For most riders Victory motorcycles are not a new entity. It seems like they have always been around, but it's only been 10 years since Minnesota-based Polaris Industries took the plunge and unleashed the company's first motorcycles. At first, the company offered cruiser-type bikes based on a proprietary overhead cam motor. Over the years, the motor has evolved into the Next Generation Victory Freedom V-twin with a similar appearance and layout to the original V92C but technologically updated.
As the company grew, so did the offerings and the displacement of the motor. For 2009, Victory offers two families of touring bikes: one based on the Kingpin chassis and the other on the Vision platform. In all, there are five separate touring models (with subclasses in some models) that vary in fit, finish, and motor configuration. Returning for 2009 are the Kingpin Tour, Vision Street, Vision Tour, Arlen Ness Signature Series Vision, and the 10th Anniversary Vision.
Last summer we had a chance to check out the new models up close but didn't have an opportunity to ride them. We were looking forward to throwing a leg over the bikes and putting them through their paces and Victory obliged us this past Fall. We were treated to an amazing starting location in the oceanside town of Del Mar, California. After a brief yet thorough state of the Victory Union address by the people behind Victory motorcycles, it was time to put in some serious miles on the company's newest offerings. Although the original route called for 250-odd miles, after a few lapses of directional accuracy and photo shoots, the ride was easily 300-350 miles in duration.
Our ride route would take us to eastern San Diego county via freeways before ascending into the mountains and some serious twisty roads. My first ride of the day was a Kingpin Tour model decked out in a nice two-tone Blue Ice/Pearl White with Carbon stripe paintjob. This particular model comes standard from the factory with leather-esque covered hard plastic saddlebags and rear mounted trunk. While not the biggest saddlebags on the market, they provide enough room for a weekend getaway and they lock, which is a nice feature. The trunk, which is also lockable is cavernous enough to hold a full-face helmet with plenty of room to spare. A medium height plastic windshield provided just the right amount of air deflection without getting hot or causing wind buffeting. Also included on the Kingpin Tour is a set of fork-mounted wind deflectors. While the clear plastic deflectors and windshield are not quick-release, it's a simple operation to go naked if you so choose. Floorboards are standard fare for both the rider and passenger and provide ample room under the heel-toe shifter and brake pedal to stretch out on the open road. Another nice touch is the included passenger backrest that rests against the trunk. This model is a turnkey machine that has a lot of standard options right from the factory. You could easily pick it up, load it up, and hit the road with the missus. The only option that many touring riders want and is missing is cruise control. However, Victory pre-wired the bike for easy installation of the accessory cruise control option.
Among the touring models the Kingpin Tour is the only bike that has a 100ci motor; the entire Vision line has the 106ci motor. Being roughly 75 pounds lighter than the lightest Vision, those 6 cubes don't make a noticeable lack of power. Victory claims the 100ci chain-driven, overhead cam motor pumps out 85 ponies while managing 106 lb-ft of torque. Power is transferred to the rear beltdrive via an overdrive six-speed transmission. Fuel management is handled by a closed loop fuel injection system that worked flawlessly from sea level up to the top of mountain peaks. No flat spots, surging, or any other fuel delivery anomalies were encountered. Spent gasses exit the right side of the bike via two-into-two headers connected to stylish slash-cut mufflers. The stiff chassis rides upon dual 18-inch silver Stingray wheels with suspension duties handled by an inverted fork up front and Victory's single, hidden, vertically mounted shock out back.
All of that added up to a ride that was controllable and relatively comfortable. The Kingpin Tour has a tight feel to it, that definitely adds road manners while cornering, but not plush. Vibration wasn't an issue at all, partly due to the tall gearing in Sixth gear. Dual four-piston calipers up front and a single two-piston unit on the rear clamp down on floating rotors and did a good job of stopping the 728-pound machine. Our only ergonomic gripe on the machine was the handlebars. The bend in the bars was reminiscent of the old H-D buckhorn bars that put your wrists at an awkward inward angle. Of course your mileage may vary. Base MSRP for the Kingpin Tour is $18,399.
After a couple of hours on the Kingpin Tour it was time to climb aboard the flagship Vision line. Continuing with the commercial success of last year's Vision, the Polaris team didn't do much to change the bikes. For 2009 there are four basic variations in the Vision lineup including two limited edition models: the Arlen Ness version and the 10th Anniversary Vision. If you didn't get your hands on one of the 99 anniversary models offered to the public, you're out of luck. They all sold out in seven minutes. Luckily for us, Victory kept one of the 100 produced and we got to ride it.
Not much changed from last year's debut of Victory's 106/6 V-twin. It's specially calibrated 106ci (1731cc) motor breathes through two 45mm throttle bodies feeding four-valve overhead cam (one per cylinder) heads producing a claimed 92hp and 109 lb-ft of torque. With the 6-gallon pannier-style fuel tanks located on either side of the neck area, the Visions have some nice range to them. Depending on your throttle hand, expect at least 200 miles per tank upward toward 250.
Victory characterizes the Vision Street as the "Complete Cruiser" and the Tour as the "Ultimate Luxury-Tourer." Other than the Tour's rear-mounted trunk (complete with speakers), both bikes are essentially the same. Both bikes have a very similar ride and feel. The trunk on the Tour didn't upset the handling in any perceptible way. Two full-face helmets could be squeezed into the trunk, which is nice to have on a trip. Additionally each bike can be ordered from the factory in different option and trim packages. For the Street, it's the base package or 'Premium' package. The Tour gets another option called Comfort. The Premium package consists of factory-installed options such as power windshield, heated seats and grips, high-intensity discharge (HID) headlight, and an assortment of chrome accoutrements. The Premium package adds $2,700 to the base price of each bike while the Comfort package ($500, Premium features minus the HID light and extra chrome) for the Tour is also available. Premium models feature billet wheels. Base models of the Street start at $18,999 for solid black, while the Tour begins at $19,999.
All Visions share the monocoque frame that serves to not only suspend the motor but is also the airbox. The cast-aluminum frame allows large amounts of air to enter the motor while also providing a very rigid and close tolerance frame. The closed-loop fuel management system allowed each of the Visions to start up effortlessly with perfect idle control. Seating comfort and position was good due to 4 inches of seat padding.
Although the Visions are approaching the 850-900-pound mark, rarely did any of them feel awkward or heavy. The bike was easy to get off the sidestand and maneuver around a tight parking lot. One area we've had problems with in the past, and not specific to Victory, was maneuvering the bike backwards in gravel or dirt. For 2009 Victory came to the rescue of short leggers everywhere with the optional (standard equipment on the Anniversary model) reverse gear. On the left side of the case there is a lever that puts the bike into Reverse. After engaging the gear, pushing the starter button sets the gear into motion. With no effort at all, the big machine moved backwards in a very controllable fashion at about the pace your leg power would provide. It's a nice touch for sure. It came in handy during our ride as the shoulders and turnouts were thick, heavy gravel and sand.
No matter how hard the bikes were pushed, there was never a wobble or shimmy and hitting hard parts in turns is almost impossible. It sure feels nice not having to worry about digging a floorboard into the pavement going 80mph through a big sweeper. The motor delivers all the power you need at almost any rpm. Gearing seemed perfect with plenty of power available, even in Sixth gear as long as the rpm's were above approximately 2,500 (about 70 mph). Stability and suspension compliance during mid-corner perturbations was nothing short of exceptional. Some of the sportier motojournalists on the ride looked like Nicky Hayden throwing the Visions around, hanging off the side and throttling up.
The Visions feature linked brakes that, well, link the operation of the front and rear calipers under certain conditions. When the rear brake pedal is depressed hard, one piston in each of the front three-piston calipers is also activated. It worked seamlessly and prevented dive while not affecting the feel or operation of the front brake lever. No ABS is available, but we feel it isn't needed. Victory's own research indicates its customers don't want it either.
On the comfort side of the equation, we liked the electronically adjustable windscreen that could be moved up to 3 1/2 inches on the fly. In the lowest position the top of the screen was just about at nose height for the average rider while well above eye level in the highest position. Even though air gets to the rider's head in the low position, no buffeting was evident. Adjustable, laterally mounted wind deflectors on each side of the fairing also did an excellent job of wind and cockpit heat management.
Instrumentation on each Vision was easy to see and evaluate. Aside from the normal speed, rpm, battery voltage, fuel gauge, and idiot lights, there is a LCD display with gear indicator, time, temperature, and a myriad of fuel and mileage related parameters. Things like average and instantaneous gas mileage, miles to empty, two resettable trip meters, and an overall odometer are among the data available. The main audio controls and screen are integrated into the center of the 'tank' panel while a left handlebar pod lets the rider have audio control at his or her fingertips. An mp3 player can be attached through the auxiliary cord found in the left side tank compartment. With the optional iPod cord, the player can be charged while riding and have song info displayed on the Victory screen. The four-speaker Tour system sounded much better than the two on the Street, but both were good with nice bass and treble response even when riding with a full-face helmet with earplugs in. Improved speakers with new tweeters boost sound output without distortion.
Continuing its relationship with Arlen Ness, the Victory crew let Arlen loose on a Vision Street to use as his palette. Each black, limited edition bike features an Arlen designed paint scheme and comes loaded with Ness accessories such as wheels, grips, and engine covers. A custom stitched leather seat sits 1-inch lower than stock but has a great seat pocket. Of all the Visions we rode, the Ness version just had a feel we liked. Some of that may have been attributed to the seat, but it could have easily been the feeling of straddling the big black machine. There's definitely a cool factor on the Ness Vision that gets attention.
Victory went retro on the 10th Anniversary Vision by using the same Antares Red, with black metallic accents, and gold pinstriping that adorned the first Vic back in 1998. Every part of the bike received special treatment and upgrades. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to see one as they are very rare bikes and will never be produced like this again.
Along with the rest of the cruiser lineup, Victory has an ever-expanding collection of parts and accessories. We're looking forward to what Victory has up its sleeve; it's been an amazing ascension. In only 10 short years it continues to push the envelope and dares to be different.
For more info, as well as color options, parts, accessories, and apparel, visit www.victorymotorcycles.com.