In 1949, Pete Seeger and Lee Hays penned one of my favorite folk songs, If I Had a Hammer. You know the one I’m talking about, right? The Hammer Song, as it became known, was written in support of the progressive movement of the times. Well, it turns out that song wasn’t all that popular when it was initially released. As usual, the political climate in America changed, and in 1963, my all-time favorite folk trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary, recorded a cover version of the Hammer Song; it went on to become a top 10 hit.
I’m pretty sure that the last thing engineers at Victory Motorcycle had on their minds when they named their muscle bike the Hammer was this beloved, classic folk song. Truth be told, I’ve heard that while designing the bike, Victory’s employees actually associated this model with the rapper and flamboyant dancer MC Hammer. I can only hope that has something to do with the long Minnesota winters.
Although the Victory Hammer has been around for awhile, it wasn’t until recently that I was able to get some seat time on it. While flogging this bike at Victory’s recent model launch through the picturesque scenery in and around Gateway, Colorado, I found that I just couldn’t get that Hammer Song out of my head. Do you think all those “folk masses” I was forced to go to in Catholic Church have had a detrimental effect on me?
After the Victory Hammer made its appearance on the motorcycle power cruiser charts in 2005, it was followed up with the Hammer S in 2007. Three years later, in 2010, the model was covered as the Hammer 8-Ball. The S is a limited-edition model featuring blacked-out parts and custom-painted wheels. It comes with a muscle car-inspired paint job: Suede Black and red with white pinstripes for 2011. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the 8-Ball, a blacked-out, simplified, less expensive version of the regular Hammer.
The heart and soul of all the Hammers is the Freedom 106″ 50-degree air/oil-cooled V-twin. This engine features a single internal counterbalancer that has been smartly tuned to smooth out vibration. For 2011, two versions of this engine are offered. All cruisers, including all three Hammers, come stock with a special Stage II cam package that supposedly ups the numbers from the stock Freedom engine.
For the new model year, the whole Victory line benefits from a redesigned six-speed transmission. While in Colorado, we were told that drivetrain engineers scrutinized every component in the old tranny and then fine-tuned the design and performance. The results led to approximately 40 percent new parts which provide reduced driveline backlash, a more appealing sound, and a neutral assist. I welcome these changes because they have successfully reduced the gear whine that had been omnipresent in fourth and sixth gears and have made it a breeze to get the bike in neutral when stopped. If anyone doubts the faith Victory has in its refined engine and transmission combination, be advised that the recommended oil change interval for 2011 drivetrains is currently 5,000 miles. What this basically means is that the Hammer S is now even more suited to hammering down the road.
The S rolls on cool 18″ blacked-out X-factor wheels. Up front, the 130mm Dunlop rubber and a 43mm inverted fork keeps the wheel planted, while out back a 250mm Dunlop is kept in contact with the road thanks to a preload-adjustable hidden single gas mono shock. Each of the dual 300mm floating discs up front are grabbed by four-piston calipers, while an identical floating disc in the rear is squeezed by a single two-piston caliper. Combined with the amount of rubber in contact with the road, this bike has all the stopping power you need. The whole setup works well together and keeps the bike stable over all but the worst bumps. As with every wide tire bike, the 250 can be a hindrance at times, especially on less than ideal road surfaces. As always, handling is compromised by “that look” out back.
I must admit that when I initially sat in the cockpit, turned the key, and watched the dual gauges (tach on right, speedo on left) come to life, I was excited to ride the bike. Then, after familiarizing myself with the metric switches, I thumbed the starter button and fired the beast, which instantly snapped to, judging by the lower exhaust note. I then noticed the enhanced speedo, backlit in a cool blue, contains all the idiot lights, and for those that care, a clock and gear indicator are also integrated.
After spending some time in the saddle of both the Hammer S and a different, plain-Jane Hammer test mule, I felt a bit cramped. The nice thing is that an optional relocation kit will move the foot controls 2″ forward or back, allowing this bike to accommodate the full spectrum of riders. From a performance point of view, this bike likes to go. In sixth gear I found myself cruising at almost 75 mph with the Freedom engine barely spinning at 2500 rpm. When you factor in the 5250 rpm-indicated redline, you can imagine how easy it is to hit triple digits.
There is a lot to be said for riding a straight-up power cruiser, and the 2011 Victory Hammer S fits the bill perfectly. Performance-wise, everything on this bike from its Stage II Freedom 106″ engine to inverted front end and all around good brakes says this machine wants to be ridden hard. Mix in the muscle car styling and paint scheme, and you’ve got yourself a production hot rod. In my opinion, a little less rubber out back would benefit the bike’s overall handling while not taking away too much from the look. Since the differences are subtle, it would be nice to see the Hammer come with a 180 or 200 rear tire and the S with the big 250.
Regardless, I’ll leave you with this thought that’s still swimming around in my head since my test ride. “If I had a Hammer, I’d Hammer in the morning, I’d Hammer in the evening, All over this land …” AIM
NEW BIKE TEST by Joe Knezevic as seen in American Iron Magazine