Baggers - Riding Positions

Andrew Cherney
Height: 5 ft. 7 in.
Weight: 149 lb.
Inseam: 31 in.

Anything bigger than one of these touring cruisers is basically a car, and that's why the BMW--the smallest of the bunch--suits my riding style best. Though I took exception to its buzziness, the windshield finally felt right on this R1200C. The riding position fit me like a glove, and the Beemer's fun and competent, but you'd be hard-pressed to fit more than a weekend's worth of stuff in its diminutive bags.

The Victory got a brilliant red coat and more power in its new Freedom Engine, but it was undone by an overly harsh suspension, a powerplant that ran hot when flogged hard, and the towering windshield.

The Harley's still a looker, but its vibration seems to have increased--maybe because every other bike in the class has gotten better. The King's still surprisingly nimble for its size, and its eager powerband will get you out of trouble easily. Ground clearance is good and the luggage accommodating, though I found the recalibrated suspension vague in back. That's why the Nomad gets the nod. I'd probably take the BMW if I went solo, but the Nomad's more of bargain, and it has minimal vibration. The bike is simply more refined, more polished. I know I won't have to worry about my passenger's accommodations and the bags are spacious. The bike was slightly underpowered and a wee bit underbraked, but the Nomad had all the necessary gauges I required, adjustable levers and a well-shaped seat. Maybe I'm just getting more demanding in my old age, but the Nomad seems to shine the brightest of the quartet. --Andrew Cherney
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Evans Bradfield
Height: 5 ft. 11 in.
Weight: 185 lb.
Inseam: 32 in.

Wow, what a class this has turned into! Not a dog in the bunch. For most of the test, I thought I had a tie for first between the Nomad and the Victory. Each time I mounted up, I found another reason to fall in love. The final choice came down to which one I would rather spend a week on. Give me the Nomad. Refinement is the key. While it may not be the best of all the factors we judge bikes by, the Kawi just feels comfortable with whatever you throw at it. And don't forget the best-looking bags in the business.

Runner-up status goes to the Victory. The deciding factor was the windshield. It is way too tall. On the bike, though, all I can think about is how wonderful the engine sounds. I like the overall look of the bike, too. I don't care what others think, the tail lights in the bags are cool.

The Road King was fine. I could ride it for days. It just didn't light my fire. Remember the Sesame Street song "Which of these things is not like the others?" The BMW is a great bike with wonderful roll-on acceleration and terrific ground clearance. I've racked up many-a-mile in its comfy saddle and loved it. But the tiny--not waterproof--bags keep it from being a true hard bagger. The BMW just isn't the right tool for this job. --Evans Brasfield
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Art Friedman
Height: 5 ft. 10 in.
Weight: 220 lb.
Inseam: 32 in.

I figured this would be a great chance to rack up miles on two of my favorite motorcycles, the Road King and the Nomad. The new Victory TC looked like it might be a great traveling companion, too. However, I awaited my turn on the R1200C with trepidation. But as soon as I settled into the saddle, I realized that simple changes had made a huge difference. It is amazing what you can do with a seat swap, a new handlebar bend and a sensible windshield. Even with vibration intruding at speed, the BMW had suddenly become a motorcycle that was fun to travel on.

Victory also made the TC better than I expected, and the TC Deluxe, with its wide-open saddle and backrest, also piqued the interest of my favorite passenger. However, it had the least curb appeal (what I feel looking at it) for me and there are still a few thoughtless nits (How could they put such a tall windshield on a bike? Doesn't this company have any lawyers?). The company has shown that it can build worthy motorcycles though, and this is one of its best.

But the reinvigorated competition still has not displaced the Nomad as my favorite bagger, which has even moved slightly farther ahead of the Road King in my book. Even if they all packed the same price tag, the Nomad's near-perfect ergos, ultra-smooth powertrain, unique saddlebags, pretty styling, and all-around comfortable ride would sell it for me. Since I'd save over three grand, there is no contest. --Art Friedman
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