Victory scores with its sporty, mid-size cruiser
Victory has been making excellent motorcycles since 1998. In 2004, I rode an Arlen and Corey Ness designed Kingpin out to Sturgis, South Dakota, and it was an outstanding motorcycle, turning lots of heads. Unfortunately, Victory's parent company, Polaris, recently announced it will stop making new Victorys. The corporate decision was to put all resources into its Indian brand, instead of splitting them between two brands that compete against each other, as well as Harley and the other cruiser manufacturers.
Past and future Victory owners need not fret, however. Polaris will continue to fully support the Victory brand and all warranty claims, and will continue to make replacement parts for at least the next 10 years. So the brand isn't going away, and the bikes will not become obsolete. So for those people looking to buy a new cruiser or touring bike, it will prove to be a great buying opportunity. Polaris is offering some major rebates, and Victory sales are brisk.
Last year Victory came out with its first mid-size sporty cruiser, the Octane. I rode out to Randy's Cycle in Marengo last fall to test the new bike, to see how it stacked up against the competition. The Octane was inspired by a Roland Sands designed motorcycle, Project 156, specifically built to take on Pikes Peak. Victory then turned that bike into a street version.
The Octane is powered by a 1,179-cubic-centimeter, liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin, with four valves per cylinder. Victory claims the Octane cranks out 104 horsepower at 8,000 rpm (most V-twin cruisers hit the redline at 5,500 or 6,000 rpm). The torque numbers are 76 foot-pounds at 6,000 rpm, and 65 foot-pounds comes on at a very low 2,500 revs, which means this lean, 528-pound motorcycle can take off like a scalded cat when you drop the clutch.
All of that impressive power comes on smoothly, with excellent fuel mapping and throttle response. Only when you reach the very upper rev range will the rider feel some unwanted vibrations. The dual right-side pipes also produce an excellent sound, especially under hard acceleration. The Octane certainly lives up to the company's tagline, Modern American Muscle.
The power is put to the pavement through a six-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch, and a belt final drive to quell any unwanted lash. All shifts are easy and precise.
The Octane features large, single, 298-millimeter brake rotors front and back, with a two-piston front brake caliper, and a single piston for the rear. Sadly, anti-lock braking (ABS) is not offered. But the lever and pedal have good feel.
The frame is made from lightweight cast aluminum, and it feels rock solid with the engine rigidly mounted to it, It has twin tubular-steel backbones and sculpted front spars that help conceal the radiator. Suspension geometry shows a 29-degree rake and 5.1 inches of trail. Wheelbase is 62.1 inches, which is similar to other power cruisers.
Up front you get a nonadjustable, 41-millimeter, damper-tube fork with 4.7 inches of travel. Out back there are preload-adjustable twin shocks, with dual-rate springs that produce a firm ride.
I'm fine with a firm ride, but with only 3 inches of travel, big bumps at speed will send unwanted jolts up the spine. That's the price you pay for a short, 25.9-inch seat height. But the ride is comfortable, much more so than the Harley-Davidson Sportster.
As a very short-legged rider, that low seat height lets anybody flatfoot the pavement. And with the center of mass low on the frame, and the excellent balance of the Octane, it is a very easy bike to push around in a garage or paddle around parking lots.
The Octane also earns praise for the way it handles corners. It feels light and sporty in side-to-side transitions, with enough cornering clearance for aggressive riding. It handles long sweepers better than most cruisers, and doesn't let you down as the turns get tighter, either.
The 18-inch front tire slows down steering a bit compared to other bikes with smaller hoops, but the bike always feels stable and tracks nicely through turns without need for mid-corner corrections.
The ergonomics are very comfortable, and any cruiser rider will feel at home. The pegs are placed forward somewhat, but there's not a big stretch to reach them comfortably. The bars bend upward and pull back to the rider. The mirrors give you good rearward vision and are never blurred by vibration. My test bike had an optional small windscreen which kept wind blasts off my torso nicely. That, coupled with optional soft saddlebags, can make this bike into a fun weekend-getaway machine quite nicely.
The solo seat is small with an upturn at the back, so it locks you in under hard acceleration, which is a good thing. But it leaves little room to move about and it's pretty firm. So either wait until it breaks in, or seek something from the aftermarket.
From a styling standpoint, the Octane, like the other Victory bikes, is refreshingly modern looking and visually appealing. Yes, it's a V-twin, but devoid of the usual faux cooling fins that other liquid-cooled V-twins still employ.
Victory definitely doesn't style its bikes to look like Harley's, and that's a good thing for folks who are tired of cruiser bikes from any manufacturer that are steeped in 1950s cues.
The Octane's starting price of $9,999 is very competitive with similar bikes from Japan and $1,000 less than a 1200 Harley Sportster, the bike it will be most often shopped against. Overall, I much prefer the Octane. It feels quicker, handles better and has a more comfortable suspension. I advise anyone looking for a power cruiser in this price range to test ride both and make your own evaluation.
I'd like to give my thanks to Randy Weaver at Randy's Cycle in Marengo for supplying me with this test bike. Randy has been a Victory dealer almost from the beginning, and is always anxious to offer customers test rides of the full product line so they can make informed buying decisions. And it's a great ride out to his dealership, too.
• Contact Glassman at KGHawkeye650@aol.com.