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Victory in 2009

Hard as it is to believe, 2009 is Victory Motorcycles’ 10th anniversary. We took a look at the changes for 2009, model by model, in our article here. In the decade Victory has been in business, the company has put nearly 50,000 bikes on the road. Victory’s range of premium cruisers and tourers sells mainly in the States, but has also been marketed to the UK, Russia, Iceland, the UAE, Sweden, and Italy.

Additional outlets are currently being opened in Australia and Germany. At the recent Intermot motorcycle show in Cologne, Germany, Victory reportedly had over 100 dealer enquiries. And underlining the company’s international thrust is the fact that all Victory models will comply with Euro-III emissions standards in 2010.

For a 10-year old company, that’s a pretty ambitious reach. So is the breadth of the line-up, with 19 variations on four distinct model themes. In fact, Victory CEO Mark Blackwell seems to think the company has the market pretty well covered, including the extent to which the female consumer is concerned. Last year’s Vegas Low model sold 42-percent of overall sales to women.

What they need now, he says, is greater brand recognition. To that end Victory is working with Arlen and Cory Ness, and with designer Roland Sands on co-branding initiatives intended to make the Victory nameplate familiar to many more people.

A key determination, says Blackwell of the Victory design direction, was to avoid the retro look. Victory will pursue a modern interpretation of every genre it embraces. He cites the recently introduced Vision bagger as an example. “The Vision is a flagship statement,” he says. “Its appearance may be very polarizing, but that was intentional.”

Polarizing it might be, but the 10th Anniversary version of the Victory Vision (of which only 100 copies were made) sold out in seven minutes. Victory also boasts a custom-order program to tailor bikes to specific customer requirements-something only possible with the company’s flexible manufacturing system. And, as a measure of how far the company has come in the cruiser world, Victory’s accessory and apparel catalog has grown from eight pages at its outset to 148 pages in the current version.

The big deal in vehicle sales is customer satisfaction, and Victory boasts improvements in its J.D. Power ratings as well as survey results that put the company in first place in regard to likely repurchase intent. That’s how many Victory owners said they would consider buying another one.

But the economic picture isn’t that great for the near future, and Victory’s management team knows it. The company continues to grow at a percentage rate somewhere in the low- to mid single-digits, which is better than stagnating, but it’s not as good as Blackwell and company would like.

The line in 2009

Nothing much changes in the Victory line-up for 2009, but there are some noteworthy revisions. The Freedom 106 engine that was initially an exclusive in the Vision has made its way to other models. It’s offered as an alternative to the usual 100-inch engine in the Vegas Jackpot, the Hammer and Hammer S, and on the Cory Ness Jackpot. It is standard, as always, in the five versions of the Vision.

For 2009, that Freedom 106 engine (with Stage 2 cams) produces a 14-percent power improvement, at 97-horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque. Victory product planners love to point out that a Jackpot priced at $18,499, produces 31-percent more torque than a $19,499 Harley-Davidson Rocker C. And that even with over six grand worth of Screaming Eagle engine mods, the Rocker C still can’t beat the Jackpot’s output.

At the company’s model line review in Del Mar, California, Victory personnel passed around a cast alloy hunk of metal that represents the amount of weight removed from Victory’s new Stingray cast wheels, which varies between 13.8 and 15.7-pounds depending on wheel size. It felt really substantial, emphasizing just how much power is required to spin that hoop, as well as to stop and suspend its weighty excursions.

New LED taillights are said to be twice as bright as their incandescent ancestors, and the headlight shells have also been on diet. Newly crafted Cory Ness Signature Jackpots debut for 2009, as do Arlen Ness Signature Visions, all with extrovert paint designs and lots of billet accessories.

For most buyers, the significant difference has to be the Freedom 106 engine, which is surprisingly smooth and torquey, and noticeably stronger than the well-mannered 100-inch twin is. Both engines start at the bidding of an audibly hard-working starter, and settle to a smooth idle controlled by the Visteon electronic fuel injection. Once underway, one might expect stronger low-rev thudding vibrations from the larger-displacement twin, but it seems-if anything-more fluid and flexible at low speeds than its smaller sibling.

The copious torque provides deceptive acceleration, even on the hefty Vision models, and combines an effortless 80-to-90 mph cruise with pretty good fuel consumption; particularly if you’re accustomed to multi-cylinder sportbikes. One of Victory’s strong suits is a sense of balance and solidity. The machines have a pleasing mechanical sense to them, with good throttle response when you’ve learned to wind the throttle through a generous arc, and positive-if occasionally noisy-shifting.

Slowing heavy bikes like these takes plenty of anticipation and a pretty firm squeeze, but the brakes feel strong and readable. The relatively low center-of-gravity lent by the V-twin powertrains makes them all easy to tip into bends, and most of the models have a reasonable amount of lean angle available before they start to grind hard parts.

All in all, Victory does a good job of fielding authentic heavyweight cruisers with a strong flavor of originality to them. As Mark Blackwell acknowledges, Victory’s big challenge is one of brand promotion. Their biggest domestic rival is a global household word; a brand name people are happy to have tattooed on their bodies. That’s tough to beat, but it looks like Victory is making an earnest attempt to provide high-quality cruisers with an enjoyable all-American flavor. For those cruiser riders less apt to run with the herd, Victory is an attractive alternative. Take a look at Victory’s web site for additional details and specifications.