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Something big in the city

Published: 06 May 2001

Updated: 19 November 2014

THE slack-jawed man can’t take his eyes off the biggest commuter bike he’s ever seen. He approaches and asks: " How big is it? " " 8.2 litres, " is the reply. " Wow, two litres! " he responds. " No, EIGHT POINT TWO litres, "

The it (there’s no better word for it) is the Boss Hoss. And the man with all the answers is Mr Warwick Bergin, an Aussie who has made it big building and then selling recruitment companies. Made it so big, in fact, that he can’t quite remember how much the Chevrolet V8-powered behemoth actually cost.

" Something around 30 grand, I think, " he mutters vaguely, jangling some loose gold bullion in his pocket. " I went out to Belgium where Rony Piessens imports them. He started up a 5.7-litre version on straight-through pipes and the blast took my head off. So I bought it and then fitted a supercharger. But it was no good in traffic, so I swopped it for a normally-aspirated 8.2. "

This much more sensible machine wears what can loosely be described as mufflers. But the Hoss still sounds like eight days at Santa Pod rolled into one. " You get these blokes in TVRs sitting at the lights and they sound pretty good, " says Warwick. " But you always have the satisfaction of knowing your engine is twice the size – what I call the quiet satisfaction of power. "

The Hoss is not quite an engine on wheels. Any cycle parts that can convincingly carry the iron-blocked Chevy lump (and it is a lump) have to be of a certain stature. The frame’s steelwork looks more like industrial guttering than cold, drawn, seamless tube and the only box section steel you’ll find bigger than the swingarm will be attached to the Tay Bridge. It is a motorcycle, but only in so far as that’s what it says in the logbook.

Warwick heaves it off the sidestand (Centrestand? You jest.) and heads out into the thickening soup of London traffic. We follow. It’s like riding behind an ice-breaker, the heavy prow of his land-ship cleaving a path through seemingly impenetrable walls of tin. Far from being unable to squeeze the Hoss’s vast girth through the gaps, Warwick glides remorselessly on. Holes seem to open up voluntarily as anything else on wheels takes evasive action.

" It’s not a lot wider than a fully-dressed Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide, " he offers by way of comparison. Not a lot being a relative measurement in feet rather than inches.

A smartly-dressed woman at the wheel of an Audi convertible can’t stop herself blurting " What a lovely piece of machinery " . And she’s got it pretty much right. It is a machine. A device for blowing minds with.

" I’ve seen 130mph on it, " said Warwick. " But this isn’t what the Boss Hoss is about. If you want to scare yourself and lose your licence, get a superbike and do 180mph. " Then he adds: " Having said that, I’ve lost my licence on totting-up and I’ll probably lose it again, but it’s acceleration that provides the exhilaration. "

How exhilarating is 0-60mph in two seconds, or maybe 0-100mph in 3.5? The truth is that nothing sounds better than a Boss Hoss lumpily idling or packed under power. So can Bergin be accused of using a sledgehammer to crack a tiny nut of a two-mile commute from his flat to his City office? Of course he can, it doesn’t even need to go to court. He is simply a nutter who prefers to get the job done in style.

There’s more on Warwick and his extraordinary commuter bike in the May 9 issue of MCN.

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