Victory Hard Ball | First Ride

Retro Roller

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Andrea Wilson

Baggers are hot right now. Seems cruiser riders, in their old age, have come to appreciate the convenience of saddlebags. Or maybe they've just got more baggage? Whatever the reason, Victory jumped on the bandwagon recently with its Cross Country and Cross Roads baggers, and now this here Hard-Ball, which the company calls a "naked bagger."

At first glance, the Hard-Ball looks like a High-Ball with hard bags, but that's not entirely accurate. It's really a Cross Roads without a windshield. Oh, and ape-hangers, though these are simply the Cross Roads' tiller-style handlebars rotated upward. They can be put back down, should you so desire; dots at the bar clamps aid in alignment and the bars are drilled to accommodate the hand controls in both positions.

But never mind those details, the Hard- Ball is all about styling, its fl owing lines and "murdered-out" fl at-black paint scheme resembling a primer-finished rat rod. Red pinstripes on the bodywork and rims provide the finishing touch-and help you find your bike in the dark, proclaim Victory's copywriters. The combination works: More than any cruiser we've ridden recently, the Hard- Ball prompted unsolicited commentary from passersby. Our favorite was the guy in the crosswalk outside the NAMM (North American Musicians Merchandising) convention who remarked, "Hey, nice bike. Wait-that is a nice bike!" Call it a verbal double-take.

Actually, scratch that last paragraph. The Hard-Ball isn't all about styling; it's also eminently functional. It's powered by Victory's latest Freedom 106/6 engine-shorthand for 106 cubic inches (1731cc) and six-speed overdrive transmission. The long-stroke (101 x 108mm), 50-degree V-twin features SOHC actuation for its four valves per cylinder, with hydraulic lifters and self-adjusting cam chains for maintenance-free enjoyment. Air/oil-cooled and fuel-injected courtesy of twin 45mm throttle bodies, the mill churns out triple-digit torque (a claimed 109 lb.-ft.).

That engine is housed in the same cast-aluminum frame found on the Cross Country and Cross Roads, complemented by a cast-aluminum swingarm. Suspension consists of a non-adjustable 43mm inverted fork and a single, air-adjustable shock. Triple disc brakes feature twin four-piston calipers grasping 300mm rotors up front and a single two-piston caliper pinching a similarly sized rotor out back. As is becoming increasingly common, anti-lock brakes are standard. Unlike most motorcycle manufacturers, Victory prefers not to disclose the makers of its outsourced components, but if you look close you can probably figure out who made what.

Plop down in the saddle and down is the operative word, as the seat sits just 26.3 inches above the asphalt. Then reach up to the handlebars. It's a long way and farther yet at full-lock, where even long-limbed riders will be stretching. Factor in floorboards that limit where you can dab a foot, plus a near-800-lb. weight topped off with 5.8 gallons of gas, and the Hard-Ball feels both heavy and top-heavy, making for awkward slow-speed maneuvering.

By Brian Catterson
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The Hard Ball handlebars are not the stock Cross Bars rotated up. They do share the same cables and lines but are shaped entirely differently to be up that high. the stock bars rotated up put the wrist at a very unnatural angle that is very uncomfortable. I had done this to my stock bars. I have since swapped to the Hard Ball bars on a regular Cross Roads, the reach is farther but at 6ft1 not terribly so. If you ride the stock Cross Roads back to back you would also notice the reach at full lock is roughly the same, the more laid back regular bars are wider giving the same overall reach in a turn. If you move the foot levers back with the built in slide adjustment the bike has a more mid control feel with the ape hangers and a much sportier off the tailbone seating position.
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