Riding through the slot canyons around Gateway, Colorado, with the headlight of a good friend occasionally blinking in my mirrors, I’m once again reminded that I belong to a small tribe, at least when compared the number of people there are in the world who don’t ride. Realizing how incredibly fortunate we are to experience the thrill of a new landscape from the saddle of a motorcycle, I down shift the big V-twin beneath me and dive into the next series of bends. Reacting to the change of pace, my buddy adjusts his speed, as I also realize that the Victory motorcycles we are riding belong to a relatively part of this tribe in the big picture of the motorcycle industry. This makes the large presence and awareness they have already established for themselves since their introduction in 1998 all the more remarkable.
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Having arrived on the scene with their bikes being touted as “the new American motorcycle,” Victoryquickly began winning awards. Their 1999 V 92C took Cycle World’s “Cruiser of the Year,” with numerous awards to follow. Building on this success, “Fuel your passion” is now a new tag line at Victory to accompany the fifteen new models they have on offer in 2011. As we thunder alongside a breathtaking vista of deep river canyons and towering mountains, I’m having no trouble figuring out what it means.
Also, riding through some strange times in the motorcycle world with our current economy, it’s interesting to note the success Victory has been achieving in growing the brand. This is not so surprising, when you realize the Victory Motorcycle Company is headed by Mark Blackwell, the motorcyclist’s motorcyclist. There are few more qualified in our industry, and this is easily recognizable in the quality and versatility of the machinery and choice of machines he oversees. With the fat 250 tire models excluded, the have ridden put a premium on the ride experience, with great handling, braking and strong, useable power allied to superb fuel delivery. Realizing that while I’m not a fan of big tire bikes, many people are, and the Victory models certainly do a much better job than others I’ve ridden with this configuration. American Iron Horse has to be the worst offender, with Suzuki’s M109R coming a close second for honors in the most difficult to ride category.
With fifteen new models to potentially ride in one day, it seemed like a daunting prospect at first to give them a decent evaluation. But with all of the line up sharing the same basic 106 cubic inch, air-cooled V-twin engine, it actually wasn’t such a tough job. Starting with the one bike I know from the Victory line up, the Vision Tour, I learned this, the Cross Roads and the Cross Country actually have what is called the Stage 1 engine package. This gives the touring range engines milder camshafts and a lower maximum peak of 92 horsepower. With 109 lb-ft of torque, it’s man enough for the job, and I’ve made many a happy mile in the seat of a Vision in the past.
For 2011, Victory has made changes to the gearbox to quiet things down. Fourth and sixth gears have been worked over to reduce whine, and drive train lash has also been drastically reduced. After our day of testing, there was too much daylight and incredible scenery left for me to pack it in, so I jumped on a cruiser and headed out to shoot some photos. Paying particular attention to the gear whine, I was surprised how much noise there was and wondered why it wasn’t noticeable during the day. Well, I’ve never been the sharpest tool in the shed, so it took a while for the small, shriveled pea floating around inside the cerebral nut basket to register I was riding last year’s model. Enough said.
Visually there are few noticeable changes to the Vision Tour, which I personally think is one of the coolest looking motorcycles ever made, except new blacked out passenger handholds, redesigned muffler tips and new tubular handlebars. It does come standard with anti lock brakes this year though and will set you back $23,699. If you want something extra special, there is an Arlen Ness version, which is simply stunning to look at and retails for $27,999. As a top of the line luxury cruising motorcycle, the Vision Tour comes with all the bells and whistles, from capacious lockable storage to a fully integrated sound system and more. While I didn’t put any transcontinental type mileage on the new ’11, I did put enough miles on to remind myself why I enjoy this, comfortable, mile-eating motorcycle so much.
The Cross Country is a stylish bagger, with a large full handlebar mounted fairing that comes with a fully integrated audio system like the Vision, an MP3/iPod hook up and optional Satellite radio. It feels instantly lighter and more maneuverable than the Vision, but with a choice of hard bags or soft saddlebags, or the new accessory color-matched trunk you can make it perfect for long haul journeys. Comfortable and smooth, with a 4.8-gallon gas tank and cruise control, the Cross Country is going to easily live up to its name.
Braking is the same as the Vision, with a pair of 300mm dual discs up front using four piston calipers. A single 300mm disc is used in the rear, and unlike the Vision the system is not linked. Settling the bike well into corners, solid and predictable handling is certainly one of the Cross Country’s strong points. While it uses the same frame, forks differ from the Vision’s 46mm conventional units by using the same inverted 43mm units found on the Cross Roads. A single air assisted shock in the rear makes changes for passengers and luggage not only easy, but also as precise as you want to make it. Coming in a choice of three colors: Solid Black, Solid Imperial Blue Metallic and Two-Tone Pearl White and Vogue Silver. The base model is on showroom floors for $17,999. You can, of course, get a highly individualized Cory Ness version for $24,999, which comes with a host of Ness chrome and billet accessories, the cylinders diamond cut, a pair of beautiful sculptured billet wheels, custom suede seat and a Sun Set red custom paint job.
The Cross Roads itself comes standard with cruiser control and no fairing, although you can have the same lockable hard bags or soft saddlebag option as the Cross Country. Part of Victory’s Core Custom Program yhat allows the customer to choose their own color from a choice of Solid Crimson and Solid Black. They can also specify whether they would like the accessory windshield, different handlebars and either the soft or the hard saddlebags. There is the optional color matched lockable trunk from the Vision and Cross Country. This comes on and off the bike in seconds and requires no tools for this operation. Able to hold two full-face helmets with room to spare, it has two speakers for the passenger as well as a comfortable backrest. Added benefits are the high mount tail light, and if you want to accessorize it further, you can add a passenger arm rest kit and pick up a liner and a cargo rack for more luggage carrying capacity. It’s this attention to every detail that is so precise that really impresses me with the whole Victory experience. You can simply set the bike up exactly the way you want it before you ride it away from the dealership. Retail on this baby starts at $14,999 and there is a highly customized Cory Ness version for $24,999.
In the cruiser department, you have a mix of bikes centered on three models: The Vegas, the Kingpin and the Hammer. The Vegas Jackpot is one of the bikes that has a 250 series rear tire and a very skinny 90 profile, 21 inch front tire. Retailing for $18,999, it comes with a cool black and white paint job, with a glamour girl on the side panel. The bike is a real looker, but loses points from me for the rear tire and the very busy digital tachometer. Never settling at any one place, even when I tried to keep the throttle steady, it would need to go if I owned the bike. The engine is a peach though and with the same faultless fueling it has a little extra power thanks to the Freedom 106/6 Stage 2 engine, which gives a total of 97 hp and 113 ft-lb of torque. It also uses the newly revised six-speed transmission and a host of customizing options at time of purchase.
The Hammer and the Hammer S also feature this level of engine tune and the 250 series rear tire. Victory says they are “at the intersection of sporty styling and cruiser muscle” and with twin discs up front, an inverted fork and removable seat cowl, they certainly have some sporting attributes. A performance exhaust is available, as are lower controls, grips and covers. The standard Hammer retails for $17,999 with the S model coming in a little higher at $18,499. There is also the Hammer 8-Ball which is a more base line, blacked out version with less frills for $14,499.
The rest of the Vegas family of cruisers restored Mr. Happy to the saddle as they come with a 180 series rear tire and a cool custom looking skinny 90 series 21-inch tire up front. The best selling motorcycle of the Victory line up, and probably the best known, it’s a distinctive looking bike that works really well over a wide variety of road conditions. Wide pull back handlebars, low seat and custom quality paint give it the right look, and with the basic 8-Ball starting at $12,999, it’s the lowest priced Victory of the bunch. You can spend up to $18,999 for the Zach Ness version, and there are a number of accessories available like performance exhaust, windshields etc, at the time of purchase for all the Vegas line up if needed.
Last but not least, and one of the bikes I put the most miles on during our test, the Victory Kingpin. With the larger fenders, inverted fork and eighteen-inch wheels, it has a distinctly different look to the others in the range. With the best handling package and the same silky smooth engine response, it was my favorite to ride. The seating position is pure cruiser, but not at the expense of any comfort, as the floorboards were nicely placed and the wide bars sat me upright without feeling strained in either direction. Base model 8-Ball starts at $12,999 and the straight Kingpin, with a choice of Solid Crimson and Two Tone Imperial Blue and White, hits $14,999. Clean, quiet and efficient belt drive is used as with all the models here, and like all Victory motorcycles it’s an extremely tight, well thought out package in every respect.
Heading home from Colorado, it’s clear Victory is extremely serious about their motorcycles and how to keep building on their success. The amount of options available for someone purchasing a new machine are bordering on the overwhelming, although I’m sure very exciting as you set about making your new bike just the way you want it. What started out as a confusing prospect, turned into a simple distilled realization that it doesn’t matter which of the new Victory models you choose, you are clearly not going to be disappointed.