Reading between the lines in some recent information from Roland Sands Design and Victory Motorcycles, it seems the Polaris subsidiary is working on a new or revised motor, and maybe even a new platform, that could take the company in an interesting direction.
A couple weeks ago, we received a fairly innocuous press release from Victory Motorcycles, stating the company was working on something called “Project 156.” The press release stated “This is an exciting program of work involving Roland Sands Design,” and hinted heavily towards a Victory race effort at Pikes Peak. The press release has a stylized drawing of a road up a mountain, there are 156 turns in the famous Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, and the release also bore the slogan “Race to the Clouds.”
The release didn’t clearly state Victory would be racing at Pikes Peak, but all that imagery in the press release seems to indicate Victory plans to race at the historic hillclimb. The release also bore the image of a flat-track style motorcycle.
Think this through. Could Victory be planning to build a custom motorcycle around their existing Freedom 106 motor for the race? It’s certainly possible, but it doesn’t make sense. In a race where superbikes are now allowed entry, an air-cooled V-twin would get stomped mightily. Plus, those engines are far too wide to make an effective racebike anyway.
Then, take a look at the Roland Sands Design website. There, you can see a few photos of Project 156, including a photo caption that reads “Taking back the mountain with a Victory Race Prototype Engine built from the ground up.” Among the images (including a shot of an Ohlins TTX shock and some upright flat-track style bars), there’s a photo of the motor’s valve covers, showing a V-twin engine looking very similar to the 86 hp motor that powers the Indian Scout (remember, Indian is also a Polaris subsidiary). Maybe Project 156 is built around a retuned Indian motor?
Now, let’s talk about a couple other long-standing rumours. Firstly, when the Indian Scout was unveiled, the hot gossip was that the liquid-cooled 1133 cc motor was originally designed for a Victory model, and was simply dropped into an Indian to give that company a competitor to Harley-Davidson’s Sportster. While we can’t say if there’s any truth to this, we do know Victory’s supposedly been planning a liquid-cooled model for some time now.
Second, it’s also been rumoured for quite some time that Polaris is planning to turn Victory into more of a performance brand, now that Indian is doing so well in the retro cruiser market. While Indian poaches Harely-Davidson customers who want wire wheels and tasseled seats, Victory will attract buyers who want flashy baggers and other more modern styles … like possibly a flat tracker?
The Project 156 logo certainly indicates Victory is working on a flat-track style bike, and in many ways, introducing such a model into the lineup after a debut at Pikes Peak would make perfect sense. Although Harley-Davidson dominated flat track action for decades with the XR750, they don’t have anything in their lineup that remotely resembles the prototypical American race bike.
A Victory tracker would explore a market that Harley-Davidson abandoned when they discontinued the XR1200. H-D has been trying to promote the Street 500 and 750 through flat track racing, but anybody in the know will quickly realize those entry-level cruisers have nothing in common with the tight machines being hurdled sideways through the dirt.
Would a Victory flat-tracker be successful? Let’s face it: Many Americans are never going to buy a sportbike with a full plastic fairing and chiseled headlights, but they could be convinced to purchase a flat-track style machine, especially if it bears a resemblance to the bikes they recall seeing at the local dirt track and Wall of Death.
Also remember that there’s always a fair bit of squawking from American motorcyclists for a sporty made-in-the-USA motorcycle, especially since Harley-Davidson ditched their Buell subsidiary. Sure, the 1190s that Erik Buell Racing built were cool, but they were unaffordable to the general public (and EBR has closed their doors, at least for now).
The interesting V4 from Motus Motorcycles will also be pricy if they ever become widely available. Indian and Harley-Davidson both have relatively affordable entry-level bikes in their lineup, but neither the Scout nor the Sportster are overly sporty. A Victory flat-tracker that combines the affordability of the Indian Scout (after all, photos seem to indicate it’s built around a similar motor) with a sporty attitude could be a smash success in the US, and possibly even overseas, particularly now that MotoGP stars like Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez continue to raise flat tracking’s profile with events like the Superprestigio.
It’s true that just because Victory builds a cool bike to race at Pikes Peak, they aren’t necessarily going to build it as a production model. However, the 2015 American Victory Rally runs the same weekend as the PPIHC in nearby Colorado Springs, and it would be a fantastic opportunity to promote a new bike. Also, remember Roland Sands has a history of building cool customs that turn into street-legal bikes available in showrooms. He had a big hand in developing the Concept 90 that turned into BMW’s RnineT, one of their most popular bikes in 2014.
Either way, Victory says they’ll release more information on May 28. We’ll know more then.