Showing posts with label Victory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Victory. Show all posts

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Old Empire Motorcycles Gladiator

Gladiator A Torque is one of those feelings that you first experience as a child, hopefully. The first time a grownup takes you out in a sports car and you get pinned back in the seat under hard acceleration, it’s addictive. Adolescence brings with it the fallacy that power is the mighty altar to worship yet it’s torque that turns up to the party first and puts smiles on faces.
Polaris knew this when they set up Victory Motorcycles nearly two decades ago and decided that the old adage of ‘There’s no replacement for displacement’ would be hold true in their product line up of big-bore v-twins. This 1650cc Victory Hammer by Norfolk young guns Old Empire Motorcycles is a transatlantic blend of modern brawn and nostalgia. And in the patinated dark tan corner, weighing in at 650lbs, all the way from Dickinson County, Iowa; The Glaadiaatooooorr.
Gladiator B The customer for this commission wanted a bike capable of eating up continental miles in comfort, perhaps on something that would have enough torque to spin planet earth beneath him rather than use speed to reach a destination. Being a Brit, Alec Sharp, founder of OEM, likes an underdog so decided against the tried and tested Harley-Davidson platform and opted for the Victory.
“The Gladiator was actually our first commission based on a concept drawing by the very talented artist Martin Squires. We have found in previous experiences that a build can develop in a couple of different ways. Sometimes everything falls into place naturally as the build progress and without wanting to sound overly arty, the bike kind of builds itself. However there are other times our bikes take a little more deep thought in making sure everything comes together correctly, especially when based upon a predetermined concept. It’s one thing drawing something in pencil and something else entirely making it work!”
Gladiator C Having removed the equivalent weight of normal motorcycle in plastics, pipework and cast wheels Alec and Rafe set about adding the OEM stamp of practical retrogression. For a more balanced look the super-wide rear wheel sizing was altered courtesy of an 80 spoke dual flanged rim with a hub machined by Harrison Billet to adapt to the standard pulley and incorporates a floating disc. Real world practicality with aggressive looks is achieved with Pirelli’s Scorpion dual sport rubber.
Gladiator D Up front sees a matching 80-spoker between the beefy forks, but it wasn’t as plain sailing as it looks explains Alec, “We re-engineered the internals to drop it an inch to get a nose-down stance. Although this sounds simple, an unbelievable amount of work is required to make the forks function properly yet sit lower. The top yoke was removed and a billet replacement with integral warning lights and two aluminium housings were machined to fit the custom made Smiths-OEM chrono speedo and tacho.”
The swept back bars seemingly disappear behind the clocks, leaving a clear view of the dash, and give a relaxed riding position suitable for pounding the miles in comfort.
Gladiator F
Making modern machinery look simple is no easy feat as Alec goes on to tell us “The original subframe was removed so we had a fresh start at a new bolt-on section that needed to tie in cleverly to accomplish the simple lines of the concept, but retain a wide enough seat for all-day comfort. An added complexity was the twin spar frame design, with two top tubes splaying out from the head stock (imagine a Ducati trellis type layout) meaning that following our visual designs we would want to drop the tank nice and low to get that curvaceous line, reducing the fuel capacity from around 17 litres to around 4…. What a ball ache.”
Gladiator E“We had already committed to making The Gladiator as per Martin’s sketches so we spent an enormous amount of time fabricating an underseat fuel tank and relocated the fuel pump there too, and on the other side we made an electrics box. So what you are looking at in terms of the leather panniers on the side is actually a fuel tank on the left and the leccy box on the right. Mind you they are still useable panniers too as the brief was the customer needed the ability to carry a bottle of wine and map, we made it so he can carry double just in case.” 
There’s a low fuel sender within the pump which alerts the rider, by way of an LED, that the big old girl’s thirst needs quenching.
Gladiator gThe original tank was narrowed and gutted and a new inner fabricated with balance pipes, a tap, internal breather and billet filler caps. There are also tie points along the underside so a tank bag can be used if needed. Greg from Black Shuck has nailed the mottled effect seen on previous OEM builds and the Gladiator’s armour was treated to a mean smokey silver and black version. The Cerakoted engine casings with brass detailing further testament to Alec’s fastidious attention to the most minor of details.

Gladiator I
Fellow detail fanatic Will from London Vehicle Wiring was lured up from the smoke to make sense of the professor’s madness and ensure the electricity not only stayed in the panniers but would stand the test of time once the owner and bike had migrated far away from OEM’s HQ. With a Power Commander installed the 1650 cubic centimetres of American muscle can be tuned to suit the more open filters and lightly baffled stainless exhausts. It must sound beastly.
“We’ve learnt a considerable amount since those initial drawings and its amazing to think that we have finally managed to create something rideable and useable from those early sketches.” 
As ever, Alec & Rafe try to utilise the skills of local businesses and craftspeople to achieve their goal of building truly individual motorcycles. It must be working as the Gladiator’s owner has set off, roaring across Europe, and there are other builds in the pipeline to be featured here soon.
In the meantime check out    
Photography by Vaughan Treyvellen

First published by

Friday, October 2, 2015

Modern Muscle: Victory Gunner by Tattoo Projects

At just eighteen years old, Victory Motorcycles is one of the youngest marques on the planet. And their current cruiser range has a distinctly modern aesthetic—a hard sell for potential owners looking for the American heritage vibe. Rudy Banny is the founder of Tattoo Projects, the ad agency that handles Victory’s marketing. “One of the issues we deal with on a regular basis, is Victory’s youth,” he says. “It seems a lot of consumers out there find Victory’s futuristic, modern design quite polarizing.”

“But it’s something that we at Tattoo have gotten Victory to embrace. It’s modern American muscle.” When Tattoo aren’t working on campaigns for some of the US’s top brands, they build custom motorcycles. And when Rudy managed to get a Victory Gunner onto his bench, he couldn’t resist the urge to roughen it up.

“I took it upon myself to take all of that awesome, bad-ass modern American muscle, and package it up in an old-school bobber-café.” The biggest visual hit is the new tail section. Tattoo wanted to fit one of their favorite brat-café-style seats: a Nitroheads. This meant that they could trim off most of the subframe—opening up the rear end and giving the stock swingarm a stretched look.

Custom aluminum gussets were made to support the seat, and to box in the simplified ECU and fuse box setup. The battery was swapped for a smaller Ballistic unit, but this (and a few electrical components) needed a new home. So local leather specialists Colsen Keane were roped in to make up a one-off battery pouch.

To complement the new back-end, Suzuki GSX-R forks and custom-made triple trees were fitted up front. A 3.5×16 rim was laced up with stainless steel spokes, and upgraded with a dual braking disc setup. And yes, the tires are Firestone’s infamous Deluxe Champions. (“We haven’t given up on them yet,” Rudy smiles.)

The cockpit’s been finished with a mix of parts. Arlen Ness teardrop mirrors hint at the bike’s origins, while dual headlights give it a touch of streetfighter style. The handlebars are Biltwell Tracker units, and the speedo is Motogadget’s tiny MotoScope Mini LED model. Tattoo’s biggest challenge was switching out the Victory Gunner’s wide, teardrop-shaped fuel tank. “A big reason these tanks are difficult to modify,” explains Rudy, “is that the tunnel is very unique, due to the split, wishbone-style backbone of the frame.”

The team modeled a smaller, simpler tank, and had Brendon Thompson from Elite Metal Designs ‘Frankenstein’ the stock tunnel onto the new tank. A Monza filler cap was installed, but other than that the tank’s been left unfinished. Rudy’s still deciding whether or not he wants to paint it.

The last stop was the engine—but with the Victory already pushing out a respectable 97 horses, and weighing 100lbs less now, the mods were minimal. There’s a Lloydz Torque Tube intake to help it breathe, adjustable timing gear and a new fuel control unit. Custom exhaust headers capped with stainless steel Cone Engineering mufflers round things out.

Rudy says he “deliberately took a very modern American motorcycle and distressed the hell out of it.” Tattoo’s stark Victory Gunner is certainly a departure from the factory version, and a muscle bike we wouldn’t mind owning. Victory Motorcycles | Tattoo Projects
Modern Muscle: custom Victory Gunner by Tattoo Projects.
First published by bikeexif.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Harley-Davidson Breakout vs. Victory Jackpot vs. Star Raider – Comparison Test

Cruiser group action shot

The Wild One may have brought fame to Hollister, California, but it was the biker flick The Wild Angels that put Mecca on the map. You’ve heard of it, right? Dusty agricultural town in Southern California? Lots of taco stands and liquor stores; snarling feral dogs and freight trains that don’t slow down?
Didn’t think so. But it was the town that began Peter Fonda’s outlaw-biker-movie bender, his first turn in the saddle as a storybook Hells Angel member sniffing for boobs and booze-fueled brawls years before he and Hopper became Easy Rider. In The Wild Angels, Fonda and his gang of villainous bikers ride to Mecca, to recover a member’s stolen chopper. Chaos ensues.
When we rode our modern-day chopperesque cruisers into Mecca 40-some years later, the only chaos involved a beergarita spill at the cantina. But we did turn a lot of heads, mostly because the bikes we were riding create a stir without even trying. Choppers and their modern-day reiterations are primarily intended to make an impression, right? They’re about a feeling.
A stance. Style.
Only three large-displacement bikes in today’s market vie for top chopper: the Star Raider, Victory Jackpot and Harley-Davidson Breakout. All are long, lean, mean, as required. The Raider came along first, in 2008. Big engine from the Roadliner, very performance-inspired. The Victory next, in 2009, during the company’s fat-tire phase. And just last year, Harley broke out the Gasser drag era-inspired Breakout.
Harley-Davidson Breakout action shot

Harley-Davidson Breakout
·       It’s a Harley
·       Oozes cool
·       Glorious fit and finish
·       Least cornering clearance
·       Weak in the mill
·       Bit of a reach to the bar

We could say the Star’s styling is a love/hate thing, but we have yet to find a single person who loves it. The bike is over-embellished to the point of looking garish. Way too many swoops and pointy bits, and bright red paint that draws the eye like hooker nails (there is an extra-cost S version with blue paint and additional chrome, and a black SCL version with a leather seat and braided cables and hoses).
Interestingly, the Raider feels like the bike that should win virtually every performance test in this comparison. But it didn’t. It also sounds the best; throaty and fast. Despite having only five gears, the Star’s transmission is preferable to the Harley and Victory six-speeds for its easy, definitive, quiet shifts. Gear spacing is excellent, so much so that my co-testers never mentioned the missing sixth on the Star. The Breakout’s and Jackpot’s shifts feel industrial: loud and coarse, with the Victory, especially, requiring excessive shift force in the bottom gears.
Our ride to Mecca involved some mountain crossings and winding roads. This is not, of course, the intended proving ground for choppers, and we weren’t expecting much. So, we were giddy about how much fun we had, especially during our turns on the Raider. By all counts, the Star is a terrific cruiser for backroad runs, and even with its lazy 39 degrees of total rake (33 degrees at the head plus a 6-degree yoke angle) and 18-inch, 210-series rear and 21-inch front, testers used words like “nimble,” “stable,” “well-behaved” to describe the Raider’s cornering manners. Best of all, there’s ample cornering clearance, allowing you to really lay it in, and plush-for-the-class suspension (5.1 inches up front, and 3.5 out back) to iron out irregularities.

Victory Jackpot
·       Sleek styling
·       Comfy ergos
·       Nice power
·       Too sleek to be badass
·       Stiff shifts
·       Gearbox noise
As expected with that gargantuan 250mm rear tire, the Jackpot needs a little coaxing in and out of corners, though it did offer more lean angle than we expected. Suspension travel numbers are comparable to the Raider’s, but the ride isn’t as plush, especially in the rear. The single 300mm floating rotor with four-piston caliper does only an adequate job slowing that gorgeous, black 21-inch Stingray wheel, while the same-size rear rotor, which uses a two-piston caliper, is prone to lockup with the slightest overuse application. The Raider sports dual 298mm discs up front, and a single 310 on the rear that combine for controllable, balanced stopping power. Thank you Yamaha, for not knowing how to dumb-down a motorcycle. Oh, but wait, I forgot this isn’t an aptitude test, it’s a beauty contest.
The Harley Breakout looks really good though it doesn’t handle quite as well as the others, making it the short straw for riding in the mountains and canyons where no one could see us. Transitioning through corners smoothly wasn’t easy, with the Harley’s steering, especially at slow speeds, feeling heavier than the others, so much so that one tester likened the front end to an anvil. Cornering clearance is also noticeably limited compared to the other machines, and suspension travel slightly shorter and less compliant. For 2014, the Breakout comes standard with ABS, which is cool, making it the only chopper here to use advanced safety equipment.
All the bikes pump out fun, off-the-line torque, with the Star’s 113 cubic-incher only slightly out-grunting the Victory’s impressive Freedom 106/6, which on the dyno delivers the best top-end punch. The Harley’s Twin Cam 103B feels neutered by comparison. One fine day, Harley will pack all models with something more potent, even if it’s just the new re-cammed, high-output 103, but until then, you have to admire that while the Breakout is the least mechanically gifted machine of the bunch, it was everyone’s favorite bike in this comparison, and therefore, technically, the winner.

Star Raider
·       Very fun to ride
·       Awesome drivetrain
·       Bargain of the bunch
·       Overstyled
·       Not a Harley
·       Or is that an up?

That’s right. Sometimes—maybe every time when it comes to choppers—looks can be more important than performance. The Victory is a stunning motorcycle, but there’s something about the sleekness, the perfect jigsaw mating of elements (tank to seat, for example), that make it feel too polished in these edgier stylistic times. Plus, that gigantic tire, wrapped so stylishly in that shiny, skirt-like fender reminds us way too much of Kim Kardashian’s butt.
The Breakout has the badass chopper-slash-drag bike look nailed. The big Gasser wheels, the chopped rear and barely there front fenders, the drag bar, the staggered exhaust, and sculpted seat combine for a sexy, muscular profile. Gorgeous paint and near flawless fit and finish seal the deal.
The only thing that might trump appearance when it comes to choppers is feel. Like, how cool do I feel going down the road. Again, Harley has this dialed. The drag bar is a bit of a reach, but it brings you right into Peter Fonda posture. We were all most comfortable on the Victory with its wide swept-back bar, slightly more neutral footpeg placement and supportive seat, especially at freeway speeds. But again, we were riding to Mecca. On choppers. Feeling pampered isn’t part of that kind of cool.
But then, in this game, cool comes at a cost. The Harley, with standard ABS, is by far the most expensive of the bunch: $18,899 in this Amber Whiskey hue; nearly $3000 more than the Victory and $4000 more than the Star. Ouch. If you like the look, the Jackpot is certainly a great value. And the Raider? That’s one double-bagger of a motorcycle, but it is clearly the most fun to ride.
What would The Wild Angels do? They’d get loaded, of course, steal the Harley and burn the other two.


Harley-Davidson Breakout
Victory Jackpot
Star Raider
680 lb.
661 lb.
719 lb.
67.7 in.
66.7 in.
70.7 in.
26.1 in.
27.5 in.
26.6 in.
38 mpg
38 mpg
32 mpg
0-60 MPH
4.7 sec.
3.7 sec.
3.7 sec.
1/4 MILE
13.49 sec. @ 96.64 mph
12.43 sec. @ 104.75 mph
12.49 sec. @ 103.95 mph
67.6 hp @ 5,120 rpm
86.7 hp @ 4,980 rpm
84.0 hp @ 4,460 rpm
86.8 lb.-ft. @ 2,900 rpm
101.6 lb.-ft. @ 3,010 rpm
109.7 lb.-ft. @ 2,420 rpm
114 mph
122 mph
116 mph

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