I've had the privilege of riding some of the finest creations the motorcycle industry has to offer. Everything from low-slung American customs, the fastest Japanese sportbikes, and exotic European models have all left their own indelible marks. But of all the machines I've ridden, none of them can steal a scene or draw a crowd the way the Vegas Jackpot will.
The crew at Minnesota's Victory Motorcycles is thoroughly unabashed about proclaiming the Vegas Jackpot an exercise in extreme style. Described in the company's literature as a "full-on custom" with "excessive chrome," this model is aimed squarely at the boulevard bombers. And its custom touches and styling cues, encompassing a color-matched frame, chrome-topped headlight nacelle, a sculpted, split-tail fuel tank, and a massive, steel rear fender resting just atop a mile-wide 250 rear tire, command the scrutiny of anyone within eyeshot. Then, when you throw in the optional "extreme graphics," you wind up with a creation more like the ones built on cable chopper shows than the rides you'd normally find in the RoadRUNNER garage.
Even so, we've always said we'll tour on anything, and that mission statement was put to the test last spring when our friend Tony Meirovitz, Victory's External Relations Specialist, offered up a bright-yellow Jackpot for long-term use. Although I was leery about making serious miles on a full-blown factory custom, I quickly warmed up to the idea as Tony described all of the touring options.
Custom bikes come in all shapes and sizes, but more often than not the V-twin engine emerges as the motor of choice. The look and sound mesh perfectly with sculpted bodylines, unique paint, and glistening chrome; and because these rides are as much showpieces as vehicles, the easygoing nature of a big two-banger lends itself to cruiser crawls along the strip or for extended stints at freeway speed as well. The counterbalanced, 100 cubic-inch (1634cc) Freedom™ V-Twin in the Jackpot has all the goods to make an excellent centerpiece. While it does sport the clean, classic lines favored by the custom crowd, inside it's a thoroughly modern mill. With overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, power delivery is smooth and predictable, and an abundance of usable torque assures the pilot that the Jackpot will go when the throttle says so. In all kinds of weather or riding conditions, a reliable EFI with throaty 45mm throttle bodies keeps start-ups easy and everything running efficiently. Even when loaded for touring and running hard, our Victory never got less than 40 miles per gallon, usually averaging 45 or better.
For those times when the Interstate beckons, the Jackpot is poised to answer the call. The gearbox features a six-speed, constant mesh transmission, with the top cog a true overdrive. The motor thumps along quite comfortably in fifth, even when pushing a brisk pace. Then, once in sixth, turning open-road miles becomes a truly smooth-running affair. Other than a fairly heavy THUNK when dropping the bike in first, stepping through the gears is practically effortless. The clutch (a cable-actuated, wet, multi-plate unit) does start to feel heavy, especially in stop-and-go traffic, but generally, it responded very well and never posed a problem.
In all, the Victory power train is a joy to operate. The motor is very compliant and quite forgiving. Whether you like to wring out the revs or lope along at low speed, the Freedom™ fits the bill no matter how you define cruising.
When riding cruisers, it's safe to say that discretion is the better part of valor. Increased rake, minimal ground clearance, and extra weight constitute a great ride for some, but impediments to others. The Jackpot, being a factory custom, has these traits and several others that make for an interesting and unique ride. Although the steel, double downtube frame certainly feels rigid enough, handling can quickly become a handful if you're not careful. This is due mostly to the tire combination. The beautifully chromed and stylish wheel up front wears an anemic 90/90-21 Dunlop Elite 3, whereas the rear end meets the road via a monstrous 250/40R18 Dunlop Elite 3. This beauty and the beast combo looks great but demands full attention at any speed. The setup never really struck me as dangerous, but it did have the tendency to react somewhat strangely in low-speed situations - on grooved pavement and especially when I was pushing hard into corners. Once you get the feel for countersteering while simultaneously sliding the derriere across the seat, it becomes a good bit of fun seeing just how much handling you can get out of the big Jackpot.
Another area that suffers for the sake of style is the suspension. A conventional, 43mm fork is capable of 5.1-inches of travel and keeps the bike on a surprisingly true path. But due to the front rubber's constricted footprint, it's still advisable to slow way down if road conditions become less than stellar. And out back, the Jackpot's support system is guaranteed to keep kidney-belt salesmen smiling. In order to facilitate that ultra-low 25.7-inch seat height, the single rear shock with rising rate linkage only allows three inches of wheel travel. Though the spring is preload adjustable, no amount of tweaking can tune out those potholes and larger freeway expansion joints. In those situations, you just have to grimace and take one for the eye-candy team.
When it comes to braking, performance is actually quite good. Though the contact patch on the front tire is understandably small, the four-piston Brembo calipers, squeezing a floating 300mm rotor, scrub off the speed admirably. The big rear tire does have plenty of contact with the ground and comes to the front's aid via an identical 300mm rotor grabbed by a twin-piston Brembo caliper.
I made every effort to put myself in the "cruiser mindset" but occasionally, when I reverted to form while cornering, the foot pegs, muffler bolts, and a few frame parts routinely became intimate with the asphalt. Style, not handling, is the Jackpot's calling card. So, it's best to rein in your wild side and keep this chassis within boulevard boundaries.
Our bike's color combination is officially listed as Competition Yellow with extreme graphics. In the midday sun, the paint and chrome blend creates a blinding brilliance that borders on assault. A guy from another office in our building refers to the Jackpot as the "lollipop," and a truck driver filling the underground tanks at the local gas station told me, "It looks better than the ones those chopper boys build on TV." One onlooker even refused to believe that the paint scheme was "factory."
At first, I didn't know what to make of riding something so - visible. But it's easy to get used to, especially after experiencing the buzz it creates among men and women, old and young, from every demographic, wherever I ride. Now, when I need to fuel up in a hurry, I aim for the pumps furthest from the building. If I don't, I'll be bombarded with comments and questions.
Looks aside, what really surprised me is just how comfortable this bike is. I rode from our offices in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to Tupelo, Mississippi in one day - that's over 650 miles. The firm, well-shaped saddle is simply one of the most comfortable I've ever straddled. I'd take off and ride this bike anywhere, almost, and maybe not for a second trip across the Tail of the Dragon at Deal's Gap. After running through those famous 318 curves in 11 miles, I felt like I'd wrestled an alligator. Around-town riding requires a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the feel for it, the Jackpot performs day-to-day activities quite nicely.
But that's not what riding the Jackpot is all about. Its true purpose is making the scene and being seen - stroking the ego and flaunting your individuality. And with Victory's custom ordering program, a distinctive look is easily achieved. The 2008 price of admission to this selective clique starts at $ 17,999, which only seems steep until you consider that a boutique custom will likely run double that, or better. And I guarantee that outfit won't have anything close to the growing dealer support network you'll find with Victory. There's also another price to pay and it may be a cost too dear for the lone wolves or introverts in the crowd. For the time being, anyone on a Jackpot is bound to be the center of attention wherever they ride. Which is fine by me: I love a parade - and it's even more fun when I'm leading it.
Victory Jackpot Touring Accessories
Granted, the Jackpot is all about the bling and looking bad to the bone. But underneath its stoplight-to-stoplight façade lies a machine of respectable touring ability. Around here at RoadRUNNER, not leaving town is not an option - so we grabbed the New American Motorcycle Company's 2007, 130-page catalog of goodies and did a little shopping. Here's what we came up with:
- Jackpot Leather Saddlebags (Part 2875009, $ 499.99); Saddlebag Brackets (Part 2875008, $ 179.99).Excellent quality, and they complement the bike's flowing lines quite well. Not waterproof, but short bursts of rain won't pose a problem. They may be a bit small for two-up travel, so you'll have to pack light when taking a friend along.
- Mini Standard Windshield (Part 2875581, $ 179.99); Windshield Clamp Set (Part 2874426, $ 99.99).This unobtrusive but highly functional windshield takes the wind off your chest and makes long stints in the saddle infinitely more comfortable.I give this addition a big thumbs-up.
- Magnetic Map Tank Bag (Part 2858100, $ 49.99). I'm a sucker for magnetic tank bags and this one is a winner. Though it's on the small side, it's still large enough for my point-and-shoot camera, cellphone, and wallet, with room to spare for a bottle of water. The clear, convenient insert on top makes map reading easy.
- Chopper Grain Leather Tool Roll (Part 2872579, $ 79.99). If the Jackpot does have a place for a tool kit I never found it. This tool roll is handy for carrying those "just in case" items you hope you'll never need.
- Slip On Stage 1 Kit (Part 2875481; California 2875774, $ 599.99). This muffler kit offers better low- and mid-range performance while adding a drastic improvement to the overall sound and feel. It provides the expected big-twin attitude without alienating the neighbors. You'll need to work with your dealer on this one, as fuel injection remapping is required.
- Victory Freedom Leather Jacket ($ 329.99) Sizes: M-XXXL
- Victory Torque Full-Faced Helmet ($ 189.99) Sizes: S-XXL
Distributor Polaris Industries
MSRP 2007- $ 17,499, 2008 - $ 17,999
Engine 4-stroke, 50º V-twin
Displacement 100 cu in / 1643cc
Bore x Stroke 101mm x 102mm
Fuel System EFI
Transmission six speed overdrive
Frame steel double-downtube
Front Suspension 43mm fork, 5.1in travel
Rear Suspension single shock, 3in travel, preload adjustable
Rake/Trail 33.5º/5.1in (130mm)
Brakes Front/Rear 4 piston caliper, 300mm rotor / 2 piston caliper, 300mm rotor
Tires Front/Rear 90/90 21 / 250/40 R18
Dry Weight 659lbs (299kg)
Wheelbase 66.3in (1684mm)
Seat Height 25.7in (663mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.5gal (17l)
Fuel Consumption 44mpg
Colors Black, Orange Crush, Sunset Red,Sunset Red with Extreme Graphics, Competition Yellow with Extreme Graphics, Pearl White with Extreme Graphics