In 2017, the World Lost Victory: a Look Back at Victory Motorcycles

Black Victory Octane Parked On Track

When the Victory story came to an end in 2017, the brand left behind a legacy. Or rather, the departure of Victory left a hole in the market that still hasn’t been filled. While many riders may state that the market is already saturated with American-style cruisers, Victory offered something different.

It breathed a breath of fresh air into a stagnant market right when it needed it most. And just when things were starting to get really exciting for the brand, Polaris went and pulled the plug.

This is the short history of the greatest American brand that could’ve been.

The Beginning Of Victory Motorcycles

The concept behind Victory first emerged in 1994. Polaris Industries, a company renowned for building power sports products such as jet skis, ATVs, and snowmobiles, announced plans to enter the motorcycle arena. To do that, the company embarked on a market research exercise that produced interesting results.

Polaris learned that there was room in the market for something to rival Harley-Davidson. Big American cruisers were (and always will be) popular, but consumers were looking for another manufacturer to buy from, rather than buying into the Harley-Davidson dream.

During the mid-90s, motorcycle sales were soaring, and the likes of Harley-Davidson were experiencing an unprecedented sales boom. Polaris decided to capitalize on that demand by offering a more affordable, yet still American made, product.

In 1997, Victory was born. In the same year, Polaris pulled the covers off of a new American cruiser: the V92C.

Victory V92C Side View

The Victory V92C went on sale in 1998. The new kid on the block featured a 1,507cc V-twin engine, making it the largest displacement cruiser on the market at the time. But there was more to this exciting new model than size.

The engine was modern. It featured modern engineering that resulted in a smooth, fast, and reliable power that outclassed everything Harley-Davidson had on offer. If that wasn’t enough, the new Victory V92C boasted a unique, head-turning appearance.

Retro design themes swept across the V92C from tank to tail. Taking inspiration from the automobiles of the 1930s, the new Victory has curves in all the right places.

What’s more, the entire motorcycle was almost 100% American-made in Minnesota and Iowa. Everything was American aside from the Brembo brakes and British-made fuel-injection system.

Victory Motorcycles had arrived, launching a new era for the American motorcycle industry.

The Return Of Indian

Success didn’t occur overnight. Like many fledgling brands, Victory took a few years to establish itself in the market. By 2002, Victory began to turn a profit. This allowed the brand to expand, tempting Polaris to develop new models and broaden the product range.

One of the most unusual and exciting Victory motorcycles to roll into production was the Victory Vision. The Victory Vision first appeared in 2008. It was a 21st-century touring machine built on the legacy of traditional American tourers, but with a futuristic edge.

2008 Victory Vision Street Side View Studio

Its arrival was ill-timed, with the 2008 economic crisis just around the corner. Sales weren’t as high as expected. Still, it proved that Victory was a brand that could innovate. Proof that there was more to the marque than edgy Harley copies. This enthusiasm helped keep sales up despite the global economic hardships.

The success of Victory increased Polaris’s interest in the motorcycle market. This led to Polaris making an incredible investment. This investment was a momentous event for the American motorcycle industry, but it would have a knock-on effect that would hail the end of Victory in the years that followed. In 2011, Polaris purchased the Indian Motorcycle marque and revived it for the 21st century.

With a lineage that dates back further than Harley-Davidson, Indian was a true heritage brand.

Armed with two impressive marques in its portfolio, Polaris planned to promote Victory as a contemporary power cruiser brand, while pushing Indian as a more traditional, heritage manufacturer. Victory was for the more modern rider. Indian was for the old-school crowd. Together, they were a formidable force and managed to corner an impressive percentage of the US market share for road motorcycles.

A New Direction?

Polaris’s portfolio expanded once more in 2015 when it purchased Brammo. Brammo was an American electric motorcycle manufacturer. To help keep Victory relevant as an innovative brand, Polaris decided to lend Victory Brammo’s technology to launch the Victory Empulse. This would be the brand’s first electric motorcycle—which was essentially a Brammo with a Victory badge–and it was an absolute firecracker.

In 2016, the Victory Empulse RR raced at Pikes Peak and secured second place in the competition’s overall standings, and first place in its class. The Empulse’s gas-powered counterpart, the Victory Project 156, also managed to win its class and third place in the overall standings. In the weeks before, Victory also managed to secure an exciting second place in the Isle of Man’s electric TT.

Victory Empulse Side View

Victory’s new pivot towards electric motorcycles and mainstream racing success was an unexpected direction, but one that was lauded by the motorcycling press and motorcycle riders of all stripes. A new breed of American motorcycle was on the way.

However, for traditionalists, Victory also offered a sleek new cruiser that straddled both the contemporary and the heritage worlds: the Victory Octane. Though it shared a lot of DNA with the Indian Scout, it was a fresh model that helped push Victory more into the spotlight.

But alas, this new and exciting direction for Victory was short-lived. Unfortunately, just as things were beginning to get interesting, the Victory dream was over.

Victory’s End

In January 2017, Polaris issued a press release stating that Victory would cease operations and the brand would be discontinued. The release explained that Victory was no longer profitable, and it would take significant investment to make it a viable product.

It was true.

Within Victory’s last five years, it only managed to turn a profit in three of those years. What’s more, Victory was significantly underperforming when compared to Indian.

2016 Victory Octane Side View

In a short time, Indian had managed to surpass Victory’s sales and turn a greater profit. It also seemed that Indian’s potential was far greater than Victory’s ever could be, as customers seemed to prefer the look and feel of the Polaris heritage brand over the opinion-dividing but innovative Victory.

“Given the significant additional investments required for Victory to launch new global platforms that meet changing consumer preferences, and considering the strong performance and growth potential of Indian Motorcycle, the decision to more narrowly focus Polaris’ energy and investments became quite clear,” the press release stated.

Production of all Victory models ceased at the brand’s Iowa factory. The existing stock was sold off, and the Victory story came to an abrupt end. Just like that.

The Legacy That Victory Left Behind

Victory Motorcycles may be no more, but the brand’s legacy lives on. Today, used models are still available, and Polaris will still provide parts and dealership support until 2027 at the earliest. The brand may have been discontinued, but it will be remembered for more than just its excellent range of more than 60 motorcycles. Here are a few key things that Victory brought to the cruiser arena:

Firstly, it brought the fight to Harley-Davidson. The brand produced American-made power cruisers to rival the Bar and Shield, and for a significantly cheaper price. American-made V-twins had never been so affordable and accessible.

Secondly, Victory was able to break away from traditional American cruiser stereotypes. Futuristic and daring shapes replaced the bling and chrome more commonly associated with the cruiser scene. It wasn’t for everyone, but Victory proved that there was more to the cruiser market than previously thought.

Lastly, Victory brought performance to the cruiser scene. Not only did the brand enter into world-class racing competitions, but it also added unexpected performance parts to its stock models. Brembo brakes were equipped as standard, and the rear suspension of Victory’s models really was a cut above the rest.

Victory is no more, but its legacy lives on in Indian and will continue on in the next chapter of the Polaris story.

Victory Motorcycles Logo

 

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  1. I think the association with Ness doomed Victory. The gaunt sharp edges and swoopy lines, avant-garde wheels – and especially those weird headlight cowls, turned off the masses. There will always be a lunatic fringe that will buy anything, but the vast majority of bikers like smooth, clean, aerodynamic, ergonomic design cues.

    1. As opposed to bikes that look like parts bins thrown together… Don’t confuse the design of one Ness bike, the Vision with all the other Ness designed bikes, especially the Jackpot and Hammer that look custom, right off the showroom floor. The only attractive HD’s are the aftermarket customized ones.

      1. Except that Ness “designed” none of the Victory’s, Michael Song did. Ness did appearance packages to existing models.

      2. The demise of Victory showed where the market lives. They buy Kool Aid by the gallon. Victory couldn’t give away Octanes but put the words Indian Scout on the flanks and they fly out the door. The Chief looks like a flathead engine with pushrods and two valves but can’t stay in a Victory Cross’s mirrors and runs hotter than Hell. It sells by the boat load.
        Maybe the Challenger with its updated Freedom 106 will sell even with 21st engineering. It does come from “America’s Oldest Motorcycle Company” after all.

    2. Wow, the internet is full of folks that don’t know what they’re talking about. Ness had far less to do with design than Michael Song, the chief designer. Plenty of Ness paint and goodies, but no, they didn’t design these bikes, folks.

    3. Better built, better looking and stock for stock would leave Harleys in the rear view mirror. Oh, and no oil leaks.

  2. Perhaps, maybe, the brand might resurrect one day, but for the entry level, ie 250, 500, 750 cc motorcycles for the young crowd that do not want huge bikes.
    But that is a thought.
    In the end, it is all business.

    1. I just picked up a vision 2008 so the bikes resale. Resells make the victories still valuable and a lot of people Why solid engineer that went into it. The balance of the machine is superb when driving it and even to up I will still recommend and looking one.

  3. I was a fan of the Victory marque from the very beginning, having ridden pre-production bikes at their demo during Bike Week at Daytona. Alas, they remained aspirational as I was limited to a budget more in line with my KLR-650. To this day I would like a Victory Cross-Country in my garage, as one of the most comfortable touring machines I’ve ever ridden. But Victory suffered from the same issues as other aspirational marques like Moto-Guzzi in my neighborhood – no significant dealer support.

    1. Kinda like harley in the 70’s you know when they needed AMF to keep them from going under and turned the bike into a shit show

    1. Obviously coming from a hater. Thank God not everyone is a conformist and rides a Harley. Didn’t need to own a Harley to feel cool or special.

    2. Those of us that didn’t want a H.D, the Victory was it, a far better machine even in stock form out performs H.D bar a V-Rod, set of camms, eats the V-Rods. I own a H.D and I love it but my Victory Vision, I’ve owned two, is hands down the best bike I have ever ridden, unlike H.D owners I got a bike on its merits, not a look, I wasn’t concerned about an image, which lets face it, that’s why people buy H.D. My 1st Vision, completely stock, two up runs rings around a H.D with pipes air intake, for me was a no brainer.

  4. I fully embraced Victory in Melbourne Australia. The company was steadfastly behind Australia and NZ, offering great support and the riders were all great advocates of the brand here. I still have two Vics, a 2008 Vision and a 2013 Hardball. Both are great big powerful, great handling, great looking machines. Beauty is afterall, in the eye of the beholder. They will live on in the hearts of their current owners forever.

  5. The Victory Cross Country is one SMOOTH bike! Luv it!
    I have not ridden anything that comes close to the feel, balance and handling of this bike.
    It looks awesome too….. have received so many complements on it.
    In fact, I think the Indian is starting to look a bit like a Victory ?
    Please bring Victory back.

  6. Hands down a head and shoulders above engine design with the Freedom 106. It surprises me that harleys antique engineering and indian didn’t take more from that engine design.

      1. I test road them all. Nothing comes close to the Victory Cross Country tour (CCT), not even the Indian challenger. I have ridden from Pennsylvania to Alaska on my first CCT. It was comfort all the way and I am on my third CCT.

  7. In 2016 looking for a bike thinking Harley or Indian but a buddy had a2013 Victory C C tour unbelievable deal ,bought it and couldn’t be happier ,smooth dependable comfy.Harley bros need to stop more than me on cruises

    1. If you want more power out of your victory go to Lloyds performance. Com they have alot of performance parts for victorys

  8. I love my victory so much I had to I will never ever sell this bike I was so into Victory I even got a tattoo on my arm to commemorate it I was in an accident and the bike saved my life so it was rebuilt thank God it was just cosmetic I had no marks on me the bike was built like a shitbrick house the bikes I have own been Bulletproof it was sad that they had to stop making it but what a great bike

  9. My KingPin is the bike I purchased after my Hd Springer was just another pretty face on the block. When I got my HD in 1988 there was a 6 month wait for new HD’s but by the end of the century they were EVERYWHERE. If you wanted to be different, to rebel against what everyone else had, Victory was and still is the way to go

    1. I bought my 2017 victory hammer s (second last brand new bike in Canada)
      I went on a coast (Vancouver BC) to coast (New Orleans) to coast (Jacksonville, Florida) to (vancouver BC) in 19 days.
      The only problem I had was faulty 02 sensor (under warranty)
      It’s hands down best performing bike I’ve ever ridden…

  10. I have owned a Victory Jackpot for 3 years but drooled over them since they arrived in Australia in 2009. Sadly bike riders are conservative and were unwilling to leave HD
    for the modern engineering and design of Victory. Dollars talk so Polaris walked.

    1. To own a Harley is to be. A conformist I’m my opinion. I didn’t need to own a Harley in order to be cool or special. I owned 3 Victorys and I loved all of them. Harley likes to say that they are a lone wolf…HA! The real lone wolves were the people that didn’t conform and rode anything but a Harley!

    2. I have a 2009 victory Street vision burgundy one of the best bikes I’ve ever owned still running good and strong today is a day when I first bought it

  11. Yes, Victory lives on with Indian. Two of the three Indian chassis were designed for Victory. The Scout was to be a Victory but was switched to Indian right before it was released. The Challenger was going to be the next generation of the Victory Cross bikes. Polaris learned how to make motorcycles with Victory and money through Indian.

  12. Victory Motorcycles are excellent bikes. My first Victory was a black 2011 Cross Roads. It had great road manners and I loved it. I bought my wife a 2012 Victory King Pin which she loves and will never part with. She has logged 50,000 trouble free miles on it. In 2013 I bought an Antifreeze Green Cross Country that I have over 40,000 trouble free miles on. Since they no longer make Victories, we will just have to keep on riding what we have. And that isn’t a problem becaues they all have been incredibly reliable motorcycles. Just do the pre ride inspection and go. Some don’t care for the design but I think they are awesome. to each their own. Ride one and you’ll own one.

  13. Bought one in 03, traded it on another one in 06 and when I heard they were stopping production I raced out and bought another. Love em, More reliable and faster than it’s main competitor. Impressive in stock form and respond well to modification without sacrificing reliability. Ya just put gas in and go, like you would a Honda.
    However all air cooled engines are doomed as they have to run lean to meet the new E5 emission standards. Harley had to water cool their cyl heads and the new liquid cooled Indian Challenger motor was originally slated for Victory. Business decision…..If you have to redesign the power plant you might as well cut your losses and put the new engine in the Iconic brand name. And what an engine it is. Read any test report on it.

  14. I bought a 2007 Victory Hammer from a local dealership and still have it today. The Nuclear Orange paint is a Love it or hate it color and one of those that always attracts people. The fat rear tire, low center of gravity, inverted front forks, smaller and wider front tire and overall stance is something that is hard to beat. I have added many OEM chrome accents, stage 3 performance kit (cams, filter and swept pipes) and other OEM accessories. When they announced that Victory was to be discontinued I was PISSED and still am. Indian bikes are nice but in my opinion the failure was a lack of marketing on the part of the parent company and not and the bikes. As with Indian I hope that someday soon we will see the return of Victory

    1. Hey man i have 3 victorys love them . You don’t need to buy alot of oil for victorys or parts to keep it going like a Harley lol.. i should know i owned HD . going to keep riding my victory till the wheels don’t roll.. keep riding on with your victory man

  15. Victory was just starting to get its feet wet .My friends were all going to get rid of their harleys and switch to victory.When Polaris slammed the door in out face I saw everyone I stead of going to Indian go back to Harley. Even though they where so happy to have the Victory choice and everyone who had a Victory like me had 2 was nad and just went back to Harley even though we all loved our Victory.

  16. Have an ‘’08 kingpin eight ball. Never had a moments problem. Wherever I go people admire it. Sold my last Harley a few years ago

  17. I’m a first time rider and like a fool I bought the biggest engine I could find. The V92C. It had less than 9k miles on it and in the short time I’ve had it I’ve already put nearly 6k miles on it myself. I absolutely love the bike and will buy another Victory down the road.

  18. Is anyone else concerned with the political (non) correctness of the Indian brand?? Perhaps they rebrand them as Victorys??

  19. Victory’s are everything a Hardley is suppose to be: smooth, fast, comfortable all day, no leaks, and dependable. #1 per JD Powers for many years now. And now what do you see in the Indian lineup? A victory with an Indian headdress. The Challenger!! Take that tank and seat off and what’s
    underneath? The same frame design and motor design that were on the Vic’s.. Make sure everyone watches the Bagger Series this year . HD vs. Indian!! Indian is up 1-0..!!!!!

    1. Hell yaa been watching the bagger series indian is the new American bad ass bike… the Indian motorcycle is more American than the HD and it rides a hell of aot smoother than than a Harley any day … i have rode Harleys worked on them and cleaned up the oil from them … as a victory owner of 3 bikes the victorys are a bad ass American made bikes. They are more American made than Harley and that is a fact lol

  20. I bought the Victory Hammer in 2005 I was able to secure the “Cosmic Starburst” special edition. Once I started riding it I found myself being late for everything. It was because every fuel stop took an hour , ppl at red lights would ask me to pull to the side I was even stopped by police just so they could learn more about what I was riding. I’ve owned and ride alot of bikes but nothing like my Victory I was truly in love. There was nothing bad to say about it. I knew years before that Victory was going to fall and it was all there fault. I tried so so many times to contact Victory management yet either they didn’t get any of my letters or they thought I was a joke. Where Victory was slacking , their Cancer was there piss poor Advertising rarely did I see a commercial for them and when I did I could do nothing more than shake my head. I’m not a professional advertiser but I went to work and wrote some fantastic works for them and I wrote and tried to call them it was dead end after dead end in one of my letters I (stated and meant it ) that if I couldn’t increase sales of Victory 30% in less than a year I would eat the boss’ socks in front of them. My Hammer I got over 104,000 mi when I tore it down u could still see the swirls from the factory honing . I would actually pay to have a few min. with ceo to say Please give it one more go if you will put me in charge of advertising I would bet my life we would go to the top. But now we have a new animal amongst us . The Ebikes it won’t be long and they are going to lead. They are already the fastest. I wish Victory would contact me. It’s getting time for a new bike and there’s nothing out there.. Please polaris/ Victory. Either way Thank you so very much for the few fantastic years. You were the captain of the best years of my life ..

  21. I have a 2005 Kingpin, after 10years riding the Road star. The roadster looked and road like a HD, but heavier. I thought at the time that the weight was an advantage. And Like 99% of riders, I put the roadster on the ground in minor mishaps. When the insurance decided it’s age was the real death after the last spill, I found the kingpin on consignment with 6000 miles on it. I can say that the handling is so much better, I know at least half a dozen times I did not have a spill when had I been on the RoadStar, I definitely would have been on the pavement. That said, I’m very disappointed in it cosmetically, as well as the clutch cable. I have the Ness series. The higher grade chrome is flaking off everywhere. The blinker mounts all dry rotted and just fell off. I’ve had at least a dozen clutch cables, 2 fuel pumps, and the heeltoe shifter fell off. Oh, and the plastic side covers, the gromets rotted, and I lost one. Replacing that piece of plastic is $400.! Rediculous! So with styrofoam and fiberglass resin I made my own. Not perfect, bit close enough and less the $20! The engine, torque, handling and braking, Victory wins hands down. But whoever they used to chrome, they got ripped off because it’s the poorest chrome job I’ve ever seen.

  22. I have a 2016 CCT and I love it. Rented HDs for my brothers 50th birthday rode from Reno to Las Vegas most of the ride my wife was complaining about the loss of feeling in her legs many many stops. After I got my Victory we rode to Seattle to visit my brother it was our first ride on the new bike The only reason to stop was for gas. Wife did not complain at all. Unless I’m with my HD friends then it’s stops for gas and to get feeling back from there ass down. The only thing I changed from the stock was the seat. Like that Mustang seat.

  23. Saw/heard the first Vic in 98. As it approached thought it was a HD. When it passed me I thought what was that? Followed the biker till he stopped and got introduced to Victory motorcycles!😀.For 3 years every Spring I’d go to the dealer to look at New models. 2004 I was ready! Bout a news 2004TC.Had some things added like Stage One kit took it home Jan.5 2005. Over time changed the appearance by adding fairing an custom sissy bar an engine guards. Today 2022 with 82,000 miles am still riding the Vic. Very few issues non of which were engine problems. Love the bike just as much as in the beginning. Will give it to my son in law to ride When I can’t anymore. They are Awesome bikes!

  24. Your summary I feel is incorrect. We learned a big corporation could happily drop a less than super popular brand in a heart beat. We saw that it is easier to compete by more direct duplication than by adding any actual function or innovation. No one was surprised the classic Indian name had great sales value. I know I saw a lot of Victories and there were several local dealers; I have seen only 2 Indians so far on the road and they have been sold for years, there is only one dealer here on Long Island NY and none in my county. I believe there are 3 Harley dealers on this island as well as another in nearby NYC. I imagine the dealers that paid for Victory dealerships felt ‘screwed’ as did many Victory owners.
    It takes time to develop the market for a new brand, I was sad to see Victory dropped, it seemed to be a viable option-a US built bike with some modern tech with the popular big twin layout. They should have worked harder to get police bike contracts, that would have been excellent advertising!

  25. Victory sold us out and left their customers high and dry. They say they support us with parts until 2027 yet no former dealers or Indian service has parts nor are they helpful helping us find them. Polaris kept Victory an underground success with little to no advertising and pushed Indian for brand recognition to grab sales and left Victory brand limping along. They closed up with no warning to their loyal bike owners.

    1. I understand your frustration Geoffrey. I own a 2013 Victory XCT. It is the GREATEST motorcycle ever made and I will keep it forever, parts support or not. Harley’s are nice looking machines but cost over $40,000 now. Indian’s also are very nice bikes but nothing compares to my Victory. Polaris you made a BIG mistake but it’s not to late to correct it. Bring back Victory!