It’s game on for bike turf
Victory tries to match Harley, writesMARKHINCHLIFFE
HARLEY is under pressure from other manufacturers looking to muscle into the cruiser sector, one of the few remaining segments of the market that is performing well.
Eleven-year-old American bike company Victory entered the Australian market in January with a fivemodel range.
The Victory range includes two V-twin engine sizes (1634cc and 1730cc) and five models, ranging from $22,595 to $39,995.
I recently rode the Hammer S, which is a stripped-down muscle cruiser and one of the top sellers.
It’s an air-cooled competitor to Harley’s water-cooled V-Rod, and the comparisons are unavoidable.
They both look menacing with minimalist styling, a low-slung silhouette and fat rear tyres (250mm compared with V-Rod’s 240mm).
But it’s in the engine where these two bikes will be compared and even in their looks there is a difference.
The Victory engine looks clean and well designed with almost no plumbing in sight. The black pots have beautiful silver cooling flanges on the side. It’s almost a work of art.
Though both are big-bore twins, the Victory engine is less powerful but more torquey.
It’s a 1731cc air-cooled unit, compared with the Harley’s 1200cc water-cooled engine.
So it pulls harder off the line, whereas the V-Rod will rev out further and go harder at the top end.
Victory’s twin is perhaps hampered by the restricted pipes that are very quiet, though for the rider a rewarding induction noise sounds like a bear with a heavy chest cold.
A pleasant vibe from the engine is not enough to make the excellent mirrors vibrate. They remain crystal clear at all revs.
Both bikes handle better than most cruisers, but the Victory has better cornering clearance and sharper turn-in, thanks to the upside- down forks. However, it’s not exactly nimble with that fat rear tyre.
If you think Harleys have a clunky transmission, this one feels like the slasher on the back of the tractor has just been engaged.
It not only clunks hard on each gear change, but bites and lurches, requiring careful clutch work. Neutral is difficult to find, but I found no false neutrals.
Victory’s clutch is slightly heavier than the Harley’s, making driving in traffic hard work. It also churns out a fair amount of heat from the right side of the engine.
Pillions are really second-class citizens and have only a small perch. The Victory comes with a plug-in seat cowl. Underneath is a small strap for pillions to hold on.
Harvey says most Hammers leave the showroom decked out with accessories such as a windscreen, touring seats and luggage.
‘‘The wife needs or wants to come along and they often sign the cheque,’’ he says. ‘‘If you turn up with a small passenger seat it might not get past the finance department. About 40 per cent go out with a touring seat.’’
The rider’s seat is quite hard, yet I found it more comfortable than the slightly more cushy Harley seat.
I could easily spend much longer in the saddle than the 17-litre tank will allow.