RINGLEADER: Damian Ercole
MSRP (2007): $16,899
AVERAGE FUEL MILEAGE: 42 Mpg
ACCESSORIES & MODIFICATIONS:Fiamm horn, MBW turn signals and license-plate relocater
I've actually grown quite fond of the Hammer. I've thrown quite a bit at her this past year, with the wide variety of riding available here in the Northeast. I've taken Victory's muscle cruiser everywhere from Chinatown to the gravel roads of the Green Mountains and up and down the Eastern Seaboard. It's seen plenty of rain, salt-sprayed winter roads and misty ocean air, and like many motorcycles in The Big Apple, spent a lot of its life covered up outdoors. None of this seemed to faze my fat-tired friend. It started without hesitation, warmed up in minutes on even the coldest day and motored along smooth as can be, unaffected by its surroundings. In fact, I had no mechanical issues to speak of. That rock-solid reliability was a big factor in my fondness for the Hammer.
While I wish I would have gotten ahold of that elusive Ohlins shock, it never materialized, and being smaller in stature it wasn't much of an issue for me when riding solo. I do suggest that anyone who weighs over 200 pounds-or who regularly carries a passenger-should consider a rear-suspension upgrade. The only other item that surfaced was a need to replace the worn rubber handlebar mounts. Sure, the rough roads around NYC probably shortened their life span; however, it is an item that has been addressed on 2008-'09 models, so someone at Victory's parent company Polaris was obviously paying attention.
I previously mentioned upgrading the exhaust for a little more "muscle," and that I thought the stock muffler sounded like it was starting to rattle internally. In the end I didn't see the need to add power only to create another obnoxiously loud V-Twin, so I left it as-is. The stock system survived the 9000-plus miles I put it through with no further sign of degradation. While I loved my bike's motor and felt its 85 horsepower and 106 lb.-ft. or torque suited my riding, Victory bumped it up on newer models by introducing a 106-cubic-inch motor with a claimed 97 bhp and 113 lb.-ft. Still want more? Add a pipe to that!
A Radius license plate bracket streamlines the Hammer's tail, but cops look at you sideway
Since the old adage "Loud pipes saves lives" was still ringing in my head, I decided to upgrade the only feeble-sounding item on the bike: its horn. Browsing the Aerostich website (www.aerostich.com), I found three horns that boasted over 130 decibels of attention-getting sound. While the Stebel Ear Cannon ($37) is supremely loud, it's too big and ugly to mount in plain sight. The Fiamm Freeway Blaster (I went with the low-tone version, which costs just $15) fit cleanly and easily into the same location as the stock unit. Ten minutes later I was ready to wake up all the oblivious, cell phone-touting, makeup-applying, multi-tasking commuters.
While drowning the Hammer in chrome and billet would have been a likely next step, I was hoping for more functional additions. That's when I stumbled across the MBW wrap-around turn signals ($259.95) on the Arlen Ness website. After further investigation, I found out that Rhode Island-based MBW Motorcycle (www.mbwmotorcycle.com) also had a great-looking Rear LED Turn Signal Array ($319.95). This sleek unit integrates seamlessly into the rear fender, playing off its natural lines. It's available in a variety of lens tints with either red or amber LEDs. The combination of the two seemed to be just what I was looking for. After all, who doesn't want to get rid of the bulbous orange growths required by the DMV? My local dealer, Rollin Fast Cycles in New Jersey, did the install. Once installed, both front and rear signals looked great, and added to the Hammers' streamlined look. The rear array does require license-plate relocation, and MBW didn't forget to finish the job with the same quality and thought they put into the turn signal setup. The Radius Vertical Side mount License Plate Bracket ($389.95) comes with a very clean-looking white LED array for added plate visibility to keep Johnny Law off your back. All together I was pleased with the setup. Everything works well, and the LEDs are very bright and highly visible from any angle. Fashion and function. How convenient!
LED turn signals from MBW are only visible when you need them, unlike the stock bits.
As for maintenance, no tire changes were needed as the Stock Dunlop Elite 3s easily went the distance. I did replace the rear brake pads with OEM units at about the 7500-mile mark, along with getting the oil and filter changed.
After holding on to the bike well into its second winter (thanks in part to the heated handgrips I installed early on), it was time to let her go. Victory's ability to make a bike this big handle well is commendable, especially with a 250mm rear tire. They're doing good things in the Polaris camp. If you've been considering backing down from that 200-mph, MotoGP-inspired sportbike-perhaps because a certain someone has been whispering in your ear to tone it down a bit-do yourself a favor: Go take a Hammer for a test ride. You'll be pleasantly surprised. I know I was!
RINGLEADER: Marty EstesMSRP: $11,999MILES: 612 - 3,133AVERAGE FUEL MILEAGE: 36.2
While my last long-termer, the Triumph Tiger, was a comfortable and capable mount, it was a bit too "tourey" for my daily commute, which includes 20 miles of super-tight twisties. Comfort be damned, I needed something sporty, nimble and light, preferably something non-conformist and definitely not an inline-four. The Buell seemed to fit those definitions.
The 1125CR is nothing if not unique. Amongst other things, we'll look at exhaust options a
I'd spent enough time on the 2008 Buell 1125R to know it was a bike I could like, initial teething problems and all. When the CR version debuted, I knew I'd found my match.
After several months on the Buell, my impressions remain positive. While not as fast as your typical Japanese liter-bike, it has loads of power and surprisingly nimble handling. In fact, I've been having so much fun on it that I wore out the stock Pirelli Diablo Corsa III radials in under 3000 miles. A fresh set has been spooned on, and my goal is to shag them even more quickly, maybe with some time on a proper race track.
Nits? Not too many so far. The stock mirrors are only marginally functional, and become entirely useless above 70 mph. The ergonomics, while not awful, could use some adjustment to accommodate my 6'2" frame- I'm thinking a new set of bars to replace the stock clubmans. The aftermarket hasn't warmed up to the Buell yet, so factory-direct seems to be the only option. Thankfully, Buell offers an accessory handlebar kit that comes complete with longer brake lines and cables, so stay tuned to see how that works out.