The 2015 Victory Gunner and 2014 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim mirror each other in many ways. Both boulevard brawlers sport meaty Dunlop tires wrapped around 16-inch wheels, their front ends set at rakes in the 32-degree range, spreads of 64.4-inches (Slim) and 64.8-inches (Gunner) between wheels. Forward controls and pullback bars equate to comparable upright riding positions, both bikes sporting low-slung seats. Each is powered by a torque-rich V-Twin, Harley’s 1690cc Twin Cam 103B air-cooled while Victory’s 1731cc Freedom 106 utilizes air- and oil-cooling. Both source a single disc/four-caliper arrangement for braking duties on the front. One comes from the old guard out of Milwaukee, the long-time standard-setter in the heavyweight division, and its styling cues reflect that heritage. The other comes from the upstarts out of Minnesota, a company that has strived to delineate itself from its American V-Twin competitor with wrinkles on traditional styling. With their solo seats and ruggedly handsome curbside appeal, the two bikes fight for the same bone in a concentrated buying demographic.
Harley introduced its first Softail, the FXST, in 1984. Since its release, the Softail platform has played a significant role in Harley’s annual lineup, with six Softails amongst this year’s offerings. By tucking the rear shocks into the bike horizontally, Harley was able to give the models a clean rigid look with the benefits of a sprung ride.
The Softail Slim hit the market in 2012, a model inspired by bobbers of yore. To honor the genre, Harley trimmed down the Slim’s fenders, brought back its “Hollywood” handlebar with the cross-brace, and added its signature Fat Boy tank with a “Cat ’s Eye” console and a retro-style face. The bike’s front end is anchored by a beefy FL fork with beer can covers while its low-slung seat drops riders behind the controls, the 25.6 inch seat height one of Harley’s lowest. The tidy rear sees a cropped fender, the license plate side-mounted, as are its signals that serve as brake and tail lights. H-D’s Twin Cam 103B engine mounts directly to the Softail frame. The powertrain also sources a small round air cleaner, six-speed transmission with a “cruise drive” sixth gear, and over/under Shotgun exhaust with slash-cut tips.
The 2014 Softail Slim tipped our scales with a 704-pound curb weight, 31 pounds more than the Gunner. While it was indeed the heavyweight in this test, it won the fuel efficiency battle with a 35.97 mpg average. A base Softail Slim starts at $15,899 in Vivid Black, but a color option like the Charcoal Satin we tested bumps the price up to $16,299. Our test unit was also equipped with the $795 ABS option, meaning the 2014 Softail Slim we rode has a total sticker price of $17,094.
Victory tore the wrapper off the 2015 Gunner not long ago in Daytona Beach during Bike Week. When conceiving its styling direction, Victory similarly invoked the bobber credence where less is more. This design direction extends to the front fender, Spartan instrumentation, solo seat and wheels. The 24-spoke cast aluminum wheels shave almost 10 pounds from other Victory cruisers. Trimming weight off the Gunner is a common theme as overall it weighs 11 pounds lighter than a bike it shares much of the same DNA
Results of a trip on our DynoJet 200i show the Victory’s Freedom 106 holds a distinct edge in both horsepower and torque over the Softail Slim’s Twin Cam 103B.
with, the Victory Judge. That DNA includes a 50-degree V-Twin with single overhead camshafts spooned into the tubes of a double cradle frame, both sporting identical wheelbases, tire sizes, and braking components. The new Gunner also borrows the raised spine gas tank and fender design from the Victory Jackpot.
As mentioned, the Gunner tipped our scales much lighter than the Softail Slim, but at 673 pounds it’s by no means a featherweight. Though it looks much longer than the Harley, its wheelbase is only 0.4-inches longer. Similar to the Softail Slim, Victory kept the back end tidy by keeping everything off the rear fender, mounting the license plate and taillights below. While it enjoys a 41cc advantage in displacement relative to the Harley, it comes at a price as the Gunner averaged 32.77 mpg during testing. The 2015 Victory Gunner is offered in one color scheme, Suede Metallic, with an MSRP of $12,999.
With a one-way ticket to midnight, we set about testing some American-made heavy metal on our favorite flogging grounds around our Southern Oregon HQ. We ran them up and down mountains, leaned ‘em over, used them as daily commuters, and even engaged in a friendly impromptu drag or two. We’ve left skid marks mashing brakes, hooked them up to satellite feeds to measure acceleration, threw them up on our scales, kept mileage charts, and charted performance numbers on our dyno. The more miles we spent in their saddles, the more the identities of these two cruisers revealed themselves. With that said and done, let’s take a look at what we found in this duel between American-made V-Twin-powered cruiser motorcycles.