Evil twin: experiencing the new Victory Octane
THE OCTANE'S ALL-OUT AGGRESSION IS THE FLIPSIDE OF THE RESTRAINED SCOUT
There are clear resemblances between the new Victory Octane and its cousin the Indian Scout, but don't fall into thinking they're the same bike, these are two very different sides of the same coin.
Polaris Industries, the company behind Victory Motorcycles (and Indian Motorcycles), says the newly arrived Octane "shares DNA" with the incredibly popular Scout.
There are clear resemblances, particularly in the overall silhouette and cast alloy frame. Even the engine is of a similar capacity and layout (albeit without the artistic touches we've come to expect from Indian), but when it gets down the to ride, the Octane is its own distinct animal.
At its heart is the 1179cc V-Twin that was derived from the Project 156 race machine Victory took on the infamous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. That design led to the Victory Ignition concept, which used the first pre-production engine unit off the line for its heart, and with which the Octane has clear visible links. The production Octane puts out a balanced 103 HP (77kW) and 103Nm of torque, but when it comes to the delivery of that power it is anything but balanced.
Twisting the throttle wide open brings with it an immediate surge of power that's enough to spin the rear wheel in first gear. In fact, the Octane is the master of the art of burnouts.
Dropping the clutch with even half of the 8000 rpm available results in a burnout to keep even the dirtiest inner bogan happy.
Strangely for a V-Twin, the Octane doesn't have that much in terms of engine braking.
With the revs climbing on the downshift there doesn't seem much of that characteristic lurch that most V-Twin powered bikes experience. The only time I feel something akin to the same feeling is when the engine hits the rev limiter.
When you hit it, all of a sudden the engine and the surge of torque it produces comes to a sudden stop until you hook the next gear. It feels like the engine has the potential to keep producing power well above the computer controlled rev limiter.
Just like the Scout, the Octane features an aluminium frame, not a lot unlike one you might find on a super sports bike.
Connected to the rear of the frame are two pre-load adjustable shock absorbers as per the majority in the class. Combined with the 41mm forks up front, the Octane handles well.
With 32 degrees of lean angle on offer you can rip about our beautiful back roads with a surprising pace for a 2.3m long feet-forward cruiser.
Unlike the Scout, which comes out of the box with a huge front wheel and tyre combo, the Victory Octane comes with a much thinner 130/70 front tyre wrapped around a 18-inch wheel.
This translates to a bike that requires much less effort to push into corners yet, thanks to its cruiser spec wheelbase of 1578mm, remains stable when things go south. Just like my experience on the Scout, I hit a patch of slick tar seal on the highway and the back end of the Octane stepped out.
Before I could consciously do anything, the bike had righted itself. You've got to love bikes that do that.
On the open road you'd think the little fly screen that surrounds the headlight wouldn't do much. Surprisingly, that isn't the case, the screen takes a noticeable amount of pressure off the rider's chest on the motorway, as well as helping to give the bike its distinctive aggressive look.
The ride of the Octane matches the look. Whereas the Scout is the more civilised of the wider family, the Octane is much more mongrel and aggressive. Fuelling is nowhere as smooth as the Scout, with power coming on almost the instant you twitch the throttle. It feels unrefined at first, but when you put two and two together it makes sense for the bike to feel as angry as it looks.
Surprisingly, out and about you get used to the way the Octane delivers its power, with the aggressive fuelling only becoming less than ideal on bumpy roads. On such Auckland roads the combination of the tight suspension and that twitchy throttle meant involuntary rolling of the throttle.
This again was something you get used to but the added jerking, thanks to the throttle, does affect comfort levels on an already uncomfortable surface.
If you're okay with its all-out aggression, the Octane is a fun alternative to the restrained Scout and easy-going Scout Sixty from Indian.
It comes down to the way you want your motorcycle to behave. On one side of the coin you have predictable, classy, and smooth. On the other you have rage on two wheels that'll have you grinning wherever you ride.
I'd flip the coin myself as I'd be more than happy with either.
ENGINE: 1179cc liquid-cooled 60 degree V-Twin
PROS: Grunty engine, handles well for a cruiser
CONS: Relatively small fuel tank, aggressive fuelling