Although the Victory Hammer has been around for well over a half decade, this American-made muscle cruiser still holds the torch for the Minnesota Manufacturer in the performance category. For 2011 Victory
revised and updated their entire line-up, dropping their Freedom 106/6 V-Twin into every frame that comes down the assembly line. There are two stages of tune for the new mill, and the Hammer has received the Stage 2 treatment as the hot-rod in Victory’s stable of cruisers. Refinements have also been made to the driveline and transmission for a smoother ride. Will these changes vault the Hammer to the top of the heap using the blunt force instrument for which it was named?
Victory’s Air-cooled 50-degree V-Twin comes to life with a healthy boom and settles in to a throaty idle letting you know that this cruiser is not meant to pussy-foot around the neighborhood. The Hammer dares you to use and abuse, and we obliged. Right out of the gate we hit the highway and set to comparing top gear roll on power. Twisting the right grip at 65mph produced some surprising results, and not in the good sense. Every machine we pitted the dark blue bike against walked away from it in short order. Although the engine feels healthy in its own right and will spank most standard cruisers, it just doesn’t have the stones that the other machines in this test possess.
Comments on the power from our band of brothers for this mission varied from disappointment to harsh criticism. “Wow this bike’s engine was very disappointing,” exclaimed Bobby Ali after his stint on the Hammer. “The power was the least of all the bikes; it felt like very old technology. It was definitely not a performance cruiser!”
The Victory Hammer pumped out the second highest torque numbers in this shootout, but also had the lowest horsepower.
Our performance data mirrored Ali’s evaluation, with the Victory posting the slowest quarter-mile and 0-60mph times in the test with 13.76s and 4.62s respectively. Although the Hammer posted the second-highest torque number in the test with 104.07 ft-lb, it’s back of the pack horsepower number of 84.99 left it eating dust every time we got a little froggy and decided to jump.
Sound testing put the Hammer in the middle of the pack with 98 decibels at idle. At half throttle the db’s rose to 107 on our trusty meter. The character and tone of the exhaust note was spot on for a performance cruiser, aggressive but not raspy.
Rowing through the gearbox brought the Hammer’s second downfall in this shootout to light. Even with the revisions to the transmission, such as stiffened shift forks and revised tooth geometry, testers ranked the Victory at the bottom of the heap in the drivetrain category. Shifting may have been improved from previous models, but the action is still rough at best. Several of our testers struggled with false-neutrals if they we not firm on the shift from first to second. Other testers just couldn’t get past the clunk when popping into first at a stop.
The front and rear suspension on the Hammer let it down in the turns. It's lack of cornering prowess really hurt it on the subjective scores. It has a great riding position & good brakes.
“Tread lightly came to mind as I changed gears,” says our favorite wild man Brian Steeves. “But if money is no object and you want that big traffic light engaging clunk that turns that cute brunette's head in the car next to you, this is your ride.”
Steeves’ comment about money being no object highlighted the Hammer’s exorbitant price tag in comparison to the rest of the cruisers. A full $2500 more than the next expensive bike, the MSRP of $17,799 is a little tough to swallow for what you get in return in terms of performance. And being the Performance Cruiser Smack down, this is a major sticking point.
Highway cruising and rough roads were the strong suits for the Hammer. As the day wore on and it was time to pound the concrete slab known as the I-5 North back to the office, the crew was ready to rumble over who got the keys to the Victory . The non-adjustable upside-down fork and pre-load adjustable rear shock eats up the bumps and potholes with aplomb thanks to its soft spring rates. On the other hand, in the twisties the soft springs create a massively unbalanced huck-a-buck feel if the surface isn’t billiard table smooth. Without any tuning options in terms of compression and rebound, the Victory was the one of the last to be chosen for duty in the curves.
The cockpit of the Victory was well sorted and ranked high in the rider interface category. A comfortable reach to the bars along with nicely shaped grips and levers make doing work in the Hammer's office one of its saving graces. Thanks to excellent placement of the pegs and foot controls the seating position is also easy on the back and posterior, which can’t be said for some of the other bikes. After a long day in the saddle you won’t hate the Hammer in terms of comfort.
Facing some stiff competition, the '11 Victory Hammer didn't quite hit us over the head with its power or handling, but it looks cool.
On the brakes the Hammer performs admirably when squeezing the dual 300mm rotors. Some riders felt the brakes lacked feedback and began to fade blasting down the hills below Palomar Mountain. I myself didn’t give the front brakes much confidence, but the rear unit was plenty strong and helped pull the bike down to speed with authority. My thoughts were confirmed in the braking test were the Victory posted the second best number with a stopping distance of 122.39 feet from 60mph.
In the looks department the Victory has handsome yet conventional looks. The dark blue paint was top quality and the shiny bits were nicely chromed and polished. The bobbed fenders and slash cut pipes hint at the bike’s intentions, but it’s not as aggressive or flashy as others in the test. In the end, the middle of the road styling also put it in the middle on the score sheet.
After the votes were tallied and the numbers were crunched the Victory Hammer just couldn’t measure up to the rest of the pack in this battle of brawn. Although a comfortable and decently good looking bike, the engine power and notchy transmission dug a hole too deep to climb out of, leaving it in last place in our 2011 Performance Cruiser Smackdown. The Hammer is a good looking motorcycle, and even at the back of the pack, the Hammer would still wax most cruisers on the street that would dare to challenge it.