Ten years. Almost 50,000 motorcycles on the road. Not bad for what started as a small subsidiary out of Minnesota.
When the first Victory V92C debuted at Planet Hollywood in Minnesota’s Mall of America in 1997, who would have thought that a small subsidiary of Polaris Industries would be a bona-fide contender in the American V-Twin cruiser market in 2008? But lo and behold, ten years and almost 50,000 motorcycles later and Victory continues to crank ‘em out, making a name for itself by not being satisfied with the status quo. Just as its Freedom Engine has evolved from square cylinders and a sump to rounded cylinders and a small oil cooler to the new 1731cc beast that debuted this year, so has continued the evolution of the small offshoot from Minnesota. Victory shook up the luxury-touring scene last year with the introduction of its distinctive Vision Tour and Street motorcycles, and continues to carve its niche with clean, contemporary cruisers and touring bikes.
So when the invitation arrived to check out the 15 new models in the 2009 Victory lineup in Del Mar, CA, who are we to say no? True, of those 15, only one was a brand new bike, the Kingpin Low. But the list includes a limited edition 10th Anniversary Victory Vision Tour model, two new bikes styled by custom gurus Arlen and Cory Ness, and three motorcycles sporting the new engine, the Freedom 106.
Seeing as how the Vegas and Kingpin lines received the new powerplant, lighter wheels, and new lights fore and aft, we penciled them in as the bikes we would most like to spend time on. Sure, the new Freedom 106 is claimed to put out 14% more horsepower with its Stage 2 Cams, but how does that feel at the throttle? Is it all marketing fluff, or does
Cory Ness lent his designing chops to this 2009 Vegas Jackpot, including signature Ness handgrips and mirrors, a special monochromatic custom paint scheme and wicked ‘Landshark’ wheels.
the new mill provide more pop? Inquiring minds want to know, so MotorcycleUSA set out to give Victory’s claims some seat-of-the pants testing.
Our first ride of the day is the 2009 Hammer. Big pipes, big tire, big engine. It only takes a quick glance to realize why it is considered a muscle cruiser. The rear end is anchored by a black swath of Dunlop rubber. The 250mm-wide Dunlop Elite 3 is showcased beneath a short, wide rear fender that’s cut high and away from the tire. The cylinders on the Freedom 106/6 V-Twin stand tall and look powerful within the bike’s A-frame. V-shaped handlebars invite you to climb on and give it a rev. A short, color-matched front fender cups a tall 18-inch front Stingray wheel with dual 300mm floating rotors waiting at the ready to put a stop to the action. Dual staggered slash-cut exhaust chrome-up the right side nicely.
Hopping on board, I give the clutch lever a firm squeeze and thumb the electric starter. The Hammer thrums to life as dual 45mm throttle bodies are electronically-fed into healthy 101mm cylinders. The dual exhaust barks with each twist of the throttle and sends familiar vibrations through my body. The pipes are loud but not overpowering, and the engine idles with nominal vibes.
I drop the 6-speed constant mesh transmission into first gear and give the Hammer a handful of throttle. Response is almost instantaneous and I have to give the grips a tight squeeze to counter the impressive lurch off the line. I rev first
It’s Hammer time! The 2009 Victory Hammer gets a boost in torque from the new Freedom 106 engine, with claimed output at 113 lb-ft.
gear out to almost 45mph until redline approaches. The transmission shifts smoothly as I kick it into second and wind it out until reaching almost 70mph. The pull is strong and even and tops out at a claimed 4000rpm, but not before dishing out its prodigious 113 lb-ft of torque.
The motorcycle feels right at home on the highways of Southern California. But once we leave the valley and start to climb the mountains in between the coast and Borrego Springs, the heft of the 250mm tire becomes apparent. The Hammer turns-in without much effort, but the inside handlebar requires constant pressure in the turns to maintain the bike’s arc. It does, after all, still carry a claimed 669 lbs of dry weight around, and the combination of mass in motion and a big tire mean that the motorcycle prefers being upright over leaning. Victory has actually trimmed the weight of the Hammer down by 11 lbs from the 2008 model. Most of this is achieved by virtue of its new Stingray wheels. Hollowed-out hubs and spokes help shave off 15.9 lbs, as a manageable 18-inch front teams with the 8.5-inch-wide meaty backside.
Traveling north on Hwy 79 towards Julian, the road begins to climb and curves become more frequent. The Hammer effortlessly powers up the grade. I throttle up between turns before confidently grabbing a handful of front brakes as the 4-piston caliper setup bites hard on dual 300mm discs. On a long straight, I mash the pedal to the rear. The 2-piston caliper, single 300mm disc on the rear locks up easier than expected and I leave a black rubber snake on the pavement from my fishtail. This scenario would again be played out on the freeway and confirmed that the confidence I have in the front brakes does not parlay to the rear.
The combination of forward-mounted foot controls, the pull-back of the V-shaped handlebars, and 26.5-inch seat height place riders in an aggressive riding position with weight tipped slightly forward. Sitting upright with a claimed 97 hp at your disposal, the bike fosters muscle car attitude. The new Freedom 106 is potent. The styling is hot, from the tribal graphics tattooed on its Sunset Red paint job to its broad scalloped tank to its butch fenders. And though the rear tire isn’t the sharpest handling, it’s almost worth the trade off for the muscular stance the 250mm rear adds to the overall package.
The 2009 Hammer S has a Shelby Cobra-style race stripe and X-Factor wheels to go along with its new mill.
And if I felt like a hooligan on the Hammer, the Hammer S only magnified my malevolence. Victory pulled the white racing stripes off a Shelby Cobra and ran them down the middle of the Hammer S’s Boardwalk blue tank, fenders, and headlight. It also has the best-looking wheels of Victory’s 2009 lot, the blue X-Factor wheels. The hub and spokes of the trick wheels have been cored out and extend from the hub in an X-pattern. The new spinners are claimed to be 16.8-lbs lighter than the ones on the ’08 Hammer, a difference Victory emphasized during its presentation by handing us a 16.8-lb dumbbell that took two hands to be passed around. But the extra coolness of the Hammer S doesn’t come without a price. The competition racing stripes and custom wheels means you can tack a grand onto the Hammer’s $17,499 MSRP for the super-sporty Hammer S.
Climbing off the Hammer S and onto the 2009 Kingpin Tour, the increased pull of Victory’s new powerplant is immediately apparent. The Kingpin Tour continues to utilize Victory’s standard 100 cubic-inch Freedom V-Twin, and though it has the same 45mm throttle bodies and EFI, its six millimeter-shorter stroke and lower 8.7:1 compression ratio can really be felt at the throttle. Don’t get me wrong, though. The Freedom 100 has been tuned so that the Kingpin Tour gets the most out of it, and delivery is linear and powerful. But the claimed 12 extra horsepower and the seven extra lb-ft of torque give the new mill more character down low.
And while there was noticeably less pull than with the new engine, the Kingpin Tour handles much smoother in the turns despite weighing even more than the Hammer, tipping the scales dry at 728 lbs. The 18-inch tall/130mm-wide arrangement on the front and the 18-inch/180mm set-up on the rear make turn-in much easier. The rider-friendly front suspension dips in nicely until the sound of scraping floorboards let you know that you’ve reached the tipping point.
The 2009 Kingpin Tour I rode came with a leather topcase and saddlebags, chrome engine crash guards, a windscreen and ample floorboards.
The conversion of the Kingpin to a touring package includes the addition of a stylish leather topcase and leather saddlebags, floorboards, fender trim, a windscreen and a touring passenger seat with backrest. The bags aren’t oversized, but still provide a claimed storage capacity of 22.2 gallons. The topcase will easily hold a full-face helmet. The motorcycle could benefit from a few more techno touring goodies, like a rider/passenger communication system and a nav system. But, after all, a little room’s got to be left for a trip to the ever-expanding Victory accessories catalog.
And while the Hammer brings the beef, the Kingpin defines itself with more classic lines, showcased by its sweeping flared fenders. The floorboards for both rider and passenger offer a more laid-back ride while a heel/toe shifter add more of a classic vibe. Throw in a two-tone paint job where the Pearl White scalloped recesses of the 4.5-gallon tank contrast the Midnight Cherry splashed on the top of the tank and you’ve got one sharp-looking touring-cruiser. The two-tone paint also directs a lot of attention toward the signature swooping fenders. The bike doesn’t have the full complement of luxury-touring goodies but it doesn’t have the heft and heavy-handling either, and stickers for a little less with a MSRP of $18,399.
My time spent on the Kingpin Tour ended with a lunch break in Borrego Springs. I hitched a leg over the 2009 Vegas Jackpot just in time to sample the funnest leg of the trip, a serious combination of elevation gains and switchbacks overlooking vertical cliffs. The Vegas Jackpot has also received the new Victory Freedom 106, and the extra power is welcome as the road gets more vertical.
Cresting the mountain and dropping down the other side, I notice the exhaust note booming off the monolithic rocks is richer and deeper. And despite running the same engine as the Hammer, the motorcycle feels even livelier at the
Victory aftermarket exhausts, like this set of Black Turn Down pipes, not only boost output but sound incredible as well.
throttle. At the next pull-out I learn that the bike has Victory’s Stage 1 performance exhausts which provide a claimed boost of about eight ponies and 6 lb-ft of torque. And though I didn’t have a dyno to test said claims, it was a noticeable difference between the two motorcycles with the same engine, akin to a Harley-Davidson CVO model decked out with a Screamin’Eagle performance package. You could feel the pipes when you ripped open the throttle. Of course, this translated to more vibrations through the handlebars, but if I was going to buy a Victory, I’d make sure it had a set of these pipes on it.
And despite the fact that the ’09 Vegas Jackpot is running with the same 250mm rear Dunlop Elite 3 as the Hammer, the Jackpot felt more stable while cornering. At 25.7-inches high, its seat height is almost an inch shorter and it weighs in 20-lbs lighter, all factors that contribute to its easier-handling nature. It runs the same 43mm telescopic front fork up front, but has a custom-style 21-inch tall front Stingray-style wheel that Victory has cropped a whopping 17.8 lbs off of in comparison to last year’s wheels. With the rider sitting more in the bike and the powerfull drivetrain spinning lighter wheels, the 2009 Vegas Jackpot has just the right blend of power and handling for hours of grin-inducing riding.
The Vegas Jackpot is in Victory’s class of custom cruisers, identifiable by its tip-to-tail raised spine that runs down both fenders and the center of the scalloped tank. The frame, swingarm, and fenders are all color-matched, and though professing to not being a fan of green, the Lucky Lime and extreme graphic combo in combo with the fatty rear and sharp Stingray wheels are custom-quality. Ownership will set you back $18,499, and if you’re going to throw down this kind of dough, take my advice and get the Stage 1 pipes. You’ll be happy you did.
The limited-edition 10th Anniversary Vision Touring motorcycles sold out in less than ten minutes. It looks striking with its Antares Red paint and Black Metallic trim.
Last, but far from least, I got an opportunity to spin the wheels on the 10th Anniversary Edition of the Victory Vision Tour. This is a limited-edition motorcycle that sold out of its 100 units in just over seven minutes. In this version, Victory pimped out its Victory Vision luxury-touring bike with anniversary badging, added chrome accents in just about every nook possible, and upgraded the list of techno goodies to include GPS, XM, and CB.
The 10th Anniversary Victory Vision is powered by its own version of the Freedom 106 engine that is tuned a little differently than the 106 in the Hammer models. The engine remains the same as last year’s, but the mufflers get a boost from a set of Gatlin exhaust tips. Every little bit helps when you’re launching an 850-lb motorcycle off the line. And while the Gatlin tips are a nice touch, the inclusion of reverse is probably the best thing about the new luxo-tourer. It is a feature that is optional in all 2009 Victory Visions but comes standard in the anniversary edition.
It was a pleasure to ride the Vision again. The bike handles much better than you’d expect from looking at the size of it. The engine is very soulful, and puts out 94.9 lb-ft of torque at 3100 rpm and 84.4 hp at 5300 rpm on our dyno in last year’s test. The powerband is broad, never dipping below 90 lb-ft until 4800 rpm. In stop-and-go situations, you become aware of the motorcycle’s bulk, but it holds its line impressively when leaned over at speed.
In its ten-year tenure, Victory Motorcycles has set its standards high. It stakes a claim to the highest customer satisfaction scores the last four years running. To keep those consumers coming back during uncertain economic times, Victory’s V-P, Mark Blackwell said that “Victory will ride out the current economic crisis by delivering quality, value, and making sure our customers are satisfied.” Testing the waters of the global market is also an avenue for potential profits. Retail sales for the Minnesota-based company in the UK are said to be up 90%, and Victory is looking into expanding into Germany. It also has a company-owned store in Melbourne that will soon be joined by dealers in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane. Victory has made a name for itself these first ten years by offering an alternative to the traditional American V-Twin. It will be fun to see how it continues to reinvent itself and compete in the decade to come.
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