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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

The future gets a little clearer

Is this the Victory Fatty?
Not too long ago I wrote about how excited I am to see what Victory Motorcycles has up its sleeve for the future. At the time, some sketches had leaked to various motorcycle publications showing multiple styles of bike all sporting a liquid-cooled engine.

In that post, I pointed to two bits of information that might suggest what will come next from the Polaris-owned marque. First was a 2013 interview with Polaris VP Steve Menneto in which he said he expected to see Victory focusing on "performance and innovation" in the wake of Indian's revival. 

It's the general feeling amongst motorcycle journalists and laymen, such as myself, that with Victory sharing its parent company with legacy brand Indian it should avoid trying to compete for the hardcore H-D rider's money. That's Indian territory now, and Indian is so far doing really well. It will be fun to see where Indian goes from here. I would like to see another Indian model introduced at Sturgis (a) this year, but I think it's more realistic to think that will come in 2015.

The second bit of information came from Victory's UK offices. I wrote to them a while back to ask if there were plans to put anti-lock brakes on the cruisers, their absence being my only real objection to great bikes like the Judge. In response, Victory assured me that its R&D facility keeps tabs on EU rules and "will always look to work within guidelines."

These two bits of information gave a lot of credence to the rumours of a new powerplant from Victory. Not only will 2016 see ABS required on all new bikes sold in the EU above 125 cc, it will also usher in more stringent Euro 4 emissions standards for motorcycles (b).

Then, at a Victory demo event a few weeks ago, I got a chance to chat with one of Victory's engineers.

"Please put ABS on the Judge," I told him. "A second disc up front wouldn't be a bad thing, either."
"Ah, well, that's chassis," he said. "I'm more on the powertrain side of things."
"Oh, so you're one of the guys working on the new liquid-cooled engine they've been talking about," I said.

He said nothing. I have chosen to interpret the silence as an acknowledgement that I was on to something and he wasn't entirely sure that I should be privy to such knowledge.

I like the wheels.
"The thing they're reporting in the motorcycle press," I said.
"Oh, right. The sketches and that," he said. "Yeah, well, you wonder where they get those things. I've not seen any of those sketches come across my desk."

Again I chose to read between the lines and interpret his comment not as a denial of a forthcoming new engine but simply as a suggestion that what they were working on was not what those of us in the public had seen. And it seems that was the correct interpretation. This week, Polaris registered a design patent with the EU for a Victory cruiser that features a big ol' radiator up front. Meanwhile, it has already filed in the United States to trademark "Fatty," "Rogue" and "Magnum." as potential names for future models.

I really hope they don't go with that last one, which is already the name of an extra large condom, an ice cream bar and a cheesy 1980s TV detective. None of which are spirits you want to invoke for a motorcycle. Well, OK, maybe Magnum, P.I., but only if they somehow incorporate a moustache into the Victory logo. I'd prefer to see them go with "Fatty" solely so they can make an advert that makes use of "Lip Up Fatty" by English ska band Bad Manners.

But I digress. To my untrained eye, the motorcycle in the most recent sketches looks a whole lot like a Gunner. Which, of course, is really just a Judge with a solo seat. Which makes me think that maybe, again, this isn't really the bike that will eventually come out. Or, if it the sketches are accurate, maybe it's not the bike that some people are predicting.

Visor Down is positing that the next offering from Victory will be a performance cruiser -- something to rival the Ducati Diavel. Based on these sketches, though, I'm not buying that. Going back to the wisdom of Aaron Kaufman, a performance cruiser is going to have a hell of a lot of "go," which means it is going to need considerably more "whoa" than that offered by the single front disc brake pictured in these sketches. 

Also, are performance cruisers really that big of a thing? Victory bikes already produce upward of 100 bhp, which is more than every other bike in the cruiser/bagger/tourer class (except Indian). Is the market for performance cruisers like the V-Rod, the VMax, the Valkyrie and the Diavel really so large and profitable that Victory would want to spend its limited resources developing an all-new powerplant for it?

Lip up, Fatty.
Is it possible, instead, that what we're looking at here is a smaller bike? Something that can serve as an entry-level machine? Think about the Harley-Davidson Iron 883, the Star Bolt (aka Yamaha XV950), the Triumph Bonneville (and its attendant variations, the Scrambler, Thruxton, Speedmaster and America), the Moto Guzzi V7, and so on. Think about the upcoming Harley-Davidson Street. Especially the H-D Street. Take a look at that bike, then take a look at these sketches.

At present, Victory does not have an entry-level machine. The Vegas is the cheapest of its line-up but remains far too expensive to serve as a "gateway" to the brand, in the way the bikes mentioned above can. Presently, all Victory bikes require a financial investment that many people are not willing to make on a relatively unknown product. I'm willing to put that money down (if I had it) but that has a lot to do with the fact that I am fanatically devoted to Minnesota. Not everyone is in my same boat, including even a lot of Minnesotans.

So, maybe the upcoming Victory Fatty will be an affordable machine aimed at that young/new rider audience that wants an authentic/classic motorcycle look without having to pay up the wazoo for a ginormous machine they can't really control. I'd love for that to be true. Indeed, if Victory were to produce such a thing I'd be first in line to put down a deposit (c).

Time will tell.

__________

(a) Famously, Sturgis was originally an event dominated by Indian riders, its founder, JC "Pappy" Hoel having owned an Indian dealership. From the 1950s it slowly became much more of an H-D affair but Indian stole pretty much all the attention with its launch last summer. I think it would help to embolden the legacy brand feel of Indian if it were to choose the Sturgis rally as its "home" and create a precedent of delivering its major news and reveals at the event. Though, it doesn't have to be Sturgis. If there were a large rally in Minnesota or Iowa that would make more sense. I just like the idea of Indian full-on using the weight and legacy of its brand to create traditions.

(b) It's worth noting that motorcycles will still be behind the curve. Euro 4 was implemented for cars nine years ago.

(c) Assuming it has anti-lock brakes.

Comments

  1. Actually, Victory would almost certainly name a small bike the Rogue.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If the drawings have any credence, then Victory has produced something no different than a water cooled engine. The bike looks largely the same as existing Victory models. But assuming they'll put ABS on it, sounds like Christmas coming soon for the Cope household!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Although I am a huge Victory fan, I hope they do something different in terms of styling. I'm sorry but the new Gunner is the same bike with different fenders. I dont see the point in having all these different models that can easily become the other with a little change of cosmetic bolt on pieces. Motor size, fuel tank and dash boards would be a welcomed change. As a huge Victory fan I would like to see you step up the game and not only compete with the rival brands but I want to see you crush them and leave them in the dust.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel the same way. The release of their new Magnum bike, however, suggests they are not listening to people like you and me. Crikey, what a disappointment that thing is.

      Delete
  4. I also agree. I love all the Victory cruisers. But is hard to pick a favorite because they are so similar.
    Keith

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think part of the problem is that everyone wants to see a cool, flashy new bike - but will it sell? If you are the guy who's job it is to steer the direction of the marque, you probably don't want to make a call that will cost you your job. It's a whole lot easier to convince the guys that control the purse strings to make another Vegas than it is to make another Buell. After all, one you can still get from a dealer, the other you can now collect from enthusiasts.

    ReplyDelete

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