It’s game on for bike turf

Victory tries to match Har­ley, writesMARKHINCHLIFFE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.

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