Touring Bikes Comparison - Long Rangers

Four Philosophies, One Purpose

Photography by Kevin Wing

Victory Vision Tour
The flamboyant Victory Vision stole the show no matter where we were. People took one look at the massive, sweeping arc of the fairing and stretched and sculpted tailsection and assumed it was a concept bike. When we told them it's a made-in-Minnesota production model, they were astonished, oohing and ahhing over every detail, such as the lighted fairing badges and the pod-like trunk. If you love this kind of attention, the Victory brings it like rain.

Each line and element of this motorcycle-from the arch of the passenger grab rail to the wave-like engine portal-blends into the next. The attention to detail is astounding. Take the underside of the passenger floorboards, for example: They're stylized to stream artistically with the bike's overall flow when folded up out of use. Whether you love or hate the aesthetic result, this bike is a feast for spectators, though happily the Vision is not a book that's all cover.

Beneath that retro-chic skin you'll find a functional marvel, a blend of engineering feats that meld mechanical elements to further echo the bike's overall futuristic/vintage persona. The mega 1731cc V-twin fools people into thinking this machine is a cruiser, but a quick ride halfway down the block proves it's more than that. Polaris-born Victory has outdone itself with this all-new, highly complex touring platform-a move that yanks it out of the fat-ass chopper rut it seemed to be wedged in since the launch of the Vegas in '02.

Though it weighs almost 900 pounds with a full fuel tank, the Vision keeps up with the lively pace set by the Gold Wing and completely outruns the Ultra Glide. The Vision also kept up in fast cornering situations, especially after we bumped up air pressure in the rear shock (easy to do using the saddlebag-located nipple and supplied shock pump). In parking lots and tight, technical maneuvering, however, the Victory was one of the least enjoyable rides, feeling its length and offering only vague steering feedback.

The traditional split braking system offers strong stopping power, though it's disappointing there is no ABS option. Cornering clearance is surprisingly high. Not that you're going to be scraping the hull in straight-line touring situations, which is where the Vision shines.

Hands-down, and for every tester but tiny ones, this is the most comfortable touring bike around. The cockpit is beyond roomy, allowing maximum stretch and range of position. The floorboards-free of the heel/toe shifter common on touring cruisers-feel as big as skateboards, with plenty of room for fore/aft movement. We all felt good about the seat cushioning too, though some riders with longer legs felt crowded by the raised pillion. Our test bike was equipped with the optional heated seat and handgrips.

The Vision's windshield was also a winner, mostly due to it being electrically adjustable via a toggle switch. This allowed us to dial in visibility and wind protection on the fly. We universally enjoyed the bike's uncluttered control center and exceptionally easy-to-use, optional navigation unit. Audio quality was decent around town, but not very listenable at freeway speeds, making helmet speakers a must. The Vision comes standard with AM/FM/MP3 capability and options for CB/Satellite radio and CD player. Stereo controls are found both atop the faux fuel tank and in a cluster below the left handgrip. The grip controls are easy enough to manipulate with gloved hands, as are the cruise control switches on the right side of the bar.

Engine clatter directed toward the rider was a complaint we all shared, drowning out the would-be romantic pulse of the big V-twin. Our unit had several thousand miles on the odometer, and some buzzing in the dash at midrange rpm was also a pleasure-sucker.

The Vision Tour model's trunk, which visually reminded one tester of a Venus flytrap, offers plenty of room for the essentials, including storage of two full-faced helmets. The saddlebags look like they'd be spacious from the outside, but are very modular inside and won't handle nearly the stash you can cram into other panniers.

The Vision comes in five versions, including a Street style that foregoes the trunk starting at $18,999. A decked-out Premium Tour like ours goes for $21,499-two grand less than the similarly equipped Gold Wing we tested, minus the ABS.

Off The Record
Tim "Ultra Klassic" Carrithers

The average American loves living large a whole lot more than I do. Luxury cars, luxury liners, luxury hotels, luxury sky boxes and this whole luxury-touring thing are beyond me in more ways than you can swipe an American Express Platinum Card at. The Gold Wing rules the interstate with a slightly lower level of amenities than a Royal Caribbean flagship, and it can scrape through the twisty bits quickly enough to humiliate allegedly sportier equipment. And what of the alleged competition? You can take on 70,327 tons of steam-turbine powered HMS QE2 with a brigantine, a clipper ship and a three-masted schooner, but the results are predictable.
Age: 50 Height: 6'3" Weight: 215 lbs. Inseam: 34 in.

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