2012 Victory High-Ball | First Ride

Boulevard Bruiser

We all know that production “customs” have become the norm. But while just about every manufacturer offers a less-is-more blackened model to the market, shape is now changing, as well as color. Ape hangers are in, straight bars are out. Enter the production bobber.

For 2012, Victory ups the ante with a new, Vegas-based city steed, boasting 97 horsepower, 113 foot-pounds of torque and even more attitude right out of the box.

The High-Ball is built on traditional Victory architecture: the massaged perimeter frame is suspended from a 43mm conventional fork with 5.1-inches of travel and a spring-preload-adjustable shock at the rear with 3 inches of travel. The brand-wide 106 Freedom V-twin and 6-speed overdrive transmission wick up the whitewalls via a belt final drive.

Splaying your fists in the wind, the High-Ball offers raw vibe over function, in a departure from the numerous baggers recently filling up Victory’s stable. The trimmed out steed is a pure solo mount—no pillion, no luggage and no bodywork to wax. The H-B is sparse and singular in attitude and aesthetic.

But what about those bars? Knowing that “being cool” isn’t legal in every state, Victory’s engineers covered their bases by designing an easily-adjustable two-position handlebar—it can be set straight up or slightly laid back, depending on your location. Your local dealer will prep it to suit the law of your land. Laws vary by grip position: some states allow for grips no higher than eye level, others allow 30 inches over the saddle height. Others have no position regulation.

In the upright—and most bad-ass—position (see photos), your fists reach comfortably in the wind from the 25-inch high saddle (the second lowest in Victory’s line-up), putting the average rider upright, with a slight forward lean. The alternate bar position is more relaxed and closer to the rider, like on most other Victory cruisers. When set to the factory-suggested marks, grip positions drop a whopping 8.9 inches (from full-up) and back 5.4 inches. A comfortable riding position can be found for even vertically-challenged riders on the ‘Ball.

But how does it ride? At first glance, it would appear that fashion won over function on the High-Ball, but the arms-up riding position was more comfortable than I expected. For boulevard cruising and local hops, the fuel-injected SOHC 106 packs enough punch to rocket you from traffic signs with a smile on your face, while the high bars bolster your street cred by adding a bad-boy look.

When street lights turned red, the 300mm front floating rotors with 4-piston calipers (and 2-piston rear) combo performed adequately, though I’d prefer a little more feel from the adjustable brake lever.

With Victory’s DNA seeping into every aspect of the High-Ball, from the ridged spine to the slash-cut dual exhaust, the high bar addition to a modified Vegas 8-Ball is a perfect fit. You’ll find very little chrome on the High-Ball, and it’s available in only one color (black)—though the darkness is balanced with strong white accents on the badge-less tank and Dunlop rubber.

Rolling on a pair of 16-inch laced wheels wrapped with Dunlop Cruisemax tires, the bike handles lightly. The bike itself is light, too—enough to pick up off the side stand with only your legs.

While similar in appearance, the High-Ball is more compact than the Vegas, making for a more nimble ride by way of a tighter rake (by 1.2 inches), longer trail, and shorter wheelbase (64.8 inches). Shorter bike, tighter geometry and narrower tires: a no brainer. It’s more flickable than just about any cruiser I’ve ridden thanks to the unique leverage on the bars as well as the tweaked geometry.

While the high bars are not a first from a major manufacturer, they still grab attention from onlookers. Of course, the high and mighty position has a few negatives. Luckily, the handlebar and triple tree clamps are solid, reducing the flex to nothing more than you’d experience on a standard bar; it’s the mirror position that could use a tweak. Dropping the mirrors below the cluster would open up your sightline as well as adding yet another cool-guy point to your ride.

With the High-Ball, Victory designers delivered a back-to-basics model with a minimalist dash and single-piece speedometer (with odometer, trip meter and digital tachometer). And the public has spoken; while I was shooting the bike on Main Street in Daytona Beach, thumbs went up all over, prompting the thought that even a dork like me can feel bad-ass on a production bobber.

While the trend this year in Daytona seemed to be three-wheelers, “real bikers” gravitated toward the latest bad-boy releases from the big American builders. With an MSRP of just $13,499 (49-state), you’ll be looking at this retro-rod twice as well.

2012 Victory High-Ball
MSRP $13,499
Color: Black
Type: Air/oil-cooled, 50–degree V-twin
Displacement, Bore x stroke: 1731cc, 101 x 108mm
Valve train: SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio: 9.4:1
Fuel System: EFI
Transmission: 6-speed
Final drive: Belt
Wheelbase: 64.8 in.
Rake/trail: 31.7 degrees / 6.7 in.
Front suspension: 43mm fork; 5.1 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper; 3 in. travel
Front brake: 300mm floating disc, 4-piston caliper
Rear brake: 300mm disc, 2-piston caliper
Front Tire: 130/90-16 Dunlop Cruisemax
Rear Tire: 150/80-16 Dunlop Cruisemax
Overall length: 92.5 in.
Seat height: 25 in.
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gallons
Dry weight: 659 lbs.