Displacement: 106 ci / 1731 cc
Engine Type: 4-stroke 50° V-Twin
Dry Weight: 659 lbs / 300 kg
There’s something about riding a motorcycle with your arms hung high that fosters machismo. Maybe it’s because the bikes that first captured my imagination were ‘70s choppers with crazy-high Ape Hangers. As a kid, I remember seeing club members rumbling around the Bay Area, tattooed arms hanging defiantly high. Maybe it’s because Apes over a certain height will get you a ticket in some states. They’re like a finger in the face of conventionalism. This style of bars are not usually standard fare on an OEM bike, but then again, Victory Motorcycles isn’t one to follow conventions. The American V-Twin manufacturer proved that when they released the Vision.
The reach to the bars of the 2012 Victory High-Ball is just above shoulder height for me at six-feet tall. Its padded leather solo seat is slunk at a low 25 inches and the stretch to the bars tilts the ergos slightly forward. The foot controls are set more than mid-mount but don’t feel like the full stretch of forward-mounted controls and my knees are bent slightly up. The bars vibrate at speed, a buzz more than a shake. Cool thing about the High-Ball’s bars is that they can be dropped down to a more “laid-back” position with simple hand tools without affecting the control mounts or the cables.
The 2012 High-Ball aims to tap into a new market for Victory Motorcycles. Don't worry, no manatees were harmed during testing.
With its thick whitewall tires, laced wheels, bobbed front fender and high bars, the bike’s throwback styling has me in a chill, cruising mood as I hit Main Street in Daytona Beach during Bike Week. Behind my visor I’m noticing plenty of eyes turning as I ride by. With the high bars, the front end wants to lean in at extremely slow speeds, a situation that’s remedied with a little throttle. The stop-and-go crawl of Main Street also brings the bike’s stiff clutch pull to my attention. And though the stares the High-Ball garners are cool, I’m anxious to hit the bridge on the other side of Main Street to shoot up to I-95 and open this baby up because even though the bike’s styling screams cruiser, there’s a claimed 97 horses beneath me dying to be unleashed.
Reaching the highway on-ramp, with a good twist of the throttle the acceleration snaps my head back as I run through a few gears. The 50-degree V-Twin has a quick-revving nature. The torquey low end is matched throughout the powerband and distribution is even throughout. There’s excellent response from the EFI with every release of the clutch cable and Victory’s Freedom 106 V-Twin in its Stage 2 state of tune is one of the bike’s strongest features. It doesn’t sign off early on the top end and the tranny can withstand winding out each gear before banging it up to the next. Gearing down, there’s a generous amount of engine braking. Victory’s mill does dole out a healthy amount of heat on the right leg, a combination of the nature of an air-cooled V-Twin and the placement of the rear pipe.
The High-Ball’s six-speed overdrive constant mesh transmission engages smoother than a Harley, but its lower gears are still notchy, a trait I’m beginning to believe is inherent in American V-Twin transmissions. But it’s only that initial engagement of the big gears that creates any audible noise because the High-Ball’s transmission functions quietly and efficiently otherwise. First gear will get you up to the mid-40s and carrying higher rpm in fifth will give you plenty of passing power on the freeway. Pop it into the overdrive sixth gear and the engine settles into a loping 2600 rpm at 70 mph highway speeds.
The 2012 High-Ball is based on the Victory Vegas but it’s more compact, with a wheelbase that’s 1.5-inches shorter and its overall length has been trimmed down 3.5 inches. Victory also brought in the rake to 31.7 inches, 1.2 tighter than the Vegas. Add a front tire that’s short at 16 inches but chunky at 130mm to go along with a 16-inch rear that’s relatively svelte at 150mm wide and you’ve got a bike whose Dunlop Cruisermax tires stick tight to the road and feel planted in corners. The High-Ball could easily take on more lean than the pegs allow. The flat, straight roads around Daytona Beach had us clamoring to find a corner to test the High-Ball’s handling, but on the few turns we did find the High-Ball impressed us with its neutral turn in and stability when leaned over. Our primary grievance was its limited cornering clearance. A washboarded dirt road gave us a good barometer for its suspension. The preload adjustable spring on the rear suspension is firm and admirably soaked up road imperfections at speed. While the rear is well-sorted, the telescopic front fork moves through its 5.1 inches of travel fairly easy and the front end dives a bit under heavy braking.
With power numbers at a claimed 97 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque, the quick-revving Freedom 106 has a torquey low end and power is evenly distributed throughout its rev range.
Speaking of the braking department, the High-Ball’s back brake is very bitey. It doesn’t take much of a push to get the two-piston rear calipers to dig hard into the 300mm floating rotor. There’s no shortage of power or feel at the pedal. The front brakes aren’t quite as impressive, though. The notable bite of the rear is not there. It takes a hard squeeze at the lever to get the four-pot arrangement on the front disc to apply the pressure needed to instill confidence in the unit. There’s no fade, but there’s not a load of feel, either.
Keeping true to its stripped-down theme, the High-Ball has minimal instrumentation. A small, round analog speedo is mounted high enough between the bars to make it easily visible. All readouts are contained within the speedo face, including a Neutral indicator, turn signals, gear indicator, odometer, clock, high beams, low fuel, tripmeter, and assorted diagnostic lights like oil pressure. A button on the switchgear of the left handlebar allows you to toggle between the odometer, tripmeter and tach. The control housings are plastic and don’t match the quality of the rest of the bike’s fit and finish.
Because for a factory bike, Victory has done an admirable job of injecting the High-Ball with vintage styling cues, from the way the white paint accentuates the recessed tank to the way the whitewalls make the chunkiness of the tires stand out. Spoked wheels stay true to the theme of the bike while its slim swingarm keeps the tail end open so you can enjoy an uncluttered view of the whitewalls. The few glimmers of white makes the blacked-out treatment of the engine, frame, bars, pipes, headlight bucket, triple trees, fender struts and cylinder head covers stand out that much more. The high cylinder heads sit compactly into the frame and the back pipe is routed cleanly out of the back of the rear cylinder head. While shooting photos at High Bridge Park on The Loop outside of Ormond Beach, an owner of a Suzuki cruiser summed it up best, saying the combination of styling cues on the High-Ball “just works.”
Custom builder Roland Sands has already demonstrated the customizing potential of Victory’s High-Ball with his version called Ol’ Vic that debuted at the New York IMS. Sands looked to hot rod culture for his version of the High-Ball and wanted to “keep it clean, keep it simple.” With Ol’ Vic he converted it to a suicide shifter, ran an internal throttle through custom bars and swapped the stock angular headlight out for a round one. He also switched out the cover on the primary drive, added a handful of stainless steel pieces and powdercoated the wheels to match the trim of the paint in a color called “camel.” Victory says accessories designed for the Victory Vegas like a passenger seat and pegs will fit on the High-Ball and claim it’s got a black 2-into-1 aftermarket exhaust in the works as well. Not bad considering the bike’s not even available until April.
The best attributes of the 2012 Victory High-Ball are its powerful engine and smooth handling. Based on the conversations we had in Daytona Beach about the bike’s styling and by the attention it garnered, it’s fair to say Victory’s engineering team captured the essence of the era they were shooting for. Then there are the intangibles, like the old school cool you feel when riding with your arms hung high, whitewalls spinning beneath you on a bike with a factory bob-job. Add to the equation it’s priced at a competitive $13,499 MSRP and fills a niche most manufacturers don’t address and Victory’s got a potential hot seller.