My first impression of the Boss Hoss hit me on a Sunday morning when Jay Leno, in typically larger-than-life fashion, pulled up on the massive bike at the Rock Store. The strange conveyance brought to mind the Hooters corporate slogan: “Delightfully tacky yet unrefined.” In the Venn diagram of my mind, the hot wings and cleavage section doesn’t typically overlap with the motorcycle category, but “typical” bikes aren’t powered by small block Chevy V-8s, either.
It isn’t until I actually rode a Boss Hoss that my initial cognitive dissonance was resolved, allowing me to comprehend how a cast iron, 5.7-liter American V-8 could possibly belong on only two wheels. Vert, the proud owner of the only Boss Hoss dealership in California, was my ticket to motorcycle enlightenment.
“The Boss Hoss is the most manageable bike I’ve ever ridden,” Vert reassures me, adding that “my wife [and business partner] Shelly is 5′ 2”, and two of the ten bikes she’s ever ridden were Boss Hosses.” With encouragement like that, thoughts of getting bucked off the bike are somewhat assuaged. However, when the motor fires up, it seems to suggest otherwise. The Hoss has King Kong scale: a wheelbase a foot longer than a Gold Wing and, at 1100 pounds, a curb weight that is 270 pounds heavier. But, it is not size that has me on alert, it is the unholy sound the big American V-8 makes, which can only be described as a wicked gurgle.
Sitting on the bike requires the turnout of a ballerina, and each twist of the throttle manufacturers enough torque to shift the entire bike to the right an inch or so, depending on how much resistance the rider offers. Boss Hoss ergonomics are adjustable; footpegs can be positioned according to rider preference. Vert has stretched or narrowed handlebars for customers, and the 28-inch seat height accommodates almost everyone. Shelly Vert, for instance, stands on her tiptoes at red lights.
Thankfully, the bike doesn’t torque-twist when it is in gear, and, once we take off, the Hoss’ street demeanor becomes quickly apparent. Acceleration off the line is surprisingly smooth, and quite thoughtless, as first gear is engaged clutchlessly by kicking down a large shifter. Like a car with an automatic transmission, moderate application of the brakes will keep it from creeping forward.
Once the handgrip is twisted, the deep, loping sound of the idling V-8 becomes a dramatic roar, penetrating full-face helmets and windows of surrounding cars; this is the precise moment in which the Boss Hoss makes its presence fully known. It is the road-going equivalent of the whole room stopping and staring at the outlaw at the door.
Even higher revs produce increased exhaust rumble and instant velocity. Rather than a crisp, sportbike-like immediacy to throttle response, the Boss Hoss accelerates with the steady whoosh of a locomotive on amphetamines. Low-speed roll-on acceleration challenges any street-legal bike made.
Because its 2-speed, semiautomatic transmission spreads the power over a ridiculously wide range, the rider’s initial perception of acceleration is not nearly as strong as it becomes when approaching the upper end of the powerband. Though shifts to second gear can come as early as 40 mph, waiting until 120 mph (redline in first gear) rewards the rider with back-arching, neck-snapping thrust. The instruments reflect this reality of ratios—for every micro-advance made by the tachometer, the speedometer lurches an inch or so.
Braking requires forethought, and front and rear 4-piston Brembos provide very little feedback; the term “blind faith” comes to mind. Cornering the Boss Hoss is feasible, though lean angles are quite steep and footpeg scraping is par for the course. The ride is firm, particularly at highway speeds, and large bumps sent my 185-pound body airborne for a few disconcerting-yet-thrilling moments.
All factors considered, the Boss Hoss proved far more approachable than one would imagine. And, as easy as it was to reduce it to the “Tacky yet unrefined” slogan, I was converted by its smoothness, comfort, and manageability. While its styling may not hold allure for everyone, an unrefined ride it certainly is not.
Boss Hoss Specs
350 cu in (5.7 liters). Liquid-cooled V-8, Quadrajet fuel injection
Semi-automatic, 2-speed with reverse and Gates PolyChain final drive
Two-inch with dual mufflers
60mm inverted forks with adjustable preload
Dual shocks with adjustable preload
Front: 130/90-16 Rear: 230/60-15