The year was 1998 when Polaris Industries rolled out a brand-new division of the company, Victory Motorcycles. The fledging bike builder came complete with a brash moniker: The New American Motorcycle Company. The well-known manufacturer of ATVs, watercraft, snowmobiles, and other specialty vehicles was about to embark on some uncharted territory-and was ready to compete with the established heavyweights in the field. It seems as if that were just yesterday, when in fact it was eight long years ago. Over that period, Victory's brass has taken this endeavor very seriously. What began as a one-bike (v92c) lineup in 1998 has turned into a line consisting of seven models. As with many startups, Victory was faced with numerous challenges along the way, but the company's solid backing and motorsports background gave it a leg up over many other companies competing in the same marketplace.
The last few years have seen many changes to Victory's model line, most noticeably the addition of its Hammer and Jackpot models, but also-perhaps more importantly-styling and design input from the most respected name in the custom bike world: Ness. The father-and-son duo of Arlen and Cory has had a major influence on Victory's styling, and there are even a couple of limited-edition models sporting their namesake.
One thing Polaris has learned over the years (50, to be exact) is to listen to what its customers have to say. By doing so the company has been able to increase the comfort, reliability, and attractiveness of its vehicles. Victory would be no different from any other division of the company in placing customer feedback high on its list. As focus groups were surveyed time and time again, one thing became very clear: Riders were looking for a more powerful motor, six-speed transmissions, and a whole lot of rubber out back.
Victory got the message loud and clear, and its Hammer model was in direct response to customer desires. Introduced in 2005, the Hammer was a stunning testament to the company's commitment to delivering what customers were looking for.
When it first hit the scene, the Hammer was the only Victory model available with the new Freedom 100/6 V-Twin driveline package. What set the Hammer apart from all other Victory models was the increased displacement from 92 to 100 cubic inches. In addition, it showcased a new six-speed overdrive transmission designed to make for smoother, more comfortable high-speed riding. For 2006 these enhancements have found themselves on the majority of the models built by Victory.
The Hammer's frame is constructed with a combination of steel, cast, and forged sections coupled with a mixture of both robotic MIG-welding and bolted segments. The bottom framerails are designed to be unbolted from the remainder of the frame, facilitating removal and installation of the integrated engine and transmission unit. The steering neck is set to 32.9 degrees, while the back of the frame supports a long, wide swingarm fabricated from forged side rails and a cast bridge. The welded assembly is controlled by a single adjustable gas shock, which couples the swingarm's linkage to the area of the frame beneath the seat, giving the Hammer all the benefits of a traditional shock setup while at the same time allowing for a clean look at the rear of the bike.
Setting the Hammer apart from so many other bikes in its class is the Dunlop 250 rear tire that finds itself wrapped around an 18x11-inch cast rim. Victory engineers worked very closely with Dunlop's engineers to create this unique piece of rubber designed specifically to work with this bike. Up front is a 130/70R18 Dunlop Elite 3. When designing the Hammer, Victory wanted to appeal to the sport-bike crowd as well as power-cruiser riders. The idea was to bring more riders of import bikes into the American motorcycle marketplace. This was the impetus for the massive 43mm inverted cartridge-style frontend and dual 300mm floating discs that hang from both sides of the front 18x3-inch cast wheel. The rear wheel is outfitted with a single 300mm floating rotor on its left side. All rotors get the squeeze from beautiful four-piston Brembo calipers.
The 100-inch Freedom motor shares a common casting with the six-speed overdrive transmission. Coupled by a gear-driven primary drive consisting of helical-cut gears, the setup is designed more like a Sportster (only in the fact that it is an intergrated unit) than a more traditional separate engine/primary/transmission configuration. Instead of having separate reservoirs for oil, primary fluid, and transmission oil, Victory came up with a system that allows for the use of a single 5-quart wet-sump oil tank located below the motor and trans, which supplies synthetic 15w-50 oil to all three areas. The heart of the motor lies in the 101mm bore x 102 mm stroke (that's 4x4-inch for all you metric-phobes!). These figures provide for a square motor, translating into smooth operation. The chain-driven overhead-cam (one per cylinder) motor boasts hydraulic cam tensioners, counter-balancers, hydraulic lifters, four valves per cylinder, 44mm throttle bodies, American-made Visteon ECU, frame-mounted oil cooler, and staggered dual exhaust complete with an equalizing chamber located just in front of the catalyic mufflers. The year 2006 saw the redesign of the engine's Freedom/100's camshafts in response to the ever-changing EPA regulations.
Styling for the bike is enhanced by the flowing lines of the 4.5-gallon fuel tank with a keyed aviation-style filler cap, which leads into a well-formed two-up seat complete with a cowling that covers the passenger portion. An optional bracket is available from Victory that allows riders to mount this piece above the headlight in the event you wish to carry a passenger. The bike's flowing lines continue visually via the chrome fender struts, which terminate near the back of the sportbike-inspired rear fender. The bike you see here is decked out in Flame Yellow with Tattoo graphics.
Rider amenities are standard fare, including speedometer with a single trip meter and a tachometer with a light that alerts the rider when the bike is in Sixth gear. Indicator lights for turn signals, Neutral, low fuel, engine, oil pressure, and high beams reside in a cluster on the top triple-tree. A set of 36-inch-wide, 1-1/4-inch chrome handlebars anchors standard controls that include polished-aluminum brake and clutch levers, powdercoated switch housings, sturdy mirrors, self-cancelling left thumb-operated turn-signal switch, and an enrichener (choke) lever that's also located on the left side of the bars.
The first thing you notice once you're on the bike is the neutral seating position, giving the rider an upright position with an easy, no-lean reach to the wide rubber-mounted bars. The forward controls allow for a somewhat stretched-out leg arrangement without moving your feet too far forward. This makes for a very comfortable ride while still allowing for good input as you toss the bike from side to side. Before thumbing the starter, activating the enricher lever is necessary on all but the hottest days. With the starter button depressed, you notice a rather loud starter motor that gets the bike to light off after just a short time.
The chain-driven motor is a bit loud in its operation, but not loud enough to interfere with the deep sound emanating from the dual exhaust pipes. Squeeze the clutch lever and drop the bike into First gear, roll on the throttle, let out the clutch, and the bike quickly comes to life. The wet multi-plate clutch has a light lever feel and allows for quick-albeit loud-gear changes. The open-loop EFI system does a great job of keeping the motor humming along, and once it's warmed up it shows no bad manners. Torque is plentiful and lets you accelerate easily even from low engine rpm. Once up to highway speeds, the six-speed transmission is a welcome addition, dropping the tach 300 rpm to 2,800 rpm at 75 mph.
The cartridge-equipped front forks seem to be a bit oversprung but still do a good job soaking up bumps along their 5.1-inch travel. The rear shock can be adjusted with a wrench in the bike's tool kit. Doing so requires removal of the right-side panel and fuse box; it's not a major operation, yet something you're not going to do on the fly. Our contacts tell us the rear shock is set from the factory for a 230lb rider. We found that riding the bike with a 190lb rider felt fine-not too harsh, but we did benefit from a minor adjustment.
Considering all the rubber out back, the Hammer is easy to pitch from side to side, although it does feel a bit more natural leaning the bike to the right than it does to the left. Slight rider input is needed to keep the bike from wandering to the right, and while this is certainly no big deal, the heavy catalytic mufflers hanging from the side of the bike most likely cause it. Although the Hammer is not a sport bike, it has decent lean angles. The brakes on this machine are outstanding, and the Brembo dual-disc setup delivers plenty of braking power and good feedback through the stainless-steel lines and back to the lever. Security on the bike could use a revision with the repositioning of the fork lock that's located on the left side of the steering neck. Its positioning makes lock placement difficult when the bike is on the kickstand.
Taking into account the Hammer's MSRP of $17,149, a one-year unlimited-mileage warranty, and a dealer network currently consisting of around 350 dealers and growing, we feel this bike is certainly worth your consideration if you are in the market for a bike with lots of attitude, plenty of power, and all-day comfort.
|Seat Height||26.4 inches|
|Dry Weight||657 lbs|
|Engine/Displacement||50-degree air/oil-cooled V-Twin,|
|overhead four-valve design, 100ci,|
|Induction||Electronic fuel injection 44mm|
|Primary Drive||Gear-driven, torque compensator|
|Front Tire||130/70R18 Dunlop Elite 3|
|Rear Tire||250/40R18 Dunlop Elite 3|
|Price as tested||$17,149 (CA; less $250 for the other|