What's the proper response when the boss sends you to something called the Very Boring Rally? "Sure, just let me finish this latest issue of Modern Numerics and find my digital sextant?" A few years of marriage, mortgage and midnight feedings have dulled my edge, but The Very Boring Rally?
It's the brainchild of Andy Goldfine, proprietor of Aerostich Riderwear and inventor of the single greatest piece of riding gear yet devised: the Roadcrafter one-piece riding suit. You might think this rally's name is ironic, a nudge-wink to the uber-adventure types at the core of Goldfine's customer base. Maybe it's an attempt to scare off the Bike Week-bred party posse. But Duluth-born Goldfine doesn't do irony. He's almost pathologically sincere; the embodiment of Minnesota's straightforward, Scandinavian roots. Anyone who has perused the endlessly entertaining RiderWarehouse catalog knows that Goldfine honors truth in advertising above all. And with seminars exploring the "psychobiological connections between motor-cycle and rider," well, Very Boring is the dog's honest truth.
Never one to actively seek boredom, my over-caffeinated, ADD-addled brain comes to one conclusion. This job needs one hell of a cool bike. Not some GPS-guided, seat-heated touring sled, but a badass, tough-as-nails chopper. Ever met a bored Hell's Angel? Make that two choppers now that Bill Berroth-friend-of-the-magazine, el jefe at Motonation (Sidi/Vemar's US distributor) and off-road rider extraordinaire-wants in on the action.
Call us the Uneasy Riders: one (me) who'd rather be chopped up in little bits than caught dead on any chopper and another (Berroth) who's never ridden a Milwaukee V-twin at all. Instead of Wyatt and Billy crossing the desert in fringed leather, we're Papa and Baby Smurf in bright-blue Cordura, searching for freedom on Midwestern back roads. Our iron ponies are factory choppers in basic black: Harley-Davidson's retro-bobber Cross Bones and Victory's stripped-down Kingpin 8-Ball. Go ahead, try and bore us now.
The Cross Bones is the flagship of The Motor Company's new Dark Custom line-up, designed to appeal to young, hip buyers. Patterned after a '50s bob job, the Softail-based Bones nails the look with its Bobtail rear fender, fat tires on black, spoked rims, retro-style Springer fork and mini ape-hanger handlebar. Black Denim matte paint with hand-laid pinstripes completes the look. No need to squint much to see a vintage custom here.
The Kingpin comes from Victory's budget "8-Ball" line. Basic black is the theme-except for the slash-cut shotgun pipes, headlight and speedo housing, everything is as dark as midnight. Where the Cross Bones looks backward for inspiration, Kingpin styling is post-modern custom with a sculpted and stretched fuel tank and full fenders that emphasize Victory's signature, flowing lines. Don't dig the big-fender look? Try the slimmer 8-Ball Vegas for $200 less.
Cross Bones power comes from the Twin-Cam 96B, Harley-Davidson's latest 45-degree V-twin. That's 96 as in cubic inches, and "B" tips you to the internal balance shaft that eliminates vibration with surprising effectiveness. The Kingpin utilizes the Victory's 100-cubic-inch, air/oil-cooled Freedom engine. With single overhead cams and four valves per cylinder (vs. pushrods and two-valve heads for the Harley), the livelier Freedom engine delivers 76 bhp and 93 lbs.-ft. of torque through the five-speed transmission to the belt-driven rear wheel. The smaller-displacement Cross Bones puts down just 70 bhp and 84 lbs.-ft.of torque, though a closer-ratio, six-speed Cruise Drive transmission helps it more or less keep up with the Victory on the street.
Our version of cross-border terrorism took us from Harley's hometown of Milwaukee to the Victory's home state of Minnesota. The first 100 miles from The Brew City to Green Bay were all slab, and demonstrated immediately that the Kingpin and Cross Bones are both mostly unfit for long-distance, high-speed touring. Feet-forward riding positions provide the proper thug profile around town, but they're painful at highway speeds. The Victory is more comfortable, but not by much. Its saddle is accommodating with decent lumbar support, and a lower, pullback handlebar almost keeps your arms out of the wind. Forward-mounted floorboards prevent your legs from offering any support, however, sending road shock straight up your spine.
The Cross Bones' sprung tractor-saddle is a fine perch, but that too-cool ape hanger bar turns your torso into a parachute and any attempt to resist the windblast is stymied by forward-mounted floorboards. You're left using either your arms or abs to sit up straight. Neither strategy works for 70 miles at 70 per, as visions of some boring bolt-on windshield dance in your head.