Mainstream Choppers Shootout

Three for the Strip

Victory Vegas

Victory Vegas Jackpot
MSRP: Starting $17,999 (As tested $21,539 Includespremium Sunset Red paint $1,842, HID lighting kit: $449, billet wheels: $999 and CA emissions: $250)

The Vegas is a stalwart of the Victory lineup, enhanced by the fat-tired Jackpot offshoot. The Jackpot designation indicates more flash and flare in the form of custom paint options, a color-matched frame, "excessive" chrome, custom headlight and a chubby 250mm rear tire. Victory did an excellent job of hitting on so many of the priorities of the cruiser customer.

Victory's signature Freedom V100/6 air/oil-cooled, SOHC, 50-degree V-Twin received a number of refinements and enhancements this year. The compression ratio was reduced from 9.8:1 to 8.7:1 in order "to prevent spark knock and add more ignition timing” that somehow results in slightly greater horsepower and torque

Vegas
 Highs:

- Imposing presence

- Lovely styling touches and coolest headlight

- Relatively exotic

 Sighs:

- Wonky, fat-tire handling

- Harsh-riding rear end

- Explaining why you didn’t get a Harley

claims, and larger 45mm throttle bodies are fed by a new, fully-sequential, closed-loop injection system. Changes to the oil-cooling system wrap out the major upgrades to the mill.

Noise pollution was on the mind of Victory engineers this year. Some of the target areas included: a taller sixth gear (first gear is shorter, but not for noise reduction purposes) that purportedly reduces tranny meshing noise and reduces cruising rpm by 3%, a split-gear clutch and a "re-tuned" compensator, a primary cover with more sound-deadening ribbing, a quieter alternator and slower valve closing speeds combined with longer closing ramps reduce annoying top-end "tick."

Styling is about on par with the Raider in my opinion, but it has some distinct features too. Take for example the beautiful headlight nacelle. It's large but integrates perfectly with the rest of the front-end, adding a purposeful look to the bike, as if to say, "I'm serious." A tribal flame-job paint scheme looks a bit blase though it's very high-quality.

"Duke here. This my town, 
see. An' I'm gonna teach you a thing or two 'bout choppers, see."
The Jackpot is a star on the Strip, but putting it through its pace in tight, twisting tarmac reveals the serious 
handling woes thanks to the 250 rear tire.
Looking a little closer to the details, we can begin to see that Victory sweats the small stuff. Like the raised rib running down the center of the sculpted seamless fuel tank that blends perfectly into the saddle and its Frenched-in taillight is pretty. Buzz "Cocktail Party" Waloch remarked that the Vegas' sharp styling is something we've come to know and love, but he had his eagle eyes on when he spotted a few exposed bolts in the exhaust bracket area and lots of exposed wiring around the bars. He was right to say that for the price of admission, the Jackpot needs to follow the other two and hide those wires. Truth is, Buzz said those wires could go somewhere more specific, but, hey, this is a family show!

Sitting alongside that exposed wiring are two stainless-steel lines. One leads to the single four-piston caliper that pinches a 300mm floating rotor. Perhaps the other stainless line should lead to a second caliper/rotor combo, but it doesn't and that's a darn shame. Last year you could climb aboard any Victory model and expect the venerable name of Brembo to be there with you. Not so this year, as the brakes on all models are Victory-branded Nissins. They require a strong squeeze and don't offer much feel. If the Jackpot's brake was like a TV character, it would be George Costanza: wimpy and full of excuses.

Crazy, then, how the measly two-piston caliper rear brake does an exceptionally better job of grasping a 300mm rotor. How'd they get the brakes backwards like that? Alas, just flip the stopping power ratio of roughly 70% front/30% rear that's found on most other bikes, and the Victory stops easily enough.

The second of the two stainless lines I mentioned above connects to the clutch; the clutch that allows you to access the clunkiest tranny of the group. Both Buzz and I were throwing around words like "agricultural" when lamenting the very notchy first and second gear. The gear-set certainly seems durable enough, but it lacks the refined, almost buttery-smoothness of the Raider, or the positive-shifting Rocker C. Still, we all thought the overdriven sixth gear was a good thing when pounding down the highway.

The Jackpot and its 95 ft-lbs of torque is a good sparring partner to the powerhouse Raider. Like the Star, it will stir your hooligan spirit with easy stop-light peel-outs, and if you get it just right the front will relieve itself of the tarmac by an inch or two over a short distance. But in terms of maximum power, its 78 horsepower comes up short to the rambunctious Raider. Guess there's no replacement for displacement, as the saying goes.

The Victory managed to please us all in one area, and grossly disappoint in another. First the bad news. That top-fuel-dragster-looking rear tire might scream torque monster, but it turns the bike into a spoiled little child actress that refuses to do what she's told when it's time to take the bike through the twists and turns. Kevin summarized it best when he said "The wide, heavy rear wheel/tire is a fashion statement that compromises ride quality. The Jackpot hates mid-corner, sharp-edged bumps as the suspension struggles to control the weighty wheel." Despite having a wheelbase (66.3") almost five inches shorter than the Raider and Rocker C, and comparable rake and trail (32.9-degrees/4.9") figures, the Jackpot came up a couple cherries short of a winning pull because of that fat rear Dunlop. It requires continual inside bar pressure to hold a lean in a curve, so it feels unnatural when turning.

Despite giving up 13 cubic inches to the Raider, the Vegas cranks out plenty of power to make that big wheel keep on turnin' and put the hurt on the Harley. Thanks to the expert crew at Area P.

The area of the Victory's welcome dominance was in the ergo dept. The rider triangle is the most compact in the group (aside from wider handlebars), yet it feels anything but cramped or compact. Buzz loved the Jackpot for its easy reach to the bars, and I couldn't help but think how the scooped-out saddle felt like an expensive custom job. Passengers won’t be so happy with the mediocre rear seat and high footpegs. If the rear suspension was more forgiving, the Jackpot would have made a good partner to actually boogie on down the highway to Vegas with the Raider at its side, thanks to great ergos. Duke wasn’t thrilled with its turnsignal switch that feels vague and cheap for a bike in this price range and was occasionally reluctant to cancel; its self-canceling system wasn’t as responsive as Harley’s excellent system.

2008 Victory Vegas Jackpot is boulevard cruising material for sure!

The Vegas Jackpot has a lot of things going for it that makes it a star, but only if that star is on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Plenty of torque, distinct Victory styling and a cozy cockpit (with the best instruments location, by the way, although there’s nothing more than a speedo, odo and tripmeter) make it a champ on the strip – Sunset or Vegas. But if a series of challenging roads are in your future, don't expect the Jackpot be in the lead for an Oscar for Handling.

That mondo rear tire really penalizes the bike's steering and turning performance, making it a candidate for a Razzie instead.

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