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Thursday Edition

2004 Victory Kinpin Launch

Riders, Quality, Wine and Arlen Ness

Photos by Wrench
6/10/2010 1:05:41 PM

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arlens door 

Twice in the last couple of months someone called the Bikernet offices on a Monday and dropped a weekend into the center of the week. Not bad. First the new-model call came from Buellton to ride the 2004 rubbermounted Sportster. Then last week I was ordered to fly to Oakland to meet the hardworking Victory crew. I was afforded one stinking hour to decide. Jump a plane or not. I chose to hit the road.

ness taxi

How about a Sportster driven sidecar from the Ness museum.

ness trophy 

Just a portion of Arlen's trophy wall. Bev, (in cover shot with Arlen) his wife, has been stridently beside him since the beginning.

ness v chopper 

This is Arlen's next Victory chopper project. Benefits to using a Victory 92-inch drive-line include narrower, lighter configuration.

Last year I road-tested the new Vegas. Outstanding motorcycle from a power, styling, balance, comfort, fit and handling perspective. I was impressed. Arlen and Cory Ness were called to assist with appearance decisions which added style, finish and a unified touch. While flying up the coast of California I was confident in the outcome of two days in the Napa, wine country--I rewrote my will. A handful of moto-journalists from Iron Works, American Rider, Rider, Cruising Rider and Cycle World stepped off the plane. A stretched limo swept us to Dublin, California to the new home of Arlen Ness and family. The party kicked off with a brief presentation from the Victory and Ness crew, then dinner and drinks in the Arlen's packed museum. If you get a chance to wander through the facility, you'll witness vast, chromed and metalflake examples of custom motorcycling history from 1970 until today.

ness and 

Arlen and son Cory Ness. Arlen's wife Bev and Daughter Cherry also work for the company. A solid family operation.

arlens duel 


Early Ness customs.


The new Arlen Ness family showroom.

Arlen and Cory made room on the spacious granite-tiled showroom floor for American Iron Horse, Victory and Italian Vespa Scooters. They will soon be the largest (sales) Victory dealer in the country. Half of the shapely, two-toned Vespas they sell are sold to women. The centerpiece in the showroom was an Arlen Ness limited edition Vegas. Arlen is touching approximately 300, 2004 models with billet wheels, accessories and custom paint schemes. Only one will be available per dealer for a retail ticket of $19,999.

cory w guys

mark b & ken

Mark Blackwell (left), VP from Victory and Ken Freund, senior editor of American Rider.


There had to be a girl.

ness customs 

Ness customs in his museum.

ness dual 
overhead cam engine

The only dual-overhead-cam engine on the planet. They're still working on them.

ness feature 

Arlen took care to laminate most of his magazine features. This is just a small portion.

The new Kingpin, a slightly heavier version of the Vegas, will retail for around $14,000 and the touring model of the Kingpin will slip out the back for $15, 299. While we toured the new 68,000 square-foot Ness Facility, Cory mentioned one of the impacts of the Polaris/Ness relationship,

"Victory's quality requirements have lifted the bar on our own wheel manufacturing," Cory said. The Ness line of wheels are now more stridently tested and equipped with top notch fasteners and bearings.

ness jet car

Arlen and Bob Moon designed this shapely concept cycle to house the "Jet" power-plant. Watch for it.

ness part 

Nothin' like buying parts directly from the home of the manufacturer.

ness parts 

The Ness retail parts department.

ness party 

Although the Kingpin is considered a lightweight touring motorcycle, it is equipped with the most powerful headlight in the industry. I'll get to the 2004 features shortly. We stumbled back to the flea bag motel and tore the place apart looking for munchies. Reveille shouted for a 7:30 wake-up call and departure at 9:00 a.m. Another Limousine pulled up outside but I ducked the lavish interior of the bus to ride with Gary Laskin, the Victory Product Manager. I wanted the inside scoop.

v flame tank

Check the Victory web site for color variations, custom applications and flamed themes.

I have a morbid fascination for the inner workings of manufacturing entities. Part of my restless soul has always avoided big company drudgery. I suppose it's the biker/romantic wanderlust and need to avoid drug testing. So when I watch a new Ford roll down the street I'm in awe of the fucking wiring loom and how it gets from the copper plant to the immense number of connections under the dash. Sure, some think writing a book is a serious endeavor, but building a car, jet or naval ship far exceeds the orbit of my comprehension. So I dug into Gary's sharp educated and experienced brain cells. Born in Saint Paul, he grew up in Minnesota and lived in Europe/Belgium where he climbed aboard his first moped. His dad worked for 3m and had tremendous enthusiasm for motorsports. Throughout his 35 years Gary has owned and ridden American, Japanese and European motorcycles.

v f fender trim

Gary graduated from the University of Minnesota and grabbed an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. His first job at FingerHut dropped him into the deep, thought-provoking crap game of the data driven approach to marketing. He toiled developing surveys, focus groups and styling clinics... I swear that this will be my only comparison to Harley-Davidson, but I can't resist. Harley started with a handful of men with limited knowledge, seat of the pants access to market and sketchy technological information. Victory is also made up of a handful of hardworking dreamers. Unlike H-D these individuals are educated, backed with vast marketing history, financial support, business acumen, expertise and technological data. In a different era, under a new set of rules and guideline they are attempting to fulfill the same goals as the Harley crew.

v vegas orange silver

This was my favorite custom Vegas--sharp.

As a young Victory gun the new King Pin, based on the Vegas chassis, was thoroughly researched by Gary's team. This process included not only massive marketing studies but the experienced Polaris Design Team, Arlen and Cory Ness and many focus groups. It started with the desires and needs of the customer. Each owner and road-test participant was asked to fill out surveys. Focus groups studied the emotional needs of riders and were quizzed, "Why do you ride?" They deliberated on un-met needs, the progressive history of the classic cruising customer and rider fears. Styling stood tall as the most important aspect of the motorcycle, but didn't end at that design obstacle. Comfort and stability were keys. Security stood tall in the sphere of rider comfort and confidence. Wider tires were key elements, coupled with substance or weight.

v dash

"Riders don't want to perceive to be blown off the road," Gary said. The look needed to demonstrate mass and strength. "Motorcycling is based on emotion," Gary said, "It's not anything like buying a computer or toaster. It's all about desire and passion."

The design team created 16 concept drawings and presented them to a number of riders who had recently purchased touring motorcycles. The illustrations sought to represent a realm of models from, "Cutting edge to bleeding edge," Gary explained, "from conservative to out-there."

v right engine shot

The final mock-up was carefully and gracefully submitted to 150 more riders. "We were extremely attentive to their input, delayed the launch and spent one-half million dollars moving one component 1 3/8 inches," Gary noted without giving away the part number. One more critical decision quivered on the drafting board. Would the motorcycle, designed developed today, survive two years of engineering, testing and construction before launch? Will the shape of their dreams survive until it reached market?

Brand position is critical. "The customer is very sensitive," Gary explained. "Refinement is important, but American riders like the bold and brash, with a raw edge."

v left side

The King pin sports only 18-inch wheels with larger tires than the Vegas. Note the heavier fender styling.

I was beginning to get an edgy picture of the decision making process behind designing a bike. What a goddamn roll of the dice. With the final concept drawing burning a hole in the design team's collective pocket they faced the next daunting barricade: The experienced Polaris Development Process including rigorous and disciplined quality testing for two years. Component tests include road testing and bench testing that simulates road conditions. They are capable of scrambling through 200,000 road miles in two weeks. Just two hours on a shaker table will tests a headlight or component extensively. Testing and development once ate 2-3 years, but with shaker tables they shorten development and increase quality in the process. Accelerated durability testing hammers a bike over a cobblestone surface 1-mile long, equivalent to 11 miles on the street. Stringent dyno testing tortures engines. Aerodynamics and cooling are tested on the road and high speed stability is examined on the track.

v right engine 

92 inches of fuel injected power.

"One test involves a rider who smacks the handlebars as hard as he can at various speeds from 85 mph to over 100. The bike is timed to see how long it takes to return to stability and the degree of oscillation. Redline shifting, with no clutch, tests transmission durability.

v 3 4 left rear

Victory recently steered clear of alpha-numeric nomenclature with the Vegas. The name conjures high-style and high stakes.

"The Kingpin name came from the notion of comfort, confidence and control," Gary explained. "We would rather riders hate the name than to have no reaction at all." The new Kingpin is "large and in charge".

After a short stint with Victory the Vegas was his first major project. "I was clueless when I started six years ago," Gary admitted, "I got lucky with this job and I'm glad I was given the opportunity."

victorys lineup 

Kingpins and Vegas bikes lined-up beside Victory semi, ready to ride.

We rolled into the Brix restaurant parking area in Napa Valley, surrounded by 11 acres of grap vines and olive trees, as the sun cracked the morning dew, and I picked a ride among two dozen Vegas, Kingpin regulars and Kingpin touring models. I stuff my digital in the bags of the last touring model available and admired the multi-staged silver paint scheme. I immediately noticed some of the fit and finished components mentioned the night before during the presentation. We peeled out in two groups of anxious maniacs and weaved through snake like roads from Yountville down the Silverado Trail, along Trancas Street, to the treacherous Mt. Veeder Rd, onto Dry Creek, then twisty Trinity road into Glen Helen for lunch at the brick and historic Jack London hangout.

v group side of 

Journalists from most major bike mags alongside a winding road with Brian Nelson, Victory photographer.

After a fine lunch we were set free to investigate Bennett Valley Road, numerous wineries, catching Calistoga Road to St. Helena's snaky lane, where a Victory staff member failed to negotiate a turn away from the guard rail and stood his Kingpin on its nose. He survived and so did the motorcycle which took him home minus a few gears. The roads were tough twisters for experienced sport bike riders and we dragged the elevated footboards on several corners. I wanted an open freeway or two lane highway, cutting across a state, to test this comfortable ride. Again, as with the Vegas, this motorcycle fit me like a glove.

v jack london

Outside the Jack London lunch hangout in Glen Helen.

Unfortunately when we left the twisted asphalt of the foothills we found ourselves trapped in tourist and construction traffic snarls. I pulled to the roadside to check my navigational instructions, in the midst of bumper to wine-soaked tourist traffic, when three girls pulled up alongside me. "Hey handsome," the driver shouted over the rumbling sound of diesels and the stench of exhaust smoke. Could she be talking to me or the Kingpin?

v riding shot

"Hey beautiful," I responded as the traffic inched forward. Our eyes met, her girlfriend giggled and I remembered my promise to the Bikernet babe. No fooling around. I kicked the curb with my black cowboy boot, stuffed the map in my HA leather vest, then split lanes out of the old western berg, to find a suitable winery to drown my sorrows.

v gas tank 

After a full day in the saddle we pulled back into the Brix parking lot to share road tales and machine insight. I test rode three other Victorys and noted different engine noise in each, although they all handled and felt the same. I split through Olive groves and lush hills comfortably. Passing miles of annual grape fields lush with full crops I spotted lavish castle-like wineries, then upscale pottery and art shops and restaurants. The whole goddamn gentrified area smelled of brie cheese and exotic coffees. What once was a tough industry in roaming fields has become Wine Disneyland.

It's a crying shame. What once was romantic and adventuresome is now commonplace smeared with fat tourists in shorts. But what the hell, I was afforded a weekend break in the center of a working week. What could be better? Actually a couple of bottles of wine, a girl waiting in a cabin on a hillside and one of these Kingpins would hit the spot.

Ride Forever,



v 3 4 front

GUTS NEVER LOOKED PRETTIER-- Steel and chrome have never looked sweeter. Introducing Kingpin,™ the newest of The New American Motorcycles. The attitude of this cruiser says cool and comfortable, whether it's gathering a crowd on a city street or breaking away from it on the open road. Follow the curve of the fully valanced front fender to the massive, inverted front fork, across the handlebars and down the scalloped tank to the business end of Kingpin. A 92 cubic inch Freedom V-twin engine ready to power you to the next time zone. The rest of the Kingpin is pure comfort. Eighteen-inch front and rear wheels, roomy, vibration-absorbing floorboards, and front and rear suspensions built and fine-tuned for an extra measure of cross-country smooth.

v saddlebags

Leather covered saddlebags with convenient latches.  

SPECIFICATIONS-- Powerful, overhead cam, 92 cubic inch Freedom™ V-twin with standard fuel injection.   Overhead cam with four valves per cylinder for superior power at high RPM.   

Aluminum swingarm with rising-rate linkage rear suspension for a smooth ride and optimal handling.   

Inverted-cartridge fork, fully valanced fenders, full floorboards, rubber-mounted handlebars.   

6-spoke cast aluminum wheels, 18 inch front, 18 inch rear.   

Wide 130mm front tire, 180mm back tire put more rubber on the road.

v pipe side

Engine Specs  
Engine 4-stroke/50 degree/Freedom V-twin 
Bore x Stroke   97 x 102mm 
Displacement   92cu. in./1507cc 
Compression Ratio   9.2:1 
Valve Train   SOHC/4 valves per cylinder/self-adjusting cam chains/hydraulic lifters 
Carburetion   Electronic fuel injection/44mm throttle bodies 
Fuel Capacity   4.5gal./17.0ltr. 
Exhaust   Staggered slash-cut dual exhaust with common volume 
Oil Capacity   6.0qts./5.7ltr. 
Charging System   38 amps 
Battery   12 volts/18 amp hours 

v dash on 

Cooling System   Air/Oil 

Primary Drive   Gear drive with torque compensator 
Clutch   Wet/multi-plate 
Transmission   5-speed constant mesh 
Final Drive   Reinforced belt 

v vegas front 

Front Brake   300mm floating rotor with 4-piston caliper 
Rear Brake   300mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper  

Length   99.1in./2519mm 
Wheelbase   66.5in./1690mm 
Seat Height   26.5in./673mm 
Ground Clearance   5.8in./148mm 
Rake/Trail   32.8 degrees/5.44in./138mm 
Dry Weight   639lbs./290kg 
GVWR   1154lbs./524kg

v handlebar 

Front Suspension   Inverted cartridge telescopic fork/43mm diameter/5.1in. (130mm)  
Rear Suspension   Single, mono-tube gas/forged and cast aluminum w/ rising-rate linkage/3.9in. (100mm) travel/preload adjustable spring 

v engine left n 

Front Wheel   18.0 x 3.0in./6-spoke cast aluminum (standard) 
Rear Wheel   18.0 x 5.0in./6-spoke cast aluminum (standard) 
Front Tire   130 70-18 Dunlop® Elite II 
Rear Tire   180 55-B18 Dunlop® D417

v front fender

Solid Colors   Black, Sonic Blue, Purple Thunder or Solar Red 
Two-Toned Colors   Black & Bronze or Bronze Mist & Pearl White 
Multiple Colors   Sonic Blue with Tribal Fade Flames or Purple Thunder with Vogue Silver Tribal Flame 

MSRP   $14,999

outside arlens 

ARLEN NESS LIMITED EDITION -- You won't see this cruiser on every street corner. First, because this gorgeous masterwork was created by Arlen Ness, America's premier designer of custom motorcycles. Second, because we're only building a few hundred of them. But those few hundred riders lucky enough to add this limited edition to their cruiser collection will be the envy of everyone, everywhere. Fully optioned, with radical paint and chrome, it's as breathtaking to look at as it is to ride. The Limited Edition Arlen Ness Signature Series isn't for everyone. But when you're dealing in art as powerful as a Victory® motorcycle, that's exactly the point.

v ness edititon 

Each Victory/Ness custom is signed by Arlen.

v ness edtion


1997 The Victory motor-cycle debuts as Indy car champion Al Unser, Jr., rides the first V92C into a packed Planet Hollywood at the Mall of America.

1998 Victory motorcycle production begins at the Spirit Lake, Iowa, facility on July 4.

1998 Cycle World, the world’s largest-circulation motorcycle magazine, names the Victory V92C the Best Cruiser of 1998.

1998 Tom Tiller joins Polaris as President and in 1999 succeeds W. Hall Wendel, Jr., as CEO. Wendel remains Chairman of the Board.

1999 The Victory V92C is named Cruiser of the year by Motorcycle Cruiser magazine.  

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