Just looking at this bike is a trip. I mean, the thing is galactic. And style? A damn showstopper. Queen Latifah on two wheels. I'm headed west from the cornfields of Polaris country toward the Great Plains, ready to spin some big miles on the latest in luxury touring, maybe even nab an Iron Butt certificate. Trouble is, everyone wants to know about the bike, and it's slowing me down.
Not that I blame them. When I arrived in Minnesota two days ago I was just as itchy for an eyeful. In fact, I hadn't been this interested in a Polaris-born bike since Victory released its first two-wheeler, the V92C, in 1998. After a day with the Vision's engineering team I was further stirred, and not just by the bike's ingenious cast frame, new-generation V-twin and near-flawless automotive-quality finish. These Vision techies were poster boys for passion. They even pinched a bike off the assembly line and did an 11,000-mile relay-style lap of America, returning the bug-laden unit to the product development center just minutes before the press arrived for a tech briefing. Their eyes were twinkling way too much for engineers, making me think that if half their enthusiasm went into the Vision's build sheet, we might be looking at a truly groundbreaking ride.
Or in the words of Victory President Mark Blackwell, "The New American Motorcycle." From the start, Victory has been the only U.S. motorcycle company with enough money and manufacturing mojo to challenge Harley-Davidson. But for the last 10 years they've been meeting Harley on its own playing field, a saturated big-twin cruiser market where the Milwaukee heavyweight continues to dominate. The new Vision project begins an entirely new game for Victory-one Harley isn't likely to play. Blackwell would like to say this new bike isn't a cruiser at all, but its huge torque-thumping V-twin and style-driven shape tell a different story. The Vision is a cruiser, just a style of cruiser the world has never seen before.
I'd managed to score an extra couple days on the Vision after the press had flown home and was frothing to get it into a real touring rhythm. We'd already racked up 300 miles on the bikes in a variety of telling situations, but none that replicated how the bike would truly be used. The crawl of the massive herd, endless photo-shoot turnarounds and an 8-mile stretch of soupy gravel road had revealed a machine that's extremely manageable at low speeds-an asset enhanced by the bike's long, low profile, deep center of gravity and predictable bottom end. To give you an idea of how low, a Gold Wing's seat height is 29.1 inches, the Vision's just 26.5-a feat accomplished by creative forward placement of key components such as the airbox, fuel tank and battery. Cornering clearance is surprisingly unaffected, and in the event you do run out of lean angle in a turn, the floorboards float first. The rear shock is air-adjustable via a teat in the left saddlebag, and adjustment makes a significant difference in the bike's low-speed handling characteristics, especially when you're hauling a load and/or passenger.
All I want to haul is ass, to see how this strangely beautiful bike will feel once the lines between cruising and touring have been blurred. I head first through Iowa and into South Dakota, making a beeline for the Black Hills and Sturgis. It feels like the perfect ambition: taking the bike that's not a cruiser to explore the town that's not a rally.