Victory is about to show that a full-size American motorcycle company can build something other than cruisers, baggers and dressers.
Victory unveiled its Ignition Concept bike at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy, today. Best of all, the company said it "represents the future of Victory Motorcycles' production machines." For anyone who ever wanted a U.S.-built performance bike that wasn't constrained by tradition or styling or the use of a less-than-optimal engine, this is real news.
We saw this coming after Victory's Project 156, a race bike built to compete in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb this year. The way Victory publicized the effort made me think it wasn't just a one-off project that got approved out of the petty cash fund when the corporate brass weren't looking, but was part of a coordinated plan to break out beyond cruisers and start building performance bikes. The Ignition Concept is the first iteration of those performance bikes.
Victory worked with Swiss custom builder and drag racing champion Urs Erbacher to build a bike around the Project 156 engine. Victory didn't provide too many details on the engine in the Ignition Concept, except to say it is the same basic architecture as the Project 156 bike's engine: a liquid-cooled, sub-1,200 cc, double-overhead-cam, four-valve-per-cylinder, 60-degree V-twin.
The Ignition is surely no cruiser, but with rake and trail of 28 degrees and 5.12 inches, it's not a razor-edge sport bike, either. Naturally, Erbacher chose some top-shelf parts for the concept bike. Victory says that beefy Marzocchi inverted fork measures 50 mm, the dual rear shocks come from Ohlins and those are Brembo Monobloc brake calipers up front. The motorcycle wears a standard 120/70-17 tire in front and a wide 200/55-17 tire out back on a six-inch wheel. It will be interesting to see how much of the concept makes it to the production bike. Victory promises we'll see more at the International Motorcycle Show on Dec. 11 in New York.
It's almost pointless to talk about looks, because everyone already knows what they like or don't like, but personally I think Erbacher and Victory did a good job styling this concept bike. The Project 156 bike was a race bike, all about getting up a mountain as quickly as possible. Looks didn't matter. The Ignition keeps a purposeful appearance while incorporating a nice dose of style, from the fuel tank that mimics the lines of the Indian Scout to the hand-built exhaust, which they kept as short as possible and capped off with an Akrapovic can.
Of course it's easier to build a nice, clean-looking concept bike. You don't have to worry about mirrors, turn signals, license plates or federally mandated reflectors. And on a real-world production model, that fuel tank looks like it might be a little small for practicality.
But those are issues that will be worked out in the production model. What really matters is that this bike exists and Victory is on record as saying this is the future. Back in the housing bubble days of a decade ago, when middle-aged guys were taking out home equity lines of credit to buy Big Dog choppers, Harley-Davidson started flirting with this possibility, buying MV Agusta and a controlling stake in Buell. But then the financial crisis hit and Harley retreated to the bunker with the big "core competency" sign on it.
Similarly, when Polaris launched Victory, it went straight to building cruisers with air-cooled V-twin engines, because that's what American motorcycle companies do, right? Victory motorcycles were different, but not that different. Now that Polaris has the Indian brand to compete directly with Harley-Davidson and carry the "tradition" mantle, the Victory brand is more free than ever to branch out.
That really is good news.