2008 Victory/Lehman Pitboss Trike Review

The Three-Wheel World Gains Power


Trike riders are special. They occupy a curious market that’s tricky to define, riding an odd sort of machine that is neither fish nor fowl—not a motorcycle or a car but behaving a bit like both. That niche, however, is growing quickly as interest in the three-wheel world gains momentum.

Lehman’s Victory Kingpin-based Pitboss doesn’t mess around. It is a well-muscled, sleek machine that can attract riders in and out of the traditional trike domain. Finding that irregular market target has been Victory’s forte for the last few years.

The factory’s strategy has focused on vacant niches—be where the competition isn’t. In the ultra-competitive world of motorcycling, this is not a bad idea. The Minnesota OEM has built success on edgy factory customs that are aimed at customers not in other, long-established manufacturers’ crosshairs.

'The Victory trike was a sneaky left hook right to the kisser.'

Of course, there is some overlap, but Victory chief, Mark Blackwell, has done a nice job slipping and dodging the big body blows of larger OEMs, picking his spots and delivering crisp shots to their nether parts. It’s a tough business out there.

The Victory trike was a sneaky left hook right to the kisser. For a company building a reputation on highly styled power cruisers, the idea of adding a three-wheeler to the lineup seemed, well, weird. Trikes are stodgy; they’re for old guys in plaid pants and sensible shoes. But guess what? Old guys dominate motorcycling, especially in the cruiser and touring classes, and we don’t wear plaid except maybe on special occasions when we’re hustling pool at the senior citizen’s home.

Jerry Wohlrabe, a Victory dealer and owner of Prescott Valley, AZ-based Prescott Valley Motorcycles, said the Pitboss is doing a brisk business. “The trikes appeal mostly to the over-50 set. People who feel like their skills may have eroded a little, or have leg problems or just like a ride with a lot of stability. It’s been a cottage industry for quite some time but now they’re taking off and selling in significant numbers.”

I had never ridden a trike before and had no notion how it should handle and perform. But I came prepared, stuffed all the plaid I had in my bad bag of biker stuff, rode the anti-Christ of trikes, my Victory Vampire (a chopper the factory should build) to Wohlrabe’s dealership for my date with the Pitboss.

“Steers just like a quad,” said George, a showroom floor man. Never rode one of those either. “Huh,” said George. “Well, how about a car?”

I climbed aboard the trike thinking I’ll just drive it like my SUV. Piece of cake. After my first turn, I realized this was not cake; it was a whole other animal, neither fish, fowl, bike nor car. The early tendency is to under steer the Pitboss, taking turns wide. I had to fight the feeling that if I turned aggressively I was going to flip the rear end, but this is really a lot harder to do than it initially seems. “Steer the handlebar further to the left or right than you would on a bike,” advised Wohlrabe, “and keep your feet on the boards.” Yeah, only dorks in funny pants put their feet out when riding trikes, I scoffed to myself. 

The Lehman No Lean rigid swingarm suspension keeps the rear wheels firmly planted on the asphalt. The bike felt awkward and even clumsy at first, but after a few miles and a bunch of right-angle turns I started to get the swing of this thing—it wanted to be steered hard.

Using intent counter-steering, muscling the trike through tight turns took some effort and practice. Everyone will have a different learning curve, but in a relatively short time handling the Pitboss goes from work to fun. In fact, after a couple of hundred miles the three-wheel beastie and me were having a blast. Tight turns became second nature even if the trike could be helped by some power steering and a longer rake. The Pitboss’s turning radius is delightfully small, making quick U-turns one smooth, pleasant motion.

To create the Pitboss, Lehman removes the Kingpin’s rear end and installs a one-piece swingarm and automobile style rear axle differential designed to minimize sway and roll. The result is a stiff but solid ride. That, and just having another wheel on the road, and you feel like the rear end picks up every road imperfection, jostling the rider and front end on every crack, bump and pothole. This bump-activated front wheel shimmy is a little unnerving at first, but it is predictable and I adjusted to it quickly.

The Pitboss stays planted. It does not slip or slide around turns even during aggressive cornering. Not that it’s impossible to toss the trike, but that’s most likely to happen if you clip a curb at high speed. While sitting on the trike it feels like you’re on a motorcycle, which is kind of cool but easy to forget that you have this wide, car-like rear end trailing you. So novices must be mindful of the entire girth of the vehicle when maneuvering.

'No need to worry about balance, just keep your legs on the floorboards and enjoy the comfortable ride.'

Although the Pitboss weighs in at 969 lbs., up about 293 lbs. from a dry Kingpin, it is surprisingly easy to push around. It’s a matter of physics. When rolling around a two-wheeler, you have to hold up the bike while pushing it; with a trike you don’t have to worry about it falling over, so once you overcome the initial inertia, your work is done and the trike rolls easily.

And that is the main selling point. The trike requires only slight leg strength to move about, and is more planted on the road than a bike, which makes it safer, especially in bad weather. No need to worry about balance, just keep your legs on the floorboards and enjoy the comfortable ride. You can always tell a rookie triker because he still tends to put his big black boots down at stops, like me.

The Pitboss is powered by the Victory 100 cubic-inch (1634cc) Freedom V-Twin. The four-valve-per-cylinder powerplant is oil/air cooled and delivers plenty of punch. Power is transferred to the rear axle via an excellently geared six-speed transmission. A self-adjusting cam chain and hydraulic lifters keep things low maintenance. The ergonomics are spot on, with an easy reach to the handlebar, plush seat and floorboards that allow you to stretch your legs out. Kind of like riding around in a lounge chair.

The trike averaged about 35 mpg in a mix of town and highway riding, down from around 40 mpg of the Kingpin, still much better than my SUV. With the trike’s 4.5-gallon tank, this comes to a range of almost 160 miles before you need to make another donation to OPEC.

There is an unexpected coolness to the Pitboss. The swooping, boat-tail style rear end bodywork by the South Dakota-based Lehman is reminiscent of an art deco, 1930s Auburn 852 Speedster. That and the pearly Black Cherry paint make the Pitboss a head turner. Said Wohlrabe: “The Lehman is a real attention getter, and they’re accepted now. Some 40 years ago if you rode a trike you were a pansy; now they’re cool. And anything that goes on a Kingpin will go on the Pitboss, so you can customize it, too.”

The sexy boat-tail rear end also has a measure of practicality, housing a 3.6 cubic-foot trunk, which is opened electronically from a switch wired into the left side panel. The trunk is too narrow for a helmet but deep enough to stow leathers and rain gear, a sandwich or two, maybe a six-pack of grape juice.

Victory’s trike lineup may not stop at the Pitboss. Wohlrabe sees a Victory/Lehman Vision luxo-trike. “Lehman has a Vision and is exploring the possibility. It has the power and amenities that would work well for a trike. Stay tuned for further updates.

The Pitboss retails for $27,995 in Black, Silver or Black Cherry.

Special Thanks to Jerry Wohlrabe and his team at Prescott Valley Motorcycles for their help in making this article possible. Contact PVM at 2741 N. Starlight Dr. Prescott Valley AZ 86314; call 928-772-4266; email pvmotor@lycos.com; visit Prescott Valley Motorcycles.

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