2012 Victory High-Ball Review
Reach for the Sky!
Seizing a trend, if not leading it from the start, Victory Motorcycles now has more than one blacked-out motorcycle in its line-up. With the 8-Ball editions of its Vegas, Kingpin, Hammer and Vision, 2012 welcomes a white-walled wonder called the High-Ball.
Touting the same matte-black paint scheme and night-crawler good looks as the other ’Balls, this model reaches for a different audience with its signature high-rise handlebars and whitewall tires.
Stuffed inside the steel perimeter frame is the familiar air/oil-cooled Freedom 106-cubic-inch V-Twin, which in a recent test cranked out numbers that embarrass a Harley TC96. Measured at the rear wheel, Victory’s mill cranked out 77.5 peak horsepower at 5250 rpm compared to Harley’s low-60s hp peak. Torque, too, is substantial, twisting out 88.9 ft-lb at 4250 rpm. All attitude and lots of go-go juice.
We got our ride on this pub-crawler at the mother of all motorcycle rallies, Daytona Beach Bike Week, amidst the parading masses and turning heads. Being more in tune with the boulevard than the canyons, the High-Ball fits right in on Main street, and Florida isn't known for it's twisty roads anyhow. And the public took notice of the distinctive 'Ball.
While photographing the bike, one drooling onlooker in particular knew the bike wasn't yet in the dealerships and had to ask how I came to be riding one that night. A conquest sale if there ever was one, this guy had been waiting to sell his Yamaha R1 to more comfortably enjoy his local Floridian roads. Cell phone photos were taken, spittle wiped from the saddle and tank, and he was a twitter-telling his posse of the sighting. He wasn't the only one checking out the High-Ball that night. The smarter guys were in line the next morning at the speedway for a demo ride on the surly cruiser.
Suspended by a 43mm conventional fork (37-degrees rake / 6.7-inches of trail) with 5.1-inches of travel and a spring-preload-adjustable shock at the rear with just 3.0-inches of travel, the big brand-wide V-Twin and 6-speed overdrive transmission wick up the whitewalls via a belt final drive.
As a specialized bike in the maker's line-up, the High-Ball takes a special rider. One full of grit, one willing to take on the world fists high in the sky. From the head stem back, the H-B is very much a Victory Vegas sans a pillion pad, luggage and bodywork... easier to clean. That is until you get to the wire-spoke wheels and whitewalls.
The word "high" in the model name doesn't refer to your mental state after riding the burly bike, it's obviously about those high handlebars. Solidifying your respect for authority, or lack there of, the high-bar position is restricted in some U.S. states, so the Victory design team built in a loop-hole.
Offering a two-position handlebar (straight up or slightly laid back), dealerships will have the bike prepared to suit your state’s restrictions, or freedoms. Laws vary by grip position: some states allow for no higher than eye level, others allow only for so many inches over the saddle height. Other’s still have no position regulation at all.
In the upright and “in the wind position”, the reach is comfortable from the 25-inch high saddle (second lowest in Victory’s line-up) putting the average rider bolt upright and with a slight forward lean. The alternate bar position is more relaxed and closer to the rider like found on other Victory cruiser models. Setting to the factory suggested markers, grip positions drop from full up by a whopping 8.9-inches and come back 5.4-inches. If not for the law of the land, a comfortable riding position can be found for even the vertically challenged riders on the ’Ball.
But how does it ride? At first glance, it appears that fashion has won over function in the styling department, but the arms-up riding position was more comfortable than expected. Call me a convert. For boulevard cruising and local hops, the fuel-injected SOHC 106 packs enough punch in the saddle to rocket from traffic signs with a smile on your face, while the high bars bring back your street cred by adding a little bad-boy look.
When street lights turn red, clamping down on the pair of 300mm floating rotors with a 4-piston caliper in front and a 2-piston rear. The combo performed adequately, though I’d prefer a little more feel from the 5-position-adjustable brake lever. But, hey, what cruiser doesn’t feel more in control when favoring the rear brake rather than the front? More fun was had reliving my youth as a BMX rider, crossing up the handlebar while skidding to a stop all over town. Good fun then, great fun now!
With Victory’s DNA seeping into every aspect, from the ridged spine on the tank and fender, to the slash-cut dual exhaust, to the two-tone headlight nacelle, the high-bar addition to this modified Vegas 8-Ball is a perfect fit. You’ll find very little chrome on the High-Ball, and it’s available in only one color (black) that’s balanced with strong white accents on the badge-less tank and Dunlop rubber.
Rolling on a pair of 16-inch laced wheels wrapped with Dunlop Cruisemax tires (120/90 up front and 150/80 out back), handling is light and fun. The bike itself is relatively light, too – lightweight enough to pick up off the side stand with only your legs; it weighs in at about 700 pounds (659 claimed dry weight). It’s more flickable than other big-inch cruisers I’ve ridden thanks to the unique leverage on the bars as well as the tweaked geometry.
While similar in appearance, the High-Ball is more compact than the Vegas’ line-up, making for a more nimble ride by way of a tighter rake (by 1.2-inches), longer trail, and yet a shorter wheelbase (64.8-inches) as well as overall length (92.5-inches). Shorter bike, tighter geometry and narrower tires: a no brainer.
While the high bars are not a first from a major manufacturer, they still grab attention from onlookers everywhere. The high bars aren’t too far behind the public trend, yet ahead of OEM curve. Of course, the high-and-mighty position has a few negatives. Luckily, the handlebar and triple tree clamps are solid, reducing the flex to nothing more than a standard handlebar.
Having mirrors at eye level is a boon for rearward visibility, however, the mirror itself then produces a blank spot on the horizon in front of you. Dropping the mirrors below the cluster would open up your sightline as well as add yet another cool-guy point to your ride.
Steering away from the touring models we’ve seen so much from Victory in the last year, the designers delivered a back-to-basics model with minimalist instruments and single-piece speedometer with LCD-displayed standards like odometer, trip meter and digital tachometer in 50-rpm increments.
While the trend this year in Daytona Beach seemed to be three-wheelers, “real bikers” gravitated towards the latest bad-boy releases from the big American builders. Victory’s High-Bal took top prize when it came to turning heads on Main Street. With an MSRP of just $13,499 (49-state), you’ll be looking at this retro-rod twice as well.