Every cause has an effect. Every article has a response. Wisconsin’s S&S Cycle, makers of some of America’s best engines, did not take kindly to what I said about baggers. They responded with an open invitation up to their ranch of V-Twin madcap shenanigans.
(Disclaimer: S&S Cycle wanted me to ride their motorcycles and things so bad they put a comfy seat on their race bike and told me to come and get it. I put myself up in a motel that was unamused by my face at 2 a.m., but we did have the most delightful gas station omelette ever.)
I got the grand tour and two separate test ride/drives of inappropriate V-Twin applications. Both did terrible jobs of being practical vehicles, both are on the insane fun spectrum, and both proved how S&S Cycles mainlines horsepower in the rolling hills of Viola, Wisconsin.
But who’s S&S? One of the OG’s of aftermarket V-Twin parts. Started in the 1950s with a lathe in the basement, and now has headquarters full of trophies, record-setting Harleys, and the same enthusiasm for making slow bikes fast.
They still make performance pushrods too, but they also have a war chest of experience and make everything and anything to go faster, including their own motors. In terms of expertise, they stand in rarified air.
So how does all this history work in a modern era of sportbike supremacy? Why would anyone spend this amount of money on a V-Twin? The answer has more to do with insanity factor than spec sheets. These two vehicles are examples.
Chaotic Good: Morgan 3 Wheeler
It is very Jalop. A shark mouthed trike painted BRG with a manual transmission from a Miata. And it has a starter button so every time you thrum it, you feel like you’re off to strafe Germany.
You can’t help but giggle when you’re in it. The rear tire has the grip of a bicycle tire, because it basically is one. The front suspension judders on every bump but hardly damps. It pushes in corners. By all accounts, it is a bad car. A bad car that is maniacally fun.
Where’s the S&S connection? Those two big thunder jugs sticking out the front end. That’s the S&S’s X-Wedge engine, a completely ground up design from the brand. In the years leading up to 2008 it was a high triumph, and its greatest gamble.
You needed three things back in the mid aughts to prove you had made it. Bolt-on McMansion House, bolt-on bleached blonde wife, and a bolt-on pro street chopper - each costing mega dollars. S&S was approached from many of the builders churning them out (the bikes, not the wives) looking for something besides the normal Harley fare.
So, using their engine experience, S&S built the X-Wedge as a plug-in, fully custom, high horsepower unit. It’s a 56 degree V-twin outputting 112hp.
Then the market crashed, and with it truly a glorious time for Tapout shirts, chrome wallet chains, and Prostreet choppers.
However, the motor lives on in a variety of applications, the Morgan 3 Wheeler being one of them because legend says the Harley units weren’t fitting the bill.
An American heart and British sketchiness makes a package that will have you leaving stop signs with one oddly-sized solitary tire mark. It’s all fun and games until you understeer into a hedge grinning your face off.
Chaotic Evil : The Dragon
And now for the other side of the equation. The Morgan was fun and yippy. The Dragon tried to kill me.
The Dragon is S&S’s Hoover Dam, Empire State Building, and Cowboys Stadium. A rolling showcase of excess, done because they can, and because the market demands it. A no-compromise Harley Road Glide that is an affront to what a sane motorcycle is supposed to be.
Inside it resides their T143 engine. 143 Cu. in, 2143 cc, a solid liter and then some over the car I drove up in. 160whp, 170rwtq. It’s the biggest motor for the biggest bikes in Harley’s lineup.
The only engine bigger is the one in the Triumph Rocket III.
For reference, that Road Glide Ultra we road in Portland put down on a healthy day 75 HP.
It is the devil. It is loud because it can be. It runs 9’s in the quarter. It has instantaneous power out of any corner, and with a redline so short, you’re never not working. You get pummeled by power more than you apply it to the road. It has upgraded brakes, suspension, and wheels, and they work really hard (and fail) to control it all. It is too much.
It wallops, it doesn’t spool like a sportbike. Power is just there. Always. That’s the difference.
Who would wrought such madness? These psychos in Wisconsin. The fresh air and endless access to good roads has them drunk with power. This is where the culture of looks on a Harley comes to die. They just want to go fast. Fuck the thought of looking good.
Why modify Harleys then? Same reason you would an old muscle car. You want the sound and the volume, just cranked until blood starts pouring out of your ears and the neighbors wonder about your mental health. You want to watch the world burn.
It’s in the power delivery as much as the output, instant, booming, and assaulting.
Good times up there. I’ll take the Morgan, and would party with anybody who buys a Dragon. Cause they’re rad.
Photos: Armando Lorenzana