Not everyone has heard of the bike firm Victory

23 octobre 2019

Not everyone has heard of the bike firm Victory. Anyone within earshot of its Hammer S Limited Edition will probably never hear again! The ground-breaking thunder from its open pipes is ear-damaging loud enough to make you think Des O'Connor records sound good. Thankfully the striking American-made behemoth is a lot less painful on the eyes. Its low and moody all-black dragster style seems to please just about everyone - even those initially annoyed by the racket it makes. Though there's a good chance your deafened neighbours may not see things quite as positively.

It's a bike with real presence, and generates the sort of attention normally reserved for celebrities. You can't go anywhere on it without being hounded by admirers continually asking questions. It's not a Hydraulic Lift Tables Carts Manufacturers bike for shy and retiring types.

Built to commemorate the firm's 10th anniversary, only 100 of the bikes are going to be made. It's based on the standard S version of the bike. But with a bigger 1731cc motor (that's 106cubic inches in US engine parlance) courtesy of a 6mm longer stroke, together with different cams and those hellishly loud pipes (luckily quieter ones come with the bike in standard trim), the SLE makes another 15bhp to bring its output to a measured 90bhp. To set it apart still further, it's hand-painted to your own design. The word exclusive is definitely applicable to a description of the Hammer SLE.

It's a bloody great long thing that's heavy enough to make hauling it up from its sidestand a bit of an effort. Even before you get it started it feels as though it's going to be intimidating to ride, and a real handful. Though in fairness as it's so different to anything I've ever ridden, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect at all. Few bikes have been as mysterious to me as this one.

But fire it up (make sure you're wearing earplugs), plant your boots on the forward-mounted pegs and let out the heavy clutch to get its black alloys turning, and a fair proportion of its low-slung 305kilos seems to disappear. On the go the Hammer turns into something far more manageable than you'd expect - well most of the time anyway. The whopping V-twin motor is more impressive for its 100-odd ft/lbs of torque than it is for its horsepower. This gives it a lazy, easy-going character which, allied to the high gearing means revs always stay very low - at 65mph only 2000rpm is showing on the tacho. There are six ratios to choose from, but most of the time just using the first three is enough. Besides, if you start topping 80mph the breeze gets strong enough to blow you off the back should you as much as wave to another rider. I did the ton a couple of times, and dare say it'd get to an indicated 120mph, but I'd have to get down the gym for some bicep-building before I could tolerate that much wind-induced strain.

To be fair, the Hammer is the sort of bike that's best being not being rushed too much. Cruising is the most appropriate pace for the Victory. Taking it easy and letting the world go by in at most a spirited, rather than manic fashion, is the key to most enjoyment. For once in my life I actually didn't break the speed limit everywhere I went, and found the experience quite therapeutic.

Though I'm sure it'll be used by most to pose around big cities, there's plenty about the Victory to enjoy out in the country. Choose the right sort of flowing back roads and the Victory can corner competently enough. The steering is unsurprisingly a bit on the heavy side and you'll need to recalculate your effort if you're used to more normal bikes, as I'm sure 99% of us are. But stability is a strong point, and with decent enough brakes and surprisingly firm, unadjustable suspension it can be hustled along at a fair old rate out on the open road.

Try maintaining that pace when the going gets tighter though, and the Hammer suddenly seems to develop a bit of an allergy to corners. A lengthy wheelbase, and massive 240-section flat profile rear tyre conspire to make negotiating stuff like roundabouts a real challenge. The first time I tried to get round one, I didn't think I was going to make it! Arguably that's not what the Victory is about though, with its design more suited to straight-line boulevard cruising than anything more speedy or twisty.

As an exclusive eye-catcher, the show-stopping Hammer S Limited Edition really does take some beating. Its dark magnitude and well-crafted engineering really help to set it apart. It's far from cheap at around £16,000, and unless you've left your GSX-R days well behind might not be something to consider just yet. If you want to make a big impression and avoid anonymity then it's a different story.

I personally would never choose the Victory as a first choice as it's simply too impractical for regular use. But if I was loaded and could afford a range of bikes, then I'd probably give it some serious thought. It was an almost surreal experience spending time with it and quite unlike anything I've done on two wheels before. Going somewhere on the Hammer SLE isn't just a ride, it's an event.

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