Connect with us


Interview: Polaris speak on the ‘tough’ Victory decision and Indian’s ‘aggressive racing’ future




Motofire grabbed a few moments with Grant Bester, the General Manager of On-Road Products for the EMEA region to talk tough decisions, future directions, electric motorcycles and whether we’ll ever see those race machines that they’ve been teasing us with for so long.

Grant Bester has been rather busy these past few days. His email inbox has been flooded to overflowing and we’re fairly certain that his phone hasn’t left his ear since the announcement by Polaris was made that they were to close the doors on Victory motorcycles.

“The truth is that the brand  has struggled to achieve profitability for a while”

We managed to steal fifteen minutes from him and add to his abundance of phone calls, where he began by telling us just how hard the decision to cease production of the big American cruiser manufacturer was, “The reality is that we only made the final decision late in December and it was a tough decision for sure…” he says in response to my opening question as to how he was feeling, “Victory has been instrumental for Polaris. If we hadn’t been in with victory for 18 years we wouldn’t have Indian motorcycle now. If it wasn’t for Victory we simply wouldn’t be in the motorcycle business.”

So why make the decision at all?

All of the recent news seemed to indicate that Victory was making the dents into Harley Davidson that it was set-up in order to perform, “The truth is that the brand  has struggled to achieve profitability for a while; the best part of two years now”, he replies, “and if you look at how competitive our marketplace has become – if you look at Europe and all of the new models into the market – we just had to make a decision.”

“In Europe at the moment the amount of crazy new products that we do means that we had to make decision on priority. Part of that was to question if there was enough space in the market for both Victory AND Indian? And where do we go next?”

He pauses for a while before clarifying, “We had to ask, how does Indian and Victory encroach on each other? And yes, it was a very, very difficult decision – not least because our customers are important to us, which is why we’ve made sure and 100% certain that we can maintain those customers that we’ve earned over that time.” – he’s referring to the detail of the announcement that states that Polaris will honour servicing and spare parts for current Victory customers for ten years into the future – “Our customers are our business. They are part of our IP [intellectual property]”.

I mention to him that whilst I believed that the story would make some waves online, I hadn’t expected such a vocal outpouring of support and dare-I-say lamentation for a brand that many still aren’t altogether familiar with; he seems to appreciate the sentiment, “Watching the emotional outpouring was really hard but also – in a way – pleasing to see. We have to be considerate to the customers and the dealers [with our support] and the one thing I can absolutely tell you right now about Polaris is that we take our product and our innovation really seriously. We’ll continue to support those customers and we hope they’ll stay with us.

If you look at what we’ve done with indian and the nine different models in a three year period, it really shows that we’re majorly within the motorcycle business now and that we’re in the motorcycle business to stay”.

When we first caught a glimpse of the Victory Octane here at Motofire, much talk was made as to that bike being in essence a tweaked version of the already launched Indian Scout. I put it to Grant that what we had actually heard from the grapevine was that the Octane was initially earmarked for production first, but in the end a late call was made to move onto production of it as the Scout instead. Could this have been the first signs that the writing on the wall for Victory?

“It was a very difficult decision but we’re in the motorcycle business to stay!”

“Well… Octane and Scout…”, he ponders for a moment, “We had looked at the two brands as absolutely separate, product development lines. I mean, of course you want to ‘platform’ as much as possible and extend the technology as much as you can, but at the end of the day over half of the Octane components were unique to the Victory brand. They really should be regarded as separate machines”, he pauses again before continuing and qualifying his statement, “The challenge is when you look at something like that, something within the midsize space, there are only so many things you can do with those kind of bikes.

When you’re working in that category and following the legacy and models that we recreated, we had to do something like that… And that’s exactly what we did.”

I begin to digress slightly and talk a little more about the sportier side of Victory, the teasing of Project 156 and the belief I had that Victory was going to become the edgier, racing brand in comparison to Indians’ heritage, retro-cool.

And what about the Brammo purchase from a few years ago that gave Victory the lead in electric motorcycle technology? Could we be seeing an electric Indian in the near future?

“Ha, well… It’s difficult to talk about future products and future developments right now. But all of the IP that we have belongs to Polaris and we’ll definitely try to see [something like that] in time.”

As I begin to get a little giddy at the thought an electric Scout Sixty in the range, he continues, “The great thing about Indian motorcycles is that the brand is very elastic and lends itself to many different kinds of bikes and models. The difficult decision was that Victory was always the power and the more race orientated brand – and the perfect example of that is Brammo and IOM TT.”

“But with that said, look at how Indian has attacked Flat Track racing! Look at our legacy in that arena and then look what we’ve done in the recent past… And done pretty aggressively. Indian has produced the FTR and to do what we did by procuring the top three riders, that shows that we’re not going to stop going racing!”

Ah… The FTR750. It’s the bike I keep dreaming about owning and the one which Roland Sands probably still has nightmares about. Of all the bikes coming out of the Polaris stable in recent years, it’s the one that has perhaps piqued more, widespread interest than most. It’s also proven to be the most elusive. I ask Grant if I should begin saving, now that Indian have had the door for racing wedged open for them by Victory’s exit?

“Ha, I wouldn’t get your chequebook out just yet… But we can always steal Brad Bakers and sell that to you if you like? I’m assuming you’ve get $70k?”

With my bank balance (or lack thereof) being openly discussed over the phone, it feels like a suitable point in the conversation to begin winding things down. I tell him that I have really appreciated his time and that his candour and transparency about the whole process has been really refreshing. These values are something that seem to have been carried by Polaris throughout the Victory years, which strikes me as quite a rarity for a behemoth of a company whose assets are quoted to exceed $2 billion,

He ends the call with words of reassurance, “We’ve been working for years on these products and the decision really wasn’t taken lightly. What is reassuring is that more people seem to be upset and disappointed than they do angry. And that says a lot about our customers and our network and we’ll absolutely do our damndest to make sure that they’re part of our family for years to come.”

“I’ve had 50 or 60 calls in the last few days and the number of people telling me they’re still going to but a Victory motorcycle because they love the bikes as well as for sentimental value is really encouraging.”

Whilst Polaris may have closed the doors to the Victory factory, something tells me that they haven’t quite finished with this whole ‘motorcycle business’ just quite yet.

Fire it up in the comments below:


One Year On: Remembering Nicky Hayden




The news that Nicky Hayden passed away was devastating to the whole of the motorsport family.

This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

Nicky was a champion to his core; from the way he raced to his fierce devotion to his family and the way he made time for everyone. He fought for every single position on every lap of every race and never once gave up. He was firm, leaving no room for doubt on track, but he was always fair and he was one of the hardest workers you’ll ever know, even in a world that includes nothing but riders who push themselves to the limit constantly.

In every way, Nicky was a shining star; images of his tear-stained face when he won his championship in 2006 will forever be ingrained in the collective MotoGP memory, his joy was so tangible that you could have wrapped yourself up in it. And that was Nicky, always inclusive. Whether it was a quick-witted remark in that wonderful Kentucky drawl that we’ll miss so much, his easy manner that made him a friend of everyone who knew him or the way he never turned someone away when they wanted a photo or an autograph. Nicky came from a racing family and he became an integral part of an even larger one.

Losing anyone is always heartbreaking but the loss of a rider when they were out training, doing something as everyday as cycling, makes Nicky’s death at just 35 years old even harder to comprehend.

Nicky holds a place in the MotoGP Hall of Fame, his status as a Legend firmly cemented long before he left for World Superbikes. But he holds something even more valuable; a spot in the collective heart of the entire motorcycle racing family.

His accent will forever raise a smile, at least for me, and his own superstar grin will now bring with it an indescribable sadness. But remember Nicky as he would’ve wanted; that fierce big-hearted champion who pushed himself and everyone around him to be their very best and as that young man who brought so much joy and who left us far too soon.

My thoughts are, of course, with all of the Hayden family, Nicky’s fiancee Jackie, his friends and his teams both past and present.

Now, I’m going to wipe away the tears and watch Valencia 2006 again. I hope you join me to remember Nicky Hayden; a champion, a gentleman and a star that can never truly be extinguished.

This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

Fire it up in the comments below:
Continue Reading


Custom of the week: ‘V09’ BMW R80 by Vagabund Moto




BMW AIRHEAD CUSTOMS are like AC/DC songs: after a while, it’s hard to tell them all apart. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the style is usually pleasing to the eye.

But no one could ever accuse Vagabund Moto of following a conventional formula. Their approach is unique and their bikes buck the mainstream trend. So it’s ironic to learn that the owner of this razor-sharp R80 asked Vagabund to replicate the style of a custom R80 they finished two years ago.

Not surprisingly, builders Paul Brauchart and Philipp Rabl weren’t keen on the idea. “We don’t like to remake bikes we’ve done before,” Paul tells us. “So we suggested sketching out a concept that related to the V05—while adding some special parts.”

Paul and Philipp do their wrenching in a workshop in Graz, Austria, and do as much work as possible themselves. “We’re trying to stay a two-man operation for as long as possible,” says Paul. “We’re good friends and perfectionists. It’s hard to think about trusting someone else, or giving up our awesome workshop relationship.”

The pair started out with a relatively fresh classic tourer: a 1992 R80 RT with only 25,000 km on the dial. And thanks to BMW’s historically good build quality, there wasn’t much engine work needed.

“We took apart the engine and carbs, checked everything, and replaced the not so good parts. And then blasted and painted it.”

Getting the striking Vagabund ‘look’ meant ditching the bodywork though, apart from the fuel tank—but even that’s not quite original. The back end of the tunnel has been closed off, where the gap would normally be blocked by the bulky OEM seat.

Just behind it is a svelte new perch. Vagabund designed the tail hump digitally, then got it 3D printed. It means they could pack a ton of detail into a small space—from the multi-faceted upholstery by Christian Wahl, to the sculpted recess under the tail that hides an LED back light.

Everything sits on top of a custom-made subframe, and the main frame’s been liberated of any unneeded mounts. The rear’s now propped up by a new YSS shock. The wheels are stock, but the rear’s clad in a pair of glass fiber-reinforced plastic covers.

Up front, Vagabund shortened the forks by 60 mm, milled and powder coated the lower legs, and added a pair of fork boots. There’s a custom-made top triple clamp too, playing host to an integrated Motogadget speedo.

The handlebars are from LSL, and have been trimmed down. They wear a Grimeca master brake cylinder, a Domino clutch lever, and custom switches in a 3D-printed housing. There’s a small headlight out front, and a pair of Motogadget bar-end turn signals.

The rest of the bike’s been treated with equal consideration. It’s sporting a set of Continental ContiRoadAttack tires, K&N filters, and a Supertrapp muffler attached to the modified stock headers. And then there’s that striking livery, quite unlike any other we’ve seen, and expertly applied by Graz neighbors i-flow.

But it’s what’s missing that’s just as important: there’s no mess of wires vying for your eye’s attention. The bike’s been totally rewired, with a new diode board and two tiny Ultrabatt lithium-ion batteries, hiding under the tank.

“It’s very important to take care of every cable and braking line, and so on,” says Paul. “Even the handlebars are as clean as possible. It’s one of our biggest jobs to do a totally minimalist wiring setup, and we put a lot of work into parts that nobody ever sees.”

Despite the sano approach, this BMW is completely street legal in Austria. On top of the usual lighting, there’s a license plate bracket at the back that holds a pair of tiny Motogadget turn signals—with just the right amount of visibility to check legal boxes.

“It’s really difficult,” says Paul. “Every light has to be ECE-approved, and has to be mounted at the right angle and position. We have to examine all our builds and every point of customization with a civil engineer before we‘re able to (hopefully) pass the vehicle license authority.”

Titled ‘V09,’ this BMW leaves us thunderstuck. It hits the mark with its stance, proportions and finishes—so we’re counting it as another win for the Austrian duo.

This article first appeared on Bike Exif; It’s republished here with permission.

Fire it up in the comments below:
Continue Reading

On Fire...

Copyright © 2018 Motofire Limited