Usually I review new bikes, but recently I was offered a 2012 model Victory Jackpot that rolled out of their Iowa factory in 2011.
I’ve ridden one before and was impressed by the build standard and quality of the chrome and paintwork.
After almost 6000km and having spent a lot of its life sitting outside under a “Victory” bike cover, this test bike still looks as good as the day it was born.
While some other bikes may have that dull finish to the paint, a crazed look in the chrome, rusted bolts and jaded aluminium, the Jackpot is still fresh.
When I first tested one of these I suspected the white frame and brake pedal would be susceptible to chipping, but the thick paint is all in good condition.
I also suspected the old-school ignition on the side would scratch the chrome, but it hasn’t.
It’s probably been well cared for, but I doubt it. This is, after all, a press evaluation bike and we motoring journos are usually fairly rough and ruthless with machinery – how else can you truly “test” a machine?
For 2014 not much has changed in the Jackpot.
First up, it gets a new conventional headlight instead of the hooded ’75 Chevy-style lamp. (By the way, it has good spread at night with a strong white light.)
They have also changed the cast wheel design from a chrome machete look to a black swirling “Stingray” design.
And instead of a unique and rather polarising white frame, it is now colour-matched to the solid red or black paintjobs.
That’s it. Everything else is the same.
It still has that thin front tyre and fat rear end, and of course it is powered by the 1737cc (106) V-twin with six-speed transmission.
Interestingly, they haven’t added ABS which is now standard on all Harley-Davidsons and available on Triumph Thunderbirds.
But back to the 2012 model Jackpot. I eased it out on to the road, the gears clicking into place with a positive feel and a heavy clunk.
Over the years Victory has been addressing that clunk and the new Indian Chief’s transmission is quite smooth, so we can expect its Polaris brother in 2014 to also be smoother.
At first the engine hesitates as it hasn’t been run for a while, but it quickly warms up and runs fluidly, even in the stop-start traffic I encounter on my way home.
Constant gear shifts are a breeze, thanks to a very light clutch pull.
Away from the traffic, the bike eats up the highway kilometres.
Even that hard seats seems to be the right shape so you don’t tire quickly.
But when you hit the lumpy B roads and twisty back roads, it reveals its tender underbelly.
Short-travel suspension, a bouncy front end and a low-profile rear tyre make the ride fairly grueling.
Handling is also not a virtue of a bike like this. It’s made for cruising the boulevard, not carving the canyons.
Pegs don’t touch down quite as quickly in turns as most other cruisers, but the mis-match of skinny 21-inch front tyre and fat 250mm rear creates its own problems. It understeers into corners, it needs to be physically manhandled to retain its cornering arc and as soon as you release pressure on the bars it wants to stand up.
The Victory Jackpot’s fat rear tyre can also “track” along the road, which means it follows camber and irregularities.
By now you would be thinking I’m ready to attempt a u-turn to take it back.
But you’d be wrong. The various quirks make riding a conscious effort, not second-nature, and I enjoy the challenge.
Corners require you to straight-arm the inside bar, lift your outside elbow and hold that stance while you arc through the bend.
Once around the turn, you wrench the throttle and use all the lusty torque available to launch the bike toward the next turn, then grab the anchors with vigour.
The front lever takes a lot of effort while the rear requires a more deft and delicate touch to prevent a lock-up. It’s a balancing act that takes some practice, but the results are effective.
I’m not a passenger on this bike. I’m totally in charge. I’m actually “driving” the beast and congratulating myself on mastering its intricacies.
I’m also relishing all the admiring looks from the surrounding traffic.
And isn’t that what this type of bike is all about? If you want to go fast, get an V-Rod, if you want to tour get a Vision or an Ultra, but if you want to stand out from the crowd, get a Jackpot.
In fact, get a 2013 Jackpot. There are still a few around and they are now $5000 cheaper than when they were introduced. Better still, the current model comes with a $1000 voucher to spend on Victory merchandise and accessories and a five-year “platinum” warranty including roadside assist valued at $1250.
It’s available on all current models until the end of November, although the Vision, Cross Country and Cross Roads have a $1500 merchandise/accessory offer.