2012 Victory Cross Country First Ride

October 17, 2011
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

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Check out some of the highlights of the Victory’s bold bagger in our 2012 Victory Cross Country First Ride video.

The closer we got to Dallas, the more the roads became congested. We had charted a course during the first day of testing the 2012 Victory Cross Country to circumvent Big D entirely, but missed a turn somewhere and were spit back on I-35 right in time for rush hour traffic. In fifth gear at 75 mph, the 1731cc engine is in its happy place at around 3200 rpm, with plenty more of its claimed 113 lb-ft of torque ready to be tapped in to with a good twist of the throttle, should the occasion call for it. Packed in tight like NASCAR at Talladega, the mob I’m in banks around a blind left hand bend to find traffic ahead at a dead stop. Both hands and feet move instinctually, dropping a gear in the blink of an eye while simultaneously mashing the brake lever and pedal, the Dunlop Elite 3’s screaming as they attempt to grab asphalt heated by the 105-degree day, the rear of the bike sliding out while I’m looking at the distance between the car ahead of me quickly shrinking away. The ABS on the Victory Cross Country worked as prescribed, the front four-piston calipers digging in to the big 300mm floating rotor as it brought the 800-pound motorcycle to a stop in a controlled manner despite the surrounding chaos of cars locking up around me, shaving off enough speed to keep me from bashing into the guy ahead of me until I had an opportunity to jump into the next lane over and avoid the Dallas death trap.

The 2012 Victory Cross Country is a capable tourer with its generously sized tank  comfortable seat  capacious saddlebags and sharp handling.
With its generously sized tank, comfortable seat, capacious saddlebags and sharp handling, we found the 2012 Victory Cross Country to be a capable tourer.

The funniest part is, I wasn’t too fond of the ABS on the 2012 Cross Country under controlled braking because of the strong pulse in the ball of your foot at the pedal. It annoyed me when it engaged a couple of times at slow speeds when I didn’t feel there was any need for it. The front brake applies linear pressure in normal braking situations but there’s not a very strong initial bite. A positive from this is there’s not too much dive on the front end. The two-piston caliper arrangement on the rear is a bit grabbier and doesn’t lock up easily. But though I wasn’t fond of the ABS initially, it passed the test when it was a true emergency situation. I wasn’t even aware of any pulse at the pedal and the system helped me keep the bike upright and controllable.

Earlier that day, we had landed in Austin, Texas, to begin our three state, 1600-mile shakedown of the 2012 Victory Cross Country. The best tests are real world applications because you can’t simulate scenarios like we experienced in downtown Dallas, so we charted a course to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where we would be covering the2011 Bikes, Blues & BBQ rally. It also would provide an excellent opportunity to ride through the clogged arteries of cities, log plenty of highway miles, then test its handling in the wonderful twisting roads of the Ozark Mountains. We’d be living out of saddlebags for the next week, and fortunately the bags on the Cross Country are plenty wide and deep. We crammed a computer bag, an extra pair of shoes, rain gear and cameras in one while a small duffle bag of clothes slid perfectly inside the other. The first time we rode the Cross Country, the latches on the top-loading saddlebags didn’t always shut, but that issue seems to be addressed as they didn’t pose any problems this time. The Cross Country’s saddlebags hold a claimed 21-gallons (10.5 gallons per bag) and are cut so it’s usable space. They also match the curves of the tank and front fender well, complementing the bike’s aesthetics. Riders looking for even more storage space can buy the Lock & Ride Trunk as an optional accessory for $1750, but as is the Cross Country’s bags easily held a week’s worth of gear and clothing.

With our bags packed, we set out on a hot Texas day in the Hill Country while charting a course for the cooler climes of northwest Arkansas. It’s before noon and the temperature gauge in the Cross Country’s digital display window says the outside temp is 102 degrees already. We give the rear air shock a few pumps from the provided hand pump to set the suspension for load, a process which takes all of two minutes. The interstate just north of Austin is chewed up and

Custom builder Cory Ness has used the Cross Country as his customizing palette for the last two years.
Renowned custom builder Cory Ness has used the Cross Country as his customizing palette for the last two years.

uneven, but you wouldn’t know it based on the ride quality provided by the Cross Country’s suspension. Even when the top surface of the road had been stripped away and parallel grooves of payment lie underneath, the 43mm inverted fork didn’t float around or transfer the unevenness to the rider. It took a hole big enough to swallow the tire for the big fork to blow through its 5.1 inches of travel. The rear end also has an above average amount of travel at 4.7 inches. The rear Kayaba suspension is well damped and the ride is stiff, not rolling, yet compliant enough to divert the energy of big hits away from the rider.

North of Waco, traffic picks up. With only two lanes, big rigs impede the flow of traffic on this stretch of I-35 when they pull over to pass one another, and making time means taking advantage of the breaks in traffic. We’re grateful for the output of the Cross Country’s Freedom 106 engine when passing trucks on I-35. It’s got a snappy first couple of gears, with usable power coming on below 2000 rpm, which helps when it’s time to get up to freeway speed. Victory revised the valve timing of the SOHC engine over the prior iteration by altering the cam profiles to boost torque output. The torque curve is relatively flat and really comes on strong around 2200 rpm. We spent a lot of time in fifth gear on the highways because its generous top end came in handy when we needed to pass trucks. Overdrive sixth is a nice feature when the road is open and you can sit back and cruise because it drops rpm down to a loping cadence of 2800rpm @ 75 mph. The counterbalanced engine displays little vibrations despite its solid mounting, making road miles that much more enjoyable. The counterbalanced V-Twin serves as a stressed member of the aluminum frame made from a sand-cast aluminum process whereby the two pieces are bolted together to create a stiff modular chassis. The innovative upper frame casting also houses the airbox to the air/oil cooled engine but stop-and-go rush hour traffic demonstrates the big V-Twin still emits quite a bit of heat on the inside of the left leg when idling for long periods of time.

The Cross Country has one of the most distinct front fairings out there, with angular lines and a shorty windscreen. The fork-mounted fairing is made of lightweight plastic that’s barely noticeable at the bars and doesn’t inhibit steering. It’s generously wide and does an adequate job of shielding riders from bugs and debris, but the windscreen allows plenty of hot air to rush over which hit us mid-forehead. It wasn’t jostling our head as much as streaming steadily, but unfortunately before embarking on our trip we dropped our full-face helmet and broke off the visor so we were more susceptible to the blast of hot air rushing over the fairing. Thanks to its low slung saddle sitting 26.25 inches off the ground, we were able to tuck in just a tad so the air was directed over our head. The padded seat is contoured just right for a six-foot-tall rider and we didn’t experience any numbing, even on long stretches. The comfy saddle teams perfectly with bars that are wide enough to provide good leverage when turning but fall easily at hand. Spacious forward-mounted floorboards also help keep ergos perpendicular to the ground and are long enough to allow riders to stretch out their legs.

The 2012 Victory Cross Country handles as good as if not better than any other factory bagger. Victory sources the 1731cc Freedom 106 engine across the board in its 2012 motorcycles. Taking a break on the 2012 Victory Cross Country at the Green Mesquite  a BBQ joint in Austin  Texas.
(L) We’ve been riding baggers all summer long and found the 2012 Cross Country to be the best handling of the bunch. (M) The 1731cc Freedom 106 powers all Victory Motorcycles now. (R) Whether cruising the super-slabs or simply jaunting around town to your favorite watering hole, the 2012 Victory Cross Country is up to the task.

Traveling north, the harsh brown earth of Texas gave way to the greener countryside of Oklahoma just as the sun was going down. There was a lot of construction on I-40 and traffic funneled down to one lane. Fortunately, Oklahoma has one of the best reflector systems I’ve encountered and the headlight of the 2012 Cross Country is ultra-bright. It puts out a great pattern, wide and long, and hi-beams primarily makes the field of view even wider. The cockpit has big, round analog gauges with the speedo and tach located front and center. With a blue backlight, they’re easily visible at night. A digital gear indicator is always useful, though there were a few incidences when it didn’t display anything while the bike was still in gear. It also has a green “Neutral” light, which didn’t light up in those instances mentioned above which would have clued us in that the transmission was still engaged had we been paying attention. We found out the old-fashioned way, releasing the light-action hydraulic clutch a tad to feel the bike creep forward. The rest of the handlebar-mounted controls are placed intuitively, with buttons for the entertainment system within reach of the left thumb while the right control housing holds cruise control. The cruise control function engages with the push of a button to turn the system on while another sets the speed. Best part is, the buttons light up at night when the system is engaged, making the system easier to utilize at night.

Victory makes its statement on Main Street Sturgis. Were seeing more and more Victorys at motorcycle rallies these days  especially the best-selling Cross Country.
Victory makes its statement on Main Street Sturgis. We’re seeing more and more Victorys at motorcycle rallies these days, especially the best-selling Cross Country.

We started the next day of our 2012 Victory Cross Country test from Ft. Smith, Arkansas. After pushing hard the first day to make miles, we traded congested freeways for the back roads of the Ozark Mountains on day two. It didn’t take long before yellow signs began to warn the road ahead was “Very Crooked and Steep.” Soon we were in the midst of 15 mph switchbacks making 180-degree turns back uphill and it was here that the Cross Country shines. I’ve been riding baggers all summer long, from the Kawasaki Vaquero to the Stratoliner Deluxe, and can say through my experiences that the Cross Country is the best handling factory bagger out there. As mentioned, the weight of the front fairing is barely noticeable and action at the bars is light. The bike turns in predictably and transitions with surprising litheness. It is stable when leaned over and has generous ground clearance. Though it tips the scales at almost 800 pounds fully fueled, it doesn’t perform like a sluggish heavyweight. It also has enough power at low rpm to keep the bike from lugging if you get caught a gear high in a turn.

Victory spent a ton of R&D honing in its transmission last year and the revisions are a noticeable improvement. There’s still a bit of a mechanical clunk as the whirling gears engage, but it’s much quieter than before and the helical-cut gearbox shifts smoothly otherwise. On occasion we did miss a few shifts when we clicked it into neutral instead of the intended gear when shifting up but contribute it to not quite clicking the tall shift lever up enough. Victory did employ a “Neutral Assist” system last year, and apparently it works well. As noted, a couple of times we thought we were in neutral because no gear displayed in the window but the transmission was still engaged.

The Cross Country has been a vital element in Victory’s growth and was the company’s best-seller in 2010. The bike has been instrumental in helping move Victory up to Number 2 in the heavyweight cruiser segment (1400cc-up). When introduced, it offered an edgy alternative to the staid styling of the segment with its combination of sharp lines, a beautiful recessed tank, bags that match the flow of the front end, and a potent engine. A generous 5.8-gallon tank gives it a healthy range with the motorcycle averaging 39.95 mpg during our time in its saddle at an average cost of $13.30 per stop. Of course, this is at Texas/Oklahoma/Arkansas gas prices, which were around 70 cents cheaper per gallon than what we pay at home on the West Coast. Victory is offering the 2012 Cross Country in Solid Black or Imperial Blue for $18,999, while the Sunset Red & Silver/Graphics package cost a grand more. We admire the Cross Country for its versatility as it served whatever purpose we threw at it, from a comfortable long-range tourer to a bike we polished up and cruised Dickson Street on during the Bikes, Blues & BBQ rally. Its styling is always a conversation starter while its combination of power and handling make it damn near unbeatable in the factory bagger segment.

*Be sure to check out other great routes through Arkansas’ Ozarks in Motorcycle-USA.com’s Ride Guide.