Rob Brooks Rides The New Victory Octane | Born To Ride Motorcycle Magazine - Motorcycle TV, Radio, Events, News and Motorcycle Blog

Rob Brooks Rides The New Victory Octane

Published on July 1, 2016 under Born To Ride
Rob Brooks Rides The New Victory Octane

Victory Octane
Road Test & Eval

Since the first V92c rolled off the assembly line on July 4, 1998, Victory Motorcycles has been carving out an ever-expanding slice of the American motorcycle pie. From cruisers, to tourers and baggers, custom partnerships with the likes of Roland Sands and the Ness family, and now even electrics, Victory has never been afraid to break stereotypes, and move in new directions. As Mike Song, senior industrial designer has quipped, “Victory doesn’t have any long history or legacy- we are a new brand and we can go wherever we want to go.”

From the Project 156 road racer developed for the famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and the collaboration with Zach Ness on the Victory Combustion concept, the radical new Octane was born. Dubbed “The Modern American Muscle Bike,” the Octane is poised to take on the likes of Harley-Davidson’s new Sportster 1200 Roadster and possibly the long-running V-Rod, Triumph’s revamped Thruxton, and even sister company Indian’s innovative Scout for the moniker, “ultimate hooligan bike.” Some claim the Octane is, in fact, merely a knock-off of the Scout, since both companies are owned by parent Polaris Industries. However the similarities both may share in chassis, powerplant, even some design cues, these are very dissimilar bikes. Cousins, not siblings.

Powered by a liquid-cooled, 1179cc, 60-degree, 6-speed V-twin with dual overhead cams and 4-valve heads, the Octane makes a claimed 104 horsepower and 76 ft. pounds of torque. Company spec sheets assert the Octane blitzes a quarter mile in 12 seconds, and jumps 0-60 mph in 4 seconds. Sounds like fun to me.

That V-twin mill is solid-mounted, connecting cast-aluminum front and rear frame sections, according to Victory’s papers, with twin tubular steel backbones for added rigidity. The Octane sports dual-rate suspension springs front/rear. Large, 298mm discs get bitten by a two-piston caliper up front, and a single piston behind.

RGR Motorsports, a Victory dealership in north Georgia, was willing to provide a ride for us to put through the paces, to test Victory’s claims about the Octane. My friend and fellow rider, Mike Wood, joined me for the excursion, and we rode north to meet up with Brendan Hammond, RGR’s sales chief, to check out an Octane for a morning.

Upon arrival, we met with Brendan and owner/operator Tripp Melton, who suggested and offered a Victory Gunner for Mike to take as well, for comparison. We enthusiastically obliged. With full tanks of gas, and the north Georgia foothills in front of us, Mike and I took to the roads on our respective mounts. No wheelies, burn-outs, or peg dragging like some professional riders and writers have been doing with the Octane. We just rode both Victorys as normal folks would, for real-world observations.

Throwing a leg over the Octane, I noted how slammed and narrow the bike sits. With just a 25.9 inch seat height, the Octane is crouched low, for sure. Being somewhat vertically challenged at 5’8″, this suited me well. The claimed wet weight is 551 lbs, yet felt half that. The handlebar reach is not as bad as I feared, but in fact was quite comfy, with a moderate pull-back. The forward set pegs are slightly wide, but not awkwardly so. In all, the ergos were better than I expected for someone my size.

Firing up, the exhaust note is subdued, but has a growling, deep cadence. The Octane is very well balanced, and with a claimed 32 degrees of lean angle, the pegs don’t scrape nearly as quickly as on the Gunner we had. Running up through the cogs, I found first gear to be a jack-rabbit jump off the line, and each subsequent click up was a definite power rush, unlike any American cruiser I’ve ever straddled. Throttle response is immediate. By 5000 rpm in each gear, the Octane is screaming for you to “wring its neck” even more. If 0-60 is 4 sec, 60-??? comes almost as quick. This bike is not just “power with attitude”; it wants to punch you in the mouth then hand you your teeth. As we say here in the South, the Octane is a hoot to ride.

We rode the hill country and twisties around Lake Lanier in north Georgia most of the morning, the big Gunner under Mike loping along with a deep, throaty rumble, and my Octane growling for more horseplay. Yet in times and places of slowed local traffic, the Octane is as well-mannered and manageable as the Gunner, albeit lighter.

Shifting is effortless, yet Victory-typical solid. The brakes pinch better than anticipated, when we practiced some hard stops. The 3 inches of rear travel soaked up road irregularities with ease, although after about an hour in the saddle my posterior needed a break. The seat is not made for long days and distances. Fortunately, Victory offers various seat, peg and reach setups to suit all rides and riders, even passengers.

The dash info gives rpm, gear position, time, and can be scrolled through for kilometers, engine temp, etc. by a finger toggle on the left front handlebar, not to be confused with a passing button. The analog mph circle lights up in the dark, a nice feature. I even found the mirrors to be fairly useful, only vibrating slightly above 70 mph.

My only pans on the Octane would be the unsightly radiator housing up front, the lack of ABS or traction control options, the obvious similarities to the Indian Scout, and I’m not huge fan of the matte grey and black throughout. But honestly, it is also these elements that make the Octane so unique to me. This bike is a “shot across the bow” aimed at the “hooligan bike” market, and it demands attention. And I must add, women riders should consider the Octane as well. The ergos are comfortable, the performance spot-on but not overwhelming, and I know some gals with a penchant for power who would very much enjoy burning tires and scraping pegs with this beast.

Mike and I swapped bikes later in the morning, for comparison. After some miles on the Gunner, I could tell this was a far different ride than the Octane. Much more traditional Victory cruiser, with a solid but heavy shift, linear roll-on, and more relaxed power delivery, the Gunner is the ultimate cool. Mike favored it over the Octane, in fact. Myself, owning both a big heavy cruiser and a powerful sport bike, I found the Octane favored, with a great balance of cruiser ride with sport power and handling. An American sport-cruiser? Why can’t we have both, in one package? If that’s what you are looking for, you really need to consider the Octane. In fact, go test ride one, like we did. You’ll spend the ride wearing a wide grin, like we did.

When in north Georgia, find your way over to Cumming, and look up RGR Motorsports. The full Victory line is carried, as is KTM and soon Hyosung, plus several ATV and side-by-side brands. Ask for Tripp and Brendan. Tell them Rob with Born to Ride sent you.


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