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  • January 11, 2017
  • Dirck Edge
  • Chris Rubino and Dirck Edge
  • 44 Comments

2017 Victory Octane: Is Our Last Test of a Victory the Best?

Just a couple of days ago, we announced that owner Polaris Industries is winding-down the Victory Motorcycle brand. That news was both sad and shocking as American motorcycle manufacturers are rare and precious. As we pointed out, we happened to have a Victory Octane in our garage for a test at the time we heard the news.

If you think this test is irrelevant as a result, stop reading. But the Octane is essentially a tuned Indian Scout, and we have no doubt the platform will live on … making this review more than relevant. Indeed, although we have liked all of the Victory models we have tested to different extents, the Octane might be the best bike ever produced by the brand.

Since the platform is similar in many respects to the Indian Scout, you may want to look back at our tests of the original 1133cc Scout at the Sturgis unveiling, as well as our test of the smaller displacement (999cc) Scout Sixty. Those are excellent motorcycles with engine performance, and chassis performance, so far beyond Harley-Davidson’s Sportster that we had this to say in our original test of the Indian Scout:

The new Indian Scout unveiled on the streets of Sturgis last Saturday evening is a modern, technologically advanced kick-ass Indian. This is no Sportster wannabe. Comparing the performance and handling of the new Scout with any stock Sportster is literally comparing apples to oranges … the bikes are in two different leagues.

Harley-Davidson has been massaging the Sportster motor for decades, and even incorporated many of the high performance tricks learned from Eric Buell. Nevertheless, the stock Scout, with slightly less displacement at 1133 cc, makes factory horsepower numbers dramatically higher than a 1200 cc Sportster can from its air-cooled, two-valve engine.

To a great extent, this is controlled by the laws of physics. The Harley Sportster is simply incapable of revving as high as the Scout. Not even close. Indian claims to get 100 hp at the crank (at 8100 rpm) from this modern, narrow angle (60 degrees) v-twin, together with 72 foot/pounds of torque (at 5,900 rpm). The Sportster, on the other hand, reaches its torque peak at a lowly 3,500 rpm, and dyno charts show horsepower peaks at or below 6,000 rpm. The Scout also has a higher compression ratio, another common benefit of liquid cooling.

You have to understand that the Victory Octane has a larger displacement Scout engine (1179cc vs. 1133cc) tuned for more peak horsepower (a claimed 104), as well as a higher, broader torque curve. Impressed with the last Scout I rode (the 999cc Scout Sixty), my first hard turn of the throttle on the Victory had me surprised and smiling in my helmet. This is quite simply a fantastic motor … both flexible and strong.

There are two reasons why it is such a shame Victory grossly over-hyped the “Project 156” assault on Pikes Peak with a “prototype” of the Octane engine beginning two years ago. First and foremost, it created expectations among motorcycle enthusiasts that a powerful American standard style motorcycle was in the offing (the production Octane turned out to be a feet-forward cruiser), and, secondly, the production engine is more than worthy of a higher performance seating position (i.e., upright naked or standard). Both of these thoughts entered my mind as I rode the Victory Octane for the first time.

The ergonomics of the Octane include a very comfortable rider’s seat, together with a moderate reach forwards to the foot pegs and bars. Like any feet-forward seating position, the weight on your tailbone can prove uncomfortable on longer rides — although the stock seat was so comfortable and supportive that this was not much of an issue during our testing.

When the engine is cold, the Octane can be reluctant to shift. After things warm up, it remains a bit clunky but shifts are positive and require reasonable effort. The clutch requires a pretty hard pull, however, and full engagement requires the lever to travel a good distance.

Handling for the category is excellent. It is immediately clear that the chassis is very stiff, and steering responses are crisp. The short travel suspension (4.7 inches in front and 3.0 inches in back) from the non-adjustable units (preload adjustment on the rear shocks only) are tuned well. We had no problems with the fork tuning whatsoever, but the shock could occasionally kick you in the butt courtesy of the minimal travel.

With only a single disc brake in front, and a smallish 298 mm disc, I didn’t expect much in the braking department. Brake feel was good, however, and power was more than adequate — even during spirited riding.

Together with the surprisingly smooth engine, riding the Octane hard is a pleasant and controlled experience. Reinforcing the idea that this engine could serve well in a motorcycle with more upright ergos, and more ground clearance. If such a bike were as reasonably priced as the Octane ($10,499), we might be in line to buy one. Now that Victory is closing down, however, we can only hope that Indian has plans for such a machine in its future.

Since Polaris will provide parts support for ten years, perhaps you can find a good deal on an Octane. If this is your style of motorcycle, it wouldn’t be a bad bet.


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44 Comments

  1. Harv says:

    I like this. Hope they make a similar style Indian.I dont think the current scout is as good looking. US can do some good stuff.

  2. Scorpio says:

    I rode the Scout twice when the Indian truck came to town. What struck me is that the componetry, handling, and especially that sweet motor all felt decidedly un-cruiserish. It would not be much of a stretch to put the larger Octane motor in a “Sport Scout” version with other sporty upgrades and a more sport-standard stance (even H-D was able to do that with the XR1200R). My other take-away was that I am never going to be a Scout owner – the bike just feels too diminutive for my 5′-7″ 140# frame. I didn’t get a chance to try it with the increased reach seat/bars/pegs, but can’t imagine they would change my overall impression. My most fervent wish is that with all their eggs in the Indian basket, Polaris will see fit to develop something that slots between the Scouts and Chiefs in size. A Chieftain (or even a Springfield) scaled down to the size of my Dyna Switchback would tempt me toward Indian for sure!

    • Grover says:

      The Scout felt too diminutive to me also. Feels like a sail in the wind when riding it. I’ll pass on it. Not sure if Indian has the drive to build anything other than a cruiser, so don’t hold your breathe waiting for them to build a standard.

  3. NRHRetro says:

    I wondered why Polaris had 2 cruiser companies. When they acquired Indian, I was scratching my head, it seemed to me that they would be competing with each other. I came to the conclusion then that Victory probably was not going to survive.

    This was not something that Polaris decided at the last minute, they most likely were planning to do this all along. They acquired Indian and maintained Victory for the first year or so, they posted impressive annual sales increases for about a year and made the stockholders very happy. Now, those sales increases are no longer happening because they are competing with the improved figures directly after the acquisition. They probably wanted to make sure that Indian was successful before they closed one of them down. Indian was successful, and was likely taking sales from Victory more so than H-D.

    Under the present conditions it makes a lot of sense to close Victory down. They will undoubtedly keep the best people from either division, and emerge a much stronger, more efficient, more focused company under the Indian brand.

    As for the prospects of an American standard/adventure/naked/sport-tourer that makes 200+ HP, and weighs in under 400 lbs, don’t hold your breath. I’m sure people at Polaris/Indian, and H-D, thought about that bike a long time ago, they are not going to build it until they believe that American riders, in large numbers, will buy it.

  4. Pete says:

    Sorry to hear that Victory is closing. One thing less to laugh here in Europe. Please don’t stop playing baseball….

  5. Ellis Tomago says:

    How did Victory expect customers to be excited by this bike when it is as gray as a cold, rainy day in late November?

    Had the bike packed more visual punch, it might have generated more customer interest, which in turn might have saved the company.

    • Bob says:

      Doubtful in my opinion. Suggesting that a color change may have saved the company brings the expression “putting lipstick on a pig” to mind. The Octane was not a bike that could have saved them regardless of color.

      • Don says:

        I agree that a different color choice wouldn’t have saved the company but that particular color may be indicative of wrong decisions that didn’t help the cause.

    • MGNorge says:

      Perhaps it goes with people’s dark, dreary outlook on the world today? Not mine, I don’t care for the grays and camo that seems so “in” today. But if any other colors aren’t offered then it won’t catch my attention except that I don’t care for it. My preference on colors does depend on the bike and its mission though.

  6. VEGA says:

    Good riddance…?

    Alright, its indeed a ‘sad-ish’ news to hear that Victory is no more anymore ala Buell & EBR but… I’m glad that Polaris now want to completely focus on its Indian™ Brand… So, that means more R&D cash going towards the Indian™ HQ, which is indeed a good thing (unless they allocate that R&D Cash to… Say… Snowmobiles)…

    I ‘normally’ don’t like cruisers but… I’m saying it with complete honesty that I find Victory Cruisers the worst, looks wise (except for their recent Bobber, I forgot its name…!) and this ‘Octane’ is no exception… I absolutely HATE to look at it, as much as I hate too look at the Yamaha MT-10…

    On the other hand; I find Indian™ Cruisers to be totally opposite and I absolutely love the Dark Horse™ with its blacked-out looks and big air-cooled engine, torquey yet REALLY powerful… On par with Harley Davidson (< Notice the lack of ™) CVO Engines in regards to performance…

    Oh well…

    G'Day!

  7. fred says:

    There is more money to be made selling Indian t-shirts, than selling victory motorcycles. I hate to see them go away, I had hopes of them building a motorcycle when the 156 project came along. Maybe some thing will come out of the flat tracker Indain.

  8. The Spaceman says:

    Maybe the smart move is to buy up a bunch of Octanes at Going Out of Business prices and turn them into limited edition, custom production bikes. Somebody in Cali did that with Buells a few years ago, and they were sweet. IIRC, they had sold every last one at $30k before they were 1/2 way through building them.

    It probably wouldn’t take a lot of engineering or expense to turn this POS feet-forward cruiser into a nice streetfighter or cafe. Who wants to invest?

  9. Provologna says:

    Random thoughts on what appears to be a well above average V-twin motor (my favorite architecture) in a sweet but ubiquitous cruiser package.

    My analogy for Victory’s Pike’s Peak race bike followed by this Octane: imagine MV Agusta displaying a concept bike w/cruiser styling, proudly thumping it’s chest about the motor’s elevated and extremely wide torque band, followed by the same motor in a race replica package. It just makes no sense no matter how you slice Victory’s Pike’s Peak race bike followed by this Octane. What was Victory’s CEO thinking?

    Comparing HD’s failed Buell brand to Victory’s Pike’s Peak race bike is, well, fail, IMHO. I may be in the minority, but as a Buell Ulysses owner (for an admittedly short few weeks), it’s my firm position that its pumped up air-oil-cooled motor is a failed modern engine experiment. Conversely, based on Dirck’s road test and other reports, this Octane motor is a gem, deserving of a world class performance package. No matter what one does w/that “Sportster” motor, the result shall not be a modern, pleasant, high performance riding experience.

  10. Joe Bogusheimer says:

    This Octane, and the Indian Scout, are some of the few cruisers that I’ve seen that I really care for the look of. Maybe it’s the modern(ish) engine, or alloy frame, but the styling overall is cruiser without being cartoonish or harking back to a style that predates my birth by a couple of decades (and I’m nearly 50) that I feel no affinity for.

  11. Neil says:

    I test rode the Scout and the motor is great. The early cruisers did not have your feet so far forward. Why we like the cruiser position is beyond me. I want to get off after half an hour. Standards with a slight forward lean are ideal. My CB500F is really quite good for most of the rides I take. I could use more style. I could sometimes use more motor. I do like the new paint schemes on the Indian Scout. Two tone. I see Harleys everywhere in summer. but no one is commuting here in the Northeast in summer. Masses of cars. Horrid.

  12. relic says:

    This shows the trap they ate in. Either use a restyled indian motor or pay huge cost of a victory dpecific engine.

  13. Tommy D says:

    I wonder how much this affects resale/trade in value of any Victory branded model. Did every one of these bikes just take a huge hit in value?

  14. rapier says:

    For better or for worse brand identity, that rather nebulous concept, is highly determinate of buyer decisions. Harley has perhaps the strongest brand ID in the world. No amount of technical or performance superiority is ever going to lure huge numbers away from Harley. I am not saying Victory was better and it’s surprising how well they did with a brand new brand that had no ID at all. Polaris made a mistake not grabbing the Indian brand right off the bat. 20 years on Victory still has only a nominal brand ID but Indian sure does so it makes sense to kill off Victory.

  15. Tom says:

    We all want rare bikes, or something we can no longer get. (Honda Hawk GT, anyone?) This Octane will certainly be a rare bike in a few years, so if dealers are clearing them out at a huge discount, and the engine is as sweet as we hear, this could well become a cult bike down the road. I’m watching for a bargain…

  16. aussie mike says:

    As an owner of a beautiful 2014 red & white Hammer S, I’m saddened by Victory’s demise. However the writing was on the wall the moment Indian was launched. Within months, Indian was outselling Victory by 3 to 1 in all markets. This despite the fact that the three model lineup was significantly more expensive than the more extensive Victory lineup. The success of Indian spurred management to release the water coolled mid size bike as an Indian Scout. It was originally supposed to be a Victory. That move foretold Victory’s demise. The Octane is a very good bike but it could have and should have been more. The finish of the initial model was bland and uninspiring. Why buy the Octane when the Scout looks so much better?

    It is a shame but one cannot blame Polaris. HD did the same with Buell. One wonders if Indian will use the Freedom motor which is an absolute pearler. Most probably not. Let’s hope Indian bring out some new models. How about expanding the range based on the Scout platform? What about a few sporty Scouts with mid level controls & front twn discs? A bike that could be considered a true V-Rod beater. Or what about a bike to rival Ducati’s XDiavel. Ride one of those & you’ll jump off with a grin from ear to ear. It’s a cruiser but it has all the technological bells & whistles as well as a fat rear tyre and 160 bhp. The thing out-performs, out-handles and out-brakes anything HD, Victory & Indian have to offer.

    IMO, Indian will have to start targeting the younger guys (BTW I’m 65) with smaller and low priced bikes. I’m seriously considering a Scout but would only consider if it can be easily modified with mid level controls. In addition, the new Indian 750cc Flat Tracker motor could be used as the basis for a range of models. Look at the new Ducati Scrambler. It is selling like hot cakes. Other examples are the new Bonnies, the R-Nine-Ts and the V9s (from Moto Guzzi).

    I know Americans like the feet forward position but please provide some models (at least for your export markets) with mid level controls. Test rode a VRod recently and the thing that stopped me from buying it was the feet forward controls. Otherwise the bike was awesome. An unbelievably strong motor.

    I really hope Indian prospers. Competition is healthy for the motorcycle world. Look at how HD have upped their game e.g. the “new” Milwaukee 8 motor. However, management needs to market bikes other than large cruisers. What about marketing some sporty cruisers e.g. the XDiavel? What about introducing some Thunderstroke Indians that are more traditionally styled e.g. normal fenders; not those old fashioned valanced fenders which polarises potential buyers. You either like them or you don’t. In my opinion, most do NOT like them. This limits Indian’s potential market and consequently its success and profitability. Anyway I think I’m beating my head against the wall. One only has to look at the “mistakes” they did with Victory. Management should read what bikers say about their bikes. But apparently they don’t. I can rattle off a number of things management should have changed on the Victory lineup. E.g the 250mm OEM tyre on the Jackpot & Hammer had a ridiculous profile. I changed mine for a 260mm Metezeler & the handling improved dramatically. Why did I buy the Metzeler? I read the blogs on the Victory forums on the internet. Why couldn’t management do that? Secondly, the only cruiser with front twin discs was the Hammer which did not come with ABS. ABS should have been mandatory on ALL their models; likewise front twin discs. Another beef was the “plastic” side panels. Seriously? These should have been metal. HD wouldn’t do that! There is always room for improvement. Also seat was a shocker on longer rides.

    BTW I’m never selling my Hammer even when I buy my next bike. At this point in time, the Moto Guzzi Eldorado is at the top of my wish list. Others are the HD Breakout and Indian Scout

  17. North of Missoula says:

    I would say that Polaris has come to the conclusion that they have taken as large a piece of Harley Davidson’s pie as they are going to get. This means that Polaris and Indian are competing for the same rider. It makes sense to draw the wagons around the Indian moniker and then move forward from there.

    My opinion is that they should start competing with the Japanese for the retro-standard or naked bike market.

  18. Provologna says:

    Fantastic, easily read review text. Reads like a friend giving the reader a superb ride description.

    Well done.

    I share the author’s sentiment, thinking I’d be in line to buy a standard version bike w/this motor.

  19. Tank says:

    Polaris dropping Victory isn’t that ‘sad’ to me. It’s not like Harley dropping Buell. It’s more like GM dropping Pontiac. Maybe Indian will have a model they can call Victory. It will be the Indian Victory (or Little Bighorn).

    • Fred M. says:

      As a Buell owner, this is sad to me, too — because I’m sure that there are Victory owners who are just as enthusiastic about their brand as I was about Buell. I don’t have to share their taste in bikes for me to have empathy for them as fellow motorcyclists.

      I also owned a 1967 Pontiac LeMans convertible into which I stuffed a warmed-up Pontiac 428 into, so I was no more happy to see that brand go away.

  20. beasty says:

    I test rode this bike and the Indian Scout. Wonderful motors and trannys on both. Seating position on this and the Scout is awful. The seat on the Octane is better than the Scout which is gawdawful. I noticed the performance of the rear shock was somewhat downplayed; c’mon, say it, it’s horrible.Brakes are OK, handling is OK. I’d like to see Indian adopt this motor as well as the Victory larger twin and produce a true standard. Like Tyler, I too am a dyed in the wool Sportster fan, and that bike keeps motoring on………..

  21. flacodoug says:

    I am not a cruiser rider at all (I’m only in my late fifties)but test road this at the Long Beach motorcycle show just for fun in November. It felt like a very solid bike and well sorted too. What a shame.

  22. gary t says:

    Sharp looking bike for sure….Love the tank.

  23. randy says:

    rode one at bike week.seat=horrible and numbing but the engine was a delight.was hoping a streetfighter/standard would have been next,but all is lost now.

  24. Curly says:

    Surely an Indian by another name. They’ll change the badging and a new Indian model will appear.

  25. Tyler says:

    Agreed, despite being a dyed in the wool Sportster fan, I have no hesitation in saying the Octane is head and shoulders (and torso and hips) above any non-Buell XL based bike, and easily the best cruiser I’ve ridden in 20 years in the saddle. It’s simply a fantastic engine, and I hope Indian does justice to it.

  26. Scott the Aussie says:

    Quite sad they really hit on a winner here (of course so have Indian naturally), and then they shut up shop. Hope a standard bike comes out of Indian one day.

    • jcott says:

      “Hope a standard bike comes out of Indian one day.”

      I couldn’t agree more. Something to build on the performance heritage. I was hoping one would come out of Kings Mountain, and I’m still crossing my fingers that Polaris develops one under the brand.