Since it had been awhile since I had out any real time on a cruiser and the last big twin bike that I did ride (2007 Road Glide) left me a little cold when it came to engine power, I approached this review with reserve. I knew I wasn\'t going to be overly impressed by the motorcycle as it had a 250mm rear wheel (so handling would be impacted) and “only” 85hp. I mean if HD can\'t impress me with 96 cubic inches then how could Victory do it with 100? That\'s only a measly 4 cubic inches more.
I failed to take into consideration one very important thing:
Victory is not Harley Davidson. Overall this is both a good and bad thing but in the case of the motor it is very good.
My eyes were opened and my previous reservations about the “fun” factor of this bike went right out the window the first time I cranked the throttle wide open. The Hammer S’s 100 cubic inch motor likes to rev and, right up to about 500rpm short of it\'s redline, produces enough motive force that short shifting is not needed. Not only is short shifting not needed to stay in the power-band, but if you insist on doing it you are robbing yourself of one of the best sounding motors around. Now I\'m not talking about the exhaust alone, but the motor, exhaust, and intake all working together to produce a sound that is part V-8 staccato and part jet engine rumble, with a little bit of manic blow-dryer thrown in to spice things up. I actually started riding the bike without my earplugs in just to hear the motor at full song.
While the motor, when running, sounds great, starting it is another thing altogether. The first time I started the bike at the Victory tent in Daytona I actually looked around to see if any of the Victory employees were running over to stop me from riding an obviously sick sounding bike. The best way to explain the sound the starter makes is to have you envision a 250cc bike starting at the same time a turbine is spooling up, then mix in a dentist\'s drill for good measure. I kid you not. Please Victory; fix the starter so it sounds better.
The same dichotomy that exists between the engine sound and the starter sound can be found in many other places on the bike as well. For every beautifully designed item there is an item that makes you scratch your head and wonder. Take for instance the nicely faired-in brake line splitter under the front triple clamp. On most bikes with dual front discs, the splitter is little more than a small aluminum block with hoses running to it. On the Hammer S though, it is a full width piece of rounded aluminum with the hoses run into each end. This gives an area that is often overlooked some real ascetic value. After you are done admiring the extra work and expense that Victory went to making that piece, you look up and realize that the mirror housings are made of plastic.
Another example would be the bullet shaped front brake master cylinder reservoir which looks so much better than the standard rectangular unit found on most other cruisers. Now look at the “100” emblem on the side cover and you\'ll find that it is stuck on with double-sided tape, but only in the center of the emblem. This leaves a gap in the corners that is very noticeable. Again, one high-end piece is offset by a low-end piece.
All those details start to fade away when you step back and look at the bike\'s design as a whole and not as a collection of parts. It was a unanimous vote amongst everyone who laid eyes on the bike no matter their age or motorcycle preference, the Hammer S is a looker. From its rakishly styled headlight to its faired-in taillight and blacked-out PM wheels, the Hammer will not blend in at your local bike night. I had all types of people, from sportbike riders to a guy in a Harley Edition Ford truck stare and comment favorably on the looks of the bike. Yep, there\'s no blending in while riding a Hammer S.
Even though the Hammer S is built on a “softail” style chassis it rides almost as good as some sport-touring and standard bikes I’ve been on. The only time the bike transmitted any type of major shock through the bars or seat is when I traveled over only the largest and sharpest-edged pavement irregularities. Over 95% of the time the bike handled all the ruts, bumps, and dips with an aplomb that should have other cruiser manufacturers beating on Victory\'s door to learn their secrets. I suspect one of those secrets resides in the hefty looking inverted front fork. This sucker looks much beefier than it\'s 43mm size would suggest. The front suspension has 5.1 inches of travel while the rear shock comes with a respectable (for a "softail" design) 3.9 inches of travel.
The engine is very smooth at almost all RPMs; only when reaching into the higher RPMs did a buzz start in the bars. Thanks to the 6 speed transmission, the Hammer S cruises at 80mph at around 2300rpm; well below the RPMs needed to start feeling the vibes while on the highway.
While the motor and the chassis were willing to run at high double-digit/low triple-digit numbers all day, my body was not. The ergonomics of the bike, just like almost any cruiser, lend themselves to sub-light speeds and boulevard cruising much better than highway blasts. My hands and arms ached after about 20 minutes on the freeway. Taking the bike back to Volusia Motorsports, my wife passed me in her car while I was struggling to hang on at 70 mph! This was not right I decided and something needed to be done! So I quickly sped up to 80mph just to pass her and just as quickly slowed back down to 70. I figured that it really wasn\'t that bad that she passed me and nothing really needed to be done about it after all. I’ll just cruise along at 70 and look good for all my adoring fans riding in the cars next to me.
Like most cruisers with a wide rear tire the Hammer S does exhibit the tendency to want to lean to the right while riding. This is due to the fact that there is a lot of weight in the drive set-up hanging out pretty far to get the belt or chain around the rear tire. After a few miles in the saddle the feeling becomes less noticeable and after a week of riding you’ll stop noticing it completely. Unlike a lot of bikes with a wide rear tire though, the Hammer S handles very well. The bike is very stable in sweepers and transitions relatively quickly through the tighter stuff. It is still a cruiser though so don’t get any ideas of outrunning even a moderately good sportbike rider on a twisty road. If you do get the itch the pegs touching down followed shortly by the exhaust or the side-stand will rein in those urges.
Lucky for you, if you do find yourself needing to scrub off speed in a hurry the dual front disc brakes are ready to assist you with tons of power and plenty of feel. Victory mounted 300mm floating rotors and 4 piston calipers to the front mated with another 300mm floating rotor squeezed by a 2 piston caliper in the rear. These brakes are much better than what is normally equipped on a cruiser; offering plenty of power and feedback. One nice thing about a 250mm rear tire is that it takes a hefty push on the rear brake lever to lock-up and slide that tire. Even when I was being silly and tried to get the back-end to come out under braking it wouldn\'t. It just slid along nice and straight until either I got bored or the bike came to a stop.
The Hammer S comes with a cowl for the passenger portion of the seat to give the bike a custom look. Victory also makes an accessory part that allows you to mount the cowl over the front headlight like a flyscreen. The bike I had didn\'t have this part installed but I think it would be a must buy if I was going to own a Hammer S. Victory has a very large selection of parts and accessories that you can put on the bike to truly make it your own which is what owning a cruiser is all about.
My wife rode on the bike for about 10 miles one evening going over to my parent’s house and said that the rear seat is not made for an actual person. What it\'s made for I\'m not sure, but unless you are coming from a chopper where your wife/girlfriend/significant other/life partner/dog rode on the fender, don\'t plan on taking any long trips two up.
Taking trips though is not what this bike is about. This is a cruiser and cruisers are all about speaking to your soul while looking good cruising down the boulevard. They make no pretensions to being the fastest, best handling, nicest riding bikes on the market; they are built to look good and to make you look good when riding them. It is especially nice then when you find a cruiser that not only looks really good but handles well, has an engine that keeps you entertained, and rides as good as most standard and sport-touring bikes.