They say: “High handlebars and high style. This is the bike you want to be seen on.”
I didn’t believe Polaris was serious. The new Victory High-Ball is an ape-hangered slap in the face to polite society. Robert Pandya, Victory’s cat-herder, assured me that the High-Ball is indeed a production bike and Victory really is going to sell it. We used to get equipment-violation tickets for stuff like this.
The High-Ball mates the Vegas 8-Ball’s bodywork and frame to a new front end featuring wider triple clamps, 16 x 3.5-inch wire-spoke wheels shod with wide whitewall tires and, if you haven’t noticed yet, crazy handlebars. Economically but tastefully finished in flat white on flat black, the High-Ball is chrome-free except for the speedometer. Anyway, chrome don’t get you home: To hell with all that shiny crap, High-Ball riders would rather save their money for bitches, booze and bail.
I’ve never been a gangster, but there’s no denying riding ape changes a guy. Less than 20 miles into our test rumble, I’m chafing at The Man and his arbitrary rules. Another 20 ticks and a brooding sense of injustice has me flipping the bird at fellow road users for the slightest real or imagined infractions.
The High-Ball’s engine is a 50-degree V-twin displacing 1731cc. Hydraulic valve adjusters, lash-reducing split-gear primary drive, carbon fiber-reinforced belt final drive and fuel injection mean there’s practically nothing on the bike that requires attention. You can maintain it with a rattle can of BBQ black.
Pandya guides our group into the Ocala National Forest. Who the hell put him in charge? We run through what passes for twisties in Florida and the Victory carves them with only the slightest suspension bobbing. I decide on challenging Robert for lead dog, but when I dismount the High-Ball to refuel, the urge slackens. Each step away from the menacing motorcycle weakens my resolve until all I can say when I reach him is, “Good job, Robert.”
Back on the road, I’m seething with resentment. Traveling 60 mph, the High-Ball’s counterbalanced engine murmurs soothingly. Nobody understands me. Nobody. I crack the throttle wide-open and the High-Ball thunders to 105 mph. I’m flapping from the handlebars like a burgee in a gale. The bike will go faster, but any more speed and I won’t be around to see it.
Victory claims tightened clearances and reduced lash in the six-speed transmission has improved shifting. Maybe, but with cogs the size of a Muncie T10, changing gears sounds like a ball-peen hammer striking the crankcase. I didn’t miss any shifts, though, and with practice I managed quieter changes. If a little clunking noise bothers you, step away from the motorcycle and go watch Sons of Anarchy on TV … with your mama.
These handlebars are starting to wear on me. You’ll want long legs and long arms to swing on this jungle gym. If I wasn’t so ornery, I’d loosen the Allen bolts and tip the bars back. The switch pods are two-position adjustable, but a 4-inch grinder could make the pods rotate anywhere you wanted. Cripes! What am I saying? Take the bike to your nearest dealer is what I meant.
We pull up to the Shady Oaks fish camp on the St. John’s River. There’s a big sign: “Motorcycles please don’t block entry.” You talkin’ to me? I park the High-Ball directly in front of the door. I swagger; then strut; then prance into the restaurant and apologize to the owner for parking where I did. It seemed like a good idea when I was astride the High-Ball. Now, drinking warm milk and eating a children’s meal burger, I’m thinking it wasn’t a nice thing to do.
Full of Victory food, we head out on the highway, looking for whatever comes our way. Horses, as it turns out, come our way. Squeezing the mildly powerful four-piston front caliper onto the 300mm disc brings the High-Ball to a stop in front of the Adopt-a-Horse Ranch (www.adoptahorseclub.org) for abused and neglected horses. We use the club’s rehab field as a backdrop for photos and chat up the proprietors. It’s hard to be a self-centered sociopath, even on a High-Ball, around such good people. The ride back to Victory Central is angst-free.
Victory wants you to think of the High-Ball as a blank slate, ready to customize to suit your imagination. I like the bike just the way it is: lots of reliable power with an uncluttered purity hard to find in modern motorcycles. Those handlebars have got to go, though. Then I’d cut me up a shopping cart to make a rear luggage rack for the thing. I’ll rename it The Basketball. That’d be bitchin’. I’m serious.