As I told you in my coverage of the Virginia Beach Bike Classic and Myrtle Beach last year, I blasted down the East Coast to both events on this Ford V-8-powered beastie. I had so much fun on this bike, especially on the highway, that I racked up about 1,600 miles before I returned it. And the attention it got was astounding, but then it’s not every day you see someone blowing past you on the interstate with eight cylinders of Go Juice humming away. The way I was surrounded by guys in cars and pickups, you would have thought I was handing out free NASCAR hats! Forget about making a gas stop; there were cellphone cameras all over. Guys were leaving their wives to pump the gas while they talked with me about the massive, but sleek, machine before them. (I’m such a showoff!)
Okay, enough of that. Let me tell you a bit about this Sabertooth WildCat ($40,110). This bike sounds as bada$$ as it looks! The carburetor-equipped, 350″ Motorsports engine runs smooth as silk, with just the right amount of lumpy idle. (Due to EPA regs, all bikes will now have EFI.) Power output is great, and the sound from those short dual headers is outstanding. When in second gear (you only have two), it’s easy to keep things mellow but rumbling. That is, until you crank open the throttle. Cruising speeds are 2500 rpm at 70 mph and 3000 rpm at 85 per. First gear goes up to 90 mph. (I know because I hit that before I got out of a toll plaza!) Second, I’m told, goes up to 170, but I didn’t go that fast, though I got pretty close a number of times. As you would expect, a flick of the wrist sends you rocketing; to blast from 70 to over 100 takes only a couple of seconds or so.
In the handling department, it took me about 100 miles to become comfortable throwing the Sabertooth around a parking lot and into turns, which you must drop into for a good turning radius, as it is with any other long bike, be it chopper or V-8 monster. The Sabertooth is well-balanced for such a heavy bike (1,050 pounds). Hands-off operation on the highway required just a slight lean to the left, which is pretty standard for a machine with a 300 rear tire.
What about that two-speed tranny? Shifting was good and clean. To upshift, pull in the clutch, shift into neutral, then shift into second. But do not let out the clutch as you transition from first to neutral and then second (no speed shifts). I found that upshifting at about 35-40 mph gave me the smoothest transition. Of course, you can do it at a higher speed, but you have to wait a tad longer before getting into second. To downshift into first, you must be going 20 mph or less. As for the manual, cable-actuated clutch, which is one feature I really liked about the Sabertooth, it has about the same pull and feel as a V-twin performance clutch. On my bike, there was no reverse, so I had to be careful of where I nosed in, since a downgrade would have been impossible to get out of without mucho assistance.
As you can see, the chassis is remarkably sleek for such a big bike. When stopped behind me, many people didn’t know the Sabertooth was fitted with a V-8. The bike is basically as wide as the frame that’s around the 300mm rear tire. Even the engine is about the same width. However, when I’d make a turn, I could see jaws drop as people realized what was powering the bike that had been sitting in front of them.
The bike’s air suspension system worked well once I got used to it. Since I’m a short stack, I would drop it down when around town, so I could get a flat foot on the ground when stopped. Once I was on a stretch of road devoid of stop signs and lights, I’d just switch on the air compressor and count to 25 slowly. This put the suspension fully up, which gave me decent ground clearance for turns, sweepers, and going into gas stations. And since we’re on the subject of gas stations, the Sabertooth has an appetite like its namesake. You get 20 miles per gallon if you don’t play with the throttle, and that tank holds exactly 6 gallons (new bikes now have 8). You hit reserve after 100 miles/5 gallons. There’s no slack to be had here. Once you hit reserve, find gas within 20 miles, or you’re on the side of the road. And the Sabertooth is no picnic to push!
As good as my time on the Sabertooth was, the bike did have one flaw and a few minor glitches, which I chalk up to teething issues. The flaw only rears its ugly head when you crank open the throttle at a slow speed. Under hard but only half-throttle acceleration, the belt skips on the rear pulley. Personally, I’d prefer a 630 chain or two back there, but then again, I like to play. The crew at Sabertooth told me they went with the belt since that’s what most riders are comfortable with nowadays. Their fix was to go to a larger front pulley, which Sabertooth says has fixed the belt problem. That is, except for the WildCat X model, which doesn’t need it since it has a 360 rear tire and drive chain.
On my test bike, which was an early version, if you dropped the suspension all the way down, the top of the rear fender hit the seat support tube. The bumpers for the rear swingarm were not positioned properly, since they should protect chassis and rear fender should the air system ever fail. However, this glitch was corrected on my test bike and all newer machines so equipped.
Once I got stuck in stopped traffic on the highway for a long time. Before I shut the bike down, I noticed that at idle, the battery charging rate is too low, and the battery is at a slight discharge. If you find yourself stopped in traffic for an extended period of time, keep an eye on the voltage meter. In normal stop-and-go traffic this is not an issue, since as soon as you’re at any rpm above idle the charging rate is fine. I’ve been told all new bikes have a larger alternator pulley, so discharging at idle is no longer an issue.
When under power, there is a slight squeal from the rear wheel area at very slow speeds, which I think is just brake dust on the belt and pulley. The bike also has what I call good mechanical noise: tranny whine, etc. I don’t like my machines to be too sanitized, especially a bada$$ one. The sound of machinery at work is a good thing.
Since I’ve a pair of short sticks to walk on (29″ inseam), I would burn a leg once in awhile on the rear of the rocker covers (both sides), but this would only happen when I didn’t pay attention and let my knees pull in toward the engine. Guys with longer legs shouldn’t be concerned with this.
Another every-once-in-awhile glitch involved the starter system, but it has nothing to do with the actual electric motor. The wire that goes to the starter solenoid is located right by your right foot, so it’s easy to knock it loose from its clip. Once I figured out the problem, if the starter just clicked when I pushed the button, I slipped the wire back on and I was good to go. So you don’t have to mess with this, this connector has been changed to one that doesn’t pop off.
One look at that seat tells you it’s not for touring! In fact, it becomes a slab of wood after a few hundred miles. Of course, only an idiot goes touring on a V-8. However, since I may not be the only idiot out there, the seat has been given the gel insert treatment. That’s cool with me, since I’d like to try out Sabertooth’s new Pro-Street model, the StreetCat, on a trip later this year.
In closing I should thank the guy who let me put so many miles on his bike: Brian Montgomery of Tennessee! Brian, as I told you, I almost didn’t return your bike, since it was so much fun to ride, but being the upright guy I am, I just could not keep it any longer. Of course, the fact that you were going to send up a few good ol’ boys to help me see the error of my ways had nothing to do with it. AIM
1oo Hurricane Creek Dr.
Piedmont, SC 29673