Even though Victory and Indian Motorcycles both fall under the Polaris Industries Inc. umbrella, the products offered by each company are as chalk to cheese. Indian tends to embrace the past, while Victory looks to the future. The Vegas line represents the factory’s attempt to define the contemporary American, bare cruiser -market.
After a three-year hiatus, the Vegas base model made it onto the 2016 lineup in Sunset Red sheet metal with a blackout drivetrain and bits of chrome while the 8-Ball version takes this Victory all the way over to the dark side with a fully blacked-out, custom look sure to appeal to the domestic crowd. These colors carried forward to 2017. End result: a naked cruiser that elevates understatement to an art form. In fact, the bare-cruiser design is something of a blank canvas for custom builders, and there are projects out from Rick Fairless and the Ness family, just to name a few.
Overall, the Vegas family follows the typical Victory format with sweepy lines and modern looks that leave the bike with a certain “Ness-ness.” The fuel tank seems to flow right into the seat, and low-profile turn signals blend right in without looking busy or interrupting the flow of the lines. Normally, I find Victory’s use of sweepy lines to be a bit excessive, but since this sled carries minimal sheet metal, that effect is limited to the lines defined by the gas tank, seat and rear fender.
Frame members, exhaust pipes and engine components come shot in black, and only the polished edges on the cooling fins keep the engine from disappearing into the black hole under the gas tank on the 8-Ball. One good thing about this much blackness – any little bits of polish or chrome on the bike stand out like a beacon in the night. The polished fins highlight the V-twin shape, and there are other shiny bits sprinkled about the bike, but it is the “Falchion” front wheel that steals the show with 21 inches of bold design. (Historical note: the falchion was a sword designed to cut through chain mail and into flesh.)
I like dark bikes, and Victory takes the Vegas 8-Ball to the Nth degree. The black headlight can, exhaust system, fender struts and sheet metal make the bike so dark, even the polished metal of the fork tubes add a noticeable amount of bling to the front end. The base model isn’t exactly a “Mr. Rogers” bike either as it carries the same blackout components, just under a red, monochromatic frame and sheet metal arrangement that offsets the blackness of the drivetrain quite nicely.
Designers set up the frame with a long and low finished product in mind. They ended up setting the steering head at a 33-degree angle, which pushed the wheelbase out to 67.1-inches and the overall length just over 8-feet long at 96.9 inches. That takes care of the long, now for the low: the 5.3-inch ground clearance keeps the bike close to ground while still allowing it to corner, and the 25.2-inch seat height ensures even the shortest riders can deploy their training wheels (feet) with confidence.
While I prefer to have dual front brakes, especially on bikes with a 655-pound dry weight and this much power (more on that later), I understand why Victory didn’t want to cover up that big, beautiful front wheel. At least the factory compromised a bit on the side of safety by running 300 mm brake discs front and rear, with a four-pot binder up front and a twin pot in the rear. No ABS, no linked brakes or any other frou-frou, just good, old-fashioned brakes with traditional feel and feedback.
The 21-inch front wheel and 17- inch rear come with Dunlop road rubbers, and the size differential lends a chopper-esque vibe to the bike. Normally I would mention at this point that it would look better with laced wheels, but not this time – the flashy and futuristic-looking rims fit the design perfectly, and I wouldn’t change a thing. (No whitewalls this time, either!)
Power from the Freedom 106/6 belies the unassuming looks of the Vegas siblings, sort of a “tread softly and carry a big stick” situation. This ride gets the upgraded, Stage-Two version of the already-powerful Freedom engine, and it cranks out 97 ponies at 5,000 rpm and a crushing 113 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Folks, at 106 cubic-inches (1,731 cc), this is a big motor, and is a good example of what a big V-twin can do.
The factory follows tradition by using an air-cooled engine instead of trying to find a cool way (note: there is NO cool way) to hide a radiator, but it hedges its bets by tucking an oil cooler away in an inconspicuous spot.
Dual, 45 mm throttle bodies manage the air-fuel mixture as it heads through the four-valve heads and into the dual staggered exhaust system as waste gas. The pipes come with what Victory calls the “common volume,” slash-cut mufflers, but offer louder, low-resistance pipes as an accessory. Not only will these make you louder, but also in combination with a performance air cleaner they will open the engine up and let it breathe as it was meant to – think of it as the Victory equivalent of the “Harley tax.”
The stump-pulling torque is great for holeshots and blasting up hills, but the six-speed transmission with overdrive allows you to push out of the city and onto the open road. Throw a couple of bags on it and you have yourself a casual tour bike sans fairing and windshield.
I think it’s only fair to compare apples to apples whenever possible, and my apple for today is the Street Bob from Harley-Davidson. Both bikes share varying degrees of blackout paint and attitude, and they are both what you would consider to be bare cruisers.
Both engines qualify as big. The Freedom from Victory barely comes out on top with a 106-inch displacement over the 103-inch Twin Cam. Torque output goes to the Freedom as well, but with a catch – where the Freedom cranks out 113 gut-wrenching pound-feet of torque versus 98.8 pound-feet from the Harley mill, it needs to wind out to 4,000 rpm to get it. The Twin-Cam comes on earlier and peaks out at 3,000 rpm. Both bikes run a six-speed transmixer, so they are both up to highway trips with the engine running at a reasonable rpm.
Pricing is fairly comparable with the Victory going for $12,999, a little bit under the basic black Street Bob at $13,699, but you should expect to pay a little more for the name if nothing else. Unlike Victory, Harley offers a number of custom and hard-candy colors for a few dollars more. Ahhh vanity, definitely my favorite sin!
The Vegas 8-Ball is definitely in the entry-level, or first-upgrade category, at $12,999 — up $500 from 2016 — plus freight and such. Much like the old Fords, you can get it in any color you want, as long as you want black. That’s unfortunate, but not a deal breaker. The base-model Vegas rolls in Gloss Sunset Red for $13,999, so if you want something other than black-on-black at least you have an option, albeit a more expensive one.
“Honestly, this is the first Victory I could really see myself on. Nice and low, with a big V-twin just waiting to roar. I realize it would ruin the looks somewhat, but I would have to throw some saddlebags on it for practical use around town, or a little road trip.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton], says, “I love the low seat height. I’m not crazy about how quiet it is. I’d have to opt for the louder, low-resistance muffler. I’m still not feeling that whole swoopy-line thing Victory has going on, but I do like the blackout look. I guess I’m on the fence. If I need to spend over $12 grand, I want to love the whole package.”
|Engine Type:||Freedom 106/6 V-Twin|
|Displacement:||106 cubic inches (1,731 cc)|
|Bore x Stroke:||101 x 108 mm|
|Battery:||YTX20HL-BS/12 Volt 18 Amp Hour 310 CCA|
|Charging System:||48 Amps Max Output|
|Compression Ratio:||9.4 to 1|
|Cooling:||Air and Oil|
|Drive/Driven Clutch:||Wet Multi-plate/Diaphragm Spring|
|Exhaust:||Dual-Staggered Slash-cut with Common Volume|
|Fuel System:||Electronic Fuel Injection with Dual 45 mm Throttle Body|
|Transmission/Final Drive:||Carbon Fiber Reinforced Belt|
|Transmission/Primary Drive:||Gear Drive with Torque Compensator|
|Transmission Type:||Six-Speed Overdrive/Constant Mesh|
|Valve Train:||Four Valves per Cylinder, Hydraulic Lifters & Cam Chain Adjusters|
|Front Suspension:||Telescopic Fork/ 5.1-inch Travel|
|Rear Suspension:||Single Monotube Gas/Preload Adjustable/ 3-inch Travel|
|Brake System Type:||Not Linked|
|Front Braks:||Single 300 x 5 mm/Floating Rotor, Four-Piston Caliper|
|Rear Brakes:||Single 300 x 5 mm/Floating Rotor, Two-Piston Caliper|
|Front Tire:||Dunlop D418F Elite 3|
|Front Wheel:||21 x 2.15 Inches|
|Rear Tire:||Dunlop D417|
|Rear Wheel:||18 x 5.5 Inches|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.5 Gallons|
|Ground Clearance:||5.3 Inches|
|Rake/Trail:||33 degrees / 5.0 Inches|
|Seat Height:||25.2 Inches|
|Overall Length||96.9 Inches|
|Dry Weight:||655 Pounds|
|Oil Capacity:||5.0 Quarts|
|Vegas:||Gloass Sunset Red|
|Vegas 8-Ball:||Gloss Black|