Victory had enough staying power that I actually thought it was going to give The Motor Company something to worry about. With the might of Polaris behind it, that theory actually had a little weight to it. We all know how that turned out, though one can make the argument that the challenge is stronger than ever with Polaris resurrecting Indian.
Has it really been 20 years since the world didn’t seize up at the stroke of midnight, as we feared it might? Yes. Every time I walk out into the garage, my 2000 R1 sitting dormant on its stand (the last year of the first-gen R1) reminds me of what a long time ago that was. Next to all the new bikes it sees come and go, the old girl is positively archaic. In a good, Ann-Margret way, but still. While we’re still quarantining seems like a good time to look back upon what bikes have moved the game forward the most since the millennium.
The history book (or Wikipedia page, if that’s your thing) on electric motorcycles is rather slim, especially compared to its internal combustion counterparts, but what you’ll find is a myriad of ideas and concepts. Such is the beauty of a technology in its infancy. The section on electric racing motorcycles is even thinner. If you discount the inaugural MotoE championship running alongside MotoGP this year, the biggest stage for electric racing motorcycles has been the Isle of Man TT Zero race, wherein each entry tries to complete one full lap around the 37-mile course as fast as possible. Well, it was until the event was put on hold for at least two years. The machines you would have found at the TT Zero are full of ideas and concepts to win the race, but the one constant is the fact the batteries dominate the vehicle’s overall design. It’s understandable, considering you need a lot of battery to travel nearly 40 miles at 150-plus miles per hour.
Arlen Ness lived in way that speaks volumes to his character and values. A man who has long been associated with the churn of an air compressor and the fizz of a paint gun, the clang of tools on a workbench, the staccato first firing of a straight-piped high compression rabble rouser, and a clan of like-minded loud and proud riders on gleaming custom American V-Twins. After a career and life in motorcycling, Arlen wanted to be in his home to peacefully take his last breath. Following a battle with cancer, Ness passed away after a full life of friends and motorcycles, with loving family at his side.
“I need more time, leave me alone, please!” Mascara runs down her cheek, shoaling in an alluvial, Revlon-delta at the base of her nose. This isn’t any way to start our New Zealand motorcycle tour. High on the twelfth floor of Auckland’s Sky City Grande hotel, my wife, Colleen, is sitting on the bed crying. Eleven suitcases must be condensed to fit inside the cramped storage space of our metallic-burgundy Victory Vision.
We’re now mid-way through September which means we’re well into the time of year that manufacturers announce their new models. By this point, America’s two heavyweight cruiser brands Harley-Davidson and Indian have already announced their 2018 lineups, but for the first time in nearly two decades, there were no Victory model announcements.
For this week’s Church feature we’re turning the clock back to 2003, and a shootout between five classic tourers: The Yamaha Roadstar Silverado, Victory V92TC, Kawasaki Nomad 1500, Harley-Davidson Road King, and BMW’s R1200CL – the clear oddball of the group. Speaking of oddballs, get a load of the MO crew from 14 years ago – off-the-cuff, irreverent, and funny (and maybe a bit chauvinistic at times), the writing of this shootout is good for a few laughs. As for the results? Read on to find out.
In case you don’t know, Hell’s Gate is one of the most intense extreme enduro events, and Italy’s most popular. The single day event includes a three-hour main event that includes a host of nearly impossible terrain for the challengers to ride over, around, and through. We’re talking piles of logs to climb, yards of rocks to traverse, and narrow passages lined with trees to navigate through. Not to mention the mud, water, and weather the riders have to deal with.
Polaris Industries reported its fourth quarter and 2016 full year results, offering the first look at the company’s finances since its decision to terminate Victory Motorcycles. The fourth quarter saw a 35% year-over-year decrease in motorcycle sales revenue, while year-end sales revenue remained flat compared to 2015.
In an effort to make sense out of the end of Victory Motorcycles, Motus founders Brian Case and Lee Conn posted a blog entry that looks not only at Polaris’ decision but all the way back to 2007 to the end of Pontiac. While this is a valid comparison regarding tough business decisions, the posting gains power when it describes the ways in which Victory didn’t adapt to the changing market and points to how those changes may tend to favor the type of bike Motus is building. As proponents of motorcycling at large, we hope that Motus has the opportunity to capitalize on this space that will be opening at some dealerships. The more successful manufacturers there are, especially ones manufacturing motorcycles in the USA, the better it is for motorcycling as a whole.
Last week came the announcement that Victory Motorcycles was being shut down, but Victory’s death knell actually tolled in early 2011 following the announcement Polaris Industries had acquired Indian. All the good will in the world to keep Victory afloat is no match for bottom-line data, and in just a few short years the Indian brand has eclipsed Victory in growth, profit potential, consumer popularity, and overall coolness.
One interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed over the years is the seeming inability of the non-motorcycling public to read. Inevitably, when whatever motorcycle I’m riding draws a layperson’s attention, they’ll ask, ‘What kind of motorcycle IS that?’ And it doesn’t matter how large VICTORY or HONDA is written on the gas tank. The sole exception is Harley-Davidson. Then the comment is always ‘Nice Harley.’ And if some casual observer says ‘nice Harley’ when you’re on a Japanese cruiser trying to hide its identity, you know the Japanese have won another skirmish but are destined to eventually lose the cruiser war.