When Victory adds "8-Ball" to the name of a motorcycle it means black; lots of black. On some bikes it makes a little bit of a difference but on the Vision it made a whole lot of difference. The one part of the standard Vision styling I never liked (the chrome and silver trim) is gone replaced by black pieces that, to my eye, allow the flowing lines of the design to be better appreciated.
I\'m not the only one who thinks so, apparently, as I have never ridden a motorcycle that got more attention while stopped. Or riding. Or hiding behind a bush.
Even people that you wouldn’t think would be into motorcycles couldn’t seem to restrain themselves from commenting – mostly in a positive fashion; from the 5\' foot tall Vietnamese man who thought the bike looked "very nice-big-very smooth", to the woman in the minivan who gave me a thumbs-up at a stop light. As a matter of fact the only negative reactions about the styling were heard from other motorcyclists; usually those that ride the “other” American brand. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions for the reasons behind their response.
In trying to create a bike that would completely break the mold when it comes to styling, Victory made one misstep; the saddlebags. Touring bikes and touring cruisers are about going places and going places means taking stuff with you; even if it\'s only a day trip you\'ll want stuff with you. If you ride the Vision 8-Ball you\'d better be either really good at packing a lot of stuff in a little space, or willing to edit down what you have to have with you. To be fair, the saddlebags aren\'t really, really small, it\'s just that the bag doors themselves are so big that it\'s a shock to open them and find a smaller compartment. Plus the doors don\'t open very far. I kept looking for a secret latch, key turn, or handshake that would allow the bag doors to open fully - but if it exists I never found it.
Dropping off the V8 at Volusia Motorsports (great guys by the way), I started talking to Tom, a Victory rider who had bought the first Cross Country that the dealership got in - to replace his V92TC that he decided would look better wadded-up after being ridden off the side of a mountain. Turns out that he was wrong but it did pave the way for him to get a new bike so it wasn\'t a total loss. Plus he got an award that the Victory chapter gives every year for the person who trashes their bike the worst on the mountain trip - odd group those Victory riders. After speaking to him for a while he told me that the bags were a driving factor in his decision to purchase the Cross Country instead of the Vision. Made me feel vindicated in thinking that the bags were a major "form over function" moment for Victory.
Besides looking good another major rule of cruiserdom is the motor - it\'s got to either be big or look big. It doesn’t have to actually provide a lot of power it just needs to be brawny – and a twin – preferably a v-twin. Bigger is better and air-cooled is king to a lot of cruiser riders and the Victory Vision 8-Ball doesn’t disappoint. Packing a 106 cu. in. 50 degree v-twin delivering 92hp and 109 cu.ft. of torque, the Vision not only looks the part but also delivers enough performance to keep those of us happy who actually like a little “go” with our “show”. Riding a big twin cruiser always reminds me of driving a musclecar; not the fastest, not the best handling, but loads of low-end oomph, great looks, and just a hoot to drive/ride. If you are more of the high-revving exotic supercar/superbike type you probably wouldn\'t understand - big-twins and musclecars speak to your soul and not your mind.
A couple of things connected to the motor did let me down a little on the V8 though. One was the exhaust; too quiet. I’m not looking for a lot of noise but I’d like some and the lack of noise from the pipes of the Vision 8-Ball borders on the ridiculous for a cruiser. A super quiet touring bike is nice, a super quiet cruiser or touring cruiser is not; a little more attitude would be perfect. Of course Victory does offer two stages of proprietary aftermarket exhaust (creatively labeled Stage 1 and 2) so you could tailor the bike to your liking if desired. Here’s a nit to pick though; on a bike of this caliber and expense, would it have broken the bank to put actual chrome mufflers on it instead of just chrome heat shields? I know this seems minor but once again looks are everything and having just chrome heat shields covering the mufflers, even if you are the only one who knows they’re there, just looks cheap.
The other area connected to the motor that bugs me is the throttle; it takes almost ¾ of a turn to go from closed to full throttle. This means that if you are riding around in 5th or 6th gear with your hand in a comfortable wrist down position and try to go to full throttle, you’ll end-up with your palm almost facing towards the sky. I don’t know how you’re built but my arms and wrist don’t twist that way willingly.
Since this is a touring cruiser, and the thought is that the rider could actually use the bike to go somewhere besides the local bar, Victory installed a true overdrive 6-speed transmission on the Vision 8-Ball. Gear changes are firm yet stop just short of being harsh while gear ratios, for the most part, are spot on; the “for the most part” pertaining to 1 st gear. With over a thousand pounds (800 pound bike [dry] plus fluids and rider) to get moving from a dead stop, Victory had to create a steep first gear. Coupled with the motor’s desire to rev (and rev, and then rev some more), I found myself banging off the hard rev limiter every time I accelerated in anger. The overdrive 6th gear, on the other hand, made for a very smooth and relaxing ride even at speeds over 80mph. Power is delivered to the rear 180mm wide wheel via a carbon-fiber reinforced belt.
Victory could have just created a bike that looked good and had a big enough motor to “impress” other cruiser riders on Main Street but they didn’t. Instead Victory also created a chassis that imbues the Vision 8-Ball with some serious handling chops without sacrificing ride or comfort levels. This means that those few buyers who want to explore the handling envelope can, while those who don’t aren’t penalized with a ride that is too sporting. It took me until the last week of the loan period before I finally started dragging the floorboards through the turns and even then I had to force myself to go fast enough to do so. Thinking of the bike as a touring bike and riding it to suit wouldn’t get the boards to drag. Thinking of the bike like a cruiser and riding it to suit didn’t drag the boards either. It wasn’t until I said “Oh the heck with it” and just started throwing the V8 into corners that I started shaving some metal.
The Vision 8-Ball benefits from being a touring cruiser built from a stripped-down touring rig instead of a built-up cruiser in the braking department; at least spec wise it does. Up front you’ll find twin 300mm floating rotors being squeezed by three piston calipers while in the rear you’ll find an oddity; another floating rotor, again 300mm in size but being squeezed by a two piston caliper. Specs-wise the brakes are everything you could want in a bike of this type – in practice they leave a bit to be desired. Oh they work well enough and will stop the bike in short order but offer little feedback and require a good pull, or in the case of the rear brake – a good press, to reach their potential.
Exacerbating the issue is the placement of the front brake lever. In lowering the seat on V8 (more on that in a moment) Victory created an odd angle between where your fingers rest comfortably and the brake lever itself. I wear a size large or x-large glove so my hands are not small by any stretch of the imagination and I found myself only able to grab the brake lever with my fingertips unless I rolled my hand around the throttle more than was comfortable. After trying to rotate the lever perch (and master cylinder) upwards and failing, I asked Victory about it and was told that the engineers thought that it was as high as it would go due to the handlebar and switch housing design. I’m sure an enterprising owner with a Dremel could modify it to better suit their hands but why should they have to? As a side note - I sat on a regular full-boat Vision when I took the Vision 8-Ball back and the lever was perfect.
In creating the Vision 8-Ball, Victory chose to lower both the rear air-adjustable suspension and the seat itself. Doing so resulted in a seat height that is downright low – 24.5 inches low to exact. The seat is both deeply contoured and wide with a lot of lower back support due to being sculpted out of the standard Vision seat. The passenger seat is also very wide and places the passenger almost 8 inches above the rider. This is good but because there isn’t a back rest of any type the passenger is forced to sit almost against the rider’s back causing a lot of helmet bumping which is bad. Lowering the seat height does pay dividends in the legroom department as well allowing the rider’s legs to stretch out comfortably in front. I felt like I was riding a big recliner instead of a motorcycle.
While you’re sitting in your recliner on wheels (and you do sit in this bike and not on it) you’ll be treated to a view of a clean and tidy instrument cluster. White-ish faced dial faces look clean and modern in the daytime but it’s at night when you’ll be treated to what is possibly the prettiest dash in motorcycling. Many times I found myself just looking at the blue lights and thinking that it just looked stunning - pictures just don\'t do it justice. Maybe a Star Trek themed LED dash with blinking lights would go better with the futuristic styling of the V8 but I really like the simplicity of the current layout and the blue color at night.
Victory also included a trip computer with dual tripmeters, range till empty, avg. fuel mileage (I averaged 41 mpg with a heavy right hand - meaning about 200 miles to a tank), avg. speed, etc.., which is controlled by a switch on the left handlebar. Also on the left handlebar is a switch to control the electric motor that moves the windshield up and down……except on the Victory Vision 8-ball there is no motor. The cut down shorter shield can be moved manually according to Victory and you can option the motor in if you like. There was very little buffeting even wearing a full face helmet so I never had the need to figure out how to adjust the windshield.....or the brake pedal and shift lever as they are both adjustable (fore and aft) as well.
My God, this bike is a hoot to be seen on. And the ride is nice. And the handling is superb. And really, does one need to have good brake feel on a bike like this? I mean it does stop well so who cares about the lack of feedback when that cute girl over there is looking at me like I’m Brad Pitt. And wouldn’t a having a radio just prove to people that I have absolutely no taste in music? But still the brakes could be a bit better……….