Dear MOby,

Yes, I have a question: When will Victory/Indian come out with a legitimate sport bike that will rival other naked superbikes?

John M
Dublin OH

Hmmm… That was every squid’s hope, that when Polaris bought Indian, it would allow Victory to set out in a sportier direction – a hope that wasn’t dimmed at all by the bike Victory raced at Pikes Peak the last couple of years (lead photo). The basic engine powering that machine is the one Indian uses in the Scout, as well as the one in the Victory Octane. For cruiser use, even sporty cruiser use, it’s fine. To compete with things like the KTM Super Duke, that V-Twin is a bit large and heavy. Does it make sense for Polaris to engineer a lighter, more compact (and way more powerful) one? We bounced your question off Robert Pandya, Victory and Polaris’ press guy:

We don’t speak to future products specifically, so I cannot confirm any speculation about that. I do have a house to pay for after all.

That said – and strictly from a PERSONAL position – the sportbike market has proven difficult for American brands as the revolution in sportbikes was driven in the ’80s by Japanese and European brands historically. Thus “American Sportbikes” is a concept difficult to put into context, thus odd for customers to digest. Sort of like diet Pop Tarts. Or a Ducati Cruiser. Somebody may want that – but do enough people want that to make it a viable investment (globally speaking)?

There are certainly instances where brands have broken away from their traditional base – the Porsche Cayenne comes to mind. Nearly two decades after its introduction, the Cayenne has been the top-selling model despite the cries of enthusiast defenders of the brand. Now Cayenne sales (and Macan to some degree) likely fuel the company and its ability to double down on technology and make better sports cars. Audi’s Q7 exists because of the path laid by Porsche. The issue however is segment size – is it worth the considerable risk to invest in new classes of motorcycles outside of the “usual” expected by the mass consumer? It’s a lower risk for Porsche to try building an SUV due to the opportunity sales than it is for our brands to explore sportbikes due to their relatively limited sales against the dominant classes on the market. Add on to that the consumer appetite (media especially) to lust only after the hottest new technology in the sportbike field, and any unit that does not seem competitive is shunned no matter how good a bike it is for the typical buyer. My friends at Honda would agree with that I think. Ducati saw a successful path to market expansion in the scrambler series (based on an existing engine and their own mastered technology to reduce costs).

Toss in global exchange rates and the considerable cost of development for these great motorcycles, and you cannot blame any product manager for being skeptical of the segment, especially in the wake of other heroic attempts. We have to sell motorcycles globally to be competitive. Brand image has a lot to do with the products we are comfortable with (Mercedes pickup truck anyone?) Given the budget, in that position I would foresee that exploring other growing segments (there are a few) would be more enticing than going into the boss’s office and pitching a sportbike or a superbike.

There are great American Sportbikes out there – new and used. They are being built in Wisconsin and Alabama now. Consumers vote with their dollars no matter how passionate they are – and although it is not out of the realm to see an American Sportbike coming from either of our brands, the stronger business opportunities may lay in other segments. That said – what a great time to ride a motorcycle – never have there been so many capable options on the market – and the technology sportbikes bring has trickled down into ADV bikes, and even cruisers.

Long live the sportbike – and I wish success and twisting roads to every enthusiast out there.

Robert Pandya

There’s your Official Word, which is of course carefully crafted to keep tightly contained whatever cat might be in the bag. The most obvious cat would be, of course, the new engine Indian revealed, designed in conjunction with SwissAuto, to power its brand-spanking new FTR750 flat track racer.


To squelch conjecture in the bud, Indian used the phrase “race-only” repeatedly in describing that V-Twin, but it’s hard to square that with the Official Word, which just stated that kind of investment must fit within Polaris’ bottom line. In fact, here’s what we wrote in the FTR story from the link above:

Although the FTR is solely a racing machine at this point, we can’t imagine Indian putting a bunch of development work into a new engine family and not leveraging that R&D into a spin-off streetbike at some point in the future, especially as nice as the thing appears to be finished in the photos we’ve seen. We bet we’ll see a concept of such a machine at this fall’s EICMA show in Milan.

We get Chris Carr to test the FTR750 for MO – with video!

EICMA may be a little premature (we get over-stimulated sometimes), but you have to think something is brewing at Polaris, which loves to bill itself as a company of serious enthusiasts. So which will come first, the Victory FT1000 or the Honda VFR1000RR? It’s fun to play the game.

  • spiff

    I like these reads, including the “straight from the horses mouth” part.

  • DickRuble

    “Does it make sense for Polaris to engineer a lighter, more compact (and way more powerful) one?” The question is do they know how? And the answer is .. nope.

  • Old MOron

    “That was every squid’s hope, that when Polaris bought Indian, it would allow Victory to set out in a sportier direction…”

    Oh, really? Every squid’s hope? As far as I know, “squid” is, and always has been, a pejorative term. When did you come to disdain those of us hoping for a sport bike?

    And when did you abandon our ranks?

    • spiff

      That one hurt didn’t it MOron? Hit a little to close to home? 🙂

      I think their version of an XR750 is all we will get.

      • Old MOron

        Aye, that one hurt. Reopened the wound created when Victory hyped its Pikes Peak racer, then delivered the Octane.

        • DickRuble

          Whatcha still doing here? You got a beemer.. There’s never going to be an American bike that comes even close to it.. If I were you I’d be reading the manual. It’s thick and I bet you still haven’t figured out all the buttons, ride mode combinations, and display options.

          • Old MOron

            LOL. I just got home about 1/2 an hour ago, having ridden my bike on SoCal’s night time freeways. I was thinking how good my bike is as I rolled the power on and off through my heated grips. I’ve read the manual, and I can change the important stuff, but I’ve been meaning to look up how to turn down the brightness of the display.

          • DickRuble

            Meanwhile I have to take off the tank, re-open my *&&%#$ POS Mikuni carb and drop in a new needle jet, and see if I can make it run without backfiring, for the 20th time this year…

          • Old MOron

            Now that’s love!

  • Craig Hoffman

    Sportbikes are awesome, but they make no sense from a business standpoint. Cruisers are where the money is. Develop an engine and it is good until the EPA says it is not anymore. Sport bikes have simply gone way too far off the make it tiny and make it fast high technology deep end, with its associated expense, for most buyers.

    Would still love to see a street going replica of the Scout flat tracker though. A nice bike to look at with good power. Might even make some business sense too.

    • allworld

      They had their chance to jump into bed with MV Augusta which makes a 3 cylinder. My Brutale puts out 140 HP and weighs 370 lbs.
      That engine is used in more than a few bikes, covering more segments……

  • Starmag

    A street FTR750 would be in a class of one. Exclusive products are where the margin is.

  • halfkidding

    Forget ‘sport’ bikes. How about higher performance naked bikes, sports tourers or adventure/touring bikes. Things without steamer length wheel bases, some ground clearance;decent suspension, you know, bikes which do stuff besides cruise.

    I actually really like the Scout, not that I am buying one. Is anyone?

    • Gee S


      I don’t think that most people are looking for hyper sports to take to the track — what they are interested in is what we used to refer to as “motorcycles”.

      You know, machines that accelerate, brake, go around corners without trailing showers of sparks (unless you wanna, ‘natch), and that you might be able to sit on for longer than one tankful of fuel. Hands and feet forward doesn’t even get a second look. What it all comes down to is something that is fun to ride on public roads, and is flexible/versatile enough to use for practical daily transport and travel, should one be so inclined.

      What I want, and what I suspect many other do too, is something “sporty” without having to be “SPORTS!”.

      Burnsie’s choice of the Project 156 as an illustration is apt — the work to put the Scout powerplant in a sensible frame/suspension with a sensible seating position has already been done and successfully demonstrated. I keep waiting for an American motorcycle that I can ride any way I currently use one of my mid 1970s standards. If we can believe Robert Pandya, looks like I’m going to still be waiting.

      • DickRuble

        The Scout engine is not in the 156..So the work hasn’t been done.

  • Brett Lewis

    Is Buell/EBR the elephant in the room? They are (apparently) taking orders for an 1190 sportbike and naked, and hopefully will soon unveil an adventure/tourer.

    • I heard last Wednesday from a new EBR dealer that they’re introducing a 1290 engine next year with 2 models (RX & SX was hinted) using it.

  • Prakasit

    That is the longest, though well reasoned NO, I have ever read

  • allworld

    I am sort of surprised at the response from Polaris, a little annoyed at John’s opening line “That was every squid’s hope, “.
    Sure development is costly and sales need to cover the cost…… That is not news.
    Take Yamaha as an example they developed their 3 cylinder engine and put it to use in a few bikes. Indian already does that with their 2 engines, Polaris should develop another power plant and frame that can be shared with not one but 2 brands (Victory and Indian), and become a player in the “naked/streetfighter”, “adventure touring”, as well as a midsize sport touring segments. Not to do so seems short sighted and until they do I have no interest in waking into one of their showrooms.

  • Auphliam

    This what is maddening to me about their mindset. You ask for something sportier than a cruiser and they immediately point to the hyperbikes and say it’s not worth the investment. Of course, that’s not worth it…but how about some middle ground? Even the Wisconsin Madman realized he had to build a naked bike to remain somewhat competitive in the current market.

    He points to examples from other marques stepping outside their comfort zone to prove his point, but every one he mentions is a success…Porsche Cayenne? Yep, big seller. Ducati Cruiser? Yep, they did it. Build a whole line of standards with one proven engine? Yep, can be found at nearly every dealership in the country EXCEPT for Victory/Indian/HD.

    Victory could’ve just built a naked standard out of the P156 and, given the enthusiasm at the time, they would’ve sold them as fast as they could bolt them together. Hiding behind this time honored excuse that it’s never been an American thing is getting really friggin old.

    (Can you tell I’m still a little sour about the Octane?)

    • DickRuble

      I think the key point here is the weight of the engine, JB mentions it. The resulting standard would be so heavy as to not be competitive.

      • Auphliam

        No doubt, the EBR is the choice du jour if a person wants an American naked today. My thoughts are this (and I may be way off base, but bear with me);

        Look at the current iteration of the Triumph Thruxton (and subsequent R version). Hardly a world beater in terms of performance, but just enough quality componentry to make them better than most bikes in it’s class.

        Why? Because How many bikes are actually in it’s class? The CB1100? The Sportster? Maybe the Guzzi Griso? …and it certainly has a much higher level of performance than any American cruiser. Upon reveal, Triumph sold out every single one of the new Thruxton R’s before a single wheel had touched down on American soil.

        Look back to the fervor that was created by P156 and the subsequent hype and merciless teasing by PII that followed. Even a modicum effort would’ve been gobbled up by the American buying public. Hell, they created so much hype, they could’ve bolted that engine into a J.C. Whitney kit bike and it probably would’ve sold.

        • DickRuble

          I didn’t think of the Triumph segment, was thinking more Tuono or Brutale.. You might be right.. there may be room for a standard instead of a “naked” sport.

  • TheMarvelous1310

    I can understand the reluctance. The closest thing I can think of to a sporting cruiser that’s not actually a cruiser is the Honda CB1100 and that’s not exactly a bestseller, is it? Everybody whines about the weight and it’s too ‘neutral’ and sounds bland. A naked street bike made with that engine-like the 156-probably would sound the business, but be too ‘aggressive’ and ‘harsh’ for the crowd that would actually come to buy it.

    Or in other words, those who would like it probably couldn’t afford it, and vice versa… But they should still build it! That’s what makes a legend.

  • JMDonald

    Define sport bike.

  • spiff

    Polaris will most certainly come out with a high performance bike. They have been tinkering with it at the Isle of Man.

  • Tod Rafferty

    Robert said much the same (in fewer words) over a year ago. Only thing changed is a much more competitive marketplace; nonetheless I continue to predict a Sport Scout within two years. Not a “sportbike” in the conventional lexicon, an all-round roadster that will, unless Harley comes up with something in the interim, put the Sportster on the shelf indefinitely. Don’t think it’s a question of if, but when.

    • Kevin Duke

      Yup, I think so, too.

  • mikstr

    sadly, here in Poser-land North America, people lay their money down for overweight, underpowered, chromed-up behemoths whose acceleration is measured on a calendar (instead of a a stopwatch) – and it’s just getting worse it seems. Victory/Indian have the perfect heart for the creation of a decently powered, relatively lightweight and great handling everyday motorcycle, but they may never build it because riders here are not “into that”. Dip it in chrome, add tons of weight, remove all practical suspension travel and make it an underperformer in every sense of the word and just watch it fly out of the showrooms. That, sadly, is the state of motorcycling in North America… Despite what we’d like to see, motorcycling is a business and Polaris will go where the smart money is… “chrome me up Scotty”…

    • That market share is and will continue to die off. Good riddance.

  • ADB

    Cruisers = Profit. Bikes for the rest of us, not so much. Oh, well…

  • Dave Estey

    Ducati did it with more than the Scrambler. Look at the 1198 engine now being used in the Monster, Multistrada and Diavel.