2010 Vision 8-Ball. We should be testing one later this year.
Nirvana: a place or state characterized by freedom from or oblivion to pain, worry, and the external world.
A few years ago at a new model launch I was letting my inner voice out about how I wanted to hit some twisties on the bikes we were testing. A veteran journalist piped up with something to the effect of "Why? These bikes are meant for touring." Without pause I shot back, "because I'm a motorcyclist!"
It's always been a mystery to me as to why big baggers needed to have marginal handling, be relatively slow, and fraught with limitations. I even think I was beginning to believe that maybe a 750-plus pound bike couldn't defy the laws of physics and just couldn't perform the way I wanted it to. Maybe it's the clientele; that stereotypical old, bearded guy with nowhere in particular to go, enjoying soaking up thousand mile days on the interstate. That sure wasn't me or my idea of 'touring.' It became a compromise between being comfy and ripping a perfect corkscrew in the mountains yet always being careful of respecting the limitations of the machine. Before joining the dark side of über-tourers I was always in the position of choosing handling and power over comfort. I put countless thousands of miles, two-up and fully loaded on an ancient, hot-rodded, four-speed Sportster. Crazy? Maybe. Fun? Darn skippy!
That's why I was so excited to see Victory Motorcycles' bold departure from the bagger norm when the company released the groundbreaking Vision in 2008. While the Vision represented a huge departure in the styling department the underlying engineering was even more forward thinking, especially for Baggerland. Under the bodywork is an advanced, cast-aluminum frame that doubled as a large airbox. The swingarm and rear mono air shock were developed to work in conjunction with the rigid, stressed-member frame.
Two years after the intro of the Vision the Minnesota based company released two new models based loosely on the Vision/CORE technology chassis: the Lexan-screnned Cross Roads and the fork-mounted fairinged Cross Country. This past Autumn we attended the 'soft launch' of the new bikes (including the new Vision 8-Ball and Kingpin 8-Ball) where we got to ogle the new bikes, sit on them, and make vrrom-vroom sounds in the breathtaking Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. But it would take several months before we got to thumb the metaphorical defibrillator. Baggers had an extensive, exclusive peek into the new models featuring the new Cross Country on our October 2009 cover. Having already been a supporter of Victory Motorcycles I couldn't wait to finally throw a leg over the company's newest touring rigs and actually ride them.
The time had come and prior to departing LAX. I received a set of Victory saddlebag liners, a ticket to Austin, Texas, and a note regarding packing. I stuffed my helmet and other riding gear into one bag and some clothes and camera gear in the other. Upon landing in Texas I was escorted out to the valet parking area where a line of new Victory bikes awaited; I got the Cross Country with the skull motif paint scheme. I, along with a select group of other journalists, loaded the saddlebag liners into the hard bags, suited up, and rode out of the airport. We rendezvoused about 30 minutes later for some authentic Texas barbecue before departing on a twisty, scenic 2 1/2 hour ride to the Hangar Hotel in the Fredericksburg area.
Usually when I fly to launches I'm driven to hotel, listen to a lecture, sleep on it, and awake to ride the new models. Jumping from plane to bike was a great experience-no chaperones or rules, just me, a map, and a new bike that I got to ride under my own conditions at my pace. This was also my first riding trip in Texas. My initial impressions were outstanding.
Of particular note was the large capacity of the top mounted saddlebags. Victory claims they're the biggest in its class and I'd agree-a great start to the weekend and what I like to see in a touring bike. A busy airport is not the best place to get on a brand new bike, but all was well and everything on the machine was easy to operate. After familiarizing myself with the controls and adjusting the traditional mirrors I dialed in some radio stations and loaded them into memory; easily done and intuitive (there is an MP3/iPod connector but I didn't use it). The handlebar controls are familiar bits of Victory with handlebar pods that control the audio and cruise control.
The Cross Country features a fork mounted fairing with a stylish low windscreen perched on top. For my 5 foot 9 inch body the screen proved to be pretty good; some of the taller riders on the trip experienced some buffeting. Victory does offer optional windscreens to suit your particular needs. Through the use of a windtunnel the fairing was designed to reduce turbulence while sculpted grooves in the fairing were designed to divert water away from the rider. There was no quirkiness at all to the Country from slow-speed u-turns to open road cruising. I felt right at home with the nicely positioned, adjustable, pullback handlebars. The stepped seat is nicely padded with ample back support that puts the rider barely 26 inches off the ground. Extra long 18-inch floorboards provide lots of options for foot positioning and comfort. While there is no heel shifter stock for ease of moving around there is one available as an option.
With 4.7 inches of travel out of the rear shock along with 5.1 inches from the 43mm inverted, cartridge fork with progressively wound internal springs the Cross models soak up anything in their path. Due to the patented rear shock system the suspension reacts in a linear fashion throughout the travel. Combined with a low center of gravity the Cross team's road manners are hard to beat. No matter how hard you push the Cross bikes they are never unsettled, even on less than ideal pavement. No wobbles or wallowing, just pure confidence.
Each of the Cross models carries the Freedom 106ci, overhead cam motor that delivers more than ample amounts of torque and horsepower. The wet-sump, rigid-mounted motor has a broad torque curve that's ideally suited for a touring bike. Much of that power comes from a overhead, chain-driven cam arrangement that operates four valves per cylinder. This design not only flows more air, but is significantly lighter than a pushrod actuated valvetrain. This, combined with a true overdrive six-speed transmission lets the rider have total control of power delivery with vibration-free riding out on the open road. Clutch-lever action is low to medium effort and while the tranny is a bit on the loud side all worked as it should. Final drive is delivered via a belt to the rear radial wrapped 16-inch wheel. Unlinked brake calipers do a great job of stopping the bikes with decent feel at the lever. ABS is unavailable on either Cross model.
For the majority of day two of the Hill Country tour I chose to ride the Cross Roads. With its Lexan shield instead of the fairing the front end, naturally, feels lighter. This bike has more of a traditional look, reminiscent of a Road King. The windshield is easily removed by loosening four fasteners. The screen provided more wind protection than the fairing aided by the addition of the extended length of the screen alongside the headlight. The other notable difference on the Cross Roads was the single analog speedo compared to the full instrumentation on the Country. However, the speedo has an easily accessible (via a button on the back of the left handlebar control) digital information display that includes, trip meters, tachometer, timers, etc.
After a sunrise photo-op and refueling the Victory team gave us options for the rest of the day; three different pre-planned rides of varying difficulty and length or do our own thing. Although we were discouraged from attempting the most ambitious of the rides by ring leader and expert rider Robert Pandya, a brave few of us decided to go with him. He's an Austin area native and knows the best roads in the area. We reluctantly suited up on a scorching 100-degree day and we were off.
If I didn't know any better I would have sworn I was somewhere in California with the curvy, winding roads bisecting golden fields, old trees, and the occasional river. This is what I was waiting for from the first time I saw the new bikes-amazing twisties, up and down mini mountains, switchbacks, the whole shebang of how and what I love to ride. At first, riding with such accomplished riders, most of who specialize in sportbikes, was a bit disconcerting. My nervousness was settled almost immediately with a flick of the wrist and a gentle push on the inside bar.
WOW! That machine carved up the turns like a finely tuned ski, effortlessly while asking for more. Normally one has to slow down on a big bike before entering a turn, make sure all is well with your exit, and coax the bike around (hoping you remembered to downshift) while scraping parts on the ground. This was surely not the case for the Cross Roads. Having a leader who knew the roads instilled confidence and allowed me to focus on the bike and the ride. Faster and faster, more and more lean angle-this thing just wanted to run. The whole chassis combined with the big jugs purring under me brought more than a few smiles to my face.
Having never touched down on a Vision I was startled when the floorbords started gently touching terra firma; I was amazed to find out that the Cross had the same extraordinary floorboard height.
I vaguely remember something about riding in the Three Sisters area (Routes 335, 336, 337) but I didn't have much time to take in the scenery before ending up in historic Gruene for the night. All I know is an epic day of riding was had by all. I had no idea it was possible (especially for me) to do controllable rear-wheel power slides on a bagger; until now that is.
Although the official launch was over my fun wasn't. Robert and I spent Friday riding more around the Hill Country before ending up in Austin for the nightly flying of the bats, some grub, and of course the blues at Antone's. After checkout on Saturday I went solo around the Austin area, exploring more of the Texas backcountry on a Cross Country before leaving the Victory back at the airport.
This trip opened my eyes and changed many of the long-held notions I had regarding big, relatively heavy motorcycles. These bikes don't feel big or heavy and handle like much smaller bikes. Do yourself a favor and throw a leg over one of these new Cross models. So Victory, these bikes have more storage capacity than a Vision Street, are lighter, and handle better. Sign me up please.
|2010 VICTORY CROSS COUNTRY|
|ENGINE||50 degree V-Twin air/ oil cooled|
|BORE X STROKE||101x108mm|
|VALVETRAIN||Overhead camshaft with four valves per cylinder|
|INDUCTION||Electronic Fuel Injection/dual 45mm throttle bodies|
|FUEL CAPACITY||5.8 gal./1.0 gal reserve|
|EXHAUST||Split dual exhaust with crossover|
|PRIMARY DRIVE||Gear drive with torque compensator|
|TRANSMISSION||Six-speed constant mesh|
|FINAL DRIVE||Carbon Fiber Reinforced Belt|
|SEAT HEIGHT||26.25 inches|
|RAKE/TRAIL||29 degrees/5.6 inches|
|DRY WEIGHT||765 lbs (745 lbs)|
|FRONT||43mm, inverted cartridge|
|REAR||Single, mono-tube, air-adjustable shock|
|FRONT||Dual 300mm floating rotor/Four-pistoncalipers|
|REAR||300mm floating rotor/ Two-piston caliper|
|WHEELS & TIRES|
|FRONT||18 x 3.0 in|
|TIRE/SIZE||Dunlop Elite 3|
|REAR||16 x 5.0 in|
|TIRE/SIZE||Dunlop Elite 3|
|COLORS AND MSRP (ADD $250 FOR CA)|
|CROSS ROADS:||Solid Black $15,999,Solid Midnight Cherry$16,599|
|CROSS COUNTRY:||Solid Black $17,999, Solid Midnight Cherry$18,599, Black & Graphite w/Extreme Skulls $19,499|