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.
Even hurtling down the open road the Vision doesn't shed its big-cruiser feel entirely, not with that massive V-twin thundering away. But we're not talking the tiresome vibration rolling though your typical big twin. Victory has done a good job isolating the rider from all but some high-frequency remnants in the handlebar and floorboards. Even the mirrors are mostly clear at highway speeds. It's the engine's hearty power curve and thick exhaust note that keep it feeling classic. What's not at all cruiser-like is its stability at high speeds. None of that hinging in fast sweepers. No white-knuckling through turbulent truck wakes. Even well into triple digits the bike is completely settled.
And this allows me to stretch out on the Vision like some Cirque performer, finding one sweet spot, then another, ticking off miles so easily I forget fuel stops and only pull off when the warning light reminds me. My range from the 6-gallon tank varies wildly due to serious headwinds and some occasional heavy throttling. My average mpg for the trip will turn out to be 32 (low 27/high 38). I'm riding the Touring package, with the otherwise optional trunk, adjustable windshield and all the cool gadgets, including a Victory-branded TourTech GPS, which is incredibly useful and easy to operate. Even wearing mid-weight gloves I can use the touch screen, checking my motion stats, zooming in and out of maps or searching for the next gas station, restaurant or even the nearest Victory dealer.
The stereo is equally fun to mess with, but as expected, the sound at freeway speeds is lacking and only enjoyable if you already know the music that's playing (so your brain fills in the voids). A headset is the way to go. The look of the stereo controls and information window mounted on the faux tank is incredibly clean, as are all appointments in the cockpit, though info in the window is difficult to read when the sun hits it at certain times of day. One especially cool feature is the dedicated iPod adaptor, which routes the player's controls to the main stereo toggles and additionally charges the unit as you ride. Note: It doesn't work with non-Apple MP3 players.
There are both short and tall windshield options for the Vision, and either can be equipped with electronic adjustability, though it's a 30-second job to get off the bike and adjust it manually. I prefer the look of the short shield, but the protection of the tall one. Manually adjustable wings on the fairing widen the ergo bubble, or bring in some cooling air when it's hot.
When I wake up in Deadwood it's cold, foggy...and empty. No blinding chrome, no straight pipes, no stop-and-go to Mount Rushmore. It's like I've never been here before. As I load the bike I spend an extra 20 minutes talking Vision specs to the security guard and a half-dozen seniors who've collected around my Black Cherry spectacle. They're surprised at how much junk goes into my saddlebags-and so am I. We laugh that it's like a magician's hat trick in reverse.
The Vision's luggage not only holds as much or more as its competitors, but it's also exceptionally easy to use. Think of how it feels to close the door of a premium automobile. It's that nice, solid snick I'm talking about, a level of quality that's rare in this market. The top box is especially spacious and offers the benefit of opening fully even when you have crap on the rear seat. Additionally, we're told you can remove the trunk with eight bolts, taking it down to the scrappier look of the base Street model in a few minutes. This is a nice feature for someone with an on-and-off passenger, since the box does noticeably change the weight distribution and aerodynamic effect on the bike, making it slightly less settled in faster cornering and high-wind situations.
Victory chose a linked braking system for the Vision, a philosophy control freaks like me won't appreciate. Full on the brakes, you get a nice, level halt, but not with the urgency you'll find from a Gold Wing's likewise linked system. I'm told there is no ABS option (as there is for the Honda and BMW K1200LT) because not enough people were interested. I know Victory is new in this arena, but I can't help but think this bike is going to shake things up. The Harley? Only if you're shopping for nostalgia. Honda and BMW loyalists? You might want to know there's a new road yacht in town, and it's sailing on an ocean of comfort and style.
It seems I haven't had enough gas station food as I head out of Sturgis, so I decide to widen my loop and include Wyoming and Montana in my route back to Minnesota. My butt's practically humming a tune, nestled in 4 inches of comfy seat foam (or maybe it's the gas station food?) and I decide to go for an official Iron Butt Association "Bun Burner"-at least 1500 miles in less than 36 hours. It's hardly a challenge on this bike-a piece of Hostess cake. Even at 1600 miles into my endurance quest, I have only one issue: speaking. But what a damn blessing. Now when people ask, "What on Earth is that?" I can just mumble something unintelligible and ride away.
EvolutionThe Vision is an all-new model, featuring Victory's first cast-aluminum frame, linked brakes and other new-to-the-company technology. The engine is a completely redesigned, second-generation version of the Freedom V-twin, upsized to 106 cubic inches.
No direct ones: The Vision mixes the classic cruiser character of the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide and Royal Star Venture with the modern luxury-touring amenities of the Honda Gold Wing and BMW K1200LT.
Price: $18,999 Street/$19,999 TourEngine type: a/o-c 50-degree V-twinValve train: SOHC, 4vDisplacement: 1731ccBore x stroke: 101.0 x 108.0mmCompression: 9.4:1Fuel system: EFIClutch: Wet, multi-plateTransmission: 6-speedFrame: Aluminum backboneFront suspension: 43mm forkRear suspension: Single shock, air-adjustableFront brake: Dual three-piston calipers, 300mm discsRear brake: Single two-piston caliper, 300mm discFront tire: 130/70-18 Dunlop Elite 3Rear tire: 180/60-16 Dunlop Elite 3Rake/trail: 29.0/5.4 in.Seat height: 26.5 in.Wheelbase: 65.7 in.Fuel capacity: 6.0 gal.Claimed weight (tank empty/full): 849/885 lbs.Horsepower: 92 bhp @ 4500 rpmTorque: 109 lb.-ft. @ 3250 rpmColors: Black, Super Steel Gray, Midnight CherryAvailable: FallWarranty: One year, unlimited mi.Contact: Victory Motorcycles2100 Highway 25Medina, MN 55340763.417.8650www.victorymotorcycles.com
This nouveau-retro luxury-tourer hits the mark with novel styling, satisfying performance and just the right mix of cruiser cues and luxury comfort.
2008 Victory Vision
Plenty of new technology for The New American Motorcycle
The exceptionally low seat height complicated the rear suspension configuration, resulting in another novel engineering solution: an "out-of-plane" linkage mounted perpendicularly in front of the air-adjustable rear shock, which acts on the shock through a unique pushrod and rocker arrangement. This linkage offers increased tuning options, and also tucks under the low seat while still allowing enough space for a full 4 inches of seat foam, ample clearance for the drive belt and the benefit of not cutting into available cargo space.
In another first for Victory, the brakes on the Vision are linked with the rear brake pedal, which activates the two-piston rear caliper and a proportioning valve that delivers braking pressure to the three-piston calipers up front as well. Linked brakes were incorporated to enhance safety, Victory says-on a bike this heavy, the rear brake alone would be virtually useless.
The Vision comes standard with a full suite of electronics, including extensive lighting and cruise control, plus an optional power-adjustable windscreen. In addition, a brace of options such as heated saddles and grips, on-board GPS and integrated CB/intercom, MP3/cell-phone functionality and XM Satellite radio are also available. All this puts an unprecedented demand on the electrical system, which is why the Vision is fitted with a new, 50-amp alternator (up from 38 amps) that Victory claims is the highest capacity in the industry. "Infotainment" features are accessed via easy-to-add modular handlebar controls that help keep the cockpit clean-there are no dummy switches anywhere on the base bikes.
Power for the Vision is provided by the redesigned, second-generation Freedom V-twin. A 6mm increase in stroke bumps displacement to 106 cubic inches (1731cc) for more power and a broader torque spread. A more sophisticated Visteon engine-management system further improves performance, drivability and emissions. The new 60-pin ECM incorporates sequential injection with independent fuel and spark calibration for each cylinder, as well as a MAP sensor to precisely calculate the air charge; the new motor burns so clean, an exhaust catalyzer isn't needed. The latest EFI system features dual-channel, closed-loop operation, and larger 45mm throttle bodies are fitted with a new eccentric cable drum for smoother throttle pick-up. Luxury-touring buyers demand greater refinement than cruiser types, so Victory went to great lengths to improve the NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) values. State-of-the-art skirtless pistons and new rods with stepped small ends reduce reciprocating mass, so the motor vibrates less despite the increased stroke. Revised cams with altered closing ramps reduce valve-train noise, while split gears on the clutch and balance shafts, with ramp-type compensators to dampen idle noise, all help maintain the elemental sound and feel of the American V-twin with significantly less mechanical noise and vibration.
Market research indicated that comfort and style are the primary considerations of luxury-touring buyers, so the Vision's chassis was designed to be the most comfortable and stylish on the market. Achieving the design goals of the lowest seat height in the category, the most legroom and smooth, flowing styling placed extreme demands on the engineering staff, who devised some novel solutions. The Vision utilizes the first cast-aluminum frame in company history and incorporates the engine as a stressed member. To keep the bike long and low, the airbox and fuel tank were both moved far forward. The airbox is actually the hollow upper frame unit (air enters behind the headlight and flows around the steerer tube), and the 6-gallon fuel tank is split into 3-gallon halves mounted inside the upper fairing on either side of the triple clamps. Wings attached to the rear frame and massive floorboards that mount to the crankcase provide tip-over protection. The cast frame is said to be 25 percent lighter than an equivalent steel structure yet exceptionally rigid, and incorporates machined mounting surfaces for the Vision's 50 separate body pieces to maintain auto-industry-quality fit and finish.