Victory Hammer S

Weighing in at a stout 697 pounds wet, the Hammer S seems like the classic, old-school, big-inch bruiser at first, but look closer. Inverted-slider 43mm cartridge fork. Phat 250/40R18 Dunlop stuffed under a frenched-in LED taillight. Victory's artfully muscular sheetmetal looks more custom than off the rack, and our S-spec version adds powder-coated Performance Machine wheels and tasty paint, plus a selection of blacked-out bits-engine, handlebar, instruments, master cylinder, fork tubes, oil-cooler and foot controls-to justify its limited-edition status.

The Hammer engine is only old school on the outside. Victory's latest 50-degree V-twin uses a pair of chain-driven overhead cams to cue eight valves. There's a balance shaft in there to squelch gratuitous vibration. Valve lash and cam-chain tension are maintained hydraulically, and helical-cut gears handle the primary drive. The Hammer has none of the rowdy, off-center American Big Twin lope either. Once it's warm, the 100/6 sounds tight and a bit too civilized. We'd Google up an exhaust with a bit more attitude.

Ergonomically, the S is a good fit for the sub-six-foot set, but the firm, scooped saddle discourages fore/aft fidgeting. The ride is reasonably humane on reasonable pavement, though with a mere 3.9 inches of travel in the rear, the Hammer earns its name with a painful ride over edgy pavement. Real shocks top our wish list for the bike.

Most everything else about the big-inch Victory is as polished as its Sunset Red and black paint. Mainstream steering geometry and a 65.7-inch wheelbase make the Hammer an obliging urban tool. Shuffling through the new six-cog gearbox takes a touch of effort, but the Hammer clutch is linear. Fuel injection is essentially perfect, and the 100-incher revs more quickly than you'd expect. It's troubled only by a bit too much driveline lash.

The Hammer's accessible torque makes coming off the green lights easy. The bike is quite smooth at freeway speeds; the overdrive top gear lets the engine tick more than 2500 times each minute at 70 mph. That's not necessarily easier on the lumbar spine, though, as you're sitting bolt upright on the Victory.

The Hammer S is happier traveling in straight lines and gentle curves. Armed with good cornering clearance and relatively conventional steering geometry, the Hammer S drags few hard parts whilst heeled over, inspiring reasonable confidence with its handling manners. Uneven pavement can tilt the fat rear tire port or starboard, creating an unsettling tail-wags-dog phenomenon. Settle into a gear between second and fifth, and that all-you-can-eat torque makes the shift lever superfluous. The four-piston Brembo front calipers are the best in cruiserland and work their magic on sticky Dunlop Elite 3 rubber.

Traditionalists in search of time-honored, big-inch virtues in a fresh, capable package will have to ante up $19,749 for an S-spec Hammer. That's not cheap, but individuality rarely is. Everybody longs for that locomotive lunge at 2500 rpm, and the rest of the package is gorgeous and as solid as high-carbon tool-steel.

Victory Hammer S
MSRP: $19,749
Wheelbase: 65.7 in.
Seat height: 26.4 in.
Engine type: 1634cc air/oil-cooled, SOHC, 50-degree V-twin
Bore x stroke: 101x102mm
Compression: 9.8:1
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal.
Fuel System: EFI, 44mm throttle bodies
Transmission/final drive: 6-speed/belt
Rake/trail: 32.9 degrees/5.57 in.
Front tire: 130/70R18
Rear tire: 250/40R18
Front brake: Dual 300mm rotors with four-piston calipers
Rear brake: 225mm disc with single action, two-piston caliper
Front suspension: 43mm inverted fork, 5.1-in. travel
Rear suspension: single damper, preload adjustable, 3.9-in. travel
Weight: 657 lbs. dry; 697 lbs. Wet
Colors: Red/black