Think of Victory Motorcycles and lean, flashy cruisers immediately leap to mind. The “other” American motorcycle company has been diligently carving out its identity since 1997 by providing forward-looking alternatives to the perceived stodginess of its Milwaukee-bred competition. Bold graphics, gleaming chrome flanks and the towering silhouettes of Arlen and Cory Ness lending the company line a bit of their bold custom DNA have become hallmarks of the Victory brand. From the custom blaze of the Ness Signature Series to the eyebrow-raising luxe-futurism of the recently unveiled Victory Vision tourer, the Minnesota motorworks has made a point of crafting brash, attention getting machines with a distinct American bloodline.
But what about the rider who isn’t interested in making a flaming lime green proclamation of his charisma? You know, the guy who’s just nostalgic for a little skull and crossbones badass in basic black. For those of us whose tastes lean to a more somber complexion, Victory offers its heart of darkness, the 8-Ball.
Based on the Vegas platform, the 8-Ball keeps its mission simple: Menacing good looks and an agile, powerful ride. With its black powdercoated engine, black bodywork, fork sliders, triple clamps, handlebars, and new-in-’07 black cast aluminum wheels, engine black swingarm and strut covers, the 8-Ball is a rolling blackout–an apocalyptic steed with a wicked grin.
Beneath the funereal livery, the Freedom 100 cubic-inch motor puts plenty of romp at your disposal. The fuel injected, four-valve overhead cam engine makes its mid-80′s horsepower with a smooth, counterbalanced pulse. The brawny low-end torque inspires aggressive twisting of the adrenal gland up through the gears. While the 8-Ball is the lone holdout in the Victory line to retain the five-speed gearbox, the overdrive isn’t missed at all, except perhaps by the cop hiding in the scrub with a radar gun. Pulling 75 mph in fifth, there is no overwhelming need to reach for a higher cog.
Ergonomically, it’s a mixed bag. The peg position is perfect for mid-size riders, but the bars could be swept back a bit. The low-slung solo seat was relatively comfortable on a daylong ride, but offers very little room for haunch relocation. That is certainly excusable, given how cool the seat looks integrated into the split-tail tank.
Forward controls, a 21-inch front wheel and a 33-degree rake add to the factory-custom vibe for which Victory is renowned. The 8-Ball handles dexterously for a cruiser, thanks in part to Victory’s decision to fit a 180-rear tire on the Vegas and Kingpin platforms, as opposed to the 250 bun sported by the rest of the line. The bike also proves to be a surprisingly agile canyon carver, although the warning nubs beneath the pegs will trade occasional insults with the pavement when corners are pushed. Victory’s dark horse also comes equipped with an impressive set of reins. 300mm four-piston front and two-piston rear Brembos bring the action to a halt. Not many “entry level” machines boast that kind of sophisticated componentry.
The trademark low and lean Victory styling along with the growling 100-cubic-inch Freedom engine make for a sublime cruiser package. If the existing hints of chrome create a distracting glare from the blackout mojo, an onyx bullet headlight is one of the nearly 200 8-Ball accessories in the Victory catalog designed to win your dark heart.
If Victory’s flashy Ness Series Jackpots are the Vegas Strip at midnight after doubling down to 21, the 8-Ball is an alley behind the Double Down Saloon at four in the morning after getting tossed out of a strip joint. A pissed off bruiser not to be trifled with. If, for some reason, a test ride isn’t enough to convince you that the Victory Vegas 8-Ball will have you grinning the monochromatic miles away, go up into your attic, dig out your leaky Magic 8-Ball. Give it a good shake and wait for the inevitable answer to rise to the inky surface: “You may rely on it.”