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Victory Jackpot : Gettin’ Lucky With Style (Review)

victory jackpot blue road cornering shot

With a high bling-bling factor, a big fat rear wheel, Vegas DNA strands and Arlen Ness standing by as the stylemaster, Victory rolls out the 2006 Jackpot.

The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” was the backdrop in September as Victory Motorcycles introduced its 2006 lineup to motorcycle press, near the company’s new research and development centre in Wyoming, Minnesota. As expected, the keynote event was the unveiling of the Jackpot, a new addition to the Vegas-bred family. Marketed by the company as a machine for “bikers” the Jackpot is intended to compete in an elusive category—the factory custom. To complicate matters, the Ness Signature editions might be referred to as custom factory customs. 

Other news from Victory includes upgrades encompassing most of Victory’s six bike lineup. And new to the entire range, with the exception of the carried over V92TC, is the all-new Freedom 100 cubic inch EFI V-Twin motor. Additionally, all models except the TC and the entry priced 8-Ball benefit from an upgrade to a six-speed overdrive transmission. 

As the centre piece of the 2006 line-up, the Victory Jackpot  DNA strands can be traced back to the Vegas. But, according to Victory, the bike is intended for enthusiasts who value style and presence. Like its stablemate the Hammer, the Jackpot features a huge 250mm tire (8.5”) bulging from beneath the massive rear fender. The long flowing lines of the bike commence with a sculpted headlight above a 21” wheel and continue through the patented Victory split-tail tank treatment to the fender and flush-mounted tail light. 

victory jackpot blue road full side shotThe tall V-Twin dominates the central mass of the bike with a clean look available only to overhead-cam mills. The golf ball dimple treatment remains on the EFI cover, which proclaims the bike’s new 100 cu./in. pedigree. Several extreme paint schemes are available including flames and tribal tattoos. Wild paint aside, the Victory line, in particular the Hammer, Jackpot and Vegas, tends toward clean, flowing lines and an elemental appeal. Only the hand controls and a really odd, incongruous steel adjuster on the rear swingarm (replaced with a chrome cover on the Ness bikes) seemed out of place on a highly stylistic bike. Based strictly on the bling- bling factor, the Jackpot is a hit at $22,749 for the stock version.  

If that isn’t enough to get your attention, you can notch it up for a few dollars. The Ness men, Arlen and Cory, are again consulted on the styling of the Jackpot and have their own Signature versions of the bikes.  Unique paint and graphics, billet grips, mirrors and wheels, special bars along with a sculpted custom seat that holds the rider a little too tightly in place are all part of the $29,999 package.

SO IT LOOKS GOOD STANDING STILL, BUT WHAT ABOUT WHEN the billet wheels are spinning? The route for the press ride was through rolling farm land, small towns and along the banks of the St. Croix River which separates Minnesota from Wisconsin. The route was a showcase for the Jackpot’s abilities as a highway cruising motorcycle without emphasizing the twisty bits. 

In terms of ergonomics, the Jackpot shares the traits of its stablemate. The riding position is just about perfect for a six-foot rider and has to be one of the most comfortable on the market. The fat rear tire and low stance of the bike make for a firm ride that hurts only when you nail the really big potholes. 

The performance upgrades to the mill are evident with a good twist of the throttle. The new motor is noticeably stronger and pulls enthusiastically until the governor is hit. With an increased compression ratio, an additional 8 cu./in. and four valves per cylinder, the fuel-injected Twin is double spoon-fed through two 44mm throttle bodies to provide the power increase over the old 92 cu./in. motor. Peak horsepower is found between 5,000 and 5,500 rpm and torque at 2,500 rpm. 

Triple-digit speeds register quickly as the fat rubber bites the road with real authority allowing for unrestrained launches … until the attempted burn out. The 250-section rear tire tempts spectacular rubber shredding shows but a dry grippy surface will not accommodate this hooligan behaviour. While the motor has the power to get the job done there is a lot of rubber to break loose while you’re trying to hold onto the skinny 21” front end. Drive a couple lag bolts through the rim and into the pavement or empty your Dr. Pepper on the launching pad and you might succeed.

On the road the new transmission is a pleasure; the clutch effort is light and the shifts precise. The sixth gear overdrive is very tall and verges on redundant because, at highway speeds, the engine is pulling at a mere 2,400 rpm. The new four-valve motor pulls well in the low end too, and at 60 mph (100 kmh) the bike performs crisply in fourth gear with the engine spinning above 4,500 rpm.

victory jackpot front blue road cornering shotWhile rollers, sweepers and countryside cruising are handled with  aplomb, when the road starts to curve back upon itself, the Victory Jackpot’s great looks become the bike’s performance drawback. Because of the wide, flat rear tire, the Jackpot doesn’t corner intuitively. It takes commitment from the rider to lift the bike up off that big flat rubber and take it sharply into a tight corner. The front suspension, while a seemingly robust 43mm, gets overwhelmed by the bike’s 644 lbs. (292 kg) dry weight while being pushed aggressively through curves. While turn-ins are easy and the steering light, imperfections in the road through a corner require a firm hand on the bars as they will twitch. This is in contrast to the Hammer model which shares the fat rear tire but has an 18” wheel with 130mm rubber and an inverted front suspension. While the Hammer requires more positive steering pressure, the bike holds a truer line through high speed cornering without the corrections necessary with the Jackpot.   

With a Stage I kit developed for Victory by Vance & Hines, the Jackpot gains a strong bark and approximately 10 hp according to Victory. Even more so than the stock bike, a rider is tempted to rev the Stage I bike a little harder just to hear the pipe music. The compromise to more power and visceral appeal is less cornering clearance as Vance & Hines, when designing the pipes for Victory, took the term “drag” literally. Get back on the stocker after a turn on the Stage I bike and it sounds positively quiet.

Braking is provided by a single 300mm disc and four-piston caliper up front and a 300mm disc in the rear. A  combined use of both the front and the rear brakes is the best bet for sudden controlled stops because the rear does tend to lock up under heavy braking. 

PERFORMANCE WAS THE RECURRING THEME THROUGHOUT VICTORY’S press launch of its 2006 lineup. (In the lobby of the research centre was a half-faired race bike based on the Vegas chassis that was run in endurance races.) For a company building its credibility on a strong line of cruisers, there were many sportbike references in the product presentations. But therein lies a contradiction—the Victory Jackpot is actually a step back in terms of performance compared to the company’s other offerings. In purely stylistic terms , it becomes a personal matter whether you prefer the super fat rubber of the Jackpot over the Hammer. But, based on performance criteria, the Hammer outdoes the Jackpot with its smaller front rubber, dual discs and 18” wheel. 

victory jackpot engine beauty shotThere is an impression that Victory’s engineering and design teams really want to build a hard charging premier sport cruiser (they seem only a few engineering elements away) but are aware of the challenges in a market where the buyers have demonstrated a decided preference for less aggressive cruisers. 

Though the Victory Jackpot and, to a slightly lesser extent, the Hammer are filling niches not occupied by other mainstream manufacturers, they’re guilty of bringing great style with compromised performance to the table. But good looks count for a lot in the current market, and in that context, the Jackpot is right on the money. 

by John Molony Canadian Biker #217 2006

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