First Ride 2007 Victory Hammer S
Victory Gets It Right!
When any product, however subtly, aligns or identifies itself with a particular market it won't be judged solely on its own merits, but by all of the other products similarly seeking that same market.
For example, if you're going to call yourself a sportbike in the new millennium you'll have to accelerate with enough g-force to shame a German-built centrifuge, stop like you have tractor-trailer air-brakes and handle like a Formula One race car. Marginal differences notwithstanding, if your machine can't at least hang with the crowd, you stand a very good chance of being skewered by the critics.
With respect to the wide world of cruisers, the recent growth of what has become known as the "power cruiser" segment has caught the attention of many bike makers. More and more bikes within that slot are capable of turning with relative ease, stopping with power and proficiency, and churning out tons o' torque while still maintaining the traditional cruiser appeal.
Being relatively new to the motorcycle scene hasn't stopped or even slowed one maker -- Victory Motorcycles -- even moderately from growing their company and their line of machines. Considering that they've been retailing bikes since 1998, the following statement by Product Manager Steve Smith is bold and impressive: "Since 2003 our entire line has been revamped." In 2005, as part of the full-steam-ahead-damn-the-torpedoes attitude that Victory has adopted, the Hammer was added to their line. Part custom cruiser, part sport bike -- at least in spirit -- this torque-driven looker was aimed at a younger, performance-minded audience. Victory wanted to capture the attention of riders transitioning from the sports side of cycling to the more relaxed and rapidly expanding cruiser market.
Unfortunately for Victory, the Hammer -- at least in MO's majority opinion -- fell too far short of the competition in this growing cruiser segment. Certainly the Hammer looks the business; and build quality and refinement are top notch. But that 250 series tire on the back prevented it from steering and handling as well as the other bikes in the game. If Victory tried to create and market a machine to a crowd that is used to motorcycles that do many things well -- like sportbikes or standards -- they missed the mark. But 2007 is a new year and with it a new opportunity to try to hit their target.
"All of our decisions are based on the voice of the customer." That's another strong conviction that Steve Smith says is integral to the Victory philosophy. I'm not sure who Victory was listening to when they created the 2007 Hammer S -- I'd like to think it was the editorial staff at MO -- but they must have heard the cries of those who thought the Hammer needed to steer and handle much better than it did if they wanted it to be taken seriously as a "power" or performance cruiser. Yes, something significant has changed about the base Hammer model and it's called the Hammer S. How significant of a change was it? And did it make the bike better or worse? To find out, MO accepted Victory's invitation to come to Rancho Mirage, CA --near Palm Springs-- and see for ourselves just what this S model was all about.
Covering the technical aspects of the S model is short and sweet. In fact covering virtually every aspect of the '07 Hammer S is so easy all you have to do is look to the standard Hammer. Taking it a step further, you can look all the way back to 2006 and still find no discernible changes.
On the S, you'll find the same air/oil-cooled, SOHC, eight valve, 100 cubic inch 50 degree V-twin power plant with exactly the same hydraulically adjusted valve lifters and cam chain. You'll note that it has the same 9.8 : 1 compression ratio. Just like the other Hammer, the S is fuel injected with 44mm throttle bodies. That smooth, Japanese-like -- that's a good thing -- six-speed overdrive transmission is also on the S model. The powerful and easily modulated Brembos that squeeze dual, floating 300mm brake rotors have a home on the Hammer S as do braided stainless steel brake lines. Front suspension duties on the S are handled by the same, formidable 43mm inverted forks; just like its Hammer brother. The rear shock gets equal exposure on the S. And, of course, the now fabled and fat 250 series Dunlop still managed to sneak its way onto this tough-looking version of the Hammer.
"So, what is different, then?" you ask. Two primary differences exist; the first is the most obvious. The S is striking in appearance. Victory specifically chose to black-out much, if not all, of the same external components that the other Hammer has. From front to back, it's black, black, black: speedo and tach-black, handlebars-black, engine cylinders and cases-black and more black, foot controls-black, swing arm-black, fork stanchions-black.
In fact, about the only things not blacked-out are the exhaust, the wheels and half of the paint scheme. The exhaust pipes retain their classic cruiser chrome. As for the wheels, instead of the standard polished billet units, the S receives a set of beautifully-styled, red-powder coated Gatlin wheels by Performance Machine. The paint scheme, from the headlight to the tail section, receives a tasteful, yet tough-looking mix of the red and black. The Hammer S continues to do the Hammer name proud by looking as good as ever.
With the appearance being the obvious separator, only one difference remains. Instead of the V-shaped handlebars found on the basic Hammer, the S model receives a different bar set. Looking suspiciously like the same bars found on the Kingpin --except for the black color-- the S is graced with a bar with more pull-back, for lack of a better term. "What's the big deal?" Everything, it would seem.
In spite of my best efforts -- including threatening to tar and feather -- I could not, for the life of me, get any Victory staff member to tell me that other than the handlebars, no piece of functional equipment had changed on the bike. This was extremely hard for me -- and other journos in attendance -- to accept. It seemed far too inconceivable that the ill-fated handling of the other Hammer would virtually disappear with a bar swap. Gone is the tendency to "center", or reluctance to stay leaned over after initiating a turn -- a flaw many were sure was the fault of the big rear tire. Where the V-barred Hammer resists maintaining an effortless line through a turn, the S model requires very moderate counter-steer pressure to stay on tack. Mid-turn direction changes are greeted with little complaint and handled with aplomb. Stability through every corner is something you come to expect while riding the S, rather than a rare experience on the standard Hammer.
Riding the S just a tick under 120 miles through both tight and sweeping turns as well as plenty of straight lining was nothing but pure, unadulterated fun; and I felt I could go twice as far because not only does the S handle worlds better, its ergos are improved. The reach from the saddle to the bars is more natural and relaxed. Also noticeably absent was that slightly uneasy feeling riders of more, shall we say, sub-average height might experience while trolling at parking lot speeds with the bars at full lock. I didn't get the sensation that I was stretching across the fuel tank to reach the outside bar.
All of the same great traits that exist in the other Hammer are present in the S. Raw torque combined with tall gearing and an overdrive mean no tap dancing on the shift lever -- the overdrive is almost the exclusive territory of the freeway. Shifting is de facto flawless -- it actually seems to prefer clutchless-upshifting. Braking qualities are accentuated by good feel and ease of use, albeit with a soft initial bite. The same powerful 100 cubic inch engine that everyone loves and is the "heart" of the bike does suffer some vibration starting around 4,000 rpm, but this is easily forgivable. Fueling is glitch-free and it lacked any hesitation, giving the sensation of instantaneousness. Just like on the standard Hammer, the S model's suspension keeps the bike well-behaved overall; but the bike does get a little unsettled over rough pavement when pushed to its restrictive, cruiser-platform limits. If Victory would allow the forks some rebound adjustment, this would probably solve some of that sketchiness.
After, um, hammering the Hammer S, I came away with one conclusion: they finally got it right! Of course it took me a couple of hours to wipe the ear-to-ear grin off of my face before I could come to the aforementioned conclusion. Victory has finally achieved in the S model all that they touted the other Hammer to be or what they hoped it was. The Hammer S has the soul of a cruiser with the willing spirit of a performance-inspired motorcycle.
Victory was able, somehow, to completely change the handling characteristics on this bike. No matter how much I looked the bike up and down -- including comparing the back tires on both Hammer models -- I couldn't find anything other than the handlebars that were different. For you spec sheet hounds out there, good luck finding the smallest difference. The chart for the S is a carbon copy of the base Hammer.
This new bike was such an improvement as far as I was concerned that I was shocked to learn that the V-bars will remain on the non-S model, thereby creating two Hammers. Too bad in my mind, because anyone would benefit and appreciate what Victory has done to the S. Unfortunately for many, this welcome change may not come with a welcome price tag.
The Hammer S will have a suggested retail of $19,749.00 ($19,999 CA model). Otherwise, well done Victory. Well done.
|2007 Victory Hammer MSRP:$16,899 - CA: $17,149|
|2007 Victory Hammer S MSRP:$19,749 - CA: $19,999|
|Specifications Courtesy of Victory|
|Engine Type||4-stroke 50¡Æ V-Twin|
|Displacement||100 cu in/1634cc|
|Bore x Stroke||101x102mm|
|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||Staggered slash-cut dual exhaust with common volume|
|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 rotor with 4-piston caliper|
|Rear Brake||300mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper|
|Seat Height||26.4/669.3 in/mm|
|Ground Clearance||5.8/148 in/mm|
|*Claimed* Dry Weight||657/298 lbs/kg|
|*Claimed* GVWR||1165/528 lbs/kg|
|Front Suspension||Conventional telescopic fork, 43mm diameter, 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 Tire||130/70R18 Dunlop Elite 3|
|Rear Tire||250 40-R18 Dunlop Elite 3|
|Solid Colors||Black, Turbo Silver with Firemist Clear Nuclear Sunset|
|Multiple Colors||[Sunset Red and Black]|
|*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. California Models pricing will require additional fee for fuel emissions canister. Alternate paint options or additional options may increase price. Victory reserves the right to change specifications at any time without incurring obligation. Prices exclude dealer setup, shipping, taxes, title and licensing and are subject to change. Dealer prices may vary.|
The 2007 Kingpin Tour picked up a trunk for the new model year, and with it picked up enough storage to nearly double its capacity, bringing the total to 22 gallons. Other than the addition of this trunk that can hold up to 20lbs of gear, the Tour remains unchanged.
The much-hyped and much-anticipated "New American Touring Motorcycle" is nearing completion and we hope to actually see the bike before the end of 2006.
The current status of this uber tourer according to Victory is as follows:
- Initial consumer clinics are complete (presumably focus groups)
- The final design has been selected. (Earlier this year they had four to play with.)
- A full-scale concept model has been developed and is complete.
- Extensive testing is currently underway.
In order to arrive at this stage, Victory worked diligently with American V-twin touring riders. They offered a wide variety of potential model sketches; studied what the tourers wanted in their next touring bike; spent time in their garages and on the road with serious touring riders; held product clinics with the concept models compared next to existing models from other makers; and lastly they purportedly logged over 28,000 miles --and this is very important, pay attention-- with a passenger.
Good luck Victory. We certainly hope all those existing riders gave you what every touring rider wants, whatever that may be.