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2013 Victory Hard-Ball First Ride

Monday, July 22, 2013

“Thanks, it is a good looking bike, isn’t it? No, I didn’t build it. Yeah, it’s totally stock. It’s a Victory Hard-Ball.” I felt like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day” and was suffering from an acute case of deja vu. At every stoplight, every gas station and every parking lot at the 2013 Laughlin River Run I repeated the same script concerning the 2013 Victory Hard-Ball that I had for my dedicated ride during the weekend. I know it is a great looking machine, but I had no idea the attention it would garner over four days in the desert.

The Hard-Ball is the bad-boy of Victory’s cruiser line, replete with a menacing blackout treatment, ape-hanger bars and wire-spoke wheels. Around town the stance of the Hard-Ball commands respect and looks from just about anyone it rolls past. It’s a mean looking bagger but underneath that tough exterior is basically a Victory Cross Country. Sharing the same platform means civilized road manners, even with the grips at shoulder height and no windshield to knock down the wind at speed. Unlock the top-opening sidebags, which are the same used on the Cross County model as well, and you’ll discover copious storage space that is easy to use.

The reach to the bars is easy for my 5’10” frame, except on tight turns in parking lots with my feet on the floorboards. Shorter riders will have to do a little foot down peddling when negotiating tight quarters at full-lock. The low 26.3-inch seat height will allow most to get both feet flat on the ground. And, wow, is that seat good! After four days in the saddle I would say it is one of the best cruiser perches ever.

On the road, however, the cockpit feels more natural than it looks. The handling is light and neutral thanks to a very low center of gravity. The Hard-Ball rolls into corners with just a dip of the sky-high bars and completes an arc without much pressure from the legs or arms; it is wonderfully balanced.

Ride quality from the mean looking Victory is downright sweet. The air-adjustable rear shock soaks less than perfect bits of asphalt with a cushiness you wouldn’t expect from the Hard-Ball. Out front, the inverted cartridge fork is not quite as smooth
Victorys Freedom 106 V-Twin powers the 2013 Hard-Ball.
2013 Victory Hard-Ball Dyno Chart
The torque spread from the Victory Hard-Ball's Freedom 106 V-Twin is broad and flat.
as the rear, but it handles most pavement irregularities with control. Every so often a bridge seam or other square-edged bump will have a harsh feel from the fork, but 99% of the time it is well behaved.

One feature of the Hard-Ball that matches its bad-ass look is Victory’s Freedom 106 engine. Although the tone of the motor is mellow coming from the long flat black dual mufflers, one twist of the wrist and the HB rockets forward with authority. The power comes on low, and the meat of the torque carries through the mid-range before tapering off as the rev limit approaches. Making a pass on the highways is easy as rolling the right grip, no downshifting needed.

Victory transmissions and I have always has a bit of a love/hate relationship, and I’ve often been less than impressed with the shifting prowess in past models. The Hard-Ball, however, has me more pleased than before. Shifts are clunky from the 6-speed, but solid. Not once did I experience a false neutral or missed shift. I guess you could classify the feel as classicly American.

ABS is standard on the Hard-Ball, and it works well. The long chassis helps keep things stable while braking hard, but the ABS does slow things down with control when grabbing a handful on lever and stomping on the pedal. And that is what it takes to get the system to activate, which I think is a good thing. Overly intrusive ABS systems will turn my smile upside-down quicker than just about anything, but I was pleased with the Victory’s anti-lock. My only gripe is that the dual 300mm discs and four-piston calipers are a bit wooden and lack the outright power that should be on tap for any 800-pound cruiser.

The 2013 Victory Hard-Ball is my new favorite offering from the Minnesota manufacturer. The ride is comfortable for a blast down to the local hangout or to Sturgis and back, and the Freedom 106 V-Twin is too much damn fun. Even without a windshield this would be my pick of the Victory litter every time, no matter the situation. Not only for its fine road-going qualities, but also because it looks so bad-ass.
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2013 Victory Hard-Ball Specs
The 2013 Victory Hard-Ball has a mean look with ape-hanger bars  matte black paint and wire-spoke wheels.
Engine – 106 Ci (1731cc) 50-degree V-Twin
Cooling – Air/oil
Bore/Stroke – 101 x 108mm
Compression Ratio – 9.4:1
Valve Train – Single overhead camshafts with 4 valves per cylinder, self-adjusting cam chains, hydraulic lifters.
Fueling – EFT with dual 45mm throttle body
Fuel Capacity – 5.8 gal.
Exhaust – Split dual exhaust w/ crossover
Clutch - Wet, multi-plate
Transmission – 6-speed overdrive constant mesh
Final Drive – Carbon fiber-reinforced belt
Wheelbase – 65.7 in.
Seat Height – 26.3 in.
Ground Clearance – 5.8 in.
Rake/Trail – 29-degrees/5.6 in.
Dry Weight (claimed) – 758 lbs.
Front Suspension – 43mm inverted cartridge telescopic fork; 5.1 in. travel
Rear Suspension - Air adjustable single shock; 4.7 in. travel
Brakes – Front – Dual 300mm floating rotor with 4-piston calipers
Rear – 300mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper
Wheels – Front – 18 x 3.5 in. 
                   Rear – 16 x 5 in.
Tires – Front – 130/70B18 Dunlop 491 Elite II
Rear – 180/60R16 Dunlop Elite 3

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OldHDRider   August 24, 2013 11:06 AM
spokes Said: "Thanks, it is a good looking bike, isn’t it? No, I didn’t build it. Yeah, it’s totally stock. It’s a Victory Hard-Ball.” "ape-hanger bars" "Shifts are clunky from the 6-speed but solid... I guess you could classify the feel as classicly American." "the dual 300mm discs and four-piston calipers are a bit wooden and lack the outright power that should be on tap for any 800-lb cruiser." I'm glad I don't get it! As a life long HD owner with 30 years of riding experience I can say that there's probably a lot you don't get. I made the switch to Victory 3 years ago and haven't looked back once. Victory is everything HD wishes they could be but never will be. It's a far superior riding and handling machine for those of us who like to rack up the miles in comfort and style. My cost of ownership on my Victory is far lower than any Harley I've owned and most of my HD riding buddies are starting to see the light as 4 of them recently made the switch. Victory is an American made motorcycle. More parts come from America than any other bike in the world and it's truly a great product. You're right you don't get it and the joke is on you. Keep the rubber side down! As they say ignorance is bliss. Enjoy!
spyglass   August 4, 2013 03:18 PM
Wonder how the owner/rider of this thing will explain to the SD Hiway Patrol or Sturgis Police that it came with the (silly) handlebars that put their hands above their shoulders, should the individual in question be, say 5'9" or less. State law sez no bars higher than shoulders, or a citation may be issued. Somebody over there in Minnesota was asleep at the wheel......
nathan   July 25, 2013 10:39 AM
Not sure about the leaking Harley thing, I have never had a drop out of mine nor have any of my friends and we rack up the miles. And they don't break down either like someone else said. You guys need to come up with some new stereotypes....They aren't AMF's anymore. If you want to knock them you could easily say that they are underpowered ( except CVO's ) the suspension isn't great, nor are the brakes and the cranks need to be beefed up if you want to get real power out of the engine Victory's are decent bikes, I've test ridden a few of them and even considered a Vegas before buying a Harley, but they have lots of cheap plastic components that diminish the feel of the bike and in the end they lose a ton of value on the second hand market, unlike a Harley which will hold value for decades. At this point I'd be more likely to buy a Yamaha cruiser than the Victory's. All that being said, I stand by my earlier statement about the brain dead HD fanboys.
Midnightrider9409   July 24, 2013 06:06 PM
I have a 2013 victory hardball and absolutely love it! It doesn't rattle and shake like Harley's do, the motor is bad ass stock, doesn't drag floorboards no matter how hard I try, seat is very comfortable. It comes with plenty of storage, multi display speedo / tach, ABS, cruise control. It steers itself. It requires very little input from me. Oh yeah, it doesn't leak like my past 2 Harley's. The biggest plus for me? I don't have to drop another 2 k for seats, floorboard modifications, highway pegs and handlebars to make the bike " fit" me. I love the ape hangers. Let's face it, this bike isn't for everybody, but for me, that's the whole point!! Why follow the herd? Give me an alternative choice and I'm in. Another big plus is that it's priced way lower than any Harley that has the same dated look since the 80's. Hmmm..... Better bike for less $$$?? It's a no brainer.
CS23   July 24, 2013 07:01 AM
I love the arrogance of some Harley riders, Kropotkin you're so ridiculous, I'm a sportbike rider who has ridden a variety of cruisers and in my experiences Harley's are pieces of sh*t! They're slower than the victory, rattle too much and on top of all of that they are the only bike I see broken down on the side of the road
DocNick   July 23, 2013 09:32 PM
Bars are stooopid. The rest of the bike looks great.
nathan   July 23, 2013 07:01 PM
@Kropotkin... Cross Country is a "take-off" on Crossbones? The Crossbones is a striped down springer and the Cross Country is a touring bike. And how do you get softail out of 8-ball? Talk about a stretch. It's tools like you that give all of the sane Harley riders like myself a bad name. Why do Harley fanboys have to be so pathetic?
ib4est   July 23, 2013 12:54 PM
@Kropotkin - You just asked for a Cross Roads. BTW, the Road King has been around for 19 years. I wouldn't be complaining about "dated" looks if you're happy with that bike (which I like as well). Victory appeals to a different rider which I would consider "non-traditional". I almost bought the Road Glide Custom but I'm not into the Harley scene/lifestyle but I really liked the bike. I test rode a Cross Country and found that I didn't have to spend $3,000 getting it to perform and be as comfortable as the Victory was from the factory.
Poncho167   July 23, 2013 12:39 PM
Kropotkin, the bike is supposed to look dated. It is the American antique look like everyone else is doing.
Poncho167   July 23, 2013 12:36 PM
Those handlebars should be optional. To make them standard is insane. That would be the first thing to go.
Kropotkin   July 23, 2013 07:43 AM
It leaves me cold. I don't like the looks at all. It tries way too hard. It's angular and grating. It looks dated. I don't like the nomenclature at all. "Hard Ball." Is that supposed to be a take off on Softail? Like "Cross Country" was on Crossbones? Can'tthey come up with anything original? I don't like 8-Balls, Jackpots, Kingpins or any other name Victory has come up with. When they first came up with "Vegas" I thought they were going for Spanish city names and the next ones would be the "Francisco" ord the "Angeles." That would have been good. But I was wrong. THey were going for crime syndicate gambling kingpins and 8-Balls. I dont want to be a kingpin or an 8-ball. Victory has totally screwed up. They went with the Nessie styling, which looked dated the second year out. They should have gone for a valenced fender and classic look if that was what they wanted instead of now trying to resurrect Indian, which few are going to buy, because no one riding today remembers riding an Indian. Gosh, I love my Road King.
spokes   July 23, 2013 06:31 AM
"Thanks, it is a good looking bike, isn’t it? No, I didn’t build it. Yeah, it’s totally stock. It’s a Victory Hard-Ball.”

"ape-hanger bars"

"Shifts are clunky from the 6-speed but solid... I guess you could classify the feel as classicly American."

"the dual 300mm discs and four-piston calipers are a bit wooden and lack the outright power that should be on tap for any 800-lb cruiser."

I'm glad I don't get it!

WilCon   July 23, 2013 03:28 AM
victory's stock brake pads are terrible. Throw some EBC HH pads on the front and never complain again.