Victory Hard Ball | First Ride

Retro Roller

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Andrea Wilson

Fortunately, that top-heaviness disappears at speed, the Victory tracking straight and true. Steering is quite light by cruiser standards, and very neutral, and the chassis has a solid, put-together feel that's a far cry from its competition-particularly those with rubber-mounted engines. Unlike most low-rider cruisers, the Victory's fork and shock offer ample wheel travel (5.1 and 4.7 inches, respectively) and effective damping. The brakes also get high marks; they're firm and powerful, and the ABS doesn't cut in prematurely. The Hard-Ball also offers more cornering clearance than most cruisers- though those floorboards still tend to ground fairly easily. You'll scare a passenger good with that sound!

The Freedom 106/6 engine produces prodigious torque that makes gear changes almost superfluous. Clutch and shift action are quite good, the latter a far cry from the notchy box that hampered the original Victory V92C. We appreciate the inclusion of a Kawasaki-style Positive Neutral Finder, which prevents the rider from shifting past neutral at a standstill. But we have to wonder why a bike with floorboards lacks a heel-and-toe shifter...

The Hard-Ball has some truly nice features, such as standard cruise control operated by an easy-to-use cluster below the twistgrip. The clean, analog speedometer has just one set of numerals-you can choose mph or kph, a blue light indicating your selection. That's joined by a digital gear indicator, a clock and an LCD that can be toggled to show total mileage, trip mileage or engine rpm. The only shortcomings we noted are the lack of helmet and steering locks-and the openings in the top-loading saddlebags are too small to fit anything bigger than a beanie helmet.

As for those ape-hangers, they must be an acquired taste. Truth be told, the ones on the Hard-Ball aren't that high, and are quite comfortable going down the road. Just know that air will go straight up your jacket sleeves and, with the forward-set foot controls, straight up your pant legs as well. But the apes do make you feel pretty badass: "Two fists pounding the air" and all that.

As Abe Lincoln famously said, "People who like this sort of thing will find it just the sort of thing they like." The rest of us will be glad those bars are adjustable.

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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