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words - Mark Fattore
The $19,995 machine represents the entry point -- dollar wise -- into the Victory marque, and it's a cruiser which rewards on so many levels

It’s nigh on impossible not to strike some level of kinship with the Victory High-Ball chopper, which is now on sale in Australia for $19,995.

And that’s just based on price and rideability, but for me the bike is defined by three main components: the massive armpit-drying apehanger bars; the blacked-out minimalist styling; and the balls-out performance from the 1731cc (106ci) eight-valve V-twin engine.

The apehanger bars are the real focal point, as they make such a definitive and bold statement – as well as polarising opinion.

I am certainly not a regular apehanger user, so I’m probably not the best person to judge if they are the best example on the market. But I can say that, apart from highway use when it’s a bit of a chore to hold on for any length of time without serious shoulder ache, the apehangers – adjustable on the High-Ball -- certainly aren’t nasty or recalcitrant to work with in the city.

In fact, quite the opposite, and any designs I had about swapping the apehangers for a pair of flatter pull-back bars – assuming I owned the High-Ball of course… -- had dissolved within a day of grabbing the 1731cc V-twin.

And after all, it has the High-Ball moniker for a reason, so it’d be a shame to remove such a vital piece of the puzzle – and a real styling exclamation mark -- in one fell swoop. And they have a bit of mongrel about them too, a ray of sunshine in a sea of anodyne cruiser offerings.

SHARP TURNS

Still, people will continue to question the wisdom of the apehangers, both aesthetically and operationally, but there’s no denying the spoked wheels – or the size of them to be more precise – ensure this is the king of the Victory handling jungle.

With the 16-inch tyres, albeit quite chunky at 130/90 (front) and 150/80 (rear), the High-Ball swings through turns with a pleasant, neutral feel, so much so that you really want to press on a little when the situation presents itself – even if the bike’s not in its natural habitat.

And I did just a little, proving that you don’t require a mass of horsepower or a blizzard of howling revs to have some serious fun – although there’s no denying the High-Ball is no shrinking violet in the engine muscle stakes. More on that in a minute, though.

So, where was I? Yep, there’s plenty of handling chutzpah, so if that little devil taps you on the shoulder and pleads for a small serving of spirited riding, then you won’t let him down. On big, wide curves the High-Ball will sit there all day, and it’s only on tighter and slower corners where the mass is really felt.

There’s only about 120mm of ground clearance – the lowest of any Victory model by 15mm – to work with though, so pegs will be ground away fairly quickly. But the bike does sit low, so that doesn’t make the lack of ground clearance such an acute issue.

The suspension combines conventional 43mm forks with a single-monotube gas shock, and travel is 150mm (front) and 75mm (rear) respectively.

The ride quality isn’t out of this world, nor is it fussy – and it certainly isn’t choppy or unstable, even on some uneven surfaces. A job well done, especially as the High-Ball is not a light machine.

The rear suspension is the highlight, though: not too soft or hard, so it’s ideal for cruising and cornering.

Braking is via 300mm discs, with a four-piston caliper on the front and twin-piston on the rear.

The front brake gets the job done at normal speeds, but it does require a hard pull and I’d much prefer a dual-set-up. Actually, I found myself riding the High-Ball like a scooter on occasions, apportioning more of the braking duties to the rear brake.

The rear is dynamite, and a few times I inadvertently locked it up when startled by traffic. But for some school boy antics, it would be a very willing cohort…

The High-Ball is a single seater, and this is one bike on which I wouldn’t have any interest in welcoming aboard a passenger. It doesn’t even have any passenger outlets such as foot pegs.

The solo seat has nice lumbar support, which is what you really require on a bike with forward set pegs. 

STYLE AND SUBSTANCE

I’m a big fan of the no-nonsense, blacked-out styling on the High-Ball. It starts with the bobbed front fender, and it’s pretty much black or matte black from there on in – apart from a few touches here and there, including the engine’s cooling fins and the instrument gauge.

I’ve never been a big fan of too much chrome and bling, so the minimalist touch suits me just fine.

The gauge includes a digital inset featuring a umber of functions, including the odometer, tripmeter, clock and gear position indicator, which a few times seemed to get a little frazzled in the heat of battle.

The engine? What a ripper with its balls-out power delivery. Victory claims 97hp and 152Nm, and I reckon these numbers are pretty close to the mark, as it’s such an enjoyable bike to be in command of.

Predictably, there’s a wide and generous spread of torque, which if not for the 300kg mass would certainly lose its grip on tarmac reality more often than not.

And there’s little sign of that suffocating feel which can sometimes be the Achilles heel of big V-twins, which means there’s always a nice wedge of power waiting to be unleashed. And the throttle response is compliant and predictable.

There’s some groaning from the powertrain when you try and ride the High-Ball a gear or two higher through slow speed bends, but a quick drop of a cog or some subtle clutch work will soon have it barrelling ahead at full steam, and with quite a snarl from the standard, staggered slash-cut dual exhausts.

But even if that’s too muted, Victory offers six other custom systems to choose from, including a two-into-one. That’s on top of other performance accessories, shock kits, chrome, mirrors, pull back grips, pegs, handlebars, windshields, seats, et al.

There’s a little bit of vibration on the High-Ball, but certainly not from multiple contact points. And it isn’t offensive in any way – and a nice reminder that some serious explosions are taking place underneath the 17-litre fuel tank.

The vibes are certainly not enough to numb fingers on long trips – but not that you’d want make a habit of testing the High-Ball’s long-haul prowess.

The gearbox is a little heavy and crunchy up until about third gear, which is not uncommon in this segment. With so much torque, Victory’s spread the gear ratios far and wide, so you can hold a gear punching from one corner to another – very relaxing.

The High-Ball is a bike without any real vices, and it simply lets you enjoy the road in a platform that is different from the norm, and that’s refreshing.

Like ever Victory I’ve ridden, the engine is a beauty, the apehangers add an X-factor to proceedings, and it’s surprisingly comfortable. What was I saying about price and rideability? 

SPECS: VICTORY HIGH-BALL

ENGINE
Type: Air-cooled, SOHC 50-degree V-twin
Capacity: 1731cc
Bore x stroke: 101mm x 108mm
Compression ratio: 9.4:1
Fuel system: Electronic fuel injection with dual 45mm throttle bodies
Claimed maximum power: 97hp (72.3kW) at 5500rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 153Nm at 2700rpm

TRANSMISSION
Type: Six speed
Final drive: Carbon fibre reinforced belt
Clutch: Wet

CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type: Steel cradle
Front suspension: 43mm telescopic fork, 130mm travel
Rear suspension: Monoshock, preload adjustment, 75mm travel
Front brakes: 300mm disc with four-piston caliper
Rear brake: 300mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Wheels: Spoked -- front 3.5 x 16, rear 3.5 x 16
Tyres: Dunlop Cruisemax -- Front 130/90-16, rear 150/80-16

DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Rake: 31.7 degrees
Trail: 170mm
Claimed dry weight: 300kg
Seat height: 635mm
Wheelbase: 1647mm
Fuel capacity: 17 litres

OTHER STUFF
Price: $19,995
Colour: Black
Test bike supplied by: Victory Motorcycles, www.victorymotorcycles.com.au
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kilometres

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Published : Wednesday, 21 December 2011
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