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
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