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Victory Ness Cafe: Victory Getting a Message?

It is no secret to us that there is a demand for performance motorcycles from an American manufacturer.  It doesn’t have to be a race replica, but it does have to be stripped bare to the essence of an engine and a chassis doing their job together.  Harley has something like this in the XR1200X, but we think there are plenty of consumers looking for something that goes a little further in terms of engine performance and light weight.  Frankly, we feel that a production performance motorcycle from Victory is something that could fill a significant niche in the market.  The recently announced Victory Judge looks in that direction, but it won’t go far enough for some people.  This is where the latest creation from Zach Ness, the Victory Ness Cafe comes in.

The Victory Ness Cafe is explained in detail in the video below, but essentially it is a Victory Judge on steroids with a whole bunch of weight removed, ground clearance added and suspension upgraded . . . not to mention cafe racer bars and custom bodywork/paint.


  1. Eric says:

    That is a nice bike, and I would give Victory a thumbs-up for getting out of their comfort zone. As it is a bit too focused for me, I would think it might make a nice second or third bike for those with thick wallets. Oh, and don’t get me started on Buell 🙂

  2. Mitch says:

    H-D is missing a golden oppurtunity by not bringing back the XLCR and using the V-Rod drivetrain to power it. Bring it to market as an “Evil Twin Alternative” to the XR1200X for the more sport inclined “Matured” riders and they would have a genuine Cafe Racer pair in thier lineup. Of course it would have to be priced just slightly higher than the XR but those who want these can afford ’em and don’t really care about price anyway. As the King of the Heavyweight Division with loyal owners/riders this could be a real winner for H-D. As for all the derision spit out here about the Low Tech H-D V-Twin bikes that have been selling faster than they can be made for 100 some odd years, it’s simple. Some riders want just that, simple, comfortable bikes with superior paint and a history that is Americana to the core. I have been riding for 36 years and have owned everything from Bridgstones (probably not many here who know what a Bridgestone Motorcycle was) to the fastest production bike in the world and i always come back to the twins because they have something inline 4’s don’t have, SOUL. Ride what you like and let others do the same. I don’t laugh at the guys who ride the latest “sportbike” even though they look like a monkey fu***ng a football doing it. So leave me and my Guzzi, Beemer Boxer, and FXDC alone and keep your comments to yourself.

    • mickey says:

      This would be a pretty dull place to come and read if everyone kept their comments to themselves.

      Mitch if you have been riding motorcycles for 36 years and rode Bridgestone motorcycles they had to be used. Bridgestone quit making motorcycles 39 years ago in 1973.

  3. billy says:

    Give me that microphone back! What a couple of tools!

  4. Jeff says:

    I don’t think they’re getting the message either, just look at the foot peg positioning, and single front disk brake. They still seem blind to any audience outside the cruiser market, the only group that would consider this a sport / performance bike.

  5. Reinhart says:

    No, Victory is not getting the message. They actually hired Ness to design a cafe racer! Baaaaaaaarf!!!

    • Tom says:

      Does Ness have incriminating phots of Victory management? Can’t some other design come in and take a shot at some Victory designing? There are hundreds of young, unemployed, well-educated bike designers from Italy, California, New York, Germany, who need a chance. C’mon Polaris, give ’em a chance

      • Reinhart says:

        Roland Sands would be a good pick. He does some pretty cool stuff, lots better than Arlen Mess.

  6. BillyGoat says:

    Nice paint but the wheels and drive pully don’t compliment the design.

  7. Sad Rider says:

    What’s sad is HD’s refusal to acknowledge they have one helluva power plant with the V-Rod motor/trans. If Willie G would step back from his rose colored glasses adn take a few minutes to see what’s going on with the market, he’d have his crew pushing a V-Rod powered sport touring bike (and a nekkid bike powered by the same drive train) NOW!

    Look at what HD did with the Rocker and Rocker C. They were 3 years too late getting the bike on the market (just in time to see 240s go back to 180s and smaller), and the seat on those bikes was a complete joke (I have a HD tattoo, so I’ve earned the right to kick ’em in the arse).

    At least the Ness boyz see that there’s opportunity knocking.. I hope they jump in before the next phase comes along.

    Meanwhile, I’ll keep riding Triumphs.

  8. clasqm says:

    This is NOT a “step forward for Victory”. It is a one-off custom and I don’t hear anything about it becoming a production model.

    It is a good looker, sure. Pegs a bit too far forward for a cafe racer and bars a bit too low for a sportyish standard. But those things can be fixed.

    How many times have we heard the howls of “build it and they will come”? I’ve been hearing this since the days of the Yamaha XJ650 and every time the American manufacturers and importers bring out a sporty bike that is not a race replica, it bombs in the US market. Every time. The only way anything like this will ever become a production model is if Victory decides to make a big push in Europe. Until then, just get yourself a Triumph Thruxton. That is the production cafe racer you can buy right now.

  9. Dave says:

    The footpeg handlebar seat relationship is wrong. Cafe racers are supposed to be light weight and agile. To big and bulky.

  10. Shriker says:

    Step in the right direction though , like others have said , its really not in the spirit of a real cafe racer.

    Cafe Racers came about because of the desire for more speed. FUNCTION came first. Lighten the bike, make it more powerful, more aerodynamic, better suspended, put the rider in a position to use it for speed. The style of these came solely as a bi product of function first.

    Nothing wrong with making it look great as well as it doesnt compromise function .

  11. kent says:

    It’s as ugly as all the other Ness stuff, but it’s a step in the right direction.
    I’d love to find a US made bike that interests me. None of them even come close. This isn’t close, but it’s closer.

    Typical custom cruiser builder comments… he’s showing all the BS that does NOTHING, but looks “cool”, like the custom engine cover. Ohhh!

  12. Mountain says:

    If this was actually a cafe racer from Victory, that would be great, but let’s face it, this is a cruiser with a nod to cafe racer styling. Just look at the seat height and forward controls. I would really like if there was an American-built “standard” motorcycle. If Victory just came up with a good frame with good geometry (not cruiser geometry) as a base for it, they could follow their usual recipe and base at least three models off it. If they were able to keep the weight (and the chrome) down, they wouldn’t even need to do much with the engine. I think they could easily design a “naked” Standard, a Cafe, and maybe something like a Scrambler or something totally original that are still clearly Victories but would appeal to those who want a US-built bike that is not a cruiser. Frankly it seems as if almost every new model from Victory and HD just seems to have a lower and lower seat height, as if they’ve suddenly realized that their most popular demographic group is the one consisting of those with short person’s syndrome.

  13. goodlyRun says:

    Give me 10 minutes with this clown and his bike and I’ll describe what we want in a V-Twin “Cafe.” What he has is too heavy, too long and underpowered.

  14. daytonacharlie says:

    Ho hum… another V-twin/cruiser/custom. Aren’t we over this yet?
    It’s a really nice interpretation but aren’t there a million of these out there already, a bunch of them over priced and un-sold? If Victory would come out with an actual sport bike or even a standard that isn’t a cartoon I might be interested but ’till then they all look the same to me.

  15. paulysr says:

    Now THAT is a step in the right direction! If Victory spent the time and money, they could build a kick-a$$ bike along those lines. Hard to say if it would be profitable, and they probably have everyone working overtime sorting out the Indian anyway.

  16. Dave Joy says:

    Stick that motor in a Featherbed frame, call it a NORVIC… that would be a Cafe Racer!!!

  17. Reinhart says:

    Wow. You folks need to get out more often! This bike is an atrocity and calling it a cafe racer is an insult!

  18. butchy says:

    It doesn’t look like a cruiser. It looks like a cafe racer. That is the direction American companies need to go in my opinion. Not with every model, of course. But can Victory or HD give us something other than a cruiser? What if you don’t like cruisers? You can’t buy American.

    I can see American mfg’s not wanting to build something that looks Japanese. But this cafe thing will be around for a while to at least dabble in. Harley could kick butt in this area, they already came out with the XLCR1000 35 years ago.

    Young riders might be attracted to a cafe racer. They are sort of popular right now. However, the bike needs to come in under $7 grand if you want to rope the youth market, plus in the down economy riders will likely pass at a $15,000 impractical bike.

    Looks cool though…

  19. Tom says:

    good start, but still needs more daylight through the engine and transmission area. Eliminate all covers and shields. And as others have stated, shorten the gas tank and move back the pegs.

  20. JPJ says:

    Nice lookin’ ride. Remove the clip-ons, and add some standard bars, for some additional elbow room.

  21. mechanicuss says:

    put on a rear fender w/a p-pad for the wife and a set of flanders d5’s and i’ll buy one tomorrow…

  22. HolyHandGrande! says:

    Looks really slick
    Why put that expensive shocker out back and then leave the crap up front?
    Pegs should be rearset.
    Should have duel front stoppers
    Clip-ons suck for most riders – put on some low risers.
    Add passenger accomidations – no serious effort is a one seater. Just put a little cowling on like Ducati and Triumph do.
    Swing are in too long
    Rake is too severe

    Victory should put that engine into a bike similar in concepyt to the MG Griso.

  23. bob says:

    If victory would build a blank slate standard like my triumph hinkley bonneville thats a do it all bike that with a few cheap mods could be a touring bike ,cafe, commuter or cruiserand have a reasonable price under 11 k I would be at the victory dealer the next day. I would love to be able to buy AMERICAN!!

  24. Jeremy in TX says:

    Very nice bike considering he started with a very heavy cruiser. I would prefer to see a more purpose-built attempt at a production cafe racer or standard from Victory, but that likely won’t happen for a long time if ever. If this custom generates a lot of interest on the road, though, Victory may start lumbering in the right direction to address the niche that Buell tried but never quite succeeded to fill.

  25. Patrick says:

    Ness Cafe? As I recall Nescafe is an instant coffee made by the Nestle company. I think it was some kind of imitation coffee that was an alternative to real coffee back in the 60s.

  26. FZoner says:

    it’s a cafe racer…say it 3 more times and maybe you will catch on.

  27. Steveski says:

    I like it! Smart move for Victory… didn’t think the Ness’ could build anything like this. & I’m a Harley guy!

  28. steveinsandiego says:

    yep, noticed the ergo triangle right off. move pegs back, lose the clipons (for my sake, anyway)in favor of drag bars, throw on some slightly skinnier tires (love the wheels), i’m good to go.

    • Bud says:

      Yeah, I’m with you. Real world ergo layout would make this pretty cool. Personally I’d also make the tank shorter and move the seat forward.
      Definitely a step in the right direction for Victory!

      • Stinky says:

        That’s what I see, that long tank puts the rider behind the pegs, could be done, be a shame to hack on a 17/20K bike.

  29. mark says:

    Decent start, but the footpegs are way too far forward and the rear tire is way too fat. Cafe racers are supposed to handle.

  30. takehikes says:

    I like it, at least the direction. Yup lots of sportbike and cruiser guys out there but reality is there is a huge bunch of us that just want a motorcycle. A standard if you will. Being ancient I remember when one bike could do it all. Not perfect but at least decently…cruise, long haul, carve canyons and drag. This is filling a niche but a very good direction for Victory to move in to. Nice also to see Ness doing something other than another overblown rendition of a cruiser/bagger/quasi chopper.
    Now if only Victory could make those barrels un-square looking…..

  31. Gary says:

    Personally, I’m tired of everything being a lousy V-Twin, enough of the V-twins already, have enough of those in all the cruisers. Victory, how about developing something with more cylinders than a V-twin and liquid cool it. I’m tired of everything just being cruisers.

    • Stinky says:

      The market is short on triples. Plenty of twins, fours, & singles though.You’ll be getting your wish soon, EVERYTHING is gonna have to be watercooled with the extra BS that goes with it (waterpumps, hoses, radiators, sensors, fans). Some people still want simple motorcycles, not possible, but some still want them. I’m an air cooled twin fan, love ’em, hate to see ’em go. Have a BMW, couple Ducatis, couple Buells. I’ll get a Triumph someday, fours leave me cold. Cafe Racers never sell so you’ll get your wish, this won’t be another v twin.

      • Superchicken says:

        I’m with you on twins and triples as they are great on the street in the real world. Where we differ is the water cooling, as in the 60K I’ve put on my bike in sun, rain, and snow – I’ve not seen any failures due to sensors or water cooling. Besides, production air cooled bikes these days have their own fair share of sensors. I guess there was that one instance where it dumped coolant on my boot, but at least that was easily cured by tightening a couple bolts.

  32. kirk66 says:

    Ness confirmed that you can take an American bike that is not a Harley and develop something that would sell in low-volume but respectable numbers. Strip all the high-end tid-bits that carry Ness’s name, produce a lighter crank for that particular model, swap the TTX shock for something that doesn’t cost $1500, let traxxion dynamics make some cartridges for the front, slap a second Brembo on the front to slow it and you have a bike that can sell for about $12,500. That’s XR, Triumph Speed III, Ducati Monster territory in money. Put some risers on it and a little longer suspension and you’ll have yourself the first Victory MegaScrambler. Just sayin……

  33. Tom says:

    American Sport Bike Retro Replica wanted

    If Harley produced a Cal Rayborn Replica much like Ducati’s Hailwood or Paul Smart replica I would buy one. Put a modern frame (lightweight rigid), 17″ wheels, brakes and suspension on it. I’m not interested in the XR1200X flat tracker “bolt on” look to the existing XR frame.

    BTW I own a Buell XB1200R Firebolt with 18K miles. I absolutely enjoy its unique torque filled power band.

  34. Fuzzyson says:

    Just saw this bike in person this past weekend at the Cycle World show in NYC. Like the cafe styling. Now if they’d only build some real techo and performance into it! Still can’t figure out what makes American riders think that loud=fast. Harley has been spitting out the same cookie cutter bikes for decades, just slop a different color paint on it and offer more chrome accessories. That makes it bad ass. One thing Harley knows how to do well (maybe the only thing)-market, market, market. Victory-don’t be another wanna be, now’s your chance to be your own self!

  35. Gutterslob says:

    I’ve never quite understood the obsession the US has for these type of bikes. They have companies NASA, Google and Lockheed, and yet their motorcycles (barring a few exceptions) have about the same level of tech as farm machinery from the 70s.

    • Kentucky Red says:

      To many Americans, motorcycling is not about high-tech innovation. In fact, it is quite the opposite. In a time when life is complicated and precarious, motorcycling can be a refreshing outlet of simplicity that harkens back to a time when the world was run on honor and hand-shakes. The brand that engenders that ethos most effectivly is the brand that wins the business of this large sector of motorcyclists.

      • Tuskerdu says:

        Well said.

      • Stratkat says:

        then why are we not satisfied riding around in model Ts or better yet, horse and wagons?
        i understand a nice for these things but why does everyone assume all of us want them??

        • Ken says:

          We’re talking about motorcycles that are attractive because they represent a kind of minimalism – not the direction cars have taken, making them into mini space shuttles (now even including social networking tech to distract from the experience of actually, you know, driving). If you want a high-tech sport bike, fine: Not me.

          • Gutterslob says:

            I see nothing minimalist about this. An air-cooled Monster would be minimalist in my book. Old-skool tech built with modern day machining. Just enough for a good ride and, more importantly, the ability to go around corners.

        • Kentucky Red says:

          I see where you’re coming from… Compared with motorcycles, automobiles are more of a utilitarian necessity than a stong personal extension of themselves. There are plenty of classic cars out there that are babied and running fine, but getting for A to B reliably and fuel-efficiently takes presidence for everyday transportation.

          I’m not saying this bike is for me; it is not. I ride an XB12S, but I tend towards european and japanese bikes. However, I can understand how an older European-American’s thirst for nostalgia might be sufficiently quenched by this motorcycle.

      • Vic says:


    • Stinky says:

      Farm machinery, has a soothing sound and feel to most. Techno, Hip Hop music gives people an anxious, nervous feeling. Unfortunately, most trying to escape NASA,Google,Lockheed get a cruiser to get away from these places and feelings. Their low performance, low tech, easy to ride, make lots of noise, blingy, look at me, appeal to people that just wanna fit in with the fun, daring, NASCAR, NFL crowd, while not having much riding skill. This bike can appeal, but some of us can see what it could become.

    • Superchicken says:

      I’m an American myself and I don’t understand it, even after all the talk of nostalgia. That said, we have a pretty good selection of European and Japanese bikes to choose from, so I can’t say that I care much. The only problem I have is when I’m berated for not riding an American-made bike. There and I thought this country was all about choice, not nationalism.

      The only American-manufactured bike I have ever considered was Buell, but that air-cooled lump and “agricultural” (reviewers’ word, not mine) transmission nestled in its frame kept me from taking the leap. By the time Buell moved to Rotax, I had found a bike I liked enough to ride into the ground. Still, I would have considered them if they’d survived long enough to stick the Rotax in a Ulysses.

      • dino says:

        Good thread… most here are making sense!

        I also like nostalgia, and motorcycles are a part of that. I wish there were more parts of everyday life that worked on a handshake and a promise. You taught your kids the Golden Rule, and life was good.

        But I will take my nostalgia with a side of technology, in the form of G-force inducing two wheelers. Hit thee gas and brakes so hard (when it is safe to do so) that you can’t help but laugh in your helmet! Some people want the vibrating easy chair, and cruise along. And that is fine. This is America, with a capital A…

        Just keep giving us a variety of American iron, and we can all get along (and maybe even wave at each other when we pass)!

        • Madmax says:

          Most here don’t know their ass from a top hat. I’ve been riding for the last 30 years and have had numerous sporty standards, sport touring, and touring machines and have rented several others for extended summer tours. I average somewhere around 15-20k riding miles per year. I recently purchased a Victory Cross Roads and it is a fantastic bike. It is extremely comfortable, handles lighter than just about anything I’ve ever ridden, is reasonably powerful for something one rides on roads with speed limits. It is great two up, has tons of luggage space and a lean angle capability that is far beyond that which 90% of riders would ever push it. IOW, it’s great fun on twisty roads.

          People who haven’t tried one should really keep their traps shut. As a wiseman once said, “it is better to remain silent and be thought stupid than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

          • Reinhart says:

            “People who haven’t tried one should really keep their traps shut.”

            I tried more than one Victory motorcycle and didn’t like them at all. Victory motorcycles have a very dead (boring)feel about them. Not trying to be rude, but that’s the best way to describe it. The styling is something that is not to my taste so I ride something else. I do hope that Victory succeeds and that they dump the Arlen Ness styling and hire a talented designer to build exciting bikes that don’t put you to sleep. Until then, I think I’ll keep my distance.

  36. FULP says:

    That’s right….just dangle it out there and we turn around and it is nowhere to be found. At least the plan is to bring the ERB 1190RS to us at decent prices in the future. The “Master” Erik Buell is just gettin’ back on his feet after the Harley reaming. This Victory despite its potential will never be more than a “one off”.

  37. Rokster says:

    We will have to see what Nescafe has to say about this.

  38. Hank says:

    Don’t stock harleys & victorys get decent gas mileage when ridden reasonably? The air cooled buells got 50 + miles per gallon.

    The foot pegs on this bike are all wrong

  39. LarryC says:

    Single front disc?

  40. Dodsfall says:

    This is a custom build, not a production motorcycle.

  41. Chris says:

    Other than the exhaust, I like it…

    Looks like they took 300 lbs off of the stocker…

  42. mickey says:

    I mostly like it. Significant step in the right direction for Victory, however foot peg location is not ideal for drag bars.That’s the only design flaw I see.

  43. MotoMan says:

    This is EXACTLY the direction Victory should be going! they need to stop re hashing the same old themes. Keep the price in the mid teens and these will sell. These engines have the potential for 100+ hp and 100+lbs of torque drop 100 pounds of fat and chrome and these things would move! not GSXR fast but that’s nor the point is it? Go victory – be bold!

  44. tla says:

    it’s pretty, and I’d take it as a gift, but I probably wouldn’t buy one.

  45. Bill says:

    Many nice ideas but passenger accommodations still a requirement.

  46. marsjo says:

    I’m sorry, fans of HD and Victory, but I don’t get it. How is that underpowered, clumsy handling, heavy gas hogs on two wheels be considered innovative? The Japanese, the British, the Germans, the Italians, and the South Koreans all build better designs than America’s two main brands. If it weren’t for Motus I’d be totally embaressed for our country’s efforts in building motorcycles this last couple of decades. Is dressing up like some rotund gothic Ken doll and making loud mechanical fart noises so important to you that you forgo experiencing truly great handling, comfortable, efficient and quiet two wheeled transportation? And pay too much for the accoutrements of the masquerade!

    I sure there will be some grumpy dudes that don’t like my ‘tude about American iron, but that’s my humble opinion.

    • Fred M. says:

      Apparently, you are not familiar with Erik Buell Racing and their 1190RS

      • falcodoug says:

        O.K. Erik Buell the only other exception. But that Victory thing looks like a shoe box.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “O.K. Erik Buell the only other exception. But that Victory thing looks like a shoe box.”

          now all’s we need is to hear these words from marsjo.

          • marsjo says:

            “Erik Buell the only other exception. But that Victory thing looks like a shoe box.”

            Is it ok if I just quote it?

            The 1190RS was definitely a step in the right direction, but Harley and Buell was a bad business marriage and Buell’s bike didn’t stay long enough to mature into a dependable and widely serviceable part of motorcycling. I’m holding my breath that Motus can overcome two things. One: building a tough bike right at the start that is reasonably serviceable and two; getting a good dealership or distribution network established quickly. I’d hate for them to partner with the Harley Davidson company because they have a bad case of Corporatitis. I think the Motus would fit better with BMW and Triumph dealers but I have no say in the matter.

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