Pistonheads: Cruiser Face-off

The V-Rod muscle is Harley’s fastest bike yet, a slick, drag bike with sportsbike-chasing power. In the blue corner Victory’s 1731cc Hammer S is all about oil tanker presence and the grunt to shift cities. How do you like your power cruiser kicks?

Pure V8 race car. Epic noise. Like a happy cat purring through a skyhigh stack of Marshal amps. While my notebook should be full of clinical dissections of these two bikes’ practical and dynamic strengths and shortcomings, in truth it’s filled with little else but doodles of the Victory – she’s real pretty, see – and countless attempts at capturing the sonic fury of its Victory Performance pipe in words. None come close.

More than any other bike I’ve ever written about, I wish this collection of virtual pages on your screen played a clip of the Hammer S’ mighty, full-throttle music when you clicked this page. Sure it’s “just” noise but, if you’re being like that, the Pacific ocean’s “just” a big puddle and mortality’s “just” a time limit. And right now, at large on the hill roads and quaint lanes of Sussex, the background music of a rural Friday morning in summer – the occasional whoosh of toy-strewn people carriers on the the school run; light aircraft droning lazily overhead like drunk bees; a distant breeze through the trees – is being overlaid with the thunder of the Victory’s V-twin giving it everything.

Our casual and oh-so-scientific drag races are simple in their execution: no datalogging bumbags, no Christmas tree, no printed time slips. Spot a decent-looking straight devoid of side roads, coast casually to a standstill and check you’re in first gear perhaps a dozen times. From the bridge of the Victory I glance over at editor John on the fussier but undoubtedly more contemporary V-Rod Muscle. He’s gone all Toseland on me, fixing the middle distance with a thousand-yard-stare. Because I can’t, he counts to three out load and we go, both rear tyres slewing sideways on a camber that had looked innocent enough.

The acceleration’s serious, its heavy, unseen force tugging at our bodies as they’re moved up to a speed they couldn’t manage on their own, more quickly than they were ever designed to. Over the first fifty yards we’re neck-and-neck, the contest more about reaction times than the strength of our engines. Then, sadly for the blue corner, the differences start to show. While the Victory sounds at least 1000bhp more powerful, its air-cooled motor is limited to just 5500rpm.