As crazy as it may sound, sometimes the life of a motorcycle journalist can lend itself to boredom and jaded thoughts. So every once in a while it’s a good idea to shake things up and expand one’s two wheeled experiences. The best way of doing this is by taking a long ride on a bike you usually wouldn’t test. There are two reasons for this. First, there’s no other bike to go head to head with. Secondly, sometimes it’s just nice to take a really long ride, clear your head, and remember that your job is amazing and you’re lucky to have it. So after carving out a solid three-day weekend of “no work allowed” the necessary plans were set in motion. But in my haste to get away I had forgotten one very important detail: our test garage was completely empty. Fortunately, I had a vision.
Infinity and Beyond
Slowly but surely Victory Motorcycles has been making a name for themselves in the Harley-Davidson owned V-twin American market. With a customizable lineup that focuses on Cruisers, Baggers, and Tourers, all of their bikes come standard with no less than 1731ccs of ground stomping power. Their smallest selection comes from a touring lineup that features only two bikes, and of those only one really grabbed my attention. Enter the Vision.
Landing on the scene back in 2007, the Vision was a radical departure from other big touring bikes in terms of both styling and design. Underneath those stylized fairings beats an air/oil cooled, hearty 4-stroke 50-degree V-twin engine. The final drive is a carbon fiber reinforced belt, and stopping its 900 plus pounds (fully fueled) are 300mm floating rotors on a linked ABS system.
Listing just a few of its features, riders may enjoy heated grips and seats, a top of the line sound system, electronic windscreen, and an easy to operate cruise control. The Vision comes stock with almost everything you want on a touring bike except the kitchen sink, and I’ll bet money that somewhere there’s a catalogue selling that as a bolt-on option. Needless to say, for the asking price of $20,999 you’re getting a lot of bike.
The Open Road
On a rainy Friday morning I packed up the Vision with about three days worth of clothes and headed north out of Los Angeles. With no particular destination in mind, I heard the Pacific Coast Highway calling my name and decided to follow a northwestern trajectory. With the go ahead from Victory to put as many miles on the bike as I needed to, one thing was certain: if this bike wasn’t broken in already, it certainly would be by the time I gave it back.
Somewhere around 150 miles into the journey one thing became increasingly clear; for a massive bike, the Vision is extremely easy to ride. It handles better than you’d expect a big bike to and gives you a sense of security that doesn’t usually come with other large road machines. There’s also the comfort factor. Sure the seats are welcoming, but this starship is not a mile eater; it’s a ravenous road beast. Whereas three hours in the saddle on other bikes might cause you to pull over for an extended stretch, on the Vision that’s just where the journey begins. Continuously soaking up the pavement are telescopic forks in the front, and single mono tube cast aluminum, with 4.7 inches of adjustability in the rear. Once in motion most riders will find themselves quite comfortable and forgetting they’re aboard a colossus. This newfound ease undoubtedly leads to fiddling with the radio, testing which adjustable windscreen height is right for you, and deciding whether or not you really need that electric cruise control. Trust me, it comes in handy.
After 6 more hours of riding and signs that kept getting closer to San Francisco, I figured that would be as good a place as any to settle in for a long weekend. Plus, when you take the scenic route at 400 miles a day, your body has a tendency to feel accomplished but exhausted. So after checking into a hotel for the night, I pulled out a map and decided on the next day’s route. The Bay area has a number of great loops to choose from and I eventually settled on one that would take me over the Golden Gate Bridge up to Tomales Bay and back. With that settled, I hit the pillow and slept like a rock.
A word of advice when traveling long distances on a motorcycle; if you can avoid setting an alarm for when you wake up in the morning, do so. Uninterrupted sleep is pretty much the closest thing to heaven besides sex and chocolate. Moving on.
Unlike the previous day’s ride, which was filled with miles of mostly easy scenic highway riding, Saturday turned out to be the real proving ground for the Vision. In less than three hours and 106 miles I experienced serious traffic, had to break out my low speed maneuvering skills, played the clutch and shifter like a 12 piece orchestra, found out where the bike’s true midrange was, and participated in two significant tests concerning the ABS linked brakes. But what are you going to do; sometimes cows just get loose from their fences and roam free on country roads…it happens. After all this it was only noon, and to be honest I was in a bit of a foul mood. But instead of putting the bike away and calling it a day, I decided to sit down for lunch and regroup my thoughts over a stress free chicken salad.
While I can’t call the Vision’s transmission outright clunky you definitely feel every shift with an audible thud. Obviously it’s smoother at higher speeds, but if you can count to six, the digital gear readout is an afterthought. After riding for hours you’ll eventually have to pull the Vision into a gas station. The good news is that topping off the six-gallon tank on this bike means you’re still lighter than all the other V-twin tourers out there. But let’s be honest, 900lbs is still 900lbs. And if you’re loading down a motorcycle with travel gear and then adding anywhere from 150 to 400lbs with rider and/or passenger, you’d better have some decent suspension. While the Vision’s air adjustable absorption does a solid job on highway roads, on any type of back road where unwanted dips and bumps may occur, the stock suspension leaves something to be desired. Even with all that travel and soft seating, it was surprising what got through to my rear end.
Appreciation for all things motorcycle related is the first step in becoming a good moto journalist. And while I don’t currently have a V-twin in my garage, the sound of one always makes me more giddy than a kid at Christmas. The deep rumble produced by the Vision comes complete with 92 BHP and 108 ft lbs of terrific torque. No one who’s ever ridden for a fair amount of time would call those numbers anemic. But for a bike that bone stock has over 1700ccs, the power delivery seems a little stifled. Passing a car on a two-lane road required more downshifting than I’m used to, and a bit more throttle than should be necessary on a highway setting. I can’t call it slow because it does hustle when you need it to. But one does get the feeling that those RPM numbers should climb a little faster a little sooner.
The rest of the day went considerably smoother after lunch. The Vision effortlessly climbed to the top of Twin Peaks Summit, made a few detours to the local bike shops in the city, and provided me with an incredible ride to Alice’s Restaurant via Skyline Blvd. If you’ve never been, I can say without reservation that you absolutely must take this ride. For the best views take PCH south to the 92 West (San Mateo Rd) and hit the Skyline south (Highway 35). The rest of the weekend’s riding continued without incident and I kept finding longer and longer roads to enjoy the Vision on. Despite its shortcomings, this really is a bike that shines on long scenic rides and rewards you with a sense of elation after riding for extended periods of time.
Before I knew it, the Monday morning sun came shining through The Golden Gate Bridge and it was time to pack up and return to L.A. Looking at the odometer I could see I had logged more than 1300 miles in three days. Strictly concerning long distance riding that’s not really any sort of record, but it is a decent amount of seat time to produce a solid review. The trip back took about 8 hours with two stops and handed me all kinds of weather from sun and rain to high winds carrying a cold air current. Even while wearing thick gloves and thermals I gladly still opted for the bike’s heated grips and seat warmers. At full rise the windshield did a perfect job of protecting me from wind gusts. However, the next time I’m riding through fifty-degree weather, I’ll be sure to pack an extra sweater. Just as the sun had gone down I pulled the Vision into my driveway and a heavy rain started to fall. A free bike wash is not what I normally look forward to at the end of a long ride, but after 1700 miles of new experiences and a clear head, I really wasn’t about to complain.
Vision for the Future
At the beginning of this article I mentioned being jaded. While getting to test this bike did give me an overall enjoyable experience and a newfound respect for longer-distance riding, I’d be lying if I said I truly fell in love with what this Victory is. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like including its super plush ride, easy handling, and that intoxicating V-twin rumble. There’s also the fact that it sets itself just far enough apart from Harley-Davidson and Indian to be a legitimate rival in the “Americans Only” market. But as a large touring bike it falls somewhere in the middle of the scale. It’s not amazing and it’s not bad. This is also where a little bit of age bias comes into play.
Thankfully the market for this type of bike is not with the sporty mid-30s moto journalist crowd. If you’re looking at a Vision, chances are you’re a little older with some money in the bank, and a fair amount of free time on your hands. There are those riders out there who are dead set on buying a full sized Touring V-twin, and for them I can’t deny this bike would be a worthy option. Comparatively, both Harley-Davidson’s Electra Glide and Indian’s Roadmaster are more expensive. You could save a little cash going with Kawasaki’s Voyager, but it definitely won’t turn as many heads. And while the Vision doesn’t quite make it onto my top ten list, it never once failed to start a “cool, what’s that?” conversation at just about every spot I pulled in to. In this day and age you can call that simply what it is, a victory.
Lightest of all the V-twin Tourers
Lot of bike for the money
Handles well for a big bike
Storage compartments could use a little more space if you are going to two up.
Feels underpowered for a bike with such a big engine.