Harley-Davidson Street Glide vs. Victory Cross Country - Town & Country

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Jim Moy

The Cross Country's 65.7-inch wheelbase is just 2.2 inches longer than the Street Glide's, but from the saddle the taller, broader Victory feels 20 percent larger in every way. The smaller proportions of the Street Glide, coupled with a lower center of gravity and perfectly optimized geometry, make the Harley surprisingly agile and fun to ride. The '09 redesign, which went to great lengths to stiffen up the FL's tubular-steel frame, is a huge improvement. The Street Glide can absolutely hustle down a twisty backroad with none of the pretzel-bending behavior that afflicted the old FL chassis.

The Cross Country feels slower-steering and vague by comparison. Three additional degrees of fork rake, coupled with bars that extend more than a foot behind the fork tubes, literally distance you from the front tire, delivering a disconnected steering sensation. It's not until speeds are elevated, or the road gets bumpy, that the Victory displays an advantage. With just over 2 inches of rear-wheel travel compared to the Cross Country's very useful 4.7 inches, the Street Glide can't take big hits or big loads at all. The Victory, with a firmer, better-damped, air-adjustable single shock (the Harley has twin air-adjustable shocks) is the superior machine when the going gets fast or rough.

Both bikes are powered by air-cooled, narrow-angle V-twins. The Street Glide's Twin Cam 96 (in cubic inches, or 1584cc) engine employ's Harley's traditional pushrod, two-valve architecture. The Cross Country uses Victory's comparatively modern Freedom 106 (1731cc) engine, with single-overhead cams and four-valve heads. The larger-displacement Victory makes more power-79.4 bhp at the rear wheel, compared to 66.2 bhp for the Hog. This difference is only apparent on paper, however. More low-end torque and lower overall gearing let the Street Glide out-accelerate the Cross Country just about anywhere. It's only after the speeds climb above 65 mph that the quicker-revving, freer-breathing Cross Country begins to pull away. But as the quarter-mile times suggest, the two bikes are essentially equal on the gas.

In terms of engine character, however, these two are completely different-and completely opposite from what you might expect. The Street Glide's rubber-mounted engine is unbelievably smooth at speed-no paint-shaker jokes here; it makes a Honda Gold Wing seem rough-running by comparison. The counterbalanced, solid-mounted Victory motor transmits significantly more vibration and a bit of drivetrain lash too, especially at lower revs. The Victory's transmission is also clunkier, with a longer throw and more mechanical noise compared to the quieter, quicker-shifting Harley gearbox. Both bikes feature an overdrive sixth gear for properly narcotic highway cruising, but only the Harley comes standard with a heel/toe shifter that's more compatible with floorboards.

For two bikes built in the same geographic region, for the same general customer and ostensibly similar usage, this pair offers surprisingly different riding experiences. The Victory Cross Country is certainly a better value. The base price is $1000 cheaper, and it includes more standard features like cruise control, passenger floorboards, bigger saddlebags and a more integrated infotainment system. It also offers a more sophisticated chassis and suspension, and makes more power. But it also feels bigger than it needs to be, vibrates more, shifts worse, makes more mechanical noise and ultimately feels less refined than the Harley.

The Street Glide, on the other hand, is a joy to ride every time you jump on it. The riding position is perfect for almost any-sized rider and almost any distance. It's surprisingly agile and sure-footed, and the motor is smooth, strong and eminently easy-to-use. Some convenience features aren't as convenient as they could be, and we'd gladly sacrifice some low-rider style for increased rear-suspension travel, but ultimately the Street Glide feels like the tighter, righter bagger. Compared to the original, the upstart Cross Country is still playing catch-up.

Off The Record
Matt Samples
Age: 35 Height: 6'2''
Weight: 190 lbs. Inseam: 34 in.

Having pretty much always ridden Japanese sportbikes, I have uttered the phrase, "I'll never own a Harley." Well, chalk it up to creeping in on the big four-oh, or a wife that's tired of having her knees jammed up in her chin, but the Street Glide made a lot of sense to me this time around. Riding it had me picturing a long cruise in the country with the missus jamming out to the John Butler Trio on the stereo with a picnic basket full of fine Wisconsin cheeses, flat bread and strawberries stuffed in the saddlebags with room to spare. Maybe I'm a Harley owner in the making...

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