Raising The Pot: Victory Ness Signature Vegas Jackpot

Victory's New Jackpot Rides The Fence Between Custom And Production Machinery

It came as a bit of a surprise when Victory Motorcycles head honcho Mark Blackwell introduced the company's new model, the Vegas Jackpot, as "a bike for bikers rather than motorcyclists." We like to flog our rides, so that phrase didn't really sweeten the 'Pot for us (as it were), but it certainly brought the bike's focus into sharp relief. The Jackpot was being positioned as a see-me cruiser clearly aimed at the recreational boulevard enthusiast rather than canyon-carving performance monkeys-or open-road wanderers. That was over six months ago, and we've since managed to snare a good deal of seat time on this latest twist of the Vegas platform-the Ness version, no less. Is the Jackpot less showy and more go-ey than its faade (and marketing folk) would have you believe? Let's just say it won't win any awards for Commuter of the Year

The style-soaked cruiser heads the list of new 2006 models from Victory. And while technically the Jackpot is a close cousin to the Vegas, visually it skews more to the, er, maladjusted side of the family tree. In fact, the Jackpot's raison d'tre could be attributed to the rapid rise of what Victory calls the "Extreme Custom segment"-a group driven by Discovery Channel-type TV shows that kowtow to custom bikes and their builders. Although Victory believes this piece of the market-share pie currently constitutes about 30,000 units per year, no hard numbers are to be had, since most of the small companies that sell them don't report to the Motorcycle Industry Council.

Show Me The Bling
As for the Jackpot, the family resemblance isn't all that obvious unless you look down the tree a bit, at the other members. Then you notice this bike gets the same Freedom V-twin powerplant and gearbox as the company's power cruiser, the Hammer, and that-also like the Hammer-the Jackpot sits on a way-fat 250mm rear tire (said to be "custom-designed for maximum handling specifically for Victory by Dunlop"; more on that later). That 8.5-inch-wide rear bun has become all the rage in the custom bike industry and is now trickling down to the OEM segment, thanks to Victory. It's complemented by a narrower, taller, 21-inch front wheel to give the 'Pot that chopper look. The now-familiar long, low bodywork sculpted tight to the contours of the chassis is lifted straight off the Vegas, along with the scalloped and ridged fuel tank and the tailored fenders. The custom look and feel continue with the chunky yet sleek chromed headlight (with HID element), a shiny, stylized swingarm, and fully chromed-out fork legs. The refined, flush-mount aircraft-style fuel cap remains, as does the smoothly integrated, split-tail fuel tank/seat junction. The infrastructure is all there too, with 300mm disc brakes, 43mm fork tubes, staggered slash-cut dual exhausts and a carbon-fiber-reinforced belt drive transmitting power to the back.

But the Vegas' more low-key styling cues are played up on the Jackpot via appropriately aggressive graphics, a super-low seat height (nearly an inch lower than the Vegas) and a color-matched frame under six layers of clear coat that strongly hint at the perceived cachet of a custom. Basically, the Jackpot is a blinged-out Vegas, packing some extra glitz on the already proven platform.

Even so, the thing needs to get between Points A and B, right? Fortunately, that's not a problem with the fuel-injected, counterbalanced 100-cubic-inch (1634cc) Freedom V-Twin engine which, when mated to Victory's six-speed overdrive transmission, was plenty capable of turning the Hammer's honking rear tire into a pile of black steaming rubber during our 2005 test. With nearly 90 ft.-lbs. of rear-wheel torque available, the new Jackpot should do much the same, and rattle a few neighbors in the process. (All of Victory's 2006 models except the TC get the Freedom 100/6 powertrain.)

But if the $17,499 Vegas Jackpot is the bike that Victory describes as "the Ultimate Extreme Custom Cruiser," then the $21,999 Ness Signature Series Vegas Jackpot models loft that concept up another notch. And because we're forever testing the bone-stock versions of new bikes, we thought we'd take the opportunity to upgrade.

Victory offers two limited-edition iterations of the Jackpot, the Arlen Ness and Cory Ness versions; we scored the Cory bike.

Both Ness models start with the unique Jackpot bodywork, Freedom V-twin motors and 250-series rear tires and add a generous helping of Arlen Ness billet and chrome accessories such as billet wheels, engine cover inserts and custom-style mirrors.

The more flashy Arlen model fits "Jagged-Ness" wheels and a blue/gold and silver paint job to draw attention from the masses, while our Cory Ness model goes the opposite direction, starting with a set of "Evil 7" wheels and finishing off with a deep black base paint with a Faded Blue Flame job. Parked a cozy 25.7 inches above the pavement, both Ness Signature Series Jackpots also soothe achy buttocks with swank, custom-stitched Danny Gray seats.

Head Out On The Highway
Beyond the bolt-on doodads however, all Jackpots are essentially the same underneath. So if the only discernible differences between the stocker and the showboat are of a mainly cosmetic nature, how does all the shiny stuff fare out in the field?

Ness Edition or not, we endeavored to put the Jackpot through our usual testing regimen of urban, rural and super-slab duty.

While not terribly roomy front-to-rear, the saddle is wide and firm enough for more than a short squat down the street, and the Cory bike's Danny Gray unit actually seemed more comfortable and supportive than the stock Vegas seat. Our short-term passenger was especially surprised by the saddle's accommodating feel.

The Jackpot's flawless fuel injection allows a quick start-up, with virtually no lag between thumbing the starter and the low-key rumble emitted from the dual staggered pipes. The frame-mounted engine is sufficiently counterbalanced to make the vibration that does creep through less than annoying (even as the mirrors shake enough to be rendered almost useless, especially at high rpm) and the exhaust note is surprisingly subdued-certainly less than most custom machines.

Slipping her into first gear, though, isn't a slam-dunk. Well, maybe a slam. The gearshift makes itself heard with a commanding THWUNK echoing off the walls. Still, once in gear, a (heavy) twist of the throttle delivers a quick response and the bike positively leaps off the line with bagfuls of grunt to spare.

The riding position, which places your feet slightly forward on pegs, remains comfortable after a couple of hours on the highway, with the capacious 4.5-gallon fuel tank delivering nearly 36 mpg on longer stints for a range of approximately 170 miles. But if your highways are as riddled with expansion joints as California's are, your spine will be crying uncle. Thank the Jackpot's shortened and therefore overly firm rear suspension for doing a less than admirable job of soaking up road irregularities in that case; the mono-tube damper out back has only 3.0 inches of travel in order to maintain the bike's low profile (though you can adjust the preload).

The nicely curved handlebar is set on risers and pulled back enough to make operating hand controls a no-brainer, but a few of our testers encountered issues when it came time to gas up-the bar's extreme pullback didn't allow for the nozzle to fit cleanly into the fuel tank. There were also a few complaints about loose cables running outboard of the bar-a $22,000 motorcycle should have a clean front end to match the rest of the bike, our testers reckoned.

The Ness Jackpot pretty much kicked butt on the boulevard, running stoplight to stoplight with aplomb. However, in the curvier country roads, it was a handful and a half. That bar's long pullback did add needed leverage when initiating a turn, but that was where the fun ended. That wide rear rubber may look cool, but fighting it into a turn is like dancing with Mike Tyson. Don't even try to lead.

Because of this, the Jackpot proved unwieldy at low speeds, and you were reminded of its custom pretensions. Muscling the bar and weighting the bike with your body while still in the turn became standard procedure for getting the 'Pot to lean with any urgency. And if that move became a necessary evil on long sweepers, it never felt quite right on short, emergency maneuvers in town; small bumps would knock the bike off its line, probably due to the narrow footprint of the front tire.

The urban portion of our test was also weighed down by some of the Jackpot's custom accessories; billet grips simply don't jive with high-effort clutch and brake levers. On the stopping front, though, the brake system proved up to the task. With its 300mm disc squeezed by four pistons, the front brake provided amply progressive feel if not the immediate power of Victory's dual-disc equipped bikes. For real results, you had to stomp on the Jackpot's rear brake as well, which luckily wasn't just for show-it also boasted a 300mm disc. In fact, the rear brake's bite was more dramatic because of the rear tire's much larger contact patch.

The power, refinement and finish of this bike were quite impressive, and the whole package makes for a unique statement. If Victory was aiming for bikers rather than riders, then the company has hit the bullseye-er, jackpot-with this bike. It's a straightliner for sure, more concerned with good looks than sharp turns, but at least Victory makes that clear up front. The company tells us that the level of traffic in dealer showrooms has reached new highs, which it attributes to interest in the Jackpot.

In addition to the Ness versions of the Jackpot, a new owner can also select from a variety of custom Extreme Graphics available only through the Victory Custom Order Program. Potential customers can go online and sift through a number of options for any Victory bike and place the order from their office or home during the custom order period, which starts each summer. A pretty neat feature, we think, and one that could make a well-sorted Jackpot a true custom.

**Ness Signature Series Victory Vegas
Jackpot (Cory Ness Edition)
Suggested price: $21,999 ($22,249, CA)

**Engine & Drivetrain
**Type: 4-stroke, 50-degree tandem V-twin
Valve Arrangement: SOHC; 2 intake, 2 exhaust valves per cylinder
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1634cc, 101 x 102mm
Compression ratio: 9.8:1
Carburetion: EFI, 44mm throttle bodies
Minimum fuel grade: 92 octane
Transmission: 6 speeds
Final drive: belt

**Wet weight: 697 lbs
GVWR: 1155 lbs
Seat height: 25.7 in.
Wheelbase: 66.3 in.
Overall length: 96.3 in.
Rake/trail: 33.5 degrees, 5.12 in.
Wheels: Cast aluminum
Front tire: 21 x 2.15 in. Dunlop tubeless
Rear tire: 18 x 8.5 in. Dunlop tubeless
Front brake: 300mm disc, 4-piston caliper
Rear brake: 300mm disc, 2-piston caliper
Front suspension: telescopic fork, 43mm stanchions, 5.1 in. travel
Rear suspension: single cast-aluminum damper, 3.0 in. travel, preload adjustable
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal.
Handlebar width: 33.5 in.

**Electrical & Instrumentation
**Forward lighting: HID headlights; position lights
Taillight: LED
Instruments: Speedometer, LCD odometer, tripmeter; lights for high beam, neutral, low-fuel signals

**Fuel mileage: 31-41 mpg, 35.9 mpg average
Quarter-mile performance: 13.00 sec. @ 101.39 mph