The Victory Vegas, with all its 106 ft lb of torque and stunning looks cemented the company as a builder of exciting cruisers.
The first Victory was called the V92C and at the time it held in its chassis the second biggest production engine available. It made a real impact and showed the likes of Harley Davidson that Victory meant business.
From that point on Victory rolled out the models and by 2003 they were ready to unveil what would become one of their most successful bikes, the Vegas.
Victory models varied in price and the Vegas sat at the lower end of the spectrum appealing to a wider audience as a result, a rider could now afford one of Victory’s muscle cruisers.
Let’s take a more in depth look at the Victory Vegas and what it was all about.
Victory Vegas Review
Out of the Victory Motorcycles era came the Victory Vegas in 2003 which ran right up until Victory closed its doors in 2017. Michael Song the Victory designer was behind the Vegas model and what he created was a completely new chassis design from the prior V92TC (Touring Cruiser).
There would be several variants of the Vegas, including the regular Vegas model, the Victory Vegas Jackpot and the Vegas 8 ball.
The Victory Vegas had a pretty solid production run of 14 years and remains a popular model on the used market; but why was it so great?
To answer that question we first need to look at the engine and the power it was capable of producing.
It was a big air-cooled V-twin named the Freedom engine and while that sounds a little cliché, this was a lump of iron that epitomised the freedom a motorcycle gives the rider and left you wanting for nothing.
A 50 degree, V-twin, single overhead cams, four valve head, initially the Freedom 100 which equated to 1,634cc in capacity and later for 2010 it was upgraded to the 106 which equalled 1,740cc. Prior to 2010 the bikes had a five speed transmission, but with the upgraded engine came other new features including a 6 speed transmission.
Initially the power produced from the big twin was in the realm of 89 horsepower and 149Nm of torque, but with the 106 engine these figures were boosted to 96 horsepower and 153Nm of torque.
Despite electronic fuel injection and the engine being fairly modern, (even with a carbon fiber reinforced belt) the lump was not particularly smooth, it felt very mechanical, and thunders forward thanks to the masses of torque.
Refined is not a word used to describe the Freedom engine. However, engaging, focused, classic, timeless V-twin are all pretty good descriptions.
The gearbox on both the 100 and 106 engine was clunky and heavy, the six speed transmission on the 106 just made the Vegas a slightly more compliant touring cruiser over longer distances, although that isn’t what the Vegas was built for.
MCN described the 100 engine most accurately “The Vegas isn’t just quick for a cruiser, but the acceleration is proper, stomach churning, ‘laugh out loud’ quick. With 106ftlb of torque exploding to the rear tyre and relatively little weight to push along (for a cruiser) it hits so much harder than you’d imagine.”
You have to think back to the early 2000’s before we had HD producing the liquid-cooled Sportster S, the 2010 V-Rod or the 2016 Softail Slim S doing 0-60 in 3.9 seconds.
Big air-cooled V-twins were not known for being fast, sure plenty of muscle, bags of torque, but quick? You would be laughed at.
The Vegas however, was fast despite being a pretty traditional air-cooled V-twin and that is one big reason why it was such good competition in the cruiser market.
Many riders took things further by fitting a Stage 1 kit which was built of a new exhaust, performance air filter and an ECU re-map. This gave the Vegas more oomph in the mid-range and the throttle response was also a tad smoother as a result.
The second half of what made Victory motorcycles so great was their styling and the designers knew that in order to not only compete but dominate and hit their target audience the styling was absolutely key.
A color matched frame, custom paint and bold paint schemes, custom style chrome accents, pulled back handlebars in line with the sweeping shape of the body, staggered slash cut exhausts, custom style wheels all of this created the art form that was the Vegas.
Now they key thing to remember is that the Vegas was priced competitively and was arguably an entry-level model into the brand, so while it certainly looked amazing, some parts were a little Japanese and plastic like the indicator housings. With that said, changing these parts would be an inexpensive task if it bothered you too much.
There was and still is a vast aftermarket parts selection available for you to take this custom bike and customise it even further to your personal taste.
The Vegas was also very minimalist in the sense that it had a solo saddle, no saddlebag fixings, no screen etc. This was a very deliberate move as the components that did make up the bike were there to shine and at the heart of that was the huge engine.
So the Victory Vegas looked incredible and had engine performance to match, how did it handle?
The Vegas was one of the few cruisers at the time and arguably to date, that could handle sporty style riding and be thrown down into corners and bends.
Ground clearance was decent and allowed for you to bank the bike over as much as you dared, the air-cooled engine despite being a bit clunky had enough torque to pull you out of the bends with ease so this pairing made for a fun riding experience.
Mid-mounted pegs and pulled back handlebars along with a low seat height sunken behind the tank meant the riding position was upright but your knee’s are up and your arms up and spread apart. Realistically if you put mini apes on the Vegas it wouldn’t feel all that different from a stock bike.
However, this added to the custom almost chopper aesthetic that Victory were shooting for and would appeal to a younger rider into the custom scene.
What this means from a comfort point of view though is that it is not the most comfortable riding position for long rides. The Vegas was never intended to be a cross country Honda tourer, but an everyday street riding machine and weekend bike.
If you wanted to increase your comfort you could opt for a lower seat, repositioned foot pegs, different handlebars and hand grips etc. All of these things would change the riding position, you could also add an aftermarket fairing/windscreen for some wind protection, although this would result in a very different looking cruiser.
The overall length of the bike and complimentary suspension meant the bike was well balanced and stable both in a straight line and in the twisties. Although the 2,462mm wheelbase, 21 in. front wheel and 18 in. rear wheel certainly made it more suitable for cruising in a straight line.
In terms of braking the Vegas needs a good hold on the front brake which has single disc and four piston caliper, the rear brake is useful to stop in a rush which consists of a single disc and two piston caliper. Consider it old school braking and forget about the joys of modern brakes, twin discs and ABS.
At 298kg dry, the bike isn’t exactly light but the low seat height makes it a breeze to paddle around and once you get up and going the weight disappears. The power-weight ratio leans heavily in the powers favour more so than many other cruisers.
With all that said how did the Victory Vegas perform upon its release?
Victory Vegas Performance
MCN rated the Vegas 4/5 stars and gave it a glowing overall review “It’s American made, but unlike a Harley Davidson has a much more modern level of performance, while still looking stylish. It might be missing the Harley badge, but it has everything else, including an affordable price tag.”
It is a unique machine that you won’t see parked up at many bike meets. Reliability isn’t an issue and aside from a few bits of corrosion, generally they aren’t to be feared in the used market. It’s a shame the price tag remains quite high but there again, you are buying a lot of metal! And metal that is actually built in America, which isn’t the case for all ‘American dream’ bikes…Bennetts
The Victory Vegas was received well by the press and public offering an alternative to the HD cruisers we had all become so used to seeing. Here was essentially a factory custom at a reasonable price, that in terms of performance could wipe the floor with nearly all of the competition from either America, Britain (Triumph) or Japan (Kawasaki).
It is likely the only downfall of the Vegas and the Victory brand in general in terms of sales was due to Polaris’ shift in focus on to the Indian brand from 2011. Indian offered a history and connection to the past for many riders and a heritage as strong as Harley’s, Victory simply couldn’t compete with this legacy.
Victory Vegas Spec’s
Engine and Transmission (Based on the Freedom 106 engine)
Engine – Four-stroke, 50 degree V-twin, SOHC, 4 Valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters, self adjusting cam chains
Capacity – 1,731cc
Bore x Stroke – 101 x 108mm
Compression Ratio – 9.4:1
Cooling System – Air/oil-cooled
Induction – Electronic fuel injection with 45mm throttle body
Starting – Electric
Transmission – 6 Speed
Final Drive – Carbon fiber reinforced belt
Max Power – 96 horsepower
Max Torque – 153 Nm
Chassis and Dimesnsions
Frame – Mild Steel square section backbone with twin down tubes
Front Suspension – 43mm Inverted cartridge telescopic fork
Rear Suspension – Single mono-tube
Front Brakes – Single 300mm floating rotor with 4 piston caliper
Rear Brakes – Single 300mm floating rotor 2 piston caliper
Dry Weight – 296kg
Wheelbase – 2,462mm
Seat Height – 25.2 in.
Fuel Capacity – 17 Litres
Victory Vegas Variants
The original Vegas sparked a series of variants that all were a little different.
Victory Vegas Jackpot
The Vegas Jackpot is an extreme custom, it took the format of the original Vegas and treated as a base to build from. Initially built with the 100ci engine and later the 106ci.
It was produced as the top of the line Victory custom. The Vegas Jackpot summarises what Victory were all about pretty perfectly.
Victory Vegas 8 ball
The Vegas 8 ball was powder-coated in black as opposed to the chrome of the original model.
It was originally released with a 96ci engine (1,510cc) but was later in 2006 upgraded to the 100ci (1,634cc) engine and eventually received the six speed transmission.
Victory Vegas Ness Signature Series
Arlen Ness and his son Cory Ness teamed up with Victory to create a limited edition model of the Vegas. These featured billet aluminium accessories, custom paint schemes, signatures on the side panels and they would later each produce a signature model the Arlen Ness Vision and Cory Ness Jackpot.
Specs were identical as the original models with the custom features being the only differences.
Victory Vegas High Ball
The High Ball takes the Vegas 8 ball concept and adds in white wall tyres, high ape-style bars and multi-spoked wheels.
How fast is the Victory Vegas?
A standard Victory Vegas had a top speed of around 120mph.
How much is the Victory Vegas worth?
Today you can buy a Victory Vegas for around £8,500 in the UK and between $7,000-$9,000 in the US.
The model has held its value and you can expect to pay more for a Vegas 8 Ball, Jackpot, High Ball or Ness signature series edition.
Buying a used Victory Vegas
There are a couple of things to be conscious of when considering buying a used Victory Vegas model.
The drive belt is good for 30,000 miles but damage can reduce this significantly, be sure to check the belt out and ask for any paperwork if it has been changed. A new belt can be costly and time consuming to change.
The engine and all its metal parts are very exposed so be sure to check for rust, corrosion and check out all the hard to reach places to ensure there are no weak spots as a result.
Check the oil cooler as again this is exposed and debris flicking up from the front wheel can damage the unit leading to oil leaks.
Many owners will have fitted a Stage 1 system to the bike, so make sure all the work was done properly, ask for receipts, history etc and if you want the original exhaust it might be worth asking as many riders will have this laying around in the garage if they have swapped it over.
Note that Victory specific mechanics are few and far between, so this can lead to you spending some time finding the right garage if you need some specific work done on the bike.
On the whole though the Vegas is a reliable bike, built well, sturdy and components can be replaced easily.
Summary: is the Victory Vegas a good bike?
Overall, the Victory Vegas in my opinion is an awesome machine. It looks incredible, sounds awesome and can be treated as a blank canvas for you to create you own custom motorcycle.
This is the bike you want if you want a thumping V-twin that stands out from the crowd and will turn heads. It is an American motorcycle that deserves its followers.
Who Were Victory Motorcycles?
Victory Motorcycles were owned by Polaris Industries who up until that time were mainly known for their off-road vehicles and snowmobiles.
The company was set up as direct American competition for Harley Davidson. However they were aimed at a more extreme custom market, those that loved the V-twin aesthetic but preferred extensive custom styling over a classic cruiser.
A Victory Motorcycle was known for two things – being fast and looking awesome. Each model had a bold design and stood out leading to a modern success story.
However, in 2017 sales had dipped, Polaris decided to call it a day on Victory Motorcycles and instead turned their attention to the Indian Motorcycle brand which they has acquired in 2011.
I think this was a real shame as Victory offered something different to what Indian does to the market and I would argue there was room for both brands. Polaris saw things differently and well with the success of Indian Motorcycles today I can see why undivided attention on one motorcycle brand has paid dividends for them.