Con­tin­ued over

Motorcycle News (UK) - - New Bikes - By Phil West MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

ith all the ex­cite­ment in re­cent years over the re­turn of his­toric Amer­i­can cruiser brand In­dian un­der new own­ers Po­laris, its sis­ter mar­que Vic­tory has taken a back seat.

But not any more. The launch this week of the Oc­tane, the first all-new model from the Min­nesota-based con­cern since 2007, marks the start of an equally all-new era. From here on in, Po­laris say, Vic­tory has been repo­si­tioned to sit bet­ter along­side resur­gent In­dian and to have a new fo­cus and in­tent all of its own. So, while In­dian is Po­laris’s ‘her­itage’ brand that dates all the way back to 1901 and has US ri­val Har­ley-david­son very much in its sights, Vic­tory now stands sim­ply for ‘Mod­ern Amer­i­can Mus­cle’ – and the Oc­tane is the first re­sult.

Vic­tory bosses call the Oc­tane a ‘gen­uine mus­cle bike in the mid-size cruiser seg­ment’ and have drawn in­spi­ra­tion from both last year’s power-packed ‘Pro­ject 156’ Pikes Peak racer and from the Vic­tory Ig­ni­tion con­cept bike that fol­lowed. Both gave the im­pres­sion of be­ing true mus­cle bikes cre­ated to blow away fuddy-duddy pre­con­cep­tions of Vic­tory’s ma­chines.

Trou­ble is, the 1200cc pro­duc­tion Oc­tane doesn’t quite live up to that. The keen-eyed among you may have al­ready no­ticed it bears more than a pass­ing re­sem­blance to the 1200cc Scout launched by sis­ter com­pany In­dian in 2014. It’s no co­in­ci­dence. Al­though Vic­tory them­selves con­spic­u­ously make no men­tion of the con­nec­tion in their of­fi­cial blurb, truth is the Oc­tane is ef­fec­tively pretty much a Scout that’s been tweaked and restyled to fit Vic­tory’s new mis­sion. So let’s get this straight from the out­set: the Oc­tane isn’t re­ally the all-new pow­er­house mid-size mus­cle­bike

WVic­tory would have us be­lieve. It’s a tweaked Scout with just a few ex­tra bhp and mostly cos­metic up­dates to link it to the Pro­ject 156 and Ig­ni­tion. Dis­ap­pointed? Once we re­alised, we were slightly, too.

But it’s not all bad news. To Vic­tory’s credit, they’ve done a pretty thor­ough job of the trans­for­ma­tion and the re­sult is suf­fi­ciently dif­fer­ent from the Scout – there’s far more to it than just dif­fer­ent badges, for ex­am­ple, and Vic­tory claim 65% of the Oc­tane’s com­po­nents are new – for the Oc­tane to de­serve be­ing thought of as worth­while in its own right.

Take the en­gine: yes, the Scout’s 60-de­gree, liq­uid-cooled V-twin ar­chi­tec­ture is ba­si­cally the same, but the bore is up from 99mm to 101mm to take ca­pac­ity from 1133cc to 1179.3cc, while com­pres­sion is raised (from 10.7:1 to 10.8:1), too. It’s enough to raise peak power over­all from the Scout’s 100bhp at 8100rpm to the Oc­tane’s 104bhp at 8000rpm.

And while the Oc­tane’s cast alu­minium/tubu­lar steel mix cra­dle is to the same recipe as the Scout’s, right down to the twin 41mm tele­scopic fork, twin discs and twin shock rear, most of the in­di­vid­ual parts are tweaked slightly. For ex­am­ple, the po­si­tion­ing of the shocks has changed and the wheels are new, grow­ing from the twin 16-inch­ers of the Scout to an 18/17-inch front/ rear com­bi­na­tion.

It doesn’t end there, ei­ther. The liq­uid-cooled V-twin’s bar­rels and head, in ad­di­tion to be­ing re­worked on the in­side (for the ca­pac­ity in­crease), have been restyled on the out­side. There are larger but less flared mudgau­rds front and rear to match the big­ger wheels; the ad­di­tion of the neat nose cowl­ing and all the de­tail­ing and badg­ing now, inevitably, says ‘Vic­tory’, not In­dian.

Vic­tory jus­tify this by stat­ing nearly all of the ‘cus­tomer fac­ing’ com­po­nents (ie, the bits your or I ac­tu­ally see, feel or ex­pe­ri­ence) are new and that this is com­mon prac­tice in the au­to­mo­tive world. I can’t ar­gue with that. Nev­er­the­less I do, how­ever, feel a lit­tle un­der­whelmed, es­pe­cially af­ter the teasers of Pro­ject 156 and Ig­ni­tion.

So what’s it like to ride? Well, per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, and how­ever much Vic­tory would ar­gue oth­er­wise (as part of our test Vic­tory let us try the Oc­tane at both a drag strip and drift school which seemed a lit­tle bit in­con­gru­ous for a 104bhp cruiser), the Oc­tane’s very much like the Scout, but with a touch more at­ti­tude.

Don’t get me wrong: that’s not a bad thing. As with the Scout, the sin­gle seat (a dual-seat ver­sion con­ver­sion will be avail­able as an ac­ces­sory) is ridicu­lously low, the rid­ing po­si­tion novice-friendly, the view ahead takes in a sin­gle dial that, like the In­dian, oddly blends an ana­logue speedo with an LCD dig­i­tal tacho, while the con­trols are all as in­tu­itive as you’d ex­pect.

Though no light­weight, all that mass is car­ried low and the Oc­tane’s a dod­dle for any­one, what­ever their size or ex­pe­ri­ence, to ma­noeu­vre. No big, heavy, fear­some mus­cle bike, this.

At speed it’s bet­ter yet. It’s been said be­fore but that In­dian... sorry, Vic­tory V-twin mo­tor is a peach, use­fully pick­ing up from as lit­tle as 2500rpm be­fore build­ing in a lin­ear fash­ion and fir­ing off from 5000rpm and up. As a re­sult, trav­el­ling is ef­fort­less and pleas­ing (a

‘The V-twin picks up from as lit­tle as 2500rpm, build­ing in a lin­ear fash­ion be­fore fir­ing off at 5000rpm’

70mph cruis­ing speed comes up at just 4000rpm in sixth). But if you get more ag­gres­sive, as we found at our try-out at the Or­lando Speed World drag strip, there’s just about enough, with a bit of ef­fort, to squeal tyres and do burnouts. Please note, how­ever: such shenani­gans do not a mus­cle bike make. I can ride a scooter across a field but that doesn’t mean it’s it a mo­tocrosser.

The Oc­tane’s not per­fect as a cruiser, ei­ther. The er­gonomics are fairly nat­u­ral, the con­trols ef­fec­tive with­out be­ing star­tling, the en­gine both will­ing and lazy enough at the same time thanks to a flat torque curve. In­stead the prob­lem is long-dis­tance com­fort. With all your weight on your back­side due to the high­way pegs and pull-back bars grav­ity even­tu­ally takes its toll and the Oc­tane lit­er­ally be­comes a pain in the rump af­ter 40 min­utes or so.

Of course, that’s not in­tended to be the Oc­tane’s forte – there are big­ger, more com­fort­able Vic­to­rys for that. The han­dling, mean­while, is de­cent for a cruiser and never re­ally be­comes a hand­ful; brakes are ad­e­quate and its real play­ground should be blast­ing around town, muck­ing about be­tween traf­fic lights and gen­er­ally play­ing the (slightly en­try-level) hot rod dude.

In all that, the Oc­tane’s an in­ter­est­ing al­ter­na­tive to a Scout. Don’t for­get, at £9800, it’s not just more pow­er­ful than the In­dian, it’s also £700 cheaper.

Whether that makes Vic­tory’s new­comer a bet­ter buy I’m not so sure. If the Oc­tane had been a lit­tle bit less Scout, with more of the power and prom­ise sug­gested by Pro­ject 156 – an ex­tra, say, 20 or 30bhp would have been nice – it might have been a dif­fer­ent story.

Jour­nal­ists at the launch were given a bot­tle of Oc­tane Booster by Vic­tory, in­tended as a joke. There’s an irony there. The one thing the Oc­tane needed is a boost. Then it might have truly been the drift bike/drag bike/mus­cle bike they’d have us be­lieve it is.

Sin­gle, multi-func­tion ‘clock’ is much the same as the In­dian Scout’s but with a Vic­tory ‘ face’. The main ana­logue dial acts as a speedo. Below cen­tre is a dig­i­tal LCD panel which shows gear po­si­tion and


The liq­uid-cooled, DOHC, 60-de­gree V-twin is based on that of the Scout. A 2mm larger bore takes ca­pac­ity up to 1179.3cc. Com­pres­sion is also up. There­fore, peak power rises from the Scout’s

100bhp to 104bhp.

De­spite sim­i­lar­i­ties with the Scout, Vic­tory have given the new bike its own look. There are restyled bar­rels/head, a new nose cowl, side pan­els

and mud­guards, plus repo­si­tioned rear shocks

and black parts.

Vic­tory are claim­ing 104bhp and 12s stand­ing quar­ters. But in truth, it’s de­cent rather than in any way star­tling. Flex­i­bil­ity, though, is good, pulling ef­fort­lessly from as low as 2500rpm. But it’s cer­tainly no Di­avel.

Ul­tra low seat al­lied to for­ward ‘high­way’ pegs and pull­back bars gives a clas­sic laid­back pos­ture. It’s comfy enough at first but, af­ter 40 min­utes, tak­ing your weight through your back­side leads to


Main cast alu­minium/ tubu­lar steel cra­dle is al­most iden­ti­cal to the Scout’s, as is a non-ad­justable, 41mm fork and 298mm disc brakes. But wheel sizes are up, from 16in on the Scout to an 18/17in

front/rear combo.

the first Amer­i­can world cham­pion had his sea­son – and ca­reer – not been cut short fol­low­ing his TT crash.

Why was he at the TT? Good ques­tion, and best an­swered by Pat him­self. ‘When I ne­go­ti­ated my con­tract with Suzuki for the ’78 sea­son I met with Mau­rice Knight, who was gen­eral man­ager of Suzuki GB. Knight’s pri­or­ity was sell­ing Suzukis in the UK, so for him the most im­por­tant events were races like the TT but I told him I wasn’t go­ing to do the TT again. He wasn’t happy about

Oc­tane’s low mass means any­one can mus­cle it around

In­for­ma­tion cen­tral 104 horses Styling Vic­tory A flex­i­ble friend Blacked-out en­gine cases set it apart from the Scout Short rides only Oc­tane looks ag­gres­sive, but de­liv­ers a friendly ride Big­ger rims An ana­logue tacho is avail­able as an op­tional

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