At the 2016 Progressive IMS in Chicago, I ended up spending a good amount of time at a booth I normally ignore, namely that of Victory Motorcycles. Being a self-described moto-nerd, I’ve been interested in electric motorcycles since they first hit the scene a few years ago. From the first Zeros that were little more than hopped up electric bicycles to Harley Davidson’s Project Livewire, it’s always been a field of progressive startups and tentative water testing by big companies.
Brammo was one of the more successful startups. They focused less on the practical commuter bikes Zero was making and going for the full sportbike experience, complete with a six-speed gearbox. When news broke that Brammo was picked up by Victory last year, I wondered what the outcome would be. With a Victory branded TT on display at the IMS I had my chance to find out.
At first glance I really like the bike. It looks cool and “electric” but not too strange. It looks like a nice, sporty mid-size. Unfortunately you can’t ride the bikes at the show but you can sit on them and give them a good once over. I was surprised that, despite the Victory badge, it still looked and felt like a small production machine.
The plastics felt like they were 3D printed, resulting in a “hand crafted” overtone (both good and bad). I noticed right away that the plastic cover on the right side stuck out with a sharp edge that hurt my leg just sitting on it. It seems that for now Victory is doing little more than putting a sticker on these bikes. The other drawback is that it costs $20k. You can buy two new Suzuki GSX-750’s and still have $4000 left in your wallet after the fact.
I know there’s a price to be paid as an early adopter but that’s steep, especially considering that the $8000 Suzuki greatly outperforms it.
The bigger question is: what does this mean for the next couple of years to come? Remember, this is the company that makes the Vision, the exact opposite of a sport bike. They’re known for sweeping low bags and giant batwing fairings. For now, the Empluse TT is the only sport bike in the line up. Another thing to keep in mind is that Victory is part of Polaris, makers of quads, ATVs, snowmobiles and the three-wheeled Slingshot.
So … they have the muscle to build a sport division. With that in mind, I think the TT would sit on a showroom floor with far greater confidence with a Polaris badge next to the equally futuristic Slingshot instead of “black sheeping” it amongst the chrome and flat black Victory cruisers. That stated, this could mean the return of affordable American sport bikes.
Since the Buell/Harley split there haven’t been any American companies making affordable sport bikes. Buell started his own new company, EBR but they just got bailed out financially and only sell 2 high-end superbike models, a fully-faired and naked version of the same bike and they’re not cheap ($20k new). Then there’s Motus and it’s the same story (one motorcycle, two versions) and they’re over $30k each!
Not that any of the above aren’t great bikes but if you’re in the market for a sport bike that’s less than $10k, look to the “big four” Japanese manufacturers.
Remember, the Empluse TT is $20k! You might be able to find a Buell XB but they’re becoming more and more rare. I really hope that Victory will expand their production with the Empulse TT leading the way into the future of American sport bikes.
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