The addiction began with the first drag.A web of adrenaline cocooned me as I dumped the clutch, allowing 80-percent of first gear to light up the 150mm Dunlop in a murky cloud of smoke.
I thought I blew this light-to-light drag with a helmet-less punk aboard a V-Rod, but by the time I slammed third gear, there was no Harley in sight.This was the situation about 10 minutes into my five-week test with the machine that would prove much to one who needs daily doses of sportbike performance. Under normal cruiser circumstances, if you throw a sportbike rider whose used to 150mph speeds and high horsepower onto V-Twin thumper, gloom will surely surface.But the 2012 Victory High Ball changed this attitude.And quickly.It all began when my friends at Country Roads Motorcycling in New Jersey delivered the High Ball to my Northeastern Pennsylvania residence. I was in the fourth week of recovery from double hernia surgery, and since my rehabilitation involved no full-leather sprotbike rides (aka: hanging off a bike or dragging a knee), a cruiser was a welcoming test.I figured it’d be laid-back cruising on this minimalist-styled factory chopper with the complaint of sore arms due to the 15-inch ape hangers, the element that gives the High Ball its name. With this thought in mind, I immediately began wrenching. I pulled the high bars back about an inch. But there’s room for more; the handlebars are fully adjustable forward or rearward, the cables providing enough for even jet-ski style positions.Since there was just over 700 miles on the High Ball when it arrived, I gave it an once-over, making sure all bolts were tight. Sure enough, a bolt on the shifter linkage was loose. Although I tightened it, this caused a slight problem during a photo shoot about a 1000 miles later…but more on that later.I threw on the closest cruiser-style leather jacket I owned, a Weise Hydra, and my ¾ Bell Custom 500, and headed downtown. Exiting my driveway, the pegs scrapped, something that continued until I practically ground them off within 100 miles, quickly opening extra ground clearance.A few miles later, the 2-into-1 exhaust was scrapping on a sweeping right hander, something that also continued until the roads redesigned it a bit, flattening out the bottom.The first thing easily noticed while piloting this Victory is the balls-out power of the 106 ci (1731cc) Stage 2 V-Twin. Victory claims 97 horsepower and 114 ft. lbs. of torque, and there’s no arguing the numbers. Even in fully stock form, I knew the High Ball built from this “other” American motorcycle manufacturer would bring shame to its competitors regarding power. And as stated before, this sentiment was true after my first drag race with that punk on his V-Rod.There was no match. And I significantly proved the High Ball’s addictive power over and over a few weeks later, as the Victory got into a few scuffles with many Harleys, among others, at the Roar on the Shore event in Ocean City, New Jersey.Throughout my test, in which I racked up around 1200 miles, the 106 V-Twin and 6-speed transmission remained clear of any mechanical issues. And it ran smoothly throughout, not a hiccup heard from the Electronic Fuel Injection with dual 45mm throttle bodies. And this smooth EFI system allowed for around 40 mpg, even while running the High Ball ballsy hard.OK, so we have a reliable engine that proved its prowess among its peers in the straight lines, but how about handling? My garage is packed full of sportbikes that easily carve canyons, providing me with that full confidence to ascend my cornering skills to new levels.And I was going to push this cruiser around the canyons with the same aggression. Nothing drives a man more than that borderline edge of madness one feels when a motorcycle is used for exactly the opposite intention of its original design. Since I’ve proven the merit of a Honda VFR on trails built for quads, and a V Strom DL1000 on coal banks built for motocross machines, why not push the victory as I would my sportbikes?My proving grounds were a 50-mile loop I consider my personal Isle of Man TT “Mountain Course,” the route allowing for safe, spirited riding. I had to develop a unique styling for hanging off the High Ball with its long 64.8-inch wheelbase and 4.7-inches of ground clearance, but once accomplished, the bike proved its handling abilities.After about two rides on this Mountain Course, the pegs were ground down, opening up additional (much needed) ground clearance. And for the speeds I’m talking, I can see why the Victory only has a one-seat setup, which is suprisingly comfortable, although you can order a something similar to a pad for the rear fender and rear pegs…that’s if you want to bring a passenger and kill the enjoyment of solo fun.Although a lengthy 5.1 inches of travel, the 43mm forks respond well to spirited cornering situations, but there were many moments I wished for some adjustability. The rear-suspension’s single-monotube gas shock allows the aluminum swingarm 3.0 inches of travel; this rear setup works brilliantly for a cruiser, allowing comfortable bounce while traveling the boulevards, but enough stiffness when cornering.Of course, heading into these faster turns I had to load up the front 130mm tire with much weight, and the single-front 300mm floating rotor with four-piston caliper worked efficiently after some hard pulls, although I’d much rather prefer a dual-disc setup.But when stopping at normal speeds, there were no issues. I used a 50/50 braking concept, relying on the front as much as the rear. The rear brake is also a 300mm floating discs, but features a two-piston caliper. Mid-way through my testing period, I had to adjust the rear brake to lessen its strength. This was the most I ever relied on a rear brake for stopping power, and it also proved to be a hoot when skidding the bike into a sideways stop for parking…Speaking of sideways, one thing to look out for on the High Ball is certain fasteners. I don’t understand how (maybe running the bike completely sideways through dirt roads?), but although I tightened the shift-linkage bolt upon delivery, it must have loosened once again throughout my travels.While doing some photos at Giants Despair, where the famed Northeastern Pennsylvania Hill Climb takes place, I cranked up the boot for third and felt no shifter. Luckily when I pulled over, the bolt was still there, but the nut had vanished. With a little help of a plastic fastener from a friend’s GPS unit, I was able to finish the photo session.Upon returning home, I had a nut in the garage, and used some Loctite to fasten it, never having troubles again. But again, this was minor…and we’re supposed to recheck our fasteners in increments anyhow…With that said, this leaves styling to discuss, which was very controversial from other people’s perspectives. It was a love/hate relationship with overall body styling, with half of my acquaintances liking it, the other half despising it, although only few denied the classical white paint the gas tanked dons and the flat black colors.And of course, it was mostly the Harley crowd that opposed the styling, although many couldn’t deny the performance. On a personal level, I’ve always liked the subtle look, and can say I despise anything chrome (and “bling”).Simply put, everything from the mirrors to the dual exhausts on the Victory High-Ball is black: handlebars, headlight bucket, triple trees, frame, fender struts and cylinder head covers. This is no-nonsense style to me, a true testament to the Victory’s “Balls” out performance.Victory could have hidden some wiring clips, though, such as the one atop the left handlebar, and the scattered wires at the back of the motor. And I really wish those O2 sensors weren’t so damn ugly, sticking out amid the blacked-out design of the 106.And although the apes protrude high into the air, allowing the pits to discover much wind, after a few miles they weren’t that bad. Of course they’re a bitch to hold onto while I was trying a high speed run (indicated 120 mph, then I couldn’t bare to hold on), but these bikes weren’t built for all-out speed. The high handlebar was obviously a selling point for the machine, so it’d be a shame to put drag-style bars on the a bike named for such high apes, but it’d likely be the first thing I’d do. That, or find similar-style bars (but smaller) with internal wiring.But this is what we do when we buy machines, eh? Especially when they arrive in subtle form such as the High Ball. We customize to our liking, even if it destroys the original intention of something as useless as a name.Who knows…maybe the “High” had nothing to do with handlebars. Maybe High Ball had something to do with provoking a certain mindset for riders aboard a machine built by Victory’s nearest competitors.Like that helmet-less guy and a few others who peered over the High Ball as they began cranking their loud machines at the stoplights. Maybe, just maybe the intention with the name was exactly what these guys were likely thinking – “What’s this guy, high?”But after the smoke clears, and the High Ball is bike-lengths away, these other Victory-less riders must realize that this High Ball with the quiet factory exhaust was designed to handle horsepower a bit better…a bit more smoothly…a bit more efficiently.But there is another thought on the High Ball’s name. With an MSRP of around $13,500, maybe the guys at this “other” American motorcycle manufacture Victory are high, considering the bike’s cheaper than many of its competitors machines by thousands.But regardless of the name’s meaning, if planted on one, the High Ball will soon become an addiction. And people will know you’re high from the machine because the smile will simply not cease, and likely continue as the problem-free miles roll along.There’s likely a cure…but when addictions are this good, why back away? Especially when it’s all about the thing the Victory High Ball was designed for – plain-ole healthy fun.Photos by Jamie C. Biscotto
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!