Big on the Island
GETTING noticed at the TT gets harder every year. There are about 15,000 bikes parked along Douglas promenade on any given day and so many specials and rare exotica on display that your average Japanese four isn’t going to draw a crowd. But there is one bike which guarantees you get attention anywhere you go - even here.
If the V8 Corvette-engined, 355bhp, 5.7 litre-engined Big Brute doesn’t bring traffic to a standstill, your audience requires the attentions of a cardio-vascular emergency team.
Yes, I you did read right – 355bhp. And yes, I did say a V8 Corvette engine. It’s outrageous – as mad to ride as it is to look at.
Those familiar with the South Park movie will know that it’s fashionable to " blame Canada " . And in this case it really is the fault of the maple syrup scoffers. Made in Canada and imported by the Irish. You can make up your own jokes.
The Canadians call this the " ultimate cruiser " . I thought cruisers were all about cool, comfortable, relaxed travel. The Big Brute’s 355bhp makes it more like trying to take a wild, raging bull by the horns. It’s one of the best giggles you can have.
Once you’ve fought your way through the crowd, which WILL be gathered around the Brute, and slung your leg over it, it’s immediately apparent how heavy it is. It weighs in at a shocking 476kg (1047lb) - that’s more than two superbikes.
Hauling it off its sidestand gets you in a sweat. The prospect of actually moving off on this thing is more intimidating than Mike Tyson turned debt collector. And there’s no clutch to smooth the process. The Brute is a two-speed automatic with a reverse gear (which is absolutely essential because you’d never back it out of a parking place unaided).
A flip of a switch on the tank and a twist of the beefy throttle gets you going - slowly. I defy anyone to jump on and gun it straight away. It’s so huge, heavy and alien that having a simple bike licence doesn’t seem enough to qualify you to be at the controls. Experience of piloting a B52 bomber would probably be more relevant.
But after a few shaky miles, the temptation to see what 355 horses unleashed feels like becomes too much. As soon as I find a bit of empty road (which requires some searching on the Isle of Man during TT week) I nail the throttle.
I’ve done this on a number of big-bore and extremely powerful production bikes, but I simply wasn’t ready for what happened next. It made Yamaha’s R1 feel like a toy. All of a sudden I wasn’t in charge. It was taking me for a ride. I felt like a monkey hanging on to a rocket in a 1950s science experiment. I couldn’t spare any attention for the speedo - I was too busy hanging on and giggling like a loon.
The sound was phenomenal. If you can imagine stowing away under the bonnet of a Corvette while it was being driven flat-out, you’d be close. The harder you twist the throttle, the better it gets. It’s intoxicating.
I get an instant sober-up as one of the Island’s many horse-drawn trams hoves into view and into my path. I don’t know what the horse was thinking, but I was wondering how I’d go about stopping so much metal travelling so fast.
It was never going to be easy, but six-piston brakes might have been a good place to start. As it is, there’s only twin pots to play with front and rear. And believe me, I needed both to save Dobbin from the knacker’s yard.
I stomp on the rear as hard as I dare and squeeze the front lever ’till my arm pumps up and oh-so-slowly the speed melts away. Late braking is not an option.
Having sampled the stopping, I’m a little more reluctant to gun the throttle again... until I find a two-mile straight. Well, I hadn’t tried second speed yet. Once you get the Big Brute above 60-odd mph, you move into second by flipping a switch on the left bar. It should really be called the giggle button because it guarantees you’ll laugh your socks off when you hit it. Not since Han Solo up-shifted the Millennium Falcon did objects in the rear view mirror disappear so fast – and in such a cacophony of noise. The tone of the engine completely changes and there’s almost a sonic boom as you’re launched forward and out of control again.
But the fun is cut short by the appearance of a corner. There’s the familiar Harley-Davidson-style sound of footboards on bitumen, but somehow more violent. It digs in and the bike is unsettled in a big way. I have to pick the bike up and take a wider line just to get round the corner. Dodgy.
So, to sum up, it doesn’t stop, it doesn’t handle and, for good measure it doesn’t like bumpy roads (the suspension is so hard it bounces you out of the seat like a rag doll). Maybe it is the ultimate cruiser after all.
For attention lovers, there’s simply no better bike. Even the policeman holding a radar gun on me dropped it to have a gawp. And coming back into Douglas made me feel like a homecoming hero.
Everywhere I glanced people were staring back, some in fits of laughter, some in awe, most in sheer disbelief. I’m a sucker for all that.
Maybe it was the five foot wide radiator, maybe it was the ludicrous 230 section rear tyre, or it could have been the stretch limo-type wheelbase, but this bike is a star wherever it goes.
But to actually own one? Well that would require a radical shift in my financial affairs. You see, at £26,000 direct from the four-man team who hand-build them, I’m going to have to pass.
If you want to get one from a little closer to home Capital Motorcycles of Dublin is importing them. And there they cost £42,000.
But director Tony Bannon is realistic enough to know he won’t sell many. At least the Irish lottery remains popular. " I think we’ll have to target people like Bono from U2 who have the cash! I’ll be happy to shift five or six machines a year and we’ll be selling them to people who want something totally different, " he says. Yes, people who don’t have to negotiate roundabouts.
Oddly, there is a more powerful version available for those who feel 355bhp is puny. It has a supercharger. The waiting list is around three months. You can place your order by calling: 00353-1491-0441.
BIG BRUTE V8
Engine: Chevrolet V8, 2 valves per cyl
Power: 355bhp, n/a
Weight: 476kg (1047lb)
Standing 1/4-mile time/terminal speed: 10.2s, 140mph (est)
Top speed: 140mph (est)
Average mpg/tank capacity/range: 33mpg, 25 litres, 180 miles