2005 Victory Hammer & 8-Ball Intro
Touring Cruiser, Vegas, Kingpin, they're all equipped with an excellent 92 cubic inch overhead cam V-twin and they all tend to posses superior dynamic qualities compared to typical cruisers. This is because Victory hasn't been mired in "tradition", instead they've tried (successfully) to balance function with form. For 2005, Victory introduces two new models with drastically different executions. Their star player is the new "Hammer" with an extra-w-i-d-e- rear tire, a new 100 cubic inch V-Twin and a 6-Speed gearbox. The other new model is a blacked-out and de-contented Vegas based cruiser called the "8-Ball". I was fortunate enough to ride both of these new models at a recent Victory Press Intro, held in the rolling foothills surrounding Austin Texas.
2005 Victory Hammer - MSRP $16,499
Victory labels the new Hammer as a "Power Cruiser". However if you ask me (or look at our old dyno charts), all Victory motorcycles are "power cruisers". I say this, because unlike most other manufacturers, Victory always gives you a full potency motor that hasn't been "dumbed-down" for mass consumption. Furthermore, Victory motorcycles always have outstanding Brembo brakes, that aren't tuned to feel like a handful of mashed potato-potatoes. Yes, I have a lot of respect for Victory and you'll do well to keep that fact in mind, as I proceed to bitch and moan about their decision to saddle an otherwise decent bike with a silly 250mm wide rear tire.
Powered by a thoroughly redesigned version of the Freedom 92 motor, the Hammer's Freedom 100/6 ads 8 cubic inches of displacement and an extra ratio to the gearbox. One might assume that the Freedom 100/6 is meant to be a Hot Rod but in reality, the idea was to add an "Overdrive" ratio to the gearbox and the displacement boost was aimed primarily at boosting low and midrange torque, to help prevent the motor from "lugging" while pulling that tall gear on the highway. Now displacing 1,634cc, the new engine is claimed to boost horsepower by 10% and torque by 22% over the Freedom 92. The last Freedom 92 we tested (2004 Kingpin) made 76.5Hp and 89.1LbFt, so if Victory's claims are accurate, the new 100/6 should produce in the neighborhood of 84Hp and 109LbFt. Those numbers are nothing to sneeze at. Not content to rest on dyno figures alone, the Victory rep went on to tell me that the Hammer posts the same acceleration numbers as a 1,670cc Yamaha Warrior (3.9sec 0-60 and mid-12 second 1/4 mile times).When the cover is on the seat, the windscreen's black base still serves to deflect the breeze. If your trolling is successful, you simply pop the seat cowl off the passenger pad and snap it onto the windscreen base for instant passenger accommodations. This entire operation (not including the trolling and hook-up) takes about 5 seconds. On the road, the Hammer did indeed feel stronger than the Freedom 92 powered 8-Ball that I rode on the same day. First gear acceleration is strong, linear and more importantly easy to modulate. However, the nature of the roads we were riding caused me to spend most of my time in the Hammer's ultra-tall "Overdrive" sixth gear. If birds were chirping, I would have probably heard them, thanks to a redesigned valvetrain, primary gears and misc other internal parts that all serve to drastically reduce the signature gear whine of the V92 series. Cruising along at 80MPH through a beautiful 80° Texas day, the Hammer allowed me to relax and enjoy the undulating topography, fragrant vegetation and an occasional glimpse of a lake or river. Meanwhile, the Freedom turned over at a mere 2,900RPM with the little green O/D light shining merrily from the base of the tachometer.
(All kits are labeled "For Off-Road Use Only" and should be available April 2005)
Stage II: Big Bore kit to convert Freedom 92 motors to 100 cubic inches.
Stage III: Includes the Stage I&II items, plus high performance cams. Victory says a properly tuned Stage III equipped Freedom V-Twin will generate 115Hp at 6,000 rpm. The lumpy cams added a noticeable edge to the Stage III's exhaust note and backed that sound up with a healthy increase in pull. Due to the Hammer's funky feeling rear end, I didn't try any sideways shenanigans, but this motor would be an awesome addition to an 8-Ball, where the lighter weight and reasonable sized rear tire would encourage sideways corner exits and frequent smoky rolling burnouts.
Stage IV: Is a new 106 cubic inch Victory/S&S crate motor. This kit is claimed to generate 122+ Hp and 115LbFt of torque. No further details are available at this time.
Check this out! The chromed-out Stage I Hammer that I tested came equipped with a cool new body colored accessory windscreen. The screen is actually two pieces, with a black base and a painted cover that doubles as a sea cowl.
Speaking of tighter roads and changes in speed, like all Victorys, the Hammer is graced with a set of Brembo brakes, braided stainless lines and dual 300mm rotors that are tuned more like a "standard" motorcycle than a cruiser. Even though the Hammer is not a lightweight and even though it has a moderately raked-out front end, the brakes allow effective speed retardation, with no noticeable fade and excellent feedback. Other cruiser manufacturers would do well to take note of the fact that just because it's a "cruiser" doesn't mean it has to brake like something from the 50s'. Once slowed sufficiently, the Hammer is able to lean 2° farther than the rest of the Vegas family, thanksto a narrower bottom-end on the motor and a redesigned frame that mounts the footpegs closer to the bike's centerline. When you get used to the compromises forced by the rear tire, it is possible to ride the Hammer at a reasonable backroad pace and you shouldn't have any trouble keeping up with the typical "barhopper" crowd.
Ergonomically speaking, the Hammer offers a moderate riding position, with a low seat, reasonably flat handlebars and moderately placed foreward-controls that offer a decent compromise between "pose" and control. The accommodations remained comfortable for several hours, aside from the usual lower back and arm fatigue caused from trying to fight windblast while sitting in an easy chair position. The Stage I Hammer that I rode was equipped with an accessory windscreen (see sidebar) that did a great job of alleviating the tiresome windblast and only caused the slightest amount of helmet buffeting.
Now that I've established the new engine situation and discussed the rest of the Hammer, it is time to cover the controversial (to me at least) key feature of the bike. How wide is "too wide"? That's a question Victory's engineers should have asked, before compromising an otherwise excellent motorcycle. Unfortunately, they saddled the new Hammer with a 250mm rear tire. Like all bikes with ultra-wide low-profile rear tires, the Hammer's relatively flat rear contact patch causes the bike to misbehave on uneven surfaces, with an unsettling tendency to hunt, dart & weave, as the bike is leaned over on rough pavement. I suspect the major problem with this arrangement is that the tire's profile creates a broad/flat contact patch with an awkward transition at the shoulders. This problem is compounded by the fact that the contact patch moves nearly ten inches from side-to-side, while the front tire's contact patch remains near the bike's centerline, when the bike is leaned into a turn. The effect is something like trying to lever the rear endup and over onto its sidewall and once the desired lean angle is established, it takes constant input to maintain a smooth cornering arc. This isn't a big deal on smooth pavement, but when a corner is off camber, the tip-in takes additional concentration and muscle. Transitional behavior suffers as well, as the inherent imbalance between front and rear causes the bike to react more slowly to steering inputs. By comparison, the "normal" tires on the 8-Ball made it feel like a TZ-250 roadracer, next to the comparatively dimwitted handling of the Hammer. However, even with my admitted bias for function-over-form, I must admit that the Hammer looks pretty cool from behind. When following a Hammer on the road, the rear tire disappears into the closely fit rear fender and the whole assembly looks great, in a muscular sort of way. An added benefit is that the rider's ass is made to look narrow in comparison, so you big boys out there can impress the ladies with your trim physique, at least until you stand-up that is.
The Hammer presents a mixed bag of "improvements". Its fit and finish are outstanding, and the new Freedom 100/6 powerplant should be standard on all of Victory's motorcycles. However, this bike is really more of a styling exercise, than a true "rider's" motorcycle. If you are looking for something flashy to roll up to the next group ride on, this might be the bike for you.
** SPECS PROVIDED BY POLARIS **
|Engine Type||4-stroke 50° V-Twin|
|Displacement||100/1634 cu.in / cc|
|Bore x Stroke||101x102 mm x mm|
|Valve Train||Single overhead camshafts with 4 valves per cylinder, hydraulic-adjusting cam chains, hydraulic lifters|
|Fuel System||Electronic Fuel Injection with 44mm throttle bodies|
|Fuel Capacity||4.5/17.0 U.S. gallons/liters|
|Exhaust||Large bore slash-cut dual exhaust with common volume|
|Oil Capacity||5/4.75 U.S. quarts/L|
|Charging System||38 amps max output|
|Battery||12 volts/18 amp hours|
|Primary Drive||Gear drive with torque compensator|
|Transmission||6-speed Overdrive constant mesh|
|Final Drive||Carbon Fiber Reinforced Belt|
|Front Brake||Dual 300mm floating rotors with 4-piston calipers|
|Rear Brake||300mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper|
|Seat Height||26.4/669.3 in/mm|
|Ground Clearance||5.8/148 in/mm|
|Dry Weight||657/298.6 lbs/kg|
|Front Suspension||Inverted cartridge telescopic fork, 43mm fork tube, 5.1in/130mm travel|
|Rear Suspension||Single, mono-tube gas, Forged and Cast Aluminum with rising rate linkage swing-arm, 3.9in/100mm travel, Preload adjustable spring|
|Front Wheel||18x3.0 inches|
|Rear Wheel||18x8.5 inches|
|Front Tire||130/70R18 Dunlop Elite 3|
|Rear Tire||250/40R18 Dunlop Elite 3|
|Solid Colors||Black, Indy Red, Cosmic Sunburst, Flame Yellow|
|Multiple Colors||Indy Red with Tribal Tattoo, Toxic Green with Tribal Tattoo|
|*All specs are for standard Victory Models. Specs may change with the addition of custom order options. Seat height reflects 180 lb. operator weight. Prices listed are MSRP for stock solid black model. Alternate paint options or additional options may increase price. Victory reserves the right to change specifications at any time without incurring obligation.|