2008 Victory Kingpin 8-Ball - First Ride

According to Victory, its Kingpin is the company's "rider's motorcycle." The Kingpin has been the closest thing to a standard, versatile motorcycle in Victory's lineup for some time, devoid of certain styling excesses that might look kewl, but can limit a bike's usefulness, such as ultraphat, 250-section rear tires. In short, the Kingpin has been the first choice for riders looking for a mount on which to spend some quality time reeling off miles and chasing sunsets.

If the Kingpin's been on your short list for such kinds of riding, then it's a fair bet that the new-for-2008 8-Ball version will trigger your hand-to-wallet reflex in record time.

The previous Vegas 8-Ball already set the template for the Kingpin 8, with its namesake orb's ebony finish adorning virtually every surface except for the twin chrome exhausts, cylinder-fin edges, fork sliders, headlight shell, speedometer case and a few other bits. According to Victory, the near-total blackout lets buyers have it both ways: An 8-Ball can be a stealthy, minimal expression as-is, or a very dark canvas on which they can wield the brushes of their own imaginations.

And it is stripped down. There's no pillion pad or passenger footpegs; you'll be riding alone on this inky-black leviathan. Still, at $13,999, the Kingpin 8 makes a fine case for going it alone. Only the Vegas 8-Ball is less expensive in Victory's '08 lineup, and the Kingpin 8 is $2400 less dear than the standard Kingpin.

Yet, while this latest Kingpin fulfills its 8-Ball heritage as a value leader, don't think for a moment it's some 90-pound weakling that'll have you kicking yourself for not spending the extra dosh on the standard model. The same qualities that make the Kingpin a rider's motorcycle are also present in the 8-Ball version.

For instance, the Kingpin 8 shares its upmarket sibling's chassis geometry, wheel sizes, tires and brakes (with Nissin calipers for 2008 in place of the previous Brembos). Consequently, freight-train-like stability is the order of the day when it comes to road manners, combined with a degree of steering precision that makes the Kingpin the best handling bike in Victory's stable. Stopping power is only average for the class, though, and some riders will want more feel and initial bite from the single-disc front brake.

The Kingpin 8-Ball can also boast of having the same fundamental Freedom 100 powerplant of its more colorful brethren-and that means a claimed 85 horsepower and 106 lbs.-ft. of torque, with the low-end and midrange stomp typical of big-displacement V-twins. In addition, the SOHC, eight-valve, 50-degree V-twin underwent a thorough program of refinement for 2008 (see Victory Vegas Low First Ride for details) to improve ridability, reduce emissions and slash noise, vibration and harshness levels. Throttle response is satisfyingly sharp, even directly off idle, something not all manufacturers have been able to accomplish.

One element of 8-Ball marching orders, though, includes retaining a five-speed transmission instead of the six-speed used by every other Victory, which yields mixed results. Top-gear roll-ons feel stronger on the Kingpin 8 than on six-speed Victories, but higher rpm for a given cruising speed means some vibration begins to intrude through the grips, floorboards and fuel tank at an indicated 75 mph.

For most riders, that small bit of vibration will be a precious small price to pay for the value inherent in Victory's new-for-2008 Kingpin 8-Ball. Victory worked hard to retain the Kingpin's inherent goodness-its soul, if you will-paring back a little here and there, then drenching the whole works in I'm Bad black. You can add your own custom touches before heading off to chase sunsets, or just go as you are. Who's to say who'll have the better time?

2008 Victory Kingpin 8-Ball
MSRP: $13,999
Wheelbase: 65.6 in.
Seat Height: 26.5 in.
Engine Type: 1634cc air/oil-cooled, SOHC, 50-degree V-twin
Bore X Stroke: 101mm x 102mm
Compression: 8.7:1
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal.
Fuel System: EFI, 45mm throttle bodies
Transmission/Final Drive:5-speed/belt
Rake/Trail: 32.8 degrees/5.4 in.
Front Tire: 130/70-18
Rear Tire: 180/55-18
Front Brake: 300mm rotor with four-piston caliper
Rear Brake: 300mm rotor with two-piston caliper
Front Suspension: 43mm inverted fork, 5.1 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Single damper, preload adjustable, 3.9 in. travel
Weight: 670 lb. dry (claimed)
Colors: Solid Black