2017 Victory Octane: Modern Muscle

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Victory

While sharing the Indian Scout’s basic platform, the Octane has a considerable number of components specially made for it. To give it a unique look, the new model is styled with sharper lines and a more pronounced center spine, along with other touches that give it a leaner, meaner visage. At the press launch, Steve Menneto, president of motorcycles at Polaris, said the Octane is the way the brand is heading in the future. The bike only comes in Matte Super Steel Gray, with a monochrome look.

Powertrain and Performance

Power comes from a lively 74-cubic-inch (1,179cc) dual-overhead cam twin with four valves per cylinder. It also happens to be Victory’s first liquid-cooled engine; previous models used air/oil cooling. The Octane’s 60-degree V-twin comes from Victory’s Project 156 prototype racer, which ran at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and was named after the number of turns on that course. A short stroke allows the motor to rev higher and make more power.

At 528 pounds claimed dry weight, it’s the smallest and lightest motorcycle ever sold by Victory, but with a claimed 104 hp it also has more power than any previous Victory model. That makes it the quickest Victory, too, both from 0-60 mph and in the quarter-mile.

Electronic fuel injection feeds the engine through a 60mm throttle body. Claimed maximum torque is 76 pound feet. Throttle response is quick, yet it’s not abrupt. The lumpy idle and potent exhaust note give it a bad-boy attitude. Yet the engine will lug down to 1,500 revs in high gear and has a strong mid-range powerband that keeps going until you hit redline at about 8,400 rpm. 

The Octane’s gearing is low to aid acceleration. A slick six-cog gearbox changes gears almost like a sportbike, the ratios are nicely spaced, and neutral is easy to access. Clutch pull with the cable-actuated and multi-plate clutch is moderate. 

During Daytona Bike Week, we got to test ride the Octane on a quarter-mile drag strip, which yielded low 12-second runs with top speeds just above 100 mph, along with 0-60 mph times under four seconds. Those wet clutches withstood lots of punishment on the drag strip, as did the toothed-belt final drives. Out on the open road you can maintain 70 mph in top gear at about 4,000 rpm.

Chassis and Handling

For extra chassis stiffness, the engine is used as a stressed member connecting the aluminum front and rear frame sections. A pair of tubular steel backbones provide additional rigidity. At the front a conventional 41mm fork with dual-rate springs handles the bumps. Steering rake is 29 degrees, with 5.1 inches of trail. In the rear, a pair of shocks leaning at 53 degrees from horizontal, with dual-rate springs and adjustable preload, offer a limited three inches of travel. Reservoir rear shocks with adjustable damping are optional. The wheelbase is a fairly short 62.1 inches, and the Octane’s maximum cornering lean angle is rated at 32 degrees; sportier than most cruisers.

Single 298mm brake discs are used at both ends. A twin-piston caliper clamps the front rotor, with a single-piston caliper at the rear. Florida doesn’t have long steep hills for testing, but in the conditions we encountered the brakes delivered decent stopping power with moderate lever effort. European models come with ABS standard (at a higher cost), but unfortunately North American models can’t be bought with ABS even as an option. 

Ten-spoke cast aluminum wheels designed to run tubeless carry a 130/70-18 front tire, while the rear gets 160/70-17 rubber. Standard fitment Kenda tires deliver good traction for braking and cornering, along with high-speed stability. On smooth roads, the Octane tracks well in corners and maintains a line. However, its Achilles’ heel is that 3.0-inch rear suspension travel. Rough pavement tosses the bike and rider around. Turning radius is also limited, making U-turns awkward.

Features and Ergonomics

The ground-hugging solo saddle is only 25.9 inches high, so the bike is accessible for most riders. A pullback handlebar along with somewhat-forward foot controls put the rider in a semi-clamshell posture. The tidy instrument cluster includes a digital tachometer and allows you to choose what functions to monitor. An optional analog tachometer that mounts to the left side of the cluster is also available. 

In stock configuration the Octane is better suited to local urban riding more than touring duty. On the highway the lack of a windscreen is felt, and the rider has to lean forward more and brace into the wind. The seat is also good for short hops, but holds you in one position without much wiggle room. However, Victory is offering accessories such as a passenger seat, luggage, and items for customization.

Final Thoughts

Fit and finish and component quality appear to be consistent with other Victory models, which have done well in customer satisfaction polls. Victory designed the Octane to bring new buyers to the brand, by providing a sportier youthful model at an attractive price. It’s fun to ride and should get the job done, and starts at $ 10,499.