Is Victory Octane a Turning Point in the American Cruiser Segment?

The "star" of today's editorial is the new Victory motorcycle, the Octane. And not because it brings something that's never been heard of before, or introduces a breakthrough of some sort, but simply because this very bike might represent a turning point in the American cruiser segment.
Right before I start, I'd like to say that this is not a debate of air-cooled motorcycles versus liquid-cooled ones. Both types of engines have their pros and cons, and differ quite markedly. Moreover, each solution has its fans and haters, and finding a common point between the two "camps" is often impossible.

The American cruiser market is authoritatively dominated by air-cooled machines; and "authoritatively" perhaps doesn't even begin to describe the real situation. Still, things are on the move, and I am not talking about the Japanese makers.

Some hardcore H-D fans are even having a hard time coping with the very existence of Japanese cruisers and can barely accept them around. Such guys would say that a cruiser, and especially a Japanese/ metric one with liquid cooling, can hardly rival the "true spirit" of an American (air-cooled) one.

Well, they may be right, because it's hard to instill Harley's almost unnatural mojo in a Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 classic or Yamaha Midnight Star. These bikes have their own personality and even though many might say that they only try to replicate the MoCo machines, I'd say that they run on a different track, that's parallel to Milwaukee's. And that's because both European and Japanese manufacturers appear to have understood that only Harley can make Harleys.

Now that we've come to this conclusion, it doesn't mean that the love air-cooled cruiser riders have for their machines can alter the flow of time and the evolutions in the industry. Things are moving, and it's from within the American market that the change emerges. And, yes, change may come with the Victory Octane.

Could Octane be the Messiah?

Frankly, I doubt that the new Victory will be a Messiah. A good prophet announcing the coming change of an era - definitely, the one thing to re-set the American cruiser segment, not quite.

And that is because no matter how nice, economical, good-looking, affordable and enduring a new power plant from Victory might be, most of the Harley fans will stick to their machines. Because of... Harley.

Anyway, regardless of how much Victory, Indian, and now Polaris want to balance the game, they all know that one doesn't simply match a manufacturer that sells one in two new bikes in the US. But small steps might begin to even out the balance, and Octane could be the first firm step in this direction, and here are several reasons why.

A better-performing engine

Octane's new liquid-cooled power plant might be significantly superior to many H-D engines. Victory is still quite secretive about this, but we'll find out the tech specs in a week's time or so, as the Octane will be revealed on February 19.

We still don't know how powerful the Octane engine will be, but something tells us it will top Harley's liquid-cooled mill from the V-Rod platform.

With stock Rods making around 125 horsepower, Victory should have no trouble topping this figure. If you ask me, my bet is that Victory would rather go for significantly more, again, to be verified next week.

No matter how strongly people deny loving to have more hp at their disposal, there's joy in power, and joy is good.

An engine that runs more quietly

Well, this is arguably a feature, if you know what I mean. Cruisers are supposed to be loud, and it's more than often that owners exaggerate in this direction. However, new, stricter noise regulations are heading our way, and manufacturers will have to take the noise issue more seriously.

A liquid-cooled mill will run more quietly, allowing for better, free-flowing silencers to be installed and adding to the power while remaining within the regulation limits.

Steadier temperatures and a more comfortable ride during hot summer days

A liquid-cooled engine would also run at more steady temperatures regardless of the weather conditions, and be less uncomfortable when riding in slow traffic on a summer day.

Cool-looking as the classic air-cooled machines may be, they sometimes become extremely uncomfortable because of the heat emanating from their engines, even though they are running within spec limits, more or less.

Speaking about this, air-cooled engines, especially twins, tend to run a hotter rear cylinder and have uneven heat build-up and dissipation rates, which might affect performance.

Weight is not necessarily a key factor in the cruiser world

Liquid-cooled engines are bulkier than air-cooled ones. They need bigger engine blocks to accommodate the coolant ducts, and they also need a coolant pump. On top of everything, we add the extra weight of the hoses and rings to keep them in place and several pounds of coolant.

However, when it comes to cruisers, they are heavy enough already. The difference between the two engines may not make a dramatic difference, at least as long as the engine is really potent. Plus, considering the amount of aftermarket chrome bling some riders add to their bikes, weight should be a non-issue.

Liquid-cooled engines are more expensive, need more maintenance and could break down

On the cons list, liquid-cooled engines put the need of more maintenance and the increased chances of something going wrong and breaking down. From parts failure to a punctured hose or radiator, there is a list of mishaps that could bring a nice ride to a bitter end.

Plus, a rider with no mechanical skills would have to fork out some money for coolant replacement in a shop, whereas a guy riding an air-cooled bike will be spared.

Choosing not to go Harley is a tough nut to crack

There may be more differences between these engines, but these are the most important ones. They alone might not be enough to influence a buyer into choosing a liquid-cooled machine, but if Victory Octane manages to offer the classic cruiser experience with a higher-performance engine that will prove to be enduring and long-lasting, things might change.

Victory has a long road ahead in their market battle with H-D, and change will not come over the night. But we know that Victory will use this engine to build more models, and the liquid-cooling platform will grow in the coming years.

If the bikes built on the Octane platform are able to mix the benefits of liquid-cooling with endurance and style, we can expect to see Victory finally becoming a more significant player in the US market and even abroad.

Even historic brands like Indian share the same fate, even though some say that an Indian with a liquid-cooled engine is not an Indian. As time is ticking away, it looks like it will be harder and harder for air-cooled engines to meet the emission regulations without making compromises, and change will be imposed.

Whether this is a good thing or a bad one it's up to you, just like most of the similar preference-based choices are, but for Victory, this may be the moment of a lifetime, let's hope they play things right.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram

Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories