by Sev Pearman
“It’ll be a cold day in Hell before you see me on a cruiser,” at least that’s what I’ve been heard to say on more than one occasion. That came back to bite me as Senior Editor Wanchena and I picked up the new Victory SC (for Sport Cruiser) on a frigid Tuesday that was threatening snow. As always, printing schedules, coupled with a pending date with the tax man selected our test day for us.
First impression? One b-i-g machine that’s nicely finished. I’ve never been a guy who drools over a chrome billet wagon. Its always been about function and practicality for me. The thought of taking a perfectly good bike and slowing it down with the addition of 25+ pounds of shiny doo-hickeys leaves me scratching my head. The SC, however, spoke to me with its Spartan functionality. No chrome ‘beverage’ holders, shiny accent rails or dress-up items. Only essential parts get treated – handlebars, gas cap and a sprinkling on other integral parts.
My first surprise was that, despite the 35 degree air temperature, the injected Polaris V-twin started immediately. After a short minute on high-idle, Senior Editor pulled rank and took first ride. I was left to keep up as we made our way to the secret MMM Proving Grounds. Hmmm…I wonder what the motor’s like? Secondly, I noticed that the Victory got a lot of attention and thumbs-ups from other drivers. All this time at the caboose gave me a lot of time to study the rear end of …er…the Victory. The w-i-d-e fender is bobbed to reveal a 180 series tire. Can you say cornering? A new taillight assembly is visually lighter, and unique to this model.
Two 5-ish gallon tankfuls later, I was given the keys. Victor masked this with a big speech about “team effort” and his “generosity,” but I think it had more to do with the fact that the temperature was not gettin’ any warmer, and our other bike had heated grips.
My earlier suspicions were confirmed – This things got motor! Power-POWER-POWER! from a lowly 8.5:1 compression ratio. This means that not only does it scream on any ol’ crappy low-octane swill, there is plenty of room internally for those insane enough to want even more horsies. Your Victory dealer is ready and willing to assist you in this department.
Our test bike was ‘optimized’ with a D + D aftermarket exhaust, and a changed engine chip. Both for “Competition Use Only,” of course. I at first found the system to be un-Godly loud, [don’t get him started. ed.] but with just a little time in the saddle, I found that you could eliminate the induction honk by not whacking ‘er open. You simply roll the throttle through acceleration. Ditto for deceleration. By not dumping it shut, you’d avoid all that brappy sonic attention. Before you start writing angry letters, remember that you already knew I don’t own a cruiser.
It is about control, isn’t it?
I liked the seating position and bar placement. With footpegs instead of “look-at-me-with-my-extra-weight” floorboards, my 32″ inseam legs were never cramped. The bars came back putting me in a position just a little forward of a standard-bike’s “sit-up-and-beg” ergonomics. This layout, coupled with an exceptionally comfortable seat (Hooray!) found me squirm-free up until the end of our test ride. For those of you with different shapes or who are into customization, Victory and a huge aftermarket are ready right now with, if you’ll excuse the pun, buttloads of seats, bars, windshields and chrome bolt-on goodies.
This particular Victory also was equipped with an optional clear polycarbonate mini-screen. I was skeptical at first, with my 5′-10″ frame and 32 degree ambient temperature. That was erased immediately after getting up to speed. No buffeting, just a smooth whoosh of air over the top of my helmet. The “Profiler” screen ($149.99) visually meshes with the lines of the SC. It can be easily installed and adjusted at home, or for a small charge, by your dealer. No hulking batwing or billboard-sized tombstone. Just enough to get the job done.
“Cut the crap, and get to the ride!,” you say. It rocks. Those 50mm fork tubes cannot be bent, flexed or made to squirm, even during hard stops. It rails around corners, yet is supple on the superslab. Some bikes fear the chunky abused pavement of MMM’s proving grounds, but that is why we bring them there. Not the Victory. It ate up repeated bumpy, peg-scraping corners (yee-hah!) and remained calm & cool. What a pleasure to ride a bike that actually lives up to it’s hype.
The brakes are equally impressive. Victory obviously went “ka-ching” on the engineering here. Two fingers are more than enough to haul you down smoothly. The lever feel is truly progressive, as well. Squeeze harder, stop sooner. This a level of braking capability better than that of some sport bikes; not to mention light-years ahead of the competition. We could not get them to fade, even with repeated hard stops hauling down my 1/8 of a ton.
The SC also comes with Polaris’ Rider Information Display. Nestled in the speedometer, is a window for your digital odometer/tripmeter. Victory ups this further with the display of fuel remaining, overall gauge brightness, voltmeter, clock and high-beam indicator brightness adjustment. Don’t laugh. I frequently ride with my high beam on during daytime for visibility, and at night, when traffic permits. Its nice to be able to change from a blue light bright enough to be seen during the day (even in direct sunlight!) to a dimmer one that isn’t distracting while on Teamstrange’s midnight run. You change between modes by simply toggling a “passing beam” style switch on the left grip. Gettin’ bored on I-70? Help pass the time by calculating mileage. Every bike should have this function!
The gas gauge function was more or less dead-on. One curiosity was the low-fuel setup. The Victory comes with a diaphragm petcock. No reserve position, just a low level blinky icon in the speedo. It illuminates with about 1.1 gallons remaining, but our experience indicated that was optimistic. Best to high-tail it to a gas station when you see it. This is one of those idiosyncrasies that an owner would quickly adapt to, and forget about. Did you find the ignition switch in a Saab right away? Me neither…
If you put function over form, consider this Victory. If you put ‘performance first,’ ride this Victory. If you don’t feel the need to keep up with the Davidso – er Jones’s, check out this bike. If you aren’t getting any younger, no longer enjoy the 500-miler on a sport bike; but aren’t yet ready to retire to anemic performance or a bike with reverse, try this Victory. In any case you will not be disappointed.
Our thanks go out to those fine folks at Warner Outdoor Equipment for providing the test bike. Many people have told me that I’m damned due to my hobby. All I can say is, with a Victory SC under me, It’ll be one hell of a ride…
by Victor Wanchena
I don’t want to like cruisers. They represent a lot of what I don’t like about motorcycles and I really don’t like the “lifestyle” that tends to surround them. So sure I had little bias as I swung a leg over this months test ride, but I have to face the facts. First of all, cruisers are the bulk of new motorcycle sales in the U.S. market. Most new rider and riders reentering the sport chose a cruiser for their ride. Second, I really like this latest machine from Victory. The V92SC, the SC meaning Sport Cruiser, was released earlier this year and is making lots of friends very quickly. This second model from Victory is still a cruiser in every sense only now with a little more attitude in the style department and a desire for even curvier roads.
I mean how could you not like a 1507cc v-twin. That’s 92 cubic inches or roughly the same as motor size as the little puke green Honda I used as a winter vehicle not so long ago. I’m not sure of the exact horsepower rating but the bike I rode, courtesy of the Dean at Warner Outdoor, already had dropped the stock exhaust and had a reprogrammed engine management chip installed, so it was pushing seventy horse at the rear wheel. But cruiser motors are never about raw horsepower instead, they rely on the massive torque of their v-twins. The SC doesn’t disappoint with something in the neighborhood of eighty foot-pounds of torque available just above idle. That kind of low-end power means you don’t have to rev the motor much to take from a stop cleanly.
It ‘s basically the same motor that’s found in the original Victory without the chrome covers or polished fins. The cams are slightly different and the air intake was redesigned to reduce the honking sound you got at full throttle. But you still get four valves per cylinder, fuel injection, and a low 8.5 to 1 compression ratio that lets you run just about anything that burns for fuel. Another plus is the hydraulic lifters and self-adjusting cam chains making it a very low maintenance motor. The motor vibrates enough to remind you it’s running but it is never intrusive. The five-speed transmission is quieter than that of the original bikes, it still clunks but not so dramatically. The factory maintains that this is solely due to the transmission being overbuilt for longevity and to handle whatever you hot-rodders out there do to the motor. A toothed belt handles the final drive. I’m not a true believer in belt drive, but what the hell, its been working for H-D and Victory for so long that I should accept it as a nice compromise between chains and shafts. The one down side of belts is that they are close to impossible to replace roadside.
My begrudging love for the SC is only reaffirmed by what must be the most solid chassis in cruiserdom. It’s nothing fancy just a tubular steel frame with a fat 50mm Marzocchi fork up front and a Fox mono-shock in back. But like the rest of the bike the frame is overbuilt and that combined with premium suspension and brakes makes the SC feel plated and in control at all times. They truly seem to have been lifted off of a sport bike. No matter how ugly the road looked the SC simply held it course. I hit tar snakes, potholes, cracks and bumps but nothing would upset this bike in a corner. And when you really have to stop fast the triple disk Brembo brakes do their job wonderfully. Granted the SC weighs 657 pounds dry so you need all that stopping power. 17 inch cast aluminum wheels front and rear, wearing premium Dunlop tires, round out the chassis.
The basic style components of the original Victory are still present in the SC, but it has been restyled enough to set it apart from its older sibling. The rear fender was shortened and the front was also shaved down. The handlebars are lower and straighter almost a flat-track style. The taillight is a slim and crescent shaped, but extremely bright. Most of the chrome is missing from the SC with the only obvious exception being the large canister exhaust. That canister is quit hard to miss and certainly has it own charm, but I think it may be too big. But don’t worry Victory and the aftermarket companies already have some new pipes to choose from. The pipe on our tester was from D&D and was a little loud for my tastes. I prefer the muted bass sound of the stock canister.
Ok, enough talk, let’s hit the road. Starting the SC is very easy thanks to the fuel injection. Just pull the high idle lever on the bars and hit the starter button. The bike starts immediately and the computer runs through its self-test. After a minute bring the bike off of high idle and it’s ready to ride. The fuel injection is mapped very well, with no stumbles or glitches all the way through the rev range. The seating position is a nice compromise between a laid back cruiser and a full out sport ride. Your feet are out in front of you and you reach straight forward to the bars. I wasn’t used to riding this way but found that it became quite natural after only a couple miles. The seat is very nice and firm but has an odd shape that puts too much weight on your tailbone. After an hour or so of riding I needed to stretch. An aftermarket seat from Corbin or the like would most likely solve this. The only other bummer was the mirrors, which buzzed enough to make them useless.
As I mentioned before the SC really shines in the handling department. The combination of a solid well equipped chassis and a torquey motor make for a bike that can dance in rush hour traffic or take on your favorite back road. Stability is the key word here. I never once felt sketchy about throwing the SC hard into a corner. The only limiting factor too the SC was the ground clearance. Don’t get me wrong you can lean the SC over a long ways before you touch a foot peg down, but it was still possible. Except for the pegs nothing else is really close to grounding out. Looking at the bike I realize that the foot pegs are positioned in the only logical spot. Any higher and you would be steering the SC with your knees. Any farther back would require a complete redesign of the bike. The engineers did what they could and only a small percentage of you will really be clamoring for more ground clearance and knee pucks.