NEW BIKE REVIEW • by Steve Lita
OK. So let me get this straight. You want me to pin the throttle and dump the clutch, right?” Those were my words to the stunt riding duo of Joe Vertical and Tony Carbajal at the Victory Octane press launch. Joe and Tony were our guest hooligan event directors for the day. Ironic that we were practicing hard motorcycle launches at a press launch, I thought. Their response to my question? A resounding “Yes.” So that’s what I did aboard the new 2017 Victory Octane. And the result was a high-revving blast-off with plumes of smoke dissipating from the Octane’s rear tire as I fishtailed down the back straight at Orlando Speedbowl. Our test day, held a few days before Daytona Bike Week, included agility testing on a gymkhana course, practicing burnouts and the aforementioned rolling burnouts, and finally drag race test runs down the quarter-mile strip. Not your average evaluation of a new model motorcycle. But the Octane is not your average cruiser. It’s more like a cruiser that thinks it’s a sportbike, actually.
While I was riding the Octane around the back roads of Florida, I kept trying to think what I could compare it to. In the realm of American-made muscle cruisers, I could think of only one, the V-Rod, and expanding my thoughts to manufacturers of non-American machines I could only think of one other: the Star VMAX. Quite frankly, when considering the real-world scenario of what I could have the most fun on without breaking the bank, the answer kept returning to one point: Octane!
Sure, both of those other models are a hoot to ride and plenty capable of leaving dark strips on the pavement themselves. But I don’t ever recall riding any V-Rod that offered the agility or the pared-down muscle car feeling of the Octane or left as much spending money in my wallet as the Octane. How much is the Octane, you ask? Try on $10,499 and see how it fits. Fits me just fine.
The formula is as old as hot-rodding itself: big engine times small/lightweight chassis plus few amenities equals Ya-Hoo! Carroll Shelby did it with the little Cobra way back in the ’60s, and it still works today, even on two wheels. Actually, given modern efficiencies in manufacturing, materials, and systems such as fuel injection, the formula works even better now.
Providing the muscle in this muscle bike is an 1179cc, liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin, Victory’s first crack at a liquid-cooled engine. It utilizes dual overhead cams with four valves per head and a 60mm throttle body equipped induction system to create a 104 hp output and 76 ft-lbs. of torque. That’s more horsepower than any other Victory motorcycle up to this point. The short-stroke engine allows higher engine rpm and a quick-revving engine response more akin to a sportbike than a conventional V-twin, and the modest 10.8 to 1 compression ratio should allow the Octane to live happily on common street-grade gasoline. The smooth shifting six-speed trans sends power to the short geared rear sprocket via a belt drive. It’s amazing to me that the belt can withstand the punishment that the engine produces, but it does. That’s modern technology for you.
You’ve probably been muttering “Just how fast is it?” since you read about our little excursion to the drag strip in the first paragraph. Victory’s usually optimistic press blurbs say the Octane can do the quarter-mile in 12 seconds and blast from 0-60 mph in less than four seconds. Well, this ain’t no bull. I saw a fellow moto-journalist rip off a 12.05, and we heard about a pro rider dipping in the high 11.90s. Me? After a couple practice runs, I was able to muster a 12.40. Guess I need a little more practice on those hard launches and finding the proper shift-points (and a few more salad lunches). Not bad for a cruiser, with a not-the-largest-V-twin-out-there 72ci engine. Thanks to that law-abiding, wide-open throttle testing, I can also tell you the Octane pulls all the way to redline. Power doesn’t peter out at the high end of the tach. It just keeps pulling until you’re bouncing off the rev-limiter, hence the need for more shift point practice on my part.
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