Last summer, RoadBike showed you how to build a kit bobber. We started with an inexpensive, used bike, stripped off probably more parts than we put on, and ended up with a fun-to-ride bob-job full of attitude. It was an easy-to-do build you could duplicate at home with simple hand tools. The series was wildly popular with readers, and I was sad to see the project bike go.
Some manufacturers have tried to go the bobber route before, some even scattered the word bob in model names. But sadly, they’ve missed the mark, and up to now they’ve all been disappointments. Merely calling something a bob does not make it so.
Then, last winter, Victory announced its factory-built bobber; the High-Ball, an obvious indication (to me) that Victory engineers are faithful readers and followers of RoadBike magazine. (I know, I’m delusional). I’ll tip my hat to Victory. It did a pretty good job trying to be “like my bike” while putting its own spin on the bobber movement. I’m flattered, guys, really, that’s nice of you. And Victory even came up with an original, appropriate name. So I thought I’d give the High-Ball a ride and see how close it came to capturing the character of cool.
The High-Ball is built on a basic Victory Vegas platform, although it’s not referred to as a Vegas High-Ball, just High-Ball. And it doesn’t use the fat tire Victory chassis as on the Jackpot, but it does have a fat tire — front, that is. So let’s start there. The shorty front fender offers plenty of protection from road debris, and is of course required by law on all new vehicles built by OE manufacturers. So if you’ve got to run a front fender, Victory made this one look the part. It hugs a gargantuan, 130-profile, front wide-whitewall Dunlop Cruisemax tire on a 16″ x 3-1/2″ wire-laced wheel. There’s a matching wheel and whitewall out back, but it’s a 150 profile. The wheels feature attractive stainless steel spokes and Gloss Black wheels rims and hubs.
Follow the blacked-out 43mm forks up to the wide-spread triple clamps and you’ll find a satin black headlight housing protruding up front. Just above that, sits the minimalist, single-gauge cup and one of the signature High-Ball features: adjustable apehanger handlebars. It puts the rider’s fists in the air, and the mirrors up high where they provide plenty of view to the rear. The blacked-out apes are 50-state legal, depending on where you have them set. You can adjust them down for a more relaxed position, but I like them way up in the air. All you need is a 5mm and 6mm Allen wrench, and a screwdriver to rotate the switchgear. The bars are predrilled and hash-marked for the two different orientations. Hoses and cables don’t need to be changed. I was surprised and pleased to find the bars provided plenty of leverage for both low- and high-speed maneuvering, and looked cool doing it.
Moving back from the cockpit, you’ll find the familiar Vegas gas tank, but coated in satin black with white cove insert surrounded by a red stripe. Hope you like the color; it’s the only one available on the High-Ball. The Victory tank badging is dropped in lieu of a vintage-looking painted-on logo. The bodywork features a raised spine running the length of the bike atop the fenders, tank, black rear fender struts, and the flush taillight that keeps the lines smooth out back. The High-Ball offers a low seat height of 25″; it has a solo driver seat and forward control layout for a comfortable stretched-out riding position.
Underneath it all sits the work horse of Victory’s entire line of bikes, although this one’s in black-tie. The fuel-injected 106″ Freedom V-twin churns out a healthy 97 hp and 113 ft-lbs. of torque. Power is sent to the rear wire rear wheel through a six-speed trans and belt drive. The blacked-out, over-under exhaust pipes flow straight back to the rearmost tip of the bike. Even the triangular engine trims, covering the fuel injection on the right and housing the ignition switch on the left, are black with only a touch of red and white identifying the engine displacement. Pretty much a minimal amount of chrome here from head to tail, just the way I like it.
A modern deviation from the High-Ball’s old-school agenda is the presence of a thoroughly modern and seriously strong set of brakes. Both the single front and rear are floating discs in a huge 300mm diameter. Both are worn on the left side of the bike. Front caliper is 4 pot, rear is 2. It’s quite rare to find a floating rotor on the rear of a cruiser, and this setup brings the High-Ball to a quick stop, although sometimes screeching. I experienced rear wheel lockup a couple of times; with no ABS available, judicious brake application is a must.
Victory shared an accessorized High-Ball with us on a recent ride. A blacked-out 2-into-1 exhaust is available, and most Pure Victory Gear accessories designed for the Victory Vegas, including passenger seats and passenger floorboards or pegs, also fit on the High-Ball. So even a lone wolf can carry his significant other.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I don’t mind Victory riding my coattails. I think it did a first-rate job with the High-Ball. The High-Ball makes a strong argument against doin’ it yourself. It’s stripped down and simple; it looks cool, handles great, has hellacious brakes, fits the bobber mold right off the showroom floor, doesn’t cost a lot, and comes with a factory warranty. You can’t go wrong. RB
Words By Steve Lita, Photos By Alfonse Palaima
Story as printed in the July 2011 issue of RoadBike magazine.