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We cruise: Victory Vegas 8-Ball

By: Dave Abrahams

Cape Town - If ever there was a motorcycle that could serve as the poster child for the concept ‘less is more’ this is it. The Vegas 8-Ball is touted as Victory’s stripped-down, bare bones, affordable entry-level cruiser (although at R179 000 the term ‘affordable’ has to be read in context).

It has but one seat, no pressed-tin covers over the real engineering (except for the exhausts and we’ll forgive it that much), no chrome worth speaking of and no decorative trim whatsoever. And, to quote Henry Ford, you can have it any colour you want as long as it’s black.

Yet in many ways it is the most complete cruiser we’ve ever reviewed, a perfect meld of form and function that looks like an Arlen Ness creation, runs like a Japanese bike and cossets its rider like an adventure tourer.

LOOKING GOOD

But because the first thing you will want to do with your Vegas is just look at it, we’ll start with that. It leads with an art deco headlight, all smooth curves and long horizontals, at exactly the right height: the top of the nacelle lines up with the highest point of the fuel tank.

From the single round instrument, high up between the horns of the low, wide ‘bars, down the dramatically curved sweep of tank, to the low-slung, deeply padded seat and the sweetly tapered, cast alloy swing-arm, there’s not an extraneous line anywhere other than a very 1930s centre crease that merely serves to emphasise that the 17-litre fuel tank is one piece, rather than two siamesed halves, and a precise trim line down each side of the swing-arm that saves the factory having to polish out mould lines.

The rear mudguard is monolithic in its simplicity, the LED tail light is flush and even the indicators are small, close-mounted and restrained to the point of elegance.

Yes, it’s all black but it’s certainly not boring, finished in a dozen different shades and textures, each chosen to accentuate the shape it’s applied to, smoothly melding into the next, distinctive component. My only quibble is that a lot of it is matte finished, which shows every speck of dirt and is very hard work to clean.

IMPOSING ENGINE

This is a big motorcycle, yet it’s dominated by its engine – an imposingly tall 1731cc V-twin with a single overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder, that completely fills the space under the tank without looking crowded.

There’s no more than a bare minimum of exposed plumbing, mostly around the neat little oil cooler between the frame down-tubes, and all the ancillaries are chunky and solidly mounted.

Victory quotes 70kW at 5300rpm and a hugely muscular 143Nm at 2900, but the test Vegas (well run in, with 14 500 hard kilometres under its wheels) felt a little stressed near the limit and I rarely took it above 4500rpm through the gears.

In any case, it will pull smoothly from just above idle (about 1500rpm) if the grip is twisted with finesse, delivering a huge kick from 2300 onwards that’ll make you feel like a quarter-mile hero every time you get enough clear road in front of you to use it.

Vibration becomes a little obtrusive from 3500rpm, accompanied by the flat, hard-edged intake roar common to fuel-injected bikes, but the Vegas pulls hard until well past the torque peak.

FULL-TILT BOOGIE

The best of our four top-end runs, at 5am on a cool, wind-still summer morning was an indicated 195km/h at 4150rpm, which Mr Garmin and his friends in the sky later revealed to be a true 183km/h, for a speedometer error of 6.5 percent.

Nevertheless, the Vegas runs sweet and straight up to top speed, despite the rider hanging on to the ‘bars for dear life, while well-sorted fuel-injection mapping makes the Vegas a first-time starter, even from cold, and returned an impressive seven litres per 100km over a week of mixed commuting and performance testing.

That’ll give you a tank range of about 240km, by which time you should be ready for a comfort stop anyway.

Clutch action is firm and positive, even after a couple of full-tilt take-offs, but that’s really all it’s needed for; seamless upshifts are the order of the day, selector action crisp and solid if occasionally rather too vocal. The six-speed transmission’s overdrive top gear drops engine revs to a relaxed 2500rpm at the national speed limit, with huge torque available for instant overtaking when required.

The very unusual analogue speedometer - one can only describe it as a rising-rate readout - places 60km/h at 12 o’clock and 120 at 3 o’clock; within a day or so the readings become intuitive, and you don’t even have to look away from the road to see how fast you’re going.

RIDE AND HANDLING

The Vegas’ front suspension - chunky 43mm forks devoid of any adjustment - is firmer than usual for a cruiser, while the air-adjustable rear monoshock, with only 93mm of travel, is of necessity a little harsh and choppy.

The tubular-steel frame and cast alloy swing-arm, however, are about as flexible as the Bloukrans bridge and although the steering is slow and a little ponderous (with a 21” front tyre leading a 1684mm wheelbase it could hardly be otherwise) once settled the bike corners smoothly and predictably, with a lot more ground clearance than you’d expect, mostly due to relatively narrow architecture and slightly raided forward-control footpegs.

And, with a dry weight of 290kg, the Vegas simply pounded our bumpy test section into submission. The deeply padded solo saddle took the bite out of the jarring and the bike tracked straight and true through all but the worst of it.

COMFORT ZONE

With its seat just 645mm off the ground the Vegas qualifies as a slammer but, thanks to careful ergonomics that avoid resting the rider’s weight on the points of the pelvic bone, it’s the most comfortable cruiser we’ve ridden yet.

Two-hour non-stop stints were no problem and up to about 140km/h it’s as user-friendly as any other naked bike; after that, of course, the impractical seating position becomes a factor.

Nevertheless, it is the complete package; its art deco styling makes almost every other cruiser on the market look clumsy, its performance makes them feel outdated and its comfort makes you wonder why all custom-style bikes aren’t made this way.

If cruisers were compulsory, this one would top my list and, coming from a lifelong sports-bike rider, that says a lot.

Price: R179 000.

Bike from: Viper Lounge, Cape Town.

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 1731cc air/oil-cooled 50-degree four-stroke V-twin.

Bore x stroke: 101 x 108mm.

Compression ratio: 9.4:1.

Valvegear: SOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder with self-adjusting cam-chains and hydraulic lifters.

Power: 70kW at 5300rpm.

Torque: 143Nm at 2900rpm.

Induction: Digital electronic fuel-injection with two 48mm throttle bodies.

Ignition: Digital electronic.

Starting: Electric.

Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.

Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh overdrive gearbox with final drive by carbon-fibre reinforced belt.

Front Suspension: 43mm conventional cartridge forks.

Rear Suspension: Rising-rate linkage with gas-charged monoshock adjustable for preload.

Front brake: 300mm disc with Nissin four-pot opposed-piston calliper.

Rear brake: 300mm petal disc with underslung twin-piston Nissin floating calliper.

Front tyre: 90/90 - 21 tubeless.

Rear tyre: 180/55 - 18 tubeless.

Wheelbase: 1684mm.

Seat height: 640mm.

Dry weight: 290kg.

Fuel tank: 17 litres.

Top speed (measured): 183km/h. (195/4150rpm)

Fuel consumption (measured): 7.0 litres per 100km

Price: R179 000.

Bike from: Viper Lounge, Cape Town.

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