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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…

Ride review: Victory Jackpot

Victory Jackpot
I'll admit right up front that I've never really liked the look or the idea of the Victory Jackpot. To me, it represents an outdated OCC-style of thinking: motorcycles as ridiculous trophy objects for people who are woefully uncultured.

Yes, I know I'm breaking the golden rule of this blog by criticising other people's riding choices but, you know, ugh. That fat-rear-tire-skinny-front-tire thing is just so... so... I can't quite explain what it is that annoys me so much. Basically, it's the equivalent of wearing a designer T-shirt to church. Just because it's expensive and flashy doesn't make it good.

Though, as it turns out, the Jackpot is a slightly better motorcycle than I had thought it would be. Sure, it's generally impractical, but at least it's a lot of fun. For a while.

Much of the reason for that, of course, is the fact that it's a Victory. And as such, it comes equipped with the stalwart and powerful Freedom 106 engine. The gears are long (i.e., you get a lot out of each gear before the engine even begins to suggest that you shift up) and always easy to find. Power is delivered smoothly, without the arm-ripping jerkiness I've experienced on Harley-Davidson machines. And there is plenty of that power, too. At 70 mph, the engine was tootling along with such ease it felt like I was in idle.

The massive rear tire, meanwhile, creates its own sort of fun. In corners, the mismatched front and rear create odd angles that you have to overcome with aggressive counter steering. This means that you really get to put some oomph into corners, which, in its own weird way is confidence-inspiring. In heaving myself into turns I lost some of my usual nerves on sharper bends. With the Jackpot, I felt more able to push aggressively than I have on other bikes (a).

It's worth asking, though, how long you'd want to keep that up. I mean, you wouldn't really want to tour Europe on something that needs to be muscled through every damned corner. Nor would it be particularly wise to do such a thing considering the state of the Jackpot's brakes.

Like its Victory stablemate, the Judge, the Jackpot is equipped with sub par stopping power. There is a too-small single disc up front that needs to be yanked back to deliver only a modicum of "whoa," and a single rear disc that is on-off and only slightly more effective than the front. According to some reviews I've read, the rear is prone to locking up. Thankfully, I did not experience this but the lack of ABS on Victory's line of cruisers is one of the reasons I can't really take them seriously.

That engine, though.
Not that I would seriously consider the Jackpot anyway. The mismatched tires seem to make all the bike's weight even more difficult to handle at slow speeds. I pride myself on being able to keep a bike upright at extremely slow speed but with the Jackpot I was duck walking like the noobiest noob of Noob Town.

On the go, the riding position was more appropriate for a visit to the OB/GYN than getting from point A to point B. Keeping in mind that I am 6 foot 1, my legs were splayed forward in such a way that wind both shot up my pant legs and pushed my knees apart. The seat was plenty comfortable in and of itself, but my seating position meant that I was not able to lift up on the pegs to avoid the omnipresent British potholes. The bike being nowhere nimble enough to avoid them all, I was forced to eat quite a few and each one delivered a small attack on my lower back. It was an experience that reminded me of the observation I made when test riding the Triumph America: cruisers are generally not well suited to British conditions.

When the speedometer crept upward, the wind blast also pushed at my shoulders and, because I was not at all leaned forward, started to get under my helmet and shove my head around –– something I hadn't experienced on the equally fairing-free Judge.

As time wore on, I grew less and less fond of chucking the bike through corners; I just wanted to get off the thing. In contrast to every other motorcycle I've ever ridden, when it came time for me to dismount I was perfectly content to do so.

Taking the time to assess the Jackpot afterward I found myself asking: "What the hell is this bike for?"

Yes, it's fun to push through corners, but you wouldn't want to keep it up for a run any longer than, say, 30 miles. And you'd need to somehow be sure said run is free of anything that might require a quick stop. Your best bet is to keep it moving in a straight line, at 60 mph or less on a windless day, on an empty road that has been recently paved. Or just park it and let people look at it while you put on your best designer T-shirt and head to sermon.

Baby got back.
I love Victory Motorcycles and think they produce some amazing things (be sure to check out my upcoming review of the Cross Country), but the Jackpot is proof that even the best can get it really wrong sometimes.

The three questions

For me to consider spending my own money on a motorcycle it needs to answer in the affirmative three questions. I'll bet you can guess how this will go:

Does it fit my current needs and lifestyle?
No. In many ways, the Jackpot is the antithesis of life in Britain. Its ideal riding scenario exists nowhere on this archipelago. Also, not that you'd necessarily want to subject a loved one to the Jackpot experience but it has no passenger seating to speak of. Pillion accommodation is even less adequate than on the Judge.

Does it put a grin on my face?
For short periods of time, yes. Most of that joy, though, is coming from the Freedom 106 engine, which is better showcased by a number of Victory's other platforms.

Is it better than my current motorcycle?
Nope. The engine's better, but in terms of brakes, handling, comfort and overall usability, my cheap little Honda beats the Jackpot all day.

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(a) Note what I'm saying here. It's not that the Jackpot corners better than any other bike. It definitely does not. But because it is a big monster that I had to shove around, I was less afraid of taking too tight a line, etc.

Comments

  1. 1st rule of business. Know your market. Sounds like they didn't do the research or figure it's a niche market.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There are riders that only want to ride from bar to bar. Definitely no more than 30 miles between stops. This bike is for them.

    Thinking of Victory motorcycles in Europe (in general), makes me think of the few times I saw a Corvette over there. They seemed like huge cars, that would be difficult to manage.

    Of course, when I got back to the United States, I discovered that Corvettes are, really, pretty small. At least, they are on the roads here.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the honesty. I was drawn to the upswept pipes on some models. Not anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I owned two Victorys.. A hammer and My Vegas Jackpot... I have owned many cruisers(not a harley fan) But I have never had more compliments on a bike than on My jackpot... I put a 300mm Rear tire on it and it looks SICK.... It is a bitch to drive as you need to lean hard for turns... It frightens women and children ... thats all that matters to me...lol

    ReplyDelete

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