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

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Jim Moy

Baggers-the bastard children of a cruiser and a full-dress tourer-are big business. Distinguished by saddlebags and full fairings, and built for stylish over-the-road travel, they're the most popular subset of the massive cruiser market. Harley-Davidson doesn't disclose sales by model, but even a cursory curbside survey says baggers are Milwaukee's best-selling bikes. It seems every second Harley you see is a Street Glide. Victory isn't as tight-lipped-the all-new Cross Country bagger is already by far its best-selling touring model. The Minnesota-based company reports that buyers range from 26 to 72 years in age, hinting at baggers' broad appeal.

For the type of riding most Americans do-long hours of interstate interspersed with the occasional slow-rolling backroad-nothing beats an easy-riding bagger. The riding position, with a big, supportive saddle and pullback bar, is all-day comfortable. Torque-rich V-twins deliver lazy, loping power that encourages relaxed riding, and those eponymous bags carry enough for day trips or even week-long solo tours.

Harley-Davidson's trend-setting Street Glide is the bike that launched the bagger revolution, while Victory's Cross Country is the newest entrant in the category. The Street Glide looks instantly familiar, with the same basic lines that have marked Harley's FL touring line since 1969. Beneath that iconic Batwing fairing is a chassis that was totally redesigned in 2009, with a series of updates that dramatically improved handling and ride quality. The Cross Country is new from the ground up with an innovative cast-aluminum backbone frame and other high-tech features concealed under streamlined, retro-style bodywork.

The Street Glide is essentially the old (and now discontinued) FLH standard shaved and smoothed out for a semi-custom look. The rear fender has been extended with "ground effects" containing trick, tri-line running lights, and the brake light is incorporated into the turn signals. There's no windshield on the Street Glide, just a chopped and tinted "wind deflector." The sloping passenger pad looks clean, but might as well come with an "If you can read this, the bitch fell off" T-shirt.

Victory's Cross Country is more stylized, reaching back to the Art Deco age for its elongated aesthetic cues. The chrome detailing is dramatic, especially out back where a super-bright LED taillight plunges toward the pavement like a dagger, and similarly sculpted turn signals stab out sideways. Tank recesses and sharp fairing creases make the Cross Country look like it's going 60 mph standing still. It's a love-it-or-hate-it look, though, with more than one onlooker suggesting it bordered on garish.

Both fairings contain extensive "infotainment" systems, another must-have feature for a bagger. Harley's top-of-the-line Harman Kardon audio system offers AM/FM/CD/weather band, plus an audio input jack for MP3 players. It delivers superior sound quality and the self-adjusting volume function is better calibrated, though the tiny, multi-function toggle controls are difficult to master. Victory's house-brand audio system offers the same functions minus CD, and raises the MP3 ante with an accessory cable that lets you safely hide your iPod in the right saddlebag. Sound quality suffered in the extreme upper registers, but the Victory's underbar controls are much easier to manipulate. Garmin's Zumo 660 GPS is a $790 option on the Harley; $850 on the Victory.

Cruise control is standard on the Victory and a $295 option on the Harley. Here again Victory's independent button controls are easier to operate than the Harley's multi-function toggle, though we should note that the Victory's cruise control ceased to function after a night spent in the rain, though it worked fine once it dried out. Both bikes offer trip computers, though Victory's is more comprehensive with a trip timer and instant fuel-mileage calculator in addition to the usual tripmeter array. The Cross Country gets a nod for the bar-mounted trigger control; you have to reach up to the dash to scroll through the functions on the Street Glide. Victory's low-fuel indicator is maddening, though. When the fuel level reaches reserve, the fuel gauge immediately plunges to a panic-inducing "E" and the mileage countdown is replaced with an ominous "LoFuel" reading, leaving you no way of knowing your remaining range.

With a class-leading 21-gallon capacity for each saddlebag, the Victory can carry more cargo, even without the optional top racks fitted to our testbike. With a class-leading 580-pound total load capacity, the Victory can carry more human cargo, too-an important consideration if you and your riding partner are sized like the average Midwesterner. Both bikes offer armchair ergonomics with your feet outstretched on long, broad floorboards and an easy reach to comfortable pullback bars. Smaller riders will prefer the Street Glide. The rangier Victory demands a longer reach to higher, wider bars. Even without a real windscreen, the Harley's Batwing fairing blocks plenty of air, though buffeting is a bother at highway speeds. Our Victory was fitted with an optional, $350 tall touring windscreen that blocked plenty of air and eliminated buffeting, but made a direct comparison impossible.

Off The Record
Jim Moy
Age: 50 Height: 5'7"
Weight: 200 lbs. Inseam: 31 in.
It's surprising that two motorcycles that look so similar can be so different. The Victory's aluminum chassis is more modern, but the engine and transmission feel almost antique. The Harley looks antique, but quicker handling and torquier acceleration make it more fun to ride-even if its radio and cruise control are as complicated as a Smartphone. The Victory is no doubt a superior two-up, long haul-tourer, offering better passenger accommodations and more storage space-important considerations in this class. But for a solo rider, it's a tougher call. I'd call this a tie between apples and oranges.

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...

2010 Harley-Davidson Street Glide | Price: $18,999

Dyno
Though it makes significantly less peak torque, the two-valve Twin Cam 96's low-end output lords over Victory's four-valve Freedom106 at lower revs. The Street Glide holds a 5 lb.-ft. advantage at 2000 rpm, which makes it quicker from a standstill.

Tech Spec

Engine type: a-c 45-deg. V-twin
Valve train: OHV, 4v
Displacement: 1584cc
Bore x stroke: 95.25 x 111.25mm
Compression: 9.2:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: 6-speed
Frame: Steel double-cradle
Front suspension: 41.3mm Showa telescopic fork
Rear suspension: Twin Showa shocks with air-adjustable preload
Front brake: Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 300mm discs
Rear brake: Brembo four-piston caliper, 300mm disc
Front tire: 130/70B-18 Dunlop D408F
Rear tire: 180/65B-16 Dunlop D407
Rake/trail: 26.0º/6.7 in.
Seat height: 27.3 in.
Wheelbase: 63.5 in.
Fuel capacity: 6.0 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 828/792 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 66.2 bhp @ 4700 rpm
Measured torque: 81.1 lb.-ft. @ 3700 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile: 13.87 sec. @ 93.1 mph
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 39/33/36 mpg
Colors: Vivid Black, Scarlet Red, Brilliant Silver Pearl, Black Denim, Red Hot Sunglo
Availability: Now
Warranty: 24 mo., unlimited mi.

Contact: Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Co.
3700 W. Juneau Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53201
414.343.4056
www.harley-davidson.com

Ergos
When the rest of the cruiser industry rushed to supersize everything, Harley-Davidson held the line, thus modern Hogs feel almost compact. An easy reach to the bars and floorboards makes the Street Glide a good fit even for smaller riders.

2010 Victory Cross Country | Price: $17,999

Dyno
The Victory's 147cc displacement advantage translates to an additional 13.2 peak horsepower, a difference you can feel during top-gear roll-ons. At speed the Cross Country can easily gap the Street Glide, which feels breathless by comparison.

Tech Spec

Engine type: a-c 50-deg. V-twin
Valve train: SOHC, 8v
Displacement: 1731cc
Bore x stroke: 101.0 x 108.0mm
Compression: 9.4:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: 6-speed
Frame: Aluminum backbone
Front suspension: 43mm inverted fork
Rear suspension: Single shock with air-adjustable preload
Front brake: Dual four-piston calipers, 300mm discs
Rear brake: Two-piston caliper, 300mm disc
Front tire: 130/70R-18 Dunlop Elite 3
Rear tire: 180/60R-16 Dunlop Elite 3
Rake/trail: 29.0º /5.6 in.
Seat height: 26.25 in.
Wheelbase: 65.7 in.
Fuel capacity: 5.8 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 832/797 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 79.4 bhp @ 4750 rpm
Measured torque: 92.2 lb.-ft. @ 4250 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile: 13.47 sec. @ 95.8 mph
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 42/38/40 mpg
Colors: Solid Black, Solid Midnight Cherry, Black and Graphite w/Extreme Skulls
Availability: Now
Warranty: 12 mo., unlimited mi.

Contact: Victory Motorcycles
2100 Hwy. 55
Medina, MN 55340
800.765.2747
www.victorymotorcycles.com

Ergos
With bars and floorboards both 2 inches farther away, the Cross Country's cockpit suits taller riders better than the Street Glide's. For anyone under 5-foot-8, it's a stretch. Sasquatch-sized 18-inch floorboards give multiple footing options.

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