Victory Octane vs Indian Scout vs Harley-Davidson Sportster Comparison

Just announced a few weeks ago, the Victory Octane looks set to capture a new generation of cruiser riders in America. It will be Victory’s most powerful, fastest and lightest bike yet – all the while being the cheapest, too. And while the Victory Octane does have many similarities to the Indian Scout, its real target is Harley Davidson and their Sportster 1200.

Harley-Davidson has come under increasing pressure from Polaris and their two brands, the resurrected Indian Motorcycles and their home grown brand, Victory. The reborn Indian has been a huge success for Polaris with the Indian Scout receiving glowing reviews and selling well, too. It’s for this reason we thought we’d take a look at the just released Victory Octane to see how it compares to its stablemate, as well as the highly popular and long established Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200.

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Choosing what bike to compare the Scout and Octane to was in itself a challenge. HD’s range is so wide with so much choice within each line that it’s hard to really narrow it down. And while the Sportster approaches the game quite differently with its air-cooled twin valve donk as opposed to the liquid cooled engine found in the Victory and Indian, all three bikes are designed to be gateway motorcycles to their respective brands.

But even then, the Sportser range offers six different choices of model to choose from and it is definitely one of the biggest advantages that Harley-Davidson offers – choice. Yes, Both Indian Motorcycles and Victory offer a large range of factory equipment and accessories to customize your bike, but no one does range and choice in the motorcycle world like Harley-Davidson. And even once you’ve decided on which of the six Sportster models to go with, the accessories (both factory and aftermarket) available to buy are unmatched. For the purposes of this comparison, we’ve chosen the Sporster 1200 Custom which from an ergonomics and general feel perspective seems to best match the two other bikes we’re looking at here best.

Engine

Both the Victory Octane and the Indian Scout use the same basic engine – and it’s a good one. There’s no sluggishness here which you can sometimes find in HD motors as the engine in both the Octane and Scout provides strong pulling power while remaining flexible across pretty much the entire rev range.

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The Octane’s engine is a 1,179cc V-twin, slightly larger than the Scout. Other differences include its own camshafts, a 2mm larger bore as well as redesigned cylinder head and engine cover castings. Those translate into subtle rather than earth-shattering differences between the two although you would have to consider the Octane as feeling more sporty. The Octane produces 104 horsepower, the Scout slightly less at 100. The Sporster has a rather sad by comparison 62 horses..

The Indian Scout is no slouch compared to the Octane and will hit the metric ton in a shade under 5 seconds. Not sportsbike quick by a long shot but it’s over half a second faster than the Sporster. But that’s not the only negative when it comes to the Sporter’s performance when compared to the other two machines here. The Sportster just feels sluggish down low and to really get things moving you need to keep the engine spinning in the top to mid-range. That then provides it’s own problems as the already noticeable vibrations become even more worse.

There’s just no getting around the fact that despite having a slight displacement advantage, the Sporster has a rather anemic motor and is completely outclassed by both the Octane and Scout and out of the two choices between the Octane and Scout, the newer Octane just edges out its brother.

winner victory

 

Handling

The front end feel of the Sportster is just too soft and squishy. Front end dive even under moderate braking is more than should be acceptable on a modern bike. The rear too leaves much to be desired and bounces and moves around enough that it doesn’t provide a great deal of confidence, especially when the road gets a few more corners. Most of these issues would be solved by the use of better quality springs – something you’d expect from a not inexpensive bike.

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In comparison, the Scout feels far more capable and it doesn’t sacrifice any comfort to do so. Both the front and rear suspension work very well together and provide a near perfect compromise between handling and a plush ride. There’s also far more options when it comes to suspension adjustment and despite sitting lower to the ground than the HD, actually has better corner clearance.

The Octane takes it up another notch again, although it’s still far from a sportsbike. That’s probably more to do with the ergonomics rather than the componentry of the bike though as both the peg and bar positions are slightly more aggressive than either the Sportser or Scout. As far as cruisers go in fact, the Octane is right up there among the most sporty we’ve come across and in fact many traditional cruiser riders would probably struggle to scrape the pegs or exhaust cans on it unless they really tried. It does feel a little harsher than the Scout though which in our opinion is a perfect blend of comfort and handling for a cruiser.

winner indian

Brakes

All three bikes provide fairly mediocre performance in terms of braking. All run with single discs both front and rear and it’s especially poor of the Octane not to run a twin disc setup at the front given it’s the fastest of all three bikes here – in fact it gets to the 60mph mark nearly a second quicker than the Sportser and a few tenths than the Scout. American cruiser riders have become accustomed to just single discs up front, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way to go about it.

Worst of all, the Octane doesn’t even provide ABS as an option – a ridiculous proposition for a brand new bike in the year 2016. The Scout’s brakes feel slightly better than offered by the Sportster and that’s probably due to the fact that the Harley weighs a tremendous 587 lb – nearly 30 pounds more than the Scout and nearly 40 more than the Octane.

winner indian

Customizing

It goes without saying that a big part of the cruiser scene is based around customizing and it is where Harley-Davidson rules supreme. Given their time at the top of the market, HD not only has huge amounts of official customizing options, but the third party market is also massive. That’s not to say that you can’t customize your Scout or Octane, it’s just that your options may be more limited than what is available on the Sportster.

Model Year 2016 New Model Photography

That is especially true for the Octane – at least at this stage. Your only customizing kit for now will be what Victory has available. Aftermarket options will no doubt eventuate should the Octane prove a popular model – just like they have for the Scout – but for now it’s comparatively slim pickings if compared to HD.

winner hd

Value

Both on paper and in the real world, the Sportster 1200 Custom just doesn’t offer the same value as either bike from Polaris. Starting at $10,899 in the US (but that’s before any options that commonly apply to Harley’s), it is $400 more than the Victory Octane. It is cheaper than the Indian Scout by $400 itself, but for that saving you are getting a bike with an engine, suspension, brakes and potentially reliability that is inferior to both the Octane and the Scout – sometimes by a large margin.

For us, the Victory Octane is the winner here. At $800 cheaper than the Scout but sharing many of the same components, it’s clear that Polaris is positioning this bike to capture new and young riders who otherwise might be consider the Street 500.

winner victory

Overall

In the end, it will probably come down to personal preference whether you fork out the extra money for the Scout which is a more traditional cruiser (both in looks and style) or the Octane which is designed for cruiser riders wanting to release their inner hooligan just a bit more.

The Scout probably comes out as the better bike than the Octane – but only just. It feels just slightly more refined than its new sibling which is perhaps trying to be a bit too raw in some respects – most notably in the handling department. That and the lack of ABS as even an option sees us tilt our head ever so slightly towards the Scout.

winner indian

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This is the 2017 Victory Octane

After months of build-up which first began when Victory took on the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, we now have a brand new cruiser from the American company and it’s called the Victory Octane. Despite the hype, what we have here is essentially Victory’s version of the Indian Scout – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – and it’s priced very competitively.

Despite the obvious styling cues from the Indian Scout, as well as the engine coming from that bike too (which ironically came from a Victory bike to start with), there’s a very strong chance this will be the best bike Victory has yet produced. The Victory Octane has a number of firsts for the manufacturer – first-ever liquid-cooled engine, most horsepower ever for a Victory bike and it’s also the lightest.

First to the engine. As mentioned, it is liquid-cooled with 4-valve heads and dual-overhead cams and it produces 104 horsepower and 76 foot-pounds of torque. Geared for quick acceleration, the Octane sprints down the quarter-mile in 12 seconds and rushes from 0-60 mph in under four seconds.

In relation to the chassis, the engine is a stressed member that connects cast-aluminum front and rear frame sections, with twin tubular-steel backbones for added reinforcement. Up front are 41mm forks and behind it is a  laydown shocks mounted 53 degrees off-horizontal, also equipped with preload-adjustable dual-rate springs. Stopping power is by way of a single 298mm disc brakes at both ends connected by stainless-steel lines.  The 18-inch front wheel wears 130/70-18 rubber, while the 17-inch rear wheel is wrapped with a 160/70-17 tire.

Probably the biggest news is the price. At $10,499 it’s the cheapest Victory yet and it’s surely going to send a few shivers down the spines of HD dealership owners. And while we’re a little disappointed that Victory didn’t come up with something more left of centre given their projects prior to the reveal, it seems certain that Victory isn’t going to rest anytime soon and will continue with their new model drive over the next few years. Here’s hoping for an American sportsbike (one that doesn’t go bankrupt).

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Motorcycle Snake Oil – 5 Performance Mods That Aren’t Worth the Money

It’s somewhat ironic that given most modern motorcycles have power to weight ratios that would make a supercar jealous, we’re still so interested in modding our motorcycles to get even more grunt out of them. But sometimes money invested is not money well spent and there are plenty of things you can waste your money on when looking to improve the performance of your bike. We take a look at five such things that are a waste of money – not only do they not improve performance, they can sometimes have the opposite effect.

High Octane Fuel

Were you one of those teenagers that when they got their first car or bike, would proudly put in the most expensive fuel to make it go faster? It made sense didn’t it? The more expensive the fuel then obviously the better it must be for your car? Unfortunately, no.

All manufactures give a recommended octane rating for the fuel you should put in your machine. The reason they do that is because that’s the octane level they’ve designed the bike’s fuel system and engine compression around which is critical when it comes to the timing of when the spark plug goes off and ignites the fuel. Without going into great detail, higher octane fuels burn more slowly than lower octane ones. It does not provide better fuel mileage, it doesn’t give you more horsepower – higher octane fuels merely reduce the chance of engine knocking.

Motorcycle Snake Oil - 5 Performance Mods That Aren't Worth the Money

If you want to go into more detail and really argue the point, there’s no doubt some clever technology in premium fuels that might help your bikes performance – but it would be minimal. Using fuel with a higher octane rating than recommended for your bike is literally burning money for no discernible benefit. Think about it this way. Your bike is programmed to ignite the fuel/air mix at X. By using a higher octane fuel, it will still ignite at X, meaning the potential benefit from the higher octane fuel is wasted.

There will be arguments that premium fuels are better for your engine and so forth. Trust us, it’s marketing hype and unless you own a heavily modified race bike that’s on its engineering limit you’ll be fine. And if someone says they can feel more power and better running from moving up to a fuel that has a slightly higher octane rating, tell them you’ve got a bridge to sell them too and see if you can make a quick buck.

Now sure, if you invest in piggyback tuners that allow you to run more spark advance on your timing then sure but that’s another story (and a whole lot more money).

Changing Sprockets

Changing either your front sprocket or your rear sprocket can actually be a worthwhile modification if it’s done with a real purpose in mind. Its primary application is on the track though there are road bikes that can make use of a change in sprocket size (from the factory standard.

When at the race track, experimenting with different sprockets can yield good results. For example, there may be a particular corner that necessitates shifting up midway through it – never ideal. In that instance, changing the sprocket sizes could eliminate that issue. Perhaps more importantly is if you’re finding you’re hitting redline in 6th gear on the main straight. Changing sprockets could give you that little bit extra top speed.

Motorcycle Snake Oil - 5 Performance Mods That Aren't Worth the Money

However, many people change their sprockets just because they hear it’s worth doing. Why you need your R1 to accelerate faster when it never hits the track is beyond me – but many people do it. The problems this raises is generally worse fuel economy but also an incorrect reading on your speedometer which will necessitate even further costs to rectify.

Yes, there are some bikes that clearly have poor gearing and do benefit from different sprocket sizes. They’re few and far between, however.

Wider Rear Tyres

Sure, wider rubber on the rear tyre looks good but generally means slower handling. The wider a rear tyre, the less cambered it is and hence the bike’s ability to lean over quickly is diminished. This goes for superbikes and learner bikes.

Obviously, the more horsepower a bike has the more rubber it needs on the rear to maintain traction, but smaller is always better – even if it doesn’t look as good. On smaller capacity bikes it’s an even bigger waste of money – they just do not put enough power down to necessitate all that extra rubber. Small bikes struggle to even lose traction on the rear when attempting a compression lockup. Keep in mind that wider tyres will weigh more, too.

You’re better spending money on good quality but appropriately sized rubber rather than larger dimension tyres.

Motorcycle Snake Oil - 5 Performance Mods That Aren't Worth the Money

ECU Controllers

There’s two ways to look at ECU controllers like Power Commander, Bazzaz, et cetera. If you’re buying one in the hope that it will increase the horsepower of your stock bike – forget it, they wont. But if you’re after a potentially smoother and more responsive motorcycle then yes, they do have a purpose.

On the horsepower front, think of it this way. Say you’ve bought the latest sportsbike from Yamaha and decide to spend another couple of hundred dollars on a ECU controller to get some extra performance out of it. Do you really think that the boffins at Yamaha like to sell their bikes with less power than they can actually produce? No, of course not.

Motorcycle Snake Oil - 5 Performance Mods That Aren't Worth the Money

But on the other hand, the lads at Yamaha are hamstrung by emission laws and other regulations which can result in a bike’s fueling not being optimal. An ECU tuner can rectify that – of course your bike may not pass noise and emissions testing should you be unlucky enough to get caught, but it will run better.

An ECU controller may provide incremental increases in horsepower and torque at certain parts of an engines operating range. But they’ll be so small that if you think you can feel the difference, it’s because you’re brain is trying justify the fact you spent so much money for very little gain. For real horse power gains, you’ll have to spend money on a full exhaust system, the ECU controller and a trip to the local dyno…

Slip-on Exhausts

We vacillated on whether to include slip-ons to this list. The reason we thought about not including them was while they don’t provide horsepower improvements to your bike, they do provide a performance gain by generally being lighter than the OEM exhaust. You could of course use the same argument for buying a lithium ion battery instead of a regular lead acid battery as a performance upgrade too.

We covered this somewhat in our article on understanding exhausts and there’s nothing we’ve ever seen since then that indicates that slip-ons do anything to improve engine efficiency. We’ve seen some argue that a good designed muffler will reduce the amount of air reflected back up the exhaust pipe but again, we haven’t see any real evidence that this is actually true.

And yes, almost every slip-on manufacturer will provide a dyno chart showing the horsepower gains of their product. But it’s not a fair comparison. Those dyno charts are done under conditions that are favorable to the slip-on – the engine has been tuned, the temperature and humidity of the test are controlled and potentially other non-stock modifications have been made (i.e. the air filter has been replaced with a race one). If the same was done with a stock exhaust, the result would be the same. Slip-ons provide weight savings, not horsepower increases.

Motorcycle Snake Oil - 5 Performance Mods That Aren't Worth the Money