Hitting the Jackpot with Victory's Vegas
Question: How do you convert a Harley-Davidson rider to a Victory motorcycle?
Answer: With some difficulty.
Harley is one of those iconic brands that's bigger than the arena in which it operates. It appeals to many non-bikers because of the Harley legend and all the branded paraphernalia (Zippo lighters, leather jackets etc) that goes with it.
Many a grey pony-tailed accountant who wouldn't contemplate any other bike will buy a Harley because of the free-ridin', live-the-dream Hog image.
So for a young interloper like Victory to move in on that turf, well, let's just say it ain't gonna happen overnight. As we've seen with cruisers from Japan and Korea, they might have all the shiny chrome bits and growling exhausts and they might even be better built than Milwaukee's monsters, but they're just not Harleys.
However, one thing Victory has in its favour is that it's MADE IN AMERICA, which should help it a few notches higher on the image meter than something built in Seoul or Tokyo.
Victory cruisers are built by quad and watercraft specialist Polaris. The brand is only ten years old in the US and has been on the South African market only a few months. There are several model ranges available: without going into the technical details there's a choice of naked, touring and sporty models, each with the same growling 1634cc Vee-twin engine.
The bikes have cool names like Vegas Jackpot and 8 Ball, quite apt considering the gamble Victory's taking trying to crack this market.
My first taste of Victory was the Vegas Jackpot, a grand cruiser with a sexy flames-on-the-tank paint job, a Jurassic engine roar and enough chrome to give you arc-eyes if you stare at it too long without sunglasses.
It was my steed for the recent Toy Run and, although I'm a superbike rider at heart, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The Victory's selling point, says Arrie Strauss of American Choppers, is that it comes out of the factory in custom trim that would cost you an arm and a leg extra if you were buying a rival chopper (guess which one?).
The painted flames on the tank are standard, as are the fancy alloy wheels and 250mm rear tyre. And the engine's a high-tech unit with electronic fuel-injection, overhead cams and quad-valve cylinder heads.
The Jackpot displays all the typical cruiser characteristics, thanks to its weight and ultra-wide rear tyre: a reluctance to turn corners, mega torque, and - my favourite part - an engine note that could scare the studs off a pit bull-terrier's collar.
So with my adrenalin dial set to "medium", I cruised away, revelling in that grunt, growl, and laid-back, I'm-too-cool-for-superbikes style.
The bike has great visual presence and continuously attracts attention from fellow bikers. It truly is a work of art with its finely polished surfaces and impeccably groomed, not-a-nut-out-of-place style.
Does the Victory have a fighting chance? I reckon it does, particularly with people who'd like a cruiser but without the poseur Harley image.
Price: R278 000.
Test bike: American Choppers, Randburg.