Victory Rider Blog: ‘Sparky’ Bill Toninato is a History Maker, Webmaster, and Most of all an Avid Victory Rider
There is no Victory Hall of Fame, but if there were, “Sparky” Bill Toninato would be a deserving charter inductee. He was a Victory fan before the bikes were even on the road. He owns a numbered 1999 V92C and a Victory Vision (his second so far). He was part of several significant events in Victory history, and he founded one of the best Victory clubs/websites.
Best of all, he’s still riding, and still organizing and promoting rides and events. He is the embodiment of the unique spirit and enthusiasm you find only among Victory Riders. He is Sparky Bill, and he’s one of a kind.
His Victory Roots
Sparky Bill grew up in International Falls, Minnesota, on the border with Canada. Bill had a career as an electrician until retiring in 2010, which has freed him up to enjoy life with his wife Heidi and to take several extended riding trips.
In the late 1990s, before there was a Victory on the road, Bill ordered a Harley-Davidson Sportster, “a 1200S, the fastest bike they had.” But while waiting several months to take delivery, he learned that Polaris had established the Victory Motorcycle division. The V92C appealed to him greatly, and he visited a Victory dealership to place a deposit on one.
He took delivery of the Sportster first, and in his first season of riding it, Bill rode to Fairmont, a southern Minnesota city that was home to a woman he had met online. Their first “date” was a 2-up ride on the Sportster to Spirit Lake, Iowa, so Bill could check out the Victory final assembly plant.
Never mind that it was a Sunday and the plant was closed. For a Victory Rider (albeit on a Harley), the trip still ranks as high romance.
Bill saw and sat on a Victory for the first time at the motorcycle show in Minneapolis in January 1999. His bike – a KYSO Blue V92C, #1213 – arrived at Warner Outdoor in Bloomington, Minnesota, in March 1999. In the Twin Cities where Bill lived, it’s still winter in March, so he trailered the bike to Fairmont, where he knew they used less salt on the roads. He picked up Heidi, and they enjoyed their first Victory ride together. Yes, they returned to that romantic destination of their first date, Spirit Lake.
And then Bill started making Victory history.
A Resume of Historic Rides
One of the first “firsts” on Bill’s Victory resume is his tour of the Spirit Lake factory. The plant didn’t originally offer tours, but Bill reached a plant manager by phone and persisted with his requests until he was the first rider to get a tour of the factory where his V92C was made.
Other historic Victory events in which Bill took part include:
• In 1999 and 2004, he rode with Victory Riders from across the country as part of the Polaris 45th and 50th anniversary celebrations.
• On July 5, 1999, Bill was among the small group of riders from throughout the country who met at Spirit Lake. You could say this humble gathering at “the birthplace of Victory” evolved into the Victory Reunion and American Victory Rally.
• In the summer of 2000, he was a Leg Captain on the original V2V Relay across the country.
• On July 4, 2000 – the second anniversary of the making of the first Victory – he was on the first Victory group ride in Minnesota, a ride Bill organized online.
• In 2001, he attended the first company-hosted national Victory Rider event at the brand’s Osceola, Wisconsin, engineering facility.
• In 2002, Bill attended the company’s “Victory Reunion” at the factory in Spirit Lake.
• On July 20, 2002, he rode in the Victory-sponsored Minnesota Vikings Charity Ride, where his riding mates included several Vikings football players and the legendary stuntman Evel Knievel.
• On September 3, 2009, he was part of the three-man crew supporting his friend, Victory Rider Gregor Moe, who set a world land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Gregor rode a modified Kingpin to a 2000-M-AG class record of 165.8 mph.
So Bill has seen – and been part of – a lot of Victory history. His riding partner for thousands of miles on the V92C was his beloved red-haired Pomeranian, Blaze. At first, Blaze rode in a pouch strapped to the front of the bike. But after a thrilling ride in the wind, the dog started riding in a pouch strapped to Bill’s chest.
“On the ride to the Polaris 45th in Roseau, we were fighting a terrible cross wind. I had Blaze in a soft-sided cooler bag attached to the front of the bike, and in that wind he was out at a 45-degree angle from me.”
That’s when Bill switched to the body-mounted pouch. Blaze was also drawn into the “which V92C is faster, the red one or blue one?” battle that riders conducted in the brand’s early days.
“Because I had a blue bike, I painted Blaze blue for the  V2V with temporary hair dye,” Bill laughed. “When the newspaper and TV people in Kansas City interviewed me for stories, he was a little blue dog. He was OK with it. He was OK with everything.”
TCVR: It’s All About Riding
On October 2, 1998, just months after the first Victory was built, a Victory V92C online group was founded on Yahoo! Groups. Bill was among the first to join, and he posted the sixth message ever in Victory forum history. The group eventually evolved into the Victory Motorcycle Club (theVMC.com).
Bill enjoyed the discussions on the VMC website, but didn’t want the structure of elected officers and official chapters across the country. Instead, he wanted a club and website for Minnesota riders so they could meet up and take group rides. He formed the Twin Cities Victory Riders (http://tcvr.us) on July 4, 2000, with a post reading, “Welcome to the Yahoo! Message Board for Twin Cities Victory Riders.”
“It wasn’t because I didn’t like the VMC that I started the TCVR. I didn’t like all the rules,” he said. “I liked what the V92C [group] was, a free open forum, there were no dues, no president, no one in charge. I thought, ‘I’ll start another group just for this area, and it will be small and we’ll have rides.’”
To this day, riding and camaraderie remain the foundation of the TCVR. Mean comments and insults are almost non-existent in TCVR forums because the commenters end up riding together.
“There isn’t a lot of smart talk because you might see that guy on a ride and it might not be pretty,” Bill said. “So you behave with your comments online. It’s self policing.”
While anyone can visit the site and read the discussions, only Victory Riders from the Minnesota area – those who would take part in rides and events – can become members with posting privileges.
“You pretty much have to be in the riding area or what’s the use because we’re all about the rides,” Bill said. “There isn’t anyone in charge of events. If you want to go for a ride or plan an event, you post a message online and you get together.
“And we keep politics off the site. Go on there and search the words ‘democrat’ and ‘republican’ and you won’t see anything. Those are banned words. We’re all about the rides.”
As proof there’s no hierarchy, Bill used to have the title “Founder/Administrator” next to his name on his posts, but now it reads “Webmaster.”
“I’m just one of the guys. I’m not a leader,” he said. “I don’t want people looking at it like, ‘this is his page,’ because it’s not. The members run it and it works. One member refers to the TCVR and its structure as ‘utopia.’ It’s been fun. It’s been a great ride.”
Speaking of Rides…
After years of riding his V92C, Bill is now on his second Vision. When he’s at home in Minnesota, he loves taking group rides on western Wisconsin’s “Alphabet Roads,” the country roads labeled with letters, not numbers.
“That is absolutely the best riding,” he declared. “They’re mostly all paved and they’re going in and out of the Mississippi [River] Valley, so they’re following creeks and they get squiggly. It’s like somebody threw a bunch of spaghetti over there for roads.”
In recent winters, he has enjoyed months-long vacations in Southern California and Texas. Along with visiting friends and family on those trips, he has covered thousands of miles on his Vision.
“Last winter in Texas I stayed in Fredericksburg, in Hill Country, and rode over 5,000 miles,” he said. “I’ve done the Three Sisters in Texas and Palomar Mountain [in California] and a lot of the roads around San Diego and the mountains of Southern California. They’re all good, and so are the roads I have ridden in Vermont, but Wisconsin is just as good.”
Future destinations on his wish list include Colorado and other western states he has yet to fully explore.
To Sparky Bill Toninato, good roads and good people add up to good times. He has brought a lot of Victory Riders together over the years, and the Victory universe is better for it.