The Fabulous Victory Vegas
by Gus Breiland
It was a dark and stormy evening…no, really, it was a dark and stormy evening when I picked up the Vegas. I let my domestic associate know that after she dropped me off with the motorcycle, I would most likely be heading south where the weather was clear. You know, new bike, new experience, and new roads…who else wouldn’t want to take off for the evening?
Meanwhile, back in reality, some of the worst weather was on its way through the state and it was raining sheets in the metro area. I decided for once that I would not “test” my ‘stich and headed for home. This would later be known as Gus’ wise decision since that particular evening a couple of tornadoes were spotted around the Mankato area, right in the vicinity of my intended path. Thankfully, the helmet full of water and the constant reminder that Victor would “harm me in ways not imagined” if I “laid her down” were more compelling reasons to head for home than our own little tornado alley.
At first, something wasn’t quite right. What was I missing? I hadn’t even left the driveway and I had a sneaking suspicion that this wasn’t the motorcycle that I had been drooling over in the glossy ads when it finally hit me! This is the first time I had seen the left side of this bike. The right side, which is the pipe side, is typically the part of the bike that Polaris chooses to show you, and for good reason too. Something is missing from the left side of the bike aesthetically. The exposed rear wheel and swing arm look unfinished and out of place compared to the pipe side.
Other than the set saddle bags, there was no real way that I could see to fill in the void left by the lack of pipes. I have seen this “problem” on many of the cruisers that have come out within the last couple of years. On the one side, a motorcycle is stunning with exhaust pipes that flow past and engine and around the frame, while on the other side it looks like the designers forgot a couple of pieces and hoped no one would notice.
Similarly, the Vegas has a surprisingly small stature for being a bike V-Twin cruiser. The seat height is a minuscule 26.5 inches with a ground clearance of less than 6 inches. I found the 66.5 inch wheel base, coupled with the low ground clearance, meant dragging the foot pegs around corners more often than not.
By now you should have read that famed custom motorcycle designer Arlen Ness and his son sculpted this cruiser for Polaris. While the Victory line has been a good motorcycle for Polaris, the bike lacked a certain something that set it apart from the rest of the cruisers out there. In fact, I seem to remember someone using the term “utilitarian” to describe the Polaris Victory.
Utilitarian is not what I would call the Vegas. For a factory ride, I think this motorcycle is a beautiful bike from the right, and pleasing from the left. The V92 Freedom engine pulls wonderfully. Polaris literature shows just under 80 horses at 5000 rpm. I never had a problem with lack of power and the throttle response made the highway a delight.
Attached to this 1507cc / 92 cu. in. is one of the tightest, most responsive transmissions that I have ever ridden. If you get a chance, hop on one and see what I mean. A light flick of the toe pops you through the gears smoothly and quickly, making highway speeds quickly attainable. The V-Twin is fed by 44mm fuel injected throttle bodies that produce enough power to sit you down and make you hang on.
Polaris is steadily growing its product line and continues to offer multiple ways to make a stock bike look customized. With eight different color schemes for the Vegas, ours my personal favorite, Vogue Silver. They also offer factory accessories that include stage I and II performance kits.
My biggest issue with the Vegas was that Polaris seemed to forget about the rider. They wrapped a gorgeous engine and transmission with a stunning (right side, mind you) envelope of a sculpted tank that flows down along the seat into the rear fender. The front end speaks of custom styling with its spoked wheel, large headlight and 33 degree rake. With all of the pros that the Vegas brings to the table, the fact that I could not ride the bike for more than 20 miles without my rear end falling asleep was a real drag.
My intention for any test bike is to put a minimum of 200 miles on in. This should at least get you through a tank of gas and give you an idea of what a Sunday afternoon with your friends would be like. After riding the Vegas down to Northfield for a little dinner, I was hoping my friends would have a flat tire and we could stay the night without having to push home.
I will be the first to admit to you that I am not a cruiser guy. I do not like my feet extended forward while hanging onto the bars. The prone position that cruisers force you into tends to make the bike feel unstable and unbalanced during low speed maneuvers. My feet wanted to lay flat in this position, causing me to continuously hold my knees against the tank. It also made the raked front end feel as if there was no traction. As I mentioned before, my first 10 miles on the Vegas were in a deluge of rain that I usually don’t see until I cross the border into Iowa. I felt gangly and awkward stumbling around corners, unsure of the 21 x 2.15 in front wheel and whether or not its contact patch would grab.
The bars were comfortable until you reached speeds above 70 miles per hour. After that, the amount of air flowing against my chest forced me to hang on rather than ride. The worst aspect of the seating position was the seat itself. While giving the Vegas an elegant transition from the downward slope of the tank to the rear fender, the seat forces your hips to roll and plants you on the back side of your butt bones. As I mentioned before, this translated into me wanting nothing more than to hop off after 20-40 miles. This would be fine if there was a basket for milk and eggs on the handle bars. Not fine for a bike with and MSRP of over $15,000.
This motorcycle did bring a smile to my face in one instance. I was on my way home, heading north on 77. After taking off from a stoplight and accelerating I popped into second, thinking to myself “Man, this thing moves nicely”. I then went to pop it into third and there was no “pop”. Just my toe moving… I looked at my left foot and moved it from underneath the shifter and watched the shifting arm swing down. “Uh-oh”. I pulled in the clutch, got off the throttle and hit the hazards and coasted over to the shoulder to see what was up.
4 way flashers (hazards) are the bomb and I am glad to see more and more companies are including them on their control sets. Quickly I saw problem. The bolt on the shifter assembly had backed off and the shift rod had fallen off the spline. No worries, slip it back on, tighten it up and get it back on the road. Luckily, I had just ridden a couple of miles and needed a break. As I am getting my tool kit out, a truck passed and the passenger yelled out the window “Buy a Harley!” I laughed. This was no big deal. This would happen on any bike, no matter what make or style or condition. It is just part of riding. Yet the attempted insult made me think about how lucky we are that Polaris is still in the game.
Understand that without Polaris you are left with the option for American iron of either Harley Davidson or basically an overpriced Harley Davidson customized. While the Vegas was not my cup of tea, it could very well find a place in your garage. I am sure that some will start listing all of the “customized” cycles that have started to pop up, but remember that we all, thankfully, cannot afford Orange County Choppers or Boss Hoss.
From what I gather, I am one of the few who have poor things to say with every glossy mag giving the Vegas a “Cruiser of the Year” award. I will give it the “Garage Art of the Year”, but only if you park it with you know which side facing out!
I do want to thank Polaris Industries for giving me the opportunity to swing a leg over the Vegas. While I know a lot of work goes into making this bike run, shift and thump well, Polaris now needs to spend some time with its ergonomics to make this “Cruiser of the Year” the next “Ride of a Lifetime”.
By the way, did you notice that I made it all the way through the article without a word about “Viva Las Vegas” or “What Would Elvis Ride”?!
by Sev Pearman
Who makes your bike?” asked the rally attendee. When I told him that it was the new Victory, he flipped. “This is the Vegas? Wow! I didn’t recognize it from the (magazine) photos.” This happened repeatedly during the Wolf’s Head Rally. Every time I stopped, riders and motorists alike would seek me out to inquire about this beautiful bike.
Parent company Polaris knows they have a good product with their Victory cruisers. They are arguably the first cruisers engineered frame-up for handling and performance. Despite these credentials, sales lagged. Taking a cue from the Reality TV craze, Polaris sent their ho-hum V92C to L.A. for the “Celebrity Makeover” treatment.
Father and son super-stylists Arlen and Cory Ness were retained to bring out the inner beauty that lurked deep within the basic Victory. Their results are spectacular. The design is forward-looking and reinterprets nostalgia elements found in most Harley Davidson and Metric cruisers. This was easy to see while parked at the rally grounds in Two Harbors. The lines and form of the Vegas pull it out of the crowd.
The Ness treatment is amazing. The Vegas sits low and the fork is raked out and ends in a skinny 21-inch front wheel with a diminutive front fender that clings to the tire. We like the look of the Vegas in silver with stock spoked wheels. Cut billet wheels from Performance Machine are available as a $1,200 option if ordered on your Vegas or are $899 each if ordered later from your dealer. These have a delicate arched tri-spoke design that integrates with the Vegas as a whole.
From the right side, the look of the Vegas is long and swept back. The exhaust headers bend back and flow into the over-under mufflers. The valve covers and ignition module form an arc that radiates from the crankshaft. The sculpted fuel tank with hidden welds follows this theme and blends into the seat area.
Some people didn’t care for the left side feeling; it looked empty. Others thought that something was missing. I liked it. Victory designers worked long and hard to eliminate clutter and this area just felt clean to me.
The Vegas is best viewed from the rider’s seat. It is here that you can feel how thin and delicate this bike is. The graceful tank tapers rearward where it splits to meld with the front of the seat. All of the sheet metal is formed with a crease. The fuel tank and front and rear fenders all have a raised spine that runs from front-to-back. A styling coup unique to the Vegas, it greatly unifies the design as a whole and must have cost a fortune in tooling.
OK, so it looks cool. How’s the motor? The Vegas runs the vastly improved Freedom motor. First seen on their Touring Cruiser (see MMM #47), it is simply sweet. It is a 92 cu in (1507 cc) 50º 4-valve V-twin with SOHC and no maintenance hydraulic lifters. Bore and stroke are 97 mm X 102 mm, respectively. The stock Freedom honks out a measured 70 hp at 5,000 rpm and a stonking 88 lbs.-ft at 3,000 rpm. You’d have to buy a VTX, Warrior or V-Rod® to get a quicker cruiser.
Downshifts to pass are optional. It is no coincidence that at an indicated 70 mph in fifth gear, the engine spins at 3,000 rpm for maximum torque. This means that at freeway speeds, you have ample power at hand to ditch that pokey SUV.
Victory has improved their transmissions for the Vegas. The unit felt tighter than the one on the Tourer, and the stupid-for-style’s-sake cruiser ‘clunk’ has been replaced with a more precise ‘schlack.’ Not quite the ‘snick’ of a Kawasaki Vulcan or Yamaha Road Star, but noticeably better than on our last Polaris machine. The only woe I encountered was a false neutral between second and third gears. It only appeared twice, both times when cold and when accelerating. To be fair, our tester was a preproduction model incorporating slight differences from the final production version.
We also noticed an oil weep on the right hand case cover. When mentioned to Polaris, they reported that the casting on production models was changed from that on the tester. I’m not worried, as Victory has an excellent reputation for oil retention.
The only other hiccup was the loss of the shift rod off the splined shift shaft. For the first time ever I appreciated having forward controls. The linkage from the shifter kept the piece from bouncing into a North Shore ditch. Did I mention that it was twilight and I had no flashlight? 10 minutes with a Leatherman®, and I was on my way. This didn’t bother me, as other testers undoubtedly had thrashed the test bike. Take a tip from our in-house “McGyver” Paul B. and carry a small bottle of threadlocker with you.
On the road, the Vegas doesn’t disappoint. The long wheelbase, extended rake and ample trail help provide stability. The 21-inch front wheel floats over bumps, making the non-adjustable damper-rod fork adequate for the job.
The rear suspension felt fine to me. The single shock is hidden and is adjustable only for preload. Victory claims that the shock is built for a 230-pound rider, so I fit the bill. Don’t get me wrong &endash; the Vegas is no comfy tourer, but compared to many cruisers out there it felt relatively compliant, even over choppy freeway expansion joints. While no sport bike, I found the Vegas to be a surprisingly potent backroad scratcher.
I was disappointed with the brakes. While the Vegas employs a potent four-piston double-acting Brembo caliper and a decent sized 300mm disc up front, the brake performance wasn’t up to par. Excellent braking has been a Victory cruiser tradition, but both bite and feel on the Vegas were sacrificed in the name of style. I wondered if the skinny 2.15-inch front tire had anything to do with it. The rear twin-piston single-action Brembo pinches a second 300mm disc.
This bike is all about show and not go. Unfortunately, it is damned uncomfortable. The seat is decent enough but its deep-scooped shape locks you in one position. You’ll plead, “I’ve ridden–and I can’t get up!” after every tank. The forward foot controls, while beautifully finished and detailed, are equally limiting. I found myself vainly extending my legs in front of the controls and stuffing them back on to the rear pegs hoping for some relief. I guess when you lay down with a Ness, you are going to compromise… on a brighter note, the bars fall to your hands in a comfortable, non-buzzy bend.
The rear pillion was also a sacrifice of style over comfort. It is beautifully finished on a chrome bracket that is easily removed with four fasteners. Passenger X demanded a return after ten miles, saying that it was (and I quote,) “the least comfortable thing I have sat on since that yellow bike.” (Passenger X identified the Honda VTR 1000 Superhawk.)
The shifter incident revealed the lack of a tool kit. All Victories come with only the dreaded “uni-tool,” an L-shaped rod with a 5mm Allen on one end, and a Phillips screwdriver on the other. While many adjustments can be made using only this tool, I’d feel better knowing I had a proper toolkit. How do you change a spark plug with this thing?
Finally, get ready to drool over the ready-made accessories for the Vegas. Victory has a full line of chrome goodies including a chromed front fork and rear swing arm assembly. There are available seats, saddlebags and windshields to turn it into a very stylish tourer, performance parts in Stage I and II kits for those who seek power, and coolest of all, an optional ($499) HID lighting kit. This makes Victory the first manufacturer to offer HID on a production motorcycle.
Stylish to an extreme, the Vegas is a potent cruiser that will get you noticed. At $14,999 retail, the Vegas offers you a well-designed, stylish, powerful and American-made alternative that will stand out in the crowd.
•”Little sister” cruiser has finally grown up.
•Freedom motor backs up badass look.
•Factory customization means you are never lost in the crowd.
•Ergos sacrificed to the Style God.
•Rear seat takes the ass out of passenger.
•Where’s the rest of the toolkit?
Wife’s First Reaction:
“It reminds me of a voluptuous pin-up girl.”
H-D Deuce® and Dyna Wide Glide®, Honda VTX 1800, Kawasaki Vulcan 1600, Suzuki Intruder 1500 LC, Yamaha Road Star and Road Star Warrior, custom-built Big Twins.