The Game

Bryan Harley, I hope you’re right

By now you will have figured out I’m a Victory mark; I get grumpy when they don’t do exactly what I wish they would do, I swoon every time that they do something cool, and I will bite on just about every rumour I hear. 
So, it goes without saying that I’ve been going out of my mind ever since I read speculation by MotoUSA‘s (a) Bryan Harley that Victory may be planning to unveil a new liquid-cooled model at EICMA
The basis of his speculation comes from a save-the-date-type email sent out last week to members of the media, letting them know the time and place of a “world premiere” at this year’s EICMA show in Milan.
“Victory Motorcycles has been showcasing American Muscle throughout its product line and in racing,” the email says. “Our pathway to the latest evolution of the brand will be revealed (at EICMA).”

Also within the email is the above photo of a Victory-branded case cover unlike those seen on any of the manufacturer’s existing models. In fact, it looks a whole lot like (and may, in fact, be) the cover seen in this photo:

That, of course, is a picture of the engine that was used in Victory’s renown Project 156 bike, that CycleWorld editor Don Canet rode as part of an effort to conquer Pike’s Peak earlier this year. Although the effort wasn’t successful due to incredibly bad luck, the snarling beast of a bike was a huge hit, serving as one of the best examples of American know-how and ability since… uhm… a hell of a long time. It sounded amazing, it looked fantastic and it moved.

Drawing on these two bits of information — the cover and the email’s text — Harley has come to the conclusion that a long-awaited liquid-cooled Victory is finally set to arrive. And when I say “long-awaited,” I mean looong.

I was writing articles wildly hoping for speculating on such a thing almost a year ago. Harley himself had been expecting the news even further back. In July 2014, when Victory brought moto-journalists to Las Vegas for what turned out to be the launch of the world’s most disappointing bike, the Magnum, he had been expecting to be presented with a liquid-cooled model. After all, he reasoned, why else would you launch a bike in Las Vegas in the dead of summer?

Of course, Victory didn’t deliver in that instance and thus far hasn’t since. Which is a fact that lies at the heart of my cynicism toward Harley’s speculation. Additionally, why EICMA?

A huge part of Victory’s ethos is the fact that it’s from ‘Murica, y’all. It talks about “American muscle” and prides itself on the fact its first model was produced on the 4th of July (in 1998). Meanwhile, when Victory finally does deliver a liquid-cooled bike, it will undoubtedly be seen as the first step in Victory’s new direction, the new way forward that has been promised and hinted at ever since Polaris resurrected Indian. Why would this American-flag-waving company choose to launch something so crucially important in Italy?

Perhaps, though, that’s the point. By and large, Europeans don’t have the weird obsession for air-cooled V-twins that Americans seem to have. And it’s a good bet that anyone bothering to turn up at EICMA, even American journalists, will agree with or be sympathetic to that line of thinking. So, launching a liquid-cooled bike at EICMA helps Victory avoid the inane “OMGWTFBBQ!!” response that the American old guard are certain to deliver.

Additionally, to launch something at EICMA would be something of a declaration for Victory, a means of asserting itself on a world stage. It would be a way of saying: “We’re not some ‘also-ran’ company. We are important and worth paying attention to.”

Personally, I am desperately hoping that Bryan Harley turns out to be right. As it happens, I will be there in person to find out if he is (b).

I will be covering EICMA for RideApart and, in fact, I will be riding to Milan on a Victory Cross Country that the good folks at Victory Motorcycles UK will be lending me. I was already looking forward to the trip, and now I have even more reason to be excited.

But what will it be?

So, if it turns out that Victory actually does unveil a liquid-cooled something less than a month from now what, exactly, will it be?

Remember these sketches?

As much as it pains me, I doubt the new model will be the Victory adventure-tourer that I’ve daydreamed about. And I think it’s even less likely that the company will deliver a pure sport machine. But sticking to the cruiser genre seems to me a bad idea, since I’d think a big part of Victory’s modus operandi at the moment would be a desire to clearly set itself apart from Indian (which already has a liquid-cooled cruiser in the form of the Scout).

The picture sent in the media email (which I also got, by the way; and I am kicking myself for not putting the pieces together as Bryan Harley did) doesn’t offer any clues. Indeed, it appears that in that particular shot there is no bike, just engine.

To that end, perhaps that’s all that would be revealed at EICMA: an engine. Similar to the way Indian first launched the Chief Classic, Chief Vintage and Chieftain a few years ago. They teased us with the engine first, then revealed the actual bikes later. So, perhaps the actual bike reveal would coincide with Daytona Bike Week. After all, that event, which is technically centred around an actual motorcycle race, celebrates its 75th year in March. And it was that venue which Victory chose as a platform when launching both the Judge and the Gunner.

But a four-month tease seems a little long. Especially considering the fact that the fabled new liquid-cooled engine is almost certainly nothing more than a modified version of Indian’s liquid-cooled V-twin. You don’t need four months to hype that.

Perhaps a clue in what will come can be found in those sketches that were leaked back in March 2014. One of them turned out to be the Indian Scout, but we’ve still not seen anything like the other three. Disappointingly, the sketches were of cruisers, but at least two of them had mid-set pegs, putting the rider in a chair-like seated position, which Harley-Davidson and Star Motorcycles would call “sporty.” So, maybe Victory will go back to the well from whence the Judge originally came.

I’d hope not. I’d hope that Victory would push a little further and perhaps deliver something to rival the BMW RnineT in style and power and handling. I sense they have it in them to deliver such a thing and to do it well. And, as Victory’s head of external relations, Robert Pandya, told me back in June, the company is aware that a demand for such a thing exists.

“Certainly there’s been interest from our existing customers” he said. “And our desire is to draw in new customers in different categories. We’ve got different venues we can play in, in terms of the overall opportunity on market. There are spaces where American bikes are not currently present, and maybe there’s an opportunity for us.”

Whether Victory seizes that opportunity and in what form it chooses to do so… well, maybe those questions will be answered in mid-November.

(a) Is it MotoUSA now? When did it stop being Motorcycle USA? I missed the memo on that one.

(b) Bryan, if you happen to be reading this I have memory of once promising to buy you a beer. I hope I’ll get the chance to do that at EICMA.