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.
2010 Vision 8-Ball. We should be testing one later this year.
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.