Now is the Time to Buy an American Motorcycle

Got twelve grand? Want a new bike? Like American stuff? Take your pick.

Victory is an odd company, a dedicated cruiser manufacturer with none of the sense of history or nostalgia that typically drives the cruiser market. This usually leads to two things: Non-cruiser fans absolutely love their concept bikes, which challenge the idea of motorcycles having categories in the first place, and most of them are disappointed by the actual products they release for being (despite stylistically pushing every envelope they can) unapologetic cruisers. That is, until they ride the damned things, at which point they exclaim about how they never thought a 700+ pound motorcycle could turn that quick, or ride that hard! Meanwhile, cruiser loyalists usually either love Victory for pushing the envelope without giving up on the spirit, or hate them for not having the classical ‘feel’ of, say, a Harley-Davidson.

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Why would their first smaller model be any different? Yes, the Octane is based on the same basic frame type of the Scout, but it’s nothing like the Scout. The Scout is a cruiser, the Octane is a muscle bike. The Scout has manners, and wants to be ridden smoothly. The Octane has power, and it wants to be wrung out! Think of the Scout as a Chrysler 300C, and the Octane as a Charger SRT8 Scat Pack-sure, the 300C can outdrag a Scion FR-S, and the Charger SRT8 can chauffeur a businessman comfortably, but we all know which is meant for what. (Also, the Scout comes in colors. Only like three, but that’s two more that this guy).

The main reason people seem determined to dislike the Octane is that it’s not Project 156, which was basically a Roland Sands custom frame wrapped around the prototype of this Victory motor with some Ducati suspension parts that never completed a whole run anywhere without something breaking... And was too cramped for anybody bigger than Nicky Hayden... And would’ve involved paying Roland Sands and Ducati(and I think even Cycle World, lol) engineering and design royalties, greatly increasing the price... Wonder why they didn’t make that design? Oh well, I’m sure they had a reason. Anyway, what they did make is the best performance oriented cruiser since the original Sportster, a ball-tap to other small cruisers like the Star Bolt and a great looking bike.

The motor sounds the part of a torque focused cruiser, but it rewards the brave of throttle when it revs all the way to 8000rpm, wailing like a small-block v8. Twist on the power and there will be smoke, and possibly wheelies(!) The forward pegs belie its light and sharp handling, but it’s got 32 degrees of lean to keep up with the 600s in the corners, and 104 horsepower to burn past them in the straights. It’s a pure American stunt bike, refined and comfortable enough to ride around the city but built stable enough to drift and do donuts. And, at $10,500 it’s not just the cheapest Victory-I’m pretty sure this is the best rate of power and displacement to weight and price of anything on wheels!

But maybe you’re not such a competitive hooligan, or not interested in forward controls. Maybe you just wanted a sweet, timeless, all-American ride that doesn’t hate the corners, an American Standard if you will... Would you believe Harley-Davidson’s got you covered? No, seriously!

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Meet the Harley-Davidson Roadster. It’s that same old Sportster they’ve been pumping out for fifty years, only with everything you squids and scramblers said it needed to not be a terrible bike(a taller rear suspension, upside down forks and double front disc brakes, a taller solo seat, mid pegs and lower bars, to be specific), all installed from the factory on top of fifty years of basic refinement.

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Also it’s not really a terrible bike, but you’re a jerk about Harleys for some reason. Morgan and Caterham do the same thing with cars, where’s the hatred for those tired-ass designs? Or is it only a problem when it’s an American company? Don’t answer, I just hope you know you’re full of shit.

It’s also proof of my hypothesis that every Harley is two inches short of being a great bike(specifically in the rear suspension travel, which simultaneously sharpens the rake and enhances the lean angle while also obviously decreasing the spinal trauma of riding over potholes), which I appreciate as an opportunity to be smug to people who don’t like things I like(see the last paragraph). No, it’s not the fastest or best handling bike even with the upgrades, but it’s fast and it handles and it has the biggest aftermarket of anything with moving parts. Buell used to squeeze double the power out of these same motors in the Lightning and Firebolt(and this was before turbos became viable options), and people race modded Sportsters everywhere from flat track to racecourse, so you should be able to outrun that Octane with just a few grand more if that!

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Or, just buy one of these and you can outrun anything, anywhere, fresh out the box. If you dare...

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...Oh, Shit! Let’s... get... DANGEROUS! It’s the world’s only Superfighter, the EBR1190SX by Erik Buell Racing.

We all know Buell and his story-passionate racer, brilliant engineer, great builder and terrible businessman. Luckily for him his newest co-owners, Liquid Asset Partners, are just as good at business as they are crazy about riding(the elder of the two still rides on a prosthetic in his 60s!), and have managed to chop every competitor off at the knees with their relaunch.

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Consider this: The fully faired EBR 1190RX went toe to toe with the Ducati 1299 Panigale at $17,999, and Cycle World couldn’t decisively pick a winner(google ‘ebr ducati’, it’s the first link) . The Ducati was less comfortable, the Buell less refined, but both were ridiculously fast and nimble, running laps within tenths of seconds of each other. Now that same EBR is $12,995, a full five grand less, but it still performs the same... And the 1190SX has the same engine, the same power(no naked bike power cut here! What do you think this is, KTM?), weighs 15 crucial pounds less and takes a whole gee-bar off the price. And, for that grand less, you get a more upright position and a (slightly) more comfortable seat, with the same performance!

Not that it’s really comfortable - this ain’t some Super Duke with the cushy seat and the longish rake, it’s a sportbike with no fairing. Not only is it stiff and uncomfortable on the street, it still fuels and turns like a Superbike, meaning it’s not a happy commuter. Also, the torque is lower than usual in the midrange, which doesn’t really matter in general but it will mean a strategy change if you come against something with a healthy midrange like a Super Duke. Still, it’s the most powerful naked bike ever, and a steal at $11,995.

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So there it is. If you’re an American looking for a motorcycle and you don’t buy an American motorcycle, you’re a pinko Commie bastard and should be relegated to Ural sidecars for the rest of your life. Urals painted red, like your beliefs. No, but seriously, you’ve never had better options from your local dealers, and I’m personally having serious trouble choosing.

All photos courtesy of Google

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