By B.P. Goebel
These days it’s just not good enough to have a stoink big motor and not enough chassis or brake to be able to turn or stop. Like a resto-modded muscle car, the “total package” is what’s important. This is 2016 and no one wants archaic design or functionality. Luckily we don’t need to make such drastic compromises anymore. In the cruiser class Victory’s new Octane muscle cruiser is set to blur category lines.
A blacked out, monochromatic mix of creases and chevrons, aesthetically, the Victory Octane is raw and pure and not hiding anything. Nothing that doesn’t need to be there is there. In the tradition of all the best “muscle” vehicles, it is very much a stripped down motorcycle. This helps to achieve a dry weight of 528 lbs.
LED brake and LED turn signals are standard, because they are superior. We don’t use carbide lighting systems anymore and soon we won’t use incandescent either.
Riding position is still feet forward but not un-functionally so. Bars are low and wide, offering lots of leverage. Bar to seat spacing seems somewhat short. Seat height is 25.9 inches. Combining a low center of gravity, low seat height and also being very narrow in the waist allows people with really short inseams to feel a confidence they usually don’t get from a motorcycle that is not a mini bike or a scooter. The seat is sculpted, firm and comfortable. But it’s still a cruiser seating position and there is only one place to sit the whole time. Ischial tuberosities beware.
In keeping with the pared down theme, a digital window on the only gauge, the speedometer, gives time, odo, trip mileage, rpm, engine temp and idiot lights handle the rest. Switch gear is standard fare. The Octane doesn’t have any electronic trickery-no traction control, no power modes. Power modes and traction control are selected with your right wrist movements.
The motor in this bike has much, much more potential available than most of the riders who will gravitate to this bike will use regularly on the street. This is evidenced by the ability to rip off a claimed sub 4 second 0-60 time and a 12 second quarter. The Octane is very fast and not just fast for a cruiser, fast for any kind of bike. Even better, it feels raw fast. The kind of fast that unwaveringly grabs all of your available attention and focus. Point it, tear the throttle open and the bomb goes off, it just explodes in that direction like a wrecking ball unconnected from the chain. Even jaded big bore bike riders can’t help but be impressed with the combination of big power and less weight.
The four valve head V-twin pulls cleanly in cruising gears from as low as 1700 rpm’s. Not bad for a motor that red lines at more than 8000 rpm’s. Don’t worry, the power band is extremely flexible and wide. You could, if it fit your style, never ever exceed 5500 rpm and never miss it. More times than I could count, when I thought i was really winding it out because of the power that was being generated, I was at about 6500 rpm’s. Power delivery is neither peaky or unpredictable. About running a big V-twin up to 8 grand? No worries as the Octane motor is silky smooth, even up top.
It returned gas mileage of between 37-42 mpg, depending on how often you tried to access the sub 4 second 0-60 time.
While the cruiser style of motorcycle is still the dominant motorcycle form factor in American motorcycling trends, it leaves much to be desired in areas such as comfort and versatility. At 104 HP, the Octane motor, Victory’s first water cooled motor, could easily provide the motive power for almost any form factor of motorcycle and to be honest, it will probably be the least taxed as a cruiser motor.
This 6-speed transmission is much more sport bike than cruiser. Shifting is sharp and precise once you figure out how to clutch it right and not pull the clutch in too far. As is to be expected, the Octane transmission can knock off lightning fast up shifts. But most interestingly, and very un-cruiserish, it can knock off a bunch of down shifts at once without resisting, without clogging up, without sounding like you are trying to wake the dead by pounding on a metal washtub with a leaf spring. The cable actuated clutch pull is not particularly light–it’s kind of heavy; like a good muscle bike should be.
Victory motorcycles always dance when asked and the Octane is no exception. Or maybe it is the exception because the Octane can dance really hard. With the exception of off-road, all types of riding are on the table and you will have fun doing them all on the Octane.
You can lean the Octane over as far as you want on the street without any grinding. Victory has always been great in this respect, but with 32 degrees of available lean angle, this bike seems to be the cornering clearance winner. No heroics are necessary, only good technique. As high as the the Octanes’ handling limits are, it is really quite docile. It never missteps.
The cast aluminum frame makes for a stiff monolithic feel. It does not have the usual spindly, flexy cruiser feel. Nothing on the Octane doesn’t feel solid. This stability gives the bike a super agile, light feel rather than heavy and ponderous feel to cornering and handling in general.
The Octane is sprung tautly with a cruiserish amount of suspension travel. It doesn’t really like bumpy roads. It won’t ever do anything untoward, but it’s not its first choice and it would rather play on smooth roads.
Foot peg, shifter and brake pedal rubber seems stickier than usual, a good idea with the amount of acceleration available. Otherwise your feet would slide off due to the acceleration.
Whoa is not ignored in favor of Go. Helped by the 130mm front tire (not long ago that a major cruiser motorcycle manufacturer spec’d 130mm tires in the rear), well thought out ratios and stainless steel brake lines, a tremendous amount of controllable stopping power is available from the single, almost sport bike sized, disk front brake. The same sized rear disk, helped by a long wheel base and rearward seating position is also extremely powerful. Used in conjunction, stopping is more than adequate for this style of motorcycle. More importantly, it is not badly under-braked for a motorcycle with this kind of power.
For more than two decades now, Victory has proven itself many times over as a manufacturer of interesting and extremely capable cruisers. The Octane is certainly no exception. At just $10,499, nothing touches it in performance. They should sell every one that they can make. Who is going to buy the Octane? Experienced cruiser pilots wanting more power and handling with less weight? Shorter riders and riders of slighter stature? The beginning cruiser rider seduced by the Octanes’ lack of mass (and oblivious to its engines’ massive nature)? Probably all of the above.
Victory is on the move. While Victory has been busy racing, testing new technologies and designs, in different disciplines on the worlds race circuits, so far it has only produced cruisers. If Victory ever (please, please, please) decides to produce a different style of motorcycle, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Octane motor powering that motorcycle. I would be very happy to see both.
By David Soderholm
“I want you to do a track day on it” said Guido Ebert, our media guru contact for Indian / Victory. “I’ll order different footpeg brackets and you’ll have a great time.” To say I was intrigued is a vast understatement. Do a track day on a cruiser? Well, I didn’t end up doing it, but have little doubt after riding the Octane that a casual track day isn’t out of the question. This Octane is the most fun I’ve ever had on a cruiser since riding the Diavel from Ducati. If you know my feelings on that bike, you know that’s very high praise! The kicker…..the Octane cost $8000.00 less – Fantastic!
Let’s get the elephant out of the room. There is little doubt that the Indian Scout and the Victory Octane are related. I had the fortune of spending time on the Indian last year when MMM had it and obviously the Octane this year. They both are great bikes, but the Octane is more rowdy fun always with a much more butch feel and the Scout is a well done retro classic. They definitely share some parts, but the sum totals of those parts have clearly different missions in life. Decide if you like classic or hooligan and choose appropriately – you really can’t go wrong.
Looking at the Octane brings a smile to my face. It’s very compact and powerful looking. It has an aggressive look and feel to it when you approach it, taught and folded with a very synergistic look from front to back. The monochromatic color scheme is almost completely devoid of shiny stuff anywhere. The engine is superbly proportioned and detailed. It tucks behind a stylish aluminum shroud around the radiator that provides anchor points for the foot controls. Finish it off with cool satin black wheels, drag bars, details and a standard bullet fairing and you have a styling winner.
Sitting on it shows a nicely finished and simple cockpit. Speedometer nacelle up nice and high where it is easy to see instead of buried on the tank. It has a built in multifunction digital window that is easily scrolled through using the left trigger finger – simple and easy. And that’s about it as far as instruments are concerned.
Pulling away from a stop the first time and hoisting my feet up on the pegs was surprising, the forward controls for your feet are actually pretty close. Reach to the bars is moderate and that adds up to a closely coupled and not uncomfortable riding position, even if you aren’t a big feet forward kind of rider. One thing of note though – you have ONE seating position on the Octane. The seat is deeply sculpted and forward / backward movement is completely absent. The seat is actually quite comfortable though and the bullet fairing provides some surprising wind protection.
Let’s talk about the chassis for a bit. It’s readily apparent that the chassis development guys have a handling or performance background. I’m not sure if any of the chassis things they learned on Pikes Peak (Project 156 – google it if you need to) are present here, but the Octane is exceedingly agile and trustworthy and downright shocking as a cruiser. There is only one other cruiser that shares this level of handling – the before mentioned Diavel. This is FUN handling. The kind that makes you take the little squiggly county lines on the map instead of the highways. I clearly understood where the bike was headed at all times. Outstanding chassis job boys!
Take what the chassis guys did with the Octane and double it. Then you get an idea what the engine guys accomplished. It is READILY apparent that the Pikes Peak Project 156 racer had a direct line in development of this engine. Simply stated; the 1200 cc engine in this bike flat out rips. It’s genuinely fast and thrilling. Surprisingly you absolutely can use it as a sedate cruiser engine using the first 4000 rpm’s and be perfectly happy. It pulls well and has good torque. Clutch and throttle are smooth and well calibrated. You could ride the engine for weeks this way, never knowing the crazy fun this bike has in the second half of the rpm range. The first time you run it to redline though you’ll be shocked and addicted. It pulls HARD and has a great intake honk. After that you will look for opportunities to rip this engine. Stoplights and freeway ramps are a hoot. Make sure to take advantage of the motorcycle lane on the freeway entrance ramps!
On backroads the chassis and engine combine to make a fun and engaging ride, I had to remind myself this was a cruiser. Find some twisty county roads and try not having a stupid Cheshire cat grin stuck to your face. I spent a day out on some alphabet roads in cheddar land and had a blast. Sticking the smooth shifting transmission in third gear and running up and down the rev range was thrilling. The drivetrain is almost always smooth and well behaved which lets you just concentrate on having fun. It’s so ANTI behemoth cruiser! The lightweight nimble chassis means you can precisely place this bike in corners where you want it to be, instead of having the behemoth mass of a typical cruiser place the bike for you. Now we aren’t talking sport-bike levels here, but my goodness, it’s far outside of the normal handling envelope for any other cruiser (except for one…).
Brakes look pedestrian on the Octane, and I’ll admit I was disappointed initially to see a single disc brake with a 2 piston caliper up front. But they are big discs, with steel braided lines. The leverage ratio and pad materials are well chosen. The front turns out to be a two finger brake with good feel and the rear is probably the most effective rear brake I’ve ever used. Combine the two in the best MSF taught technique and you have a surprisingly good set of brakes.
Issues…..they are few. There is a little bit of laggy free play in the throttle just off of idle. Not a big deal, but noticeable and something you will adjust to in short order and probably forget about. Tank range is short – like 100 mile short before looking for gas. The engine puts out a good deal of heat. Finally, the seating position is locked in. For me, I started getting fidgety about the same time I needed to fill up. Your mileage may vary. Victory offers some great factory accessories for the Octane to customize it both for more performance or more touring so check out the website.
I had a blast on this fun performance cruiser and only hope that Victory has big plans for this drivetrain in a NON cruiser chassis. Come on Victory, something along the lines of a project 156 chassis to compete with the likes of the Ducati Monster. The engine is certainly ready and the chassis ran Pikes Peak multiple times. Roll THAT on the show floor and I may have to sell my Street Triple….