2016 - 2017 Victory High-Ball
Victory is something of a Johnny-come-lately in the American motorcycle scene (since 1998). Its main competitors, Indian Motorcycles — which falls under the Polaris umbrella along with Victory — and Harley-Davidson, boast over 100 years of experience each in the U.S. market, so there can be no doubt that Victory has its work cut out for it. The factory usually uses its lack of deep roots as a springboard for a more-progressive design, but the High-Ball is something of a departure from the norm. Let’s take a look at this ride and see what Victory does with the modern-retro combo.
Continue reading for my review of the Victory High-Ball.
2016 - 2017 Victory High-Ball
Displacement:106 cubic inches
To be honest, Victory bikes are usually a little too “Nessy” for my taste — a little too flowy; a little too Alien-meets-Predator. Oddly enough, the High-Ball maintains many of those attributes, but manages to dial back the clock a bit with some custom touches from America’s custom culture circa mid- 20th century. Similarly sized whitewall tires cap laced rims for a down-to-earth symmetry, and the cut-down front fender, blacked out headlight can and other black features interrupt the flow in a curious blend of then-and-now.
The layout and rider triangle leave no doubt as to the designed purpose of the High-Ball; this is a straight-up cruiser that makes no pretenses of trying to serve as a weekend-bagger convertible, just brutally honest transportation. A deep-scoop seat, forward controls and ape hangers leaves us with a large rider triangle that places the rider in the super-windsock position – a position better on the boulevard than the highway, to be sure. Yeah, you could adjust the bars a bit, but at some point, they stop being handlebars and start being a tiller, a look that would not work on this sled. So don’t let the low appearance fool you, this bike will swallow up shorter riders. To compound that problem, the bike is relatively top-heavy, especially with a belly full of fuel, and can present a bit of a wrestling match in certain, low-speed situations. Leave this one to the stretched-out crowd.
Frame design swings well to the Southward with the 25-inch seat height, a number normally reserved for faux-rigid (Softail) frames, and it manages to suggest the lines of a rigid without a triangular swingarm. The steering head is set at 32 degrees for that raked-custom vibe, and it leaves us with 6.7 inches of trail sure to make it nice and stable on the straights, and still be reasonable in the corners.
The wheels are a nice touch. Good old gangster whitewall Dunlop D421 with chrome-laced rims – just doesn’t get any better than that. The cut-down front fender and right-side-up front forks with blacked-out fork sliders reinforces this custom, dated look. Though it lacks the Softail-style swingarm, it does follow the same stealthy mindset and buries the preload-adjustable monoshock to keep it out of sight and the rear end clean.
Four-pot caliper up front and the twin-pot in back handle bindage, acting on 300 mm discs. Yeah, only one front brake, but one simply does not cover up wheels like that! The brakes are honest, with no ABS or any other fandangled contraptions to complicate the plumbing. I like this, but I have to admit that I am starting to see the merits of rear-only ABS.
The 64.8-inch wheelbase and 93.4-inch overall length puts the High-Ball squarely in the midrange category, and the 4.7-inch ground clearance keeps it low with enough clearance for cornering. Honestly, I think the apes will be more of an impediment to comfortable cornering than clearance and lean-angle issues.
Victory favors big V-twins that not only fit within the “American-made” mold, but also deliver their power with a thumping staccato beat. Engine paint follows the blackout look, but the polished cooling fin edges accentuate the big V shape and keep the engine from disappearing into the black hole. Far from being an all-show-and-no-go model, the 106 cubic-inch Freedom engine cranks out 110 pound-feet of torque – not the most among American-made V-twins, but close, and anything over 100 pound-feet is good enough.
The engine dumps waste heat through both air- and oil-cooling rather than ruin the look with a big radiator. Yeah, liquid cooling is superior, but it’s ugly, and I’m glad Victory didn’t go that route. A pair of 45 mm throttle bodies feed the engine, and dual, slash-cut pipes carry off waste gasses. As with the other big U.S. manufacturers, you can change the exhaust, air cleaner and fuel delivery a little to open the engine up and let it breathe as it was designed – what some circles call “The Harley Tax” — equivalent to a Stage-One modification.
Power flows through a gear primary drive rather than the high-maintenance chain-and-sprocket type used elsewhere, and a torque compensator smooths out the power pulses ahead of the six-speed, overdrive-ratio, constant-mesh transmission.
The High-Ball comes with relatively little sticker shock, and is a lot of bike at $13,499 plus freight and setup — just $150 over the 2016 price. No need to grip about which color to pick for 2016; the High-Ball only came in Suede Black with a white tank graphic. For 2017,Victory adds Matte Nuclear Sunset Orange so at least you have a choice, even if it’s only a choice between Halloween colors.
Staying stateside for my competitor, I had to look no further than the Dyna Street Bob from Harley-Davidson. The bikes are close enough in design, and H-D surely represents Goliath to Victory’s David, at least as far as market shares go.
Visually, the High-Ball splits between classic and futuristic extremes, while the Harley kind of rides a mellow middle with a more neutral panache. Functionally, both are set up as cruisers, and you will need to visit the accessories catalog if you even want to carry a few groceries home. You could call them the bare bikes of the cruiser world, which means they are a blank canvas for your own custom touches.
Powerwise, there isn’t much to choose between the two. The Harley Twin-Cam 103 puts out 98.8 pound-feet versus 110 from the Freedom 106 – not enough to be a dealbreaker or maker – and both follow the Big-Twin look so the engine design doesn’t detract from the visuals.
Aside from a slew of visual details, the bikes are fairly similar – all the way to the bank. Harley offers its Vivid Black Street Bob at $13,699, just a trifle more than the High-Ball at $13,499. H-D offers a number of alternative colors, the most expensive of which can drive the price up to $14,449. Ah yes, vanity is expensive.
“I kind of like this ride, though I got to say I ain’t feeling the apes. There comes a point of diminishing returns, and in some areas, it’s illegal to have your hands higher than your shoulders anyway. Overall, the custom touches temper the “future flow” a bit to make this an interesting-looking bike.”
My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "Anyone who follows me knows I am a shorty. While I usually go for bikes with low seat heights, this High Ball is a bit top heavy. Between the forward controls and the ape hangers, I do not feel comfortable or confident. If I really wanted a High-Ball, I’d have to explore some options. Luckily for me, I’m not a big fan of Victory simply on an aesthetic level."
|Engine Type:||Freedom 106/ 6 V-Twin|
|Displacement:||106 cubic inches (1,731 cc)|
|Bore x Stroke:||101 x 108 mm|
|Cooling:||Air & Oil|
|Exhaust:||Dual-Staggered Slash-Cut with Common Volume|
|Fuel System:||Electronic Fuel Injection with dual 45 mm throttle body|
|Transmission Type:||Six-Speed Overdrive/Constant Mesh|
|Valve Train:||Four Valves per Cylinder, Hydraulic Lifters & Cam Chain Adjusters|
|Transmission/Primary Drive:||Gear Drive with Torque Compensator|
|Transmission/Final Drive:||Carbon Fiber Reinforced Belt|
|Drive/Driven Clutch:||Wet Multi-Plate/Diaphragm Spring|
|Charging System:||38 Amps Max Output|
|Battery :||YTX20HL-BS/12 Volt 18 Amp Hour 310 CCA|
|Front Suspension:||Telescopic Fork/ 5.1-inch travel|
|Rear Suspension"||Single Monotube Gas/Preload Adjustable/3.0-inch travel|
|Front Brake:||Single 300 x 5 mm/ Floating Rotor/ Four-Piston Caliper|
|Rear Brake:||Single 300 x 5mm/ Floating Rotor/ Two-Piston Caliper|
|ABS/Cruise Control:||Not Equipped|
|Brake System Type:||Not Linked|
|Tires / Wheels:|
|Front Tire:||Dunlop D421 - WWW 130/90B16 67H|
|Rear Tire:||Dunlop D421 - WWW 140/90B16 77H|
|Rear Wheel:||16 x 3.5 inches|
|Front Wheel:||16 x 3.5 inches|
|Ground Clearance:||4.7 inches|
|Seat Height:||25.0 inches|
|Rake/Trail:||32 degrees / 6.7 inches|
|Overall Length:||93.4 inches|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.5 gallons|
|Dry Weight:||671 Pounds|
|Oil Capacity:||5.0 Quarts|
|2016:||Suede Black with White Tank Graphic|
|2017:||Suede Black, Matt Nuclear Sunset Orange|