2011 Victory Vision 8-Ball First Ride

October 25, 2010
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

Victory Motorcycles broke the staid classic cruiser mold when it introduced its Vision Street and Tour models in 2008. American V-Twin manufacturers weren’t known for taking risks or forging full-steam ahead with a man the torpedoes and damn the consequences attitude. But Victory isn’t afraid to take risks.

The 2011 Victory Vision 8-Ball comes in a sharp-looking black finish to go along with a blacked-out 106 cubic-inch Freedom V-Twin.
The 2011 Victory Vision 8-Ball comes in a sharp-looking black finish to go along with its blacked-out 106 cubic-inch Freedom V-Twin.

Vision is an appropriate name for it because it is a vision to behold. The angular front fairing spreads like the wings of a Stealth bomber and converges at the large prism of a headlight. Below it, the fairing lowers draw a sharp line down its front while shielding rider’s legs from wind and debris. Viewed from the side, the bodywork tapers down and back before meeting at the V-shaped taillights. The tank and side panels follow the same smooth, rounded contours of the saddlebags like two waves in an oncoming set.

Below the gloss of the panels is a three-piece cast aluminum frame with a tall 50-degree V-Twin pulling double duties as a downtube in its role as a stressed member of the frame. A large void between the bottom of the front fairing and fender vacuums up air and forces it through the casting that serves as the backbone as the 11-liter airbox cools both engine and oil. Blacked-out bars seem to come from nowhere. Love it or leave it, people can’t take their eyes off it. The Vision never fails to be a conversation starter.

It’s easy to see how the 2011 Victory Vision gets its 8-Ball designation. A black finish covers all fairings, fenders and bodywork. No diamond-cut fins here as the 106 cubic-inch Freedom V-Twin is also blacked-out. The treatment extends to its Roulette wheels, 18 inches up front and 16 out back, which are wrapped in a dark swath of Dunlop Elite 3 rubber and are complemented by black brake calipers and rotor mounts. Floorboards, handlebars, passenger grab bars – ditto, black. Only a few select covers and long chrome pipes prevent it from being able to disappear into the dark of night.

The Victory Vision stands out in a crowd thanks to its distinctive bodywork.
The Victory Vision 8-Ball stands out in a crowd thanks to its distinctive bodywork.

At first glance, the 2011 Vision 8-Ball looks identical to previous iterations. But upon closer inspection, slight revisions divulge themselves. The heel-toe shifter has been replaced by a standard floorboard shifter. The old passenger floorboards have been swapped out for foot pegs. The side crash guards formerly mounted below the saddlebags are gone. The model we tested had no audio system so the cheap, plastic-looking switch housings that were suspended below the bars on prior models are adios as well. Last of all, the sidestand now has more of a hook design and is easier to deploy.

Throwing a leg over the saddle and kicking that new sidestand up, one of the first things a rider will be cognizant of is the 24.5-inch low seat height. The motorcycle looks big and does carry a lot of mass, a claimed 800 pounds of dry weight in fact, so dropping the seat low allows riders to firmly plant both feet on the ground at a stop. It also drops the center of gravity as you sit comfortably in the bike behind the wide front fairing with a relaxed reach to the bars, a fact that contributes to its neutral handling characteristics as well.

Our 10 day, three state tour on the 2011 Victory Vision 8-Ball began in the high desert around Grand Junction, Colorado. A romp through the sweeping turns of red-rocked canyons provides an excellent testing ground for the merits of the Vision 8-Ball’s chassis. The motorcycle, with its 4.8-inches of ground clearance, is capable of generous amounts of lean before scraping a floorboard. Tilted over, the Vision is rock-steady through the turns, a testament to the proper balance of low seat height, a generous 65.7-inch wheelbase and a capable 180mm rear tire. It is surprisingly agile for a bike you’d assume would be unwieldy based solely on aesthetics. But riders can confidently attack tight turns on the Vision 8-Ball without fear of repercussions because its handling for a cruiser is definitely one of the motorcycle’s strong points.

Its Freedom 106/6 Stage 2 V-Twin also leaves a favorable impression. Victory sources its 1731cc powerplant across the board now, with a Stage 1 V-Twin equipped with lumpier cams mounted in Victory cruisers while the Stage 2 propels its touring-minded models. The undersquare mill is good for a claimed 92 horsepower and 109 lb-ft of torque. The tried-and-true Victory arrangement utilizes single overhead camshafts with self-adjusting cam chains and hydraulic lifters. At idle, the four-stroke V-Twin vibrates with a hearty lumping character. Twist the throttle and open up the dual 45mm throttle bodies and the engine has a wide spread of power, capably pulling from as low as 1500 rpm. Hitting the open straights of I-70 across Colorado, the Vision 8-Ball cruises along at 85 mph with the tach sitting steady at 3200 rpm. Crossing the Vail Pass with an altitude of 10,600 feet, opening up the throttle to climb the challenging grade is necessary and the altitude leans it out a tad but the electronic fuel injection system never bogs. On the contrary, cars and trucks are left in my wake as they struggle with the angle of ascension. The most notable demerit we find with the mill is the calf-roasting heat it emits, despite the voluminous airbox and the combination air/oil cooler.

Though touted as a cruiser motorcycle  we found the Victory Vision 8-Ball to be a very capable touring mount as well. We got to sample what the Vision 8-Balls got in top gear at mid- to high rpm across the wide open plains of Wyoming.
Though touted as a cruiser motorcycle, we found the 2011 Victory Vision 8-Ball to be a very capable touring mount as well as we made our way across Colorado and Wyoming on our way to Sturgis for the 70th anniversary Black Hills Rally.

Besides equipping all of its motorcycles with the Freedom 106 engine, the other major development in the Victory camp for 2011 is its revamped tranny. Victory has instituted a “hi-lo dog/pocket” design, aimed at offering smoother engagement and decreasing driveline lash. They’ve also redesigned the shift forks for better durability, the bearings are larger and gear-sets are wider in 4th and 6th gears. Helical gears in all but 5th and new gear tooth counts have been instituted to reduce whine and make for a quieter ride. And in some areas, they have been successful. Less mechanical noise, especially in lower gears, is noticeable. Engagement is solid and smoother than before, albeit still less refined than some of the Japanese competitors, and we did experience a couple of false neutrals between first and second gear. The new tranny also features a centrifugal Neutral Selection Assist, a handy feature at stoplights, but popping it into first from neutral at times requires more than one kick.

Fortunately, there is no kick in the pants from the Vision 8-Ball’s suspension. Ride quality is smooth thanks to a 46mm telescopic fork with a healthy 5.1-inches of travel. A single spring with constant-rate linkage on the rear with 3.65-inches of give is easy to dial in for rider weight and load thanks to a pump-adjustable Schrader air valve located in the left


Old meets new as the futuristic styling of the 2011 Vision 8-Ball contrasts with the aging brick building of this art deco theater.

saddlebag. The plush suspension, along with one of the most comfortable factory saddles around and a buffer against wind blast provided by the low windshield and wide front fairing leave me feeling refreshed even after a 450-mile ride. I never feel like I’ve been wrestling with an 800-plus pound bike all day. Ergos are spot-on for my six-foot frame and the saddle offers good support for the lower back. Ample-sized floorboards allow riders to easily shift their weight or stretch their legs out on long runs.

The 2011 Vision 8-Ball sources proprietary Victory brakes. Dual discs up front with 300mm floating rotors and three-piston calipers are assisted by a single 300mm floating rotor with a twin-pot arrangement on the back. The rear is hydraulically linked to the front brakes and work in two ways. Light braking with the rear pedal engages only the rear brake, but when the foot control is pumped hard in moderate to full-braking situations, the rear gets an assist by the front. The hand lever has moderate feel and a progressive bite, adequate in most situations. Together, the system reliably brings the action to a halt in a controlled manner.

The Victory Vision 8-Ball’s cockpit features an easy-to-read analog speedo and tach sitting just below a rider’s line of

2011 Victory Vision 8-Ball Gear Bag

sight. All the necessary readouts are present – odometer, trip meters, clock, and fuel gauge. Blue backlights highlight the gauges well and make them easily visible at night. The mirrors are large, provide a great field of view and integrate cleanly into the front fairing. Though it’s not a full-on touring bike, a healthy six-gallon tank and saddlebags give riders the option to hit the open road if they so desire. Stops between fill-ups are infrequent as we generally topped off at around a quarter of a tank and it only required four stops to travel 1000 miles while we arrived at our final destination, Sturgis, with about half a tank. The saddlebags, though they look big, are narrow and offer limited storage capacity. But the Vision 8-Ball is marketed as a cruiser, not a luxury touring motorcycle.

Styling is subjective, but in our eyes the 8-Ball treatment on the Vision is the most complementary to date. Its glossy black look suits its 21st century styling well. Throw in a thumping engine tuned for plenty of low-down torque with surprisingly rider-friendly handling in a cruiser with excellent range and an ultra-comfy saddle and its $17,999 MSRP is a little easier to swallow.

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