Zach Cohen

Riding With 93 Octane

Aaron Colton’s custom stunt bike is the Victory we want

Is it possible or even appropriate to feel sorry for a motorcycle? Take the Victory Octane. It's a highly functional, easy-to-ride cruiser at a great price. Its problem is that the brass at Victory never watched Star Trek, or at least didn't take to heart Scotty's strategy of selling low and delivering high. Victory simply set our expectations too high.

The initial plan was actually to release the Octane before the Indian Scout, but the Scout came first. Then Victory's Project 156 custom-built Pikes Peak racer followed and promised something really different for the brand. While the Octane is special in that it's a cruiser meant to handle and stop well, it isn't special in that way. It looks a lot like a gray Scout, not the American musclebike with sporty chops we believed was coming.

Victory Octane
Aaron is about 10,000 times smarter than I am, which means I always look sort of confused when we talk.Zach Cohen

“That’s why I wanted to customize one of these so bad,” Aaron Colton mused as we waited for Zach, our photographer, to shimmy up the hillside and accompanying light pole for the next shot. He continued, “I’m known for making improvements on my bikes for freestyle, but I wanted to do something to show that I’m also a bike builder. The Octane has a huge poten­tial for easy modification, and people already wanted a bike like this.”

We'd been up since well before dawn, and Aaron's Sprinter van was littered with his Red Bull cans and my protein-bar wrappers. We spent the morning scouting for mischief, swapping his custom "93 Octane" for my stocker and generally getting more and more unruly as the sun rose. Think of it as part stunt school, part bike test, and part geek time admiring the intricacies of a creation by its creator.

victory octane
Aaron Colton's Victory "93 Octane."Zach Cohen

I spent most of the morning on the stock Octane for comparison’s sake, and it hit me with what a great bike it is. The motor is lovely, and the thing handles better than it should (so much so we wish it had more cornering clearance). When we finally stopped for tacos, I pressed Aaron about it: “Dude, it’s a great bike! That’s the crazy thing: These things can take so much abuse. I’ve put mine through hell already and, when I take it apart, nothing—and I mean nothing—is wrong.”

Basic ethic for Colton’s build? “I wanted to get it ready to do freestyle demos on but also wanted it to look like something they could sell. I’m kinda hoping they get the hint.”

Zach Cohen

The Octane took very little work to get the 1,179cc engine in stunter shape. A custom full exhaust system by SC Project is complemented by an opened-up Ness airbox and appropriate fuel mapping. A stock Octane on the CW dyno delivered 90 rear-wheel horsepower, but with Colton's minor mods, his bike cranks out 116 hp. From there it was all about getting the chassis geometry in the ballpark with other bikes Colton has used for freestyle.

“I changed the rear shock angles and length to add more overall rear-wheel travel,” Colton said. “Then I ended up changing the steering angle a little bit.” Rear travel went from 76 mm to 117 mm and rake decreased from 29 degrees to 25.5 degrees after making the steering head half a degree steeper. He played with the fork offset to get steering feel and weight distribution right, plus machined the steering stops to allow for more lock to lock clearance so that when he's drifting, he has more room to control the drift through countersteer. An Ohlins USD Builder Fork was used, which Colton mounted to Kraus Performance triple clamps.

Victory Octane
Aaron showing me the original shape of the bottom of the frame.Zach Cohen

With these changes, Colton's Octane has 50 mm more ground clearance than the stock bike. It was still being experimented with as of our day with Colton.

Aaron had hard crash during a video shoot in a water reservoir in San Francisco where the front of the bottom of the frame caught a curb and sent him flying. Despite adding substantial ground clearance, he also wanted to eliminate the possibility of making contact again. To do this, he trimmed as much as he could to create an aesthetically pleasing look without interfering with the radiator mount.

Victory Octane
Aaron pointing out where they attached the top of the rear set mounts.Zach Cohen
Victory Octane
A set of Vortex rear sets Aaron used on his old SV650 were repurposed for the job.Zach Cohen

Colton isn't a big fan of forward controls, as is the case with most sport riders, and he knew that would be one of the biggest challenges on the Octane 93 build. With most bikes with rear sets, the rear set mounting point goes allocated frame mounts and they're designed around things like exhaust routing, engine covers, chain lines, and ground clearance. With the Octane, none of that was considered in its initial design, and there was no easy way to mount them, much less mount them symmetrically.

Zach Cohen

Aaron and Rodney Aguiar came brilliant workaround. They decided to use the swingarm pivot bolt as the upper mount of the rear sets by creating threaded mounts to attach the top rear set mount to. Aaron recalled racing with a set of Vortex rear sets off of a 2000-2003 Suzuki GSX-R600 that mounted to his Suzuki SV650, which he liked because they had the smallest footprint of any rear set he could remember. Using another unused OEM mounting hole, they were able to get the rear sets in the desired position to create the mid mount controls he needed.

Victory Octane
Aaron chose every component in the braking system specifically to produce the exact feel he needed.Zach Cohen

Naturally, a quick shifter was going to be necessary for banging through gears while drifting. Aaron was able to fit a Bazzazz QS quickshifter system for clutchless upshifts and downshifts.

The brakes were custom designed. Stock, the systems had good power but would overheat when punished with freestyle riding. Colton also wanted to add feel and substantially more braking power, lending as much control at the limits of traction as possible. A Magura HC3 master cylinder with custom direct-mounted reservoir feeds steel-braided lines into twin CNC billet calipers, which bite custom EBC 310mm brake rotors.

Aaron Colton Octane 93
More than a cool picture, notice Aaron's fingers while wheelieing with his feet off the pegs.Zach Cohen

The picture above is only possible thanks to a left hand brake lever which actuates the rear brake. Left hand controls for the rear are synonymous with freestyle and stunt riding, and are the only way riders can control the bike while doing stunts that require their feet to leave the pegs. Most guys today run an entirely different brake lever, line, disc, and and caliper for better heat distribution, but since this bike is more freestyle inspired than built to be a competition bike, Aaron went with something a little different.

Victory Octane
This setup has a clutch, rear brake control, and requires an incredible amount of dexterity.Zach Cohen

Colton called up Full Throttle Inc, the only company that made a dedicated master cylinder that connects the hand lever directly to the master cylinder on the foot brake, so that both the left hand brake lever and foot brake can be used in unison, both controlling the same rear caliper. Sadly, Full Throttle Inc doesn't make this specific part anymore as the dual disc setup took over around 2009, but luckily they were able to piece together a custom setup for Aaron by digging through old parts bins.

Zach Cohen

Aaron worked with Roland and Cameron from Roland Sands Design to come up with the wheel package for Octane 93. First, he converted the belt drive to a 520 chain conversion using a D.I.D. ERV3 road race chain with Vortex Cat 5 aluminum sprocket because it allowed for far greater adjustability as he tinkered with overall wheelbase and swingarm angle. Based on their math, a direct conversion from the belt would have resulted in a 20/52 gearing, but freestyle bikes are often geared to improve low end. They moved to a 20/54 final gearing, which is actually relatively small in this case, but was all that was needed thanks to the solid torque of the engine.

Stock, the bike sits on a 17x4.5 inch rear wheel and 18x3.5 inch front, both of which Victory states as "cast". Aaron moved to forged aluminum RSD Del Mar wheel, 17x6 inch at the rear and 17x3.5 inch up front wheel, which allowed him to run the Bridgestone RS10 tires he was more familiar with. Swapping to the aluminum dropped seven pounds from the wheels alone. The wider rear rim let him fit a 200 rear tire so he could have a larger contact patch. With the lighter wheels, tires, and brake rotors, he saved about seven pounds of unsprung weight from each end.

93 Octane
Aaron added a ton of rubber.Zach Cohen

A stock Victory Octane tips the scales at 548 pounds full of fuel, but the 93 Octane shaves 69 pounds off for a wet weight of 479 pounds.

Custom design litters the rest of the bike too. The seat pan was pulled from a one-off design Colton and Saddlemen came up with for his Yamaha FZ-09 stunt bike but reshaped for this application. The seat and reworked tail were both designed so they could be produced as bolt-on kits, too.

Victory Octane
Love the look of the front of Aaron's bike compared to stock.Zach Cohen

Colton tries to minimize any sort of cable or control that runs through a pivot or actuating point on a motorcycle that could interfere with his control, which means moving as many unnecessary things behind the triple as he can. Because of this, he knew he was going to mount the headlight to the frame, which left him with a nice, empty canvas for the face of the bike.

The front number plate was inspired by friend and mentor Michael Woolaway who, in Aaron's words, is "an aluminum wizard." Aaron met Woolie with some designs and the two spent the day guiding Aaron through aluminum school. By the end of their afternoon together, Aaron had cut his own number plate out of a bare sheet of aluminum and shaped it to fit the bike.

Zach Cohen

The attention to detail didn’t stop with performance. Colton tested different sandblasting and paint techniques so he could match the colors on varying surfaces like the levers, clamps, and insides versus outsides of the wheels. Every­thing from the bar ends to electrical wiring was chosen with perfection in mind, both in performance and aesthetics.

Colton wanted people to be able to see the rawness of his naked build. To see the materials under what is normally finished. This is why he left the carbon fiber tail clear and unpainted or chose anodized instead of powder or paint for most of the finishes. Or the tank, which he stripped with aircraft paint stripper and then sanded until all the sheens were even. Now, to keep it from oxidizing, he has to Bel Ray 6-1, but that upkeep is worth keeping the bike as raw as possible.

Sean MacDonald
One of my favorite things about Aaron is that, while he comes off as a goofy kid when you're just hanging, he's all business and one of the smartest guys I've met in this industry when it comes time to work. There was no way a notepad was going to work with this interview, and it took several follow up ones to unpack everything he said.Zach Cohen
Victory Octane
Making sure the tank is polished just right.Zach Cohen

So what's it like to ride the thing? Incred­ible. Truly and honestly wonderful. Between 93 Octane's appearance, sound, power, and handling, I can promise you right now that if this bike were available, I'd have one in my garage. The engine output makes this bike intoxicating and perfectly suited for street and canyon riding. The reworked seating position is equal parts all-day comfortable and commanding, the perfect setup for riding enthusiastically. Colton still wants to experiment more with chassis geometry to help the bike steer quicker, and he's likely to use stiffer foam in the seat. But this modified Octane is so close to carrying on Buell's commitment to the American musclebike that it hurts.

Dear Victory, I'm sad you left us before you were able to build this bike.

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I love this thing.Zach Cohen
Zach Cohen
Aaron Colton
Aaron Colton's 93 Octane getting sidewaysZach Cohen
Aaron Colton Sean MacDonald
The faceoff.Zach Cohen
Aaron Colton
Aaron Colton's 93 Octane has way more tread on the front than the rear.Zach Cohen
Aaron Colton
While I drink coffee to wake up, Aaron does wheelies to wake up.Zach Cohen
Aaron Colton Sean MacDonald
We get around corners much differently.Zach Cohen
Aaron Colton
Okay, now you're just showing off.Zach Cohen
Aaron Colton
More things Sean cannot do.Zach Cohen
Aaron Colton
Tracker style.Zach Cohen
Aaron Colton
This shot made getting up that early so worth it.Zach Cohen
Aaron Colton
This is how you get off the line in style.Zach Cohen
Aaron Colton Sean MacDonald
Finally, Aaron was the one having a hard time keeping up.Zach Cohen
Aaron Colton Sean MacDonald
I seriously considered making a run for it on his bike, he doesn't know where I live...Zach Cohen