’s fun while sitting still, but a bit alarming at speed and all this made me wish for a true automatic. Unnerving or not, overdrive is the fun gear and Boss Hoss should seriously consider changing its name to Hyper-Drive. For example, while cruising on a limited access four lane with no cops in sight, I pressed the lever into overdrive and put the spurs to the big Hoss. It came alive like a sleeping cheetah punched with a red hot poker and went streaking across the Loosahatchie River bottom like a bat outta’ hell. Hi-yo Silver! Held back by those sturdy, aluminum motor mounts, that big Chevy strained mightily as though trying to break free of its aluminum harness, streak ahead and rid itself of the weak and cowardly mortal bridling its power. I went from a sixty five year old man to a twenty year old kid with a simple twist of the wrist. What a glorious feeling
The Boss Hoss was rock solid at speed; something I would expect from such a heavy motorcycle. But something I didn’t expect was how it handled at slow speeds. Nothing I have ever ridden, and that includes the king of slow, Harley-Davidson, out maneuvers the Boss at slow speeds. It was agile and steady and handled like a motorcycle half its size. But in the twisties, unlike the gentle mount in the parking lot, I found the Boss Hoss to be a moody and cantankerous steed. At 4.5 inches, ground clearance is severely limited and if I got the least bit playful, all manner of hardware scraped the pavement. As mentioned above, the engine has gobs of torque and that’s great for doing burnouts, but it can also be a hindrance when cornering. For instance, throttle up in a curve and all that torque tries to steer the motorcycle and you find yourself constantly correcting to hold a line. This made for some very interesting moments on some of the crooked little back roads near my home, and I don’t think I would ever attempt a Deals Gap on the Boss Hoss. But in all fairness, this is a cruiser and cruisers are not recognized for their slicing and dicing abilities.
The Boss Hoss may not be the best at carving up back roads, but when it comes to star power two words come to mind. Home Run. The Boss Hoss knocks everything else outta’ the park. Everywhere I went, everybody noticed me. Or rather, they noticed the bike. How could they not notice? The Boss Hoss is about as subtle as a sawed off shotgun. As I cruised by, farmers swallowed their chewing tobacco, young girls fainted and policemen dropped their doughnuts. People would pull up alongside and just sit there matching my speed so they could check out this incredible machine.
But you can only have so much fun and all too soon it was time to return the Boss Hoss back to its stable. On the way I stopped just north of Memphis for lunch at the Pig-N-Whistle. After a Bar-B-Q sandwich and some fried pickles, I stepped back outside and found several Hornet Pilots from the nearby Naval Air Station gathered around the Boss Hoss, pointing and talking excitedly and drooling all over it. I think that about says it all. When power freaks of this caliber are interested, then you got yourself a special ride.
Selected Competition: Amazonas 1600, Böhmerland, Curtiss V-8, Gelbke Roadog, Morbidelli V-8, Terex Titan.