2013 Victory Judge

All Rise!

By Jamie Elvidge, Photography by Barry Hathaway

They say: “American muscle never died. It just needed handlebars.”

We say: “And long arms!”

Victory has been releasing a new model about every six months for the last few years, but they’ve nearly all been touring-oriented. Even the last addition, the back-to-basics Hard-Ball, was a bagger. All rise for the Judge: the first completely restyled Victory cruiser since the Jackpot was introduced in 2006.

When we first heard whispers that the latest offering from America’s second-largest motorcycle manufacturer was going to be a sport-cruiser, we immediately perked up. The company’s last such machine, the 2000 V92SC, was a short-lived but wonderful “sporty-cruiser” that offered snappy perform-ance and actual cornering clearance.

As it turns out the Judge is more of a muscle cruiser, meaning it’s sporty in a straight line. It’s a bike that looks badass in a new old-fashioned way, much like the re-released Dodge Charger or Chevy Camaro. Also similar is the Judge’s intended market: the young guy who wants a vehicle that’s visually virile in a pre-Clean Air Act way yet offers the performance and reliability of a modern-day machine.

We rode the Judge out of Palm Springs, California, for a day. Riding in the desert evokes images of flat, straight roads, but because of the mountains encircling the Coachella Valley, we rode dizzying twisties all day. Victory’s choice of Dunlop Elite II tires for the 16-inch front and rear wheels was a good one, lending stability to the bike in corners. Suspension is basic, which leaves the Judge feeling a bit harsh when you’re negotiating less-than-smooth road surfaces.

Like most cruisers, the Judge’s footpegs hit the pavement as soon as you push the pace. And there’s something about the mid-mounted foot controls that makes your feet get more “taco’ed” upon touchdown than they would with more forward pegs. Victory says this position gives different-sized riders a choice of where to put their boots down at a standstill; taller riders typically let them fall ahead of the pegs, while shorter riders let them fall behind.

The footpeg position also helps you more comfortably reach the Judge’s daring far-forward drag bar. The last cruiser Victory introduced was the ape-hanger-equipped High-Ball, and you also need ape-arms on the Judge because it’s quite a stretch! Ironically, the bike’s low, 25.9-inch seat height was designed to accommodate riders short in stature. Luckily, the seat has a cupping effect that helps position you forward for a solid hold on the bars.

Power comes courtesy of the good, ol’ Freedom 106/6 V-Twin. Torque is a claimed 113 lb.-ft., and twisting the throttle suggests that’s no idle boast. The single front disc brake provides only meager stopping power, while the big rear disc is borderline excessive and requires a very light foot.

Visually, the Judge is undeniably masculine. The new fuel tank and fenders are brawny, yet styling elements such as the flush LED taillight add elegance. Incorporated into the bodywork are side numberplates to let the owner personalize his bike. Little changes such as minimized branding and a shift from plastic to die-cast aluminum engine covers add up to a larger shift in Victory’s cruiser styling.

It’s been six years since Victory has made any additions to the basic cruiser lineup that started the whole shebang rolling in 1998. Back then we had high hopes that the Polaris-born brand would finally bring some healthy, homegrown competition to the American V-twin cruiser market. The Minnesota-based company—profitable since 2002 and growing stronger every year—has taken numerous twists and turns since the release of the original V92C, and it’s about time it stepped back into the mainstream cruiser arena. And what better way to do it than by flexing a little muscle?

By Jamie Elvidge
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