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.