Bright lights in a big city, high rollers and fat bank rolls, where fate is decided at the flip of a card, fantasies fulfilled and dreams shattered. Vegas, baby. No place like it.
The warm winds of the desert whispered Victory had a new bike to ride. Considering they were debuting it in the middle of the Mojave in July, visions of a liquid-cooled Victory danced in our head. We were reading the clues wrong.
Because this is a city where everything’s larger-than-life, where A-listers go to see and be seen, riding large and in charge. No, Victory Motorcycles had other plans. They call it the Magnum.
The 2015 Cross Country Magnum rolls with what Victory touts as “the largest production bagger wheel” up front, a 21-inch cast contrast cut hoop appropriately called “Black Roulette.” To accommodate the bigger wheel, Victory tweaked the fork, retuning the dampers and stiffening the springs with a progressive dual-rate set-up. Pales in comparison to what they’ve been doing in the crazy bagger movement where 26-to-30 inchers are common. Shows Victory is paying attention to trends though. Sharp-looking wheel.
Going big up front, Victory dropped the rear, too. The change isn’t dramatic, only an inch, achieved by reworking the suspension linkage for a more progressive rate and retuning the shock. The Magnum lost 1.2-inches of travel on the rear compared to the Cross Country (4.7 to 3.5 inches), so things had to be stiffened up a bit to prevent bottoming. A new ‘Low-Pro’ Seat hugs the back fender as Victory has dropped the Magnum’s seat height to 25.7-inches compared to the Cross Country’s 26.3-inch high perch. The seat is scooped more and the pillion thinner and tapered. Fits the flow of the tank and back fender well. Pleasurably padded around town. Not enough time in saddle to discern all-day comfort.
The Cross Country is Victory’s best-seller and baggers continue to ride a wave of popularity, so it’s little surprise Victory gave one the custom treatment.
With the bigger tire up front, the 2015 Magnum doesn’t quite turn in as easily or as sharp as the Cross Country.
If the Magnum’s high dollar paint and eye-catching graphics don’t grab your attention, its 100-watt sound system will. The Magnum goes ‘Boom’ courtesy of six-speakers wedged into the front fairing, the clarity and volume appreciated on Vegas’ loud freeways. The audio controls on the left switch housing have been updated too, the new directional pad easily operated by thumb. The instrument cluster continues to utilize the same functional arrangement, large analog displays for speed and rpm teamed with a multi-purpose digital window. Victory spruced up the interior of the fairing with color-matching paint. A tinted Boomerang Windshield is short and easy to see over. The fairing is wide enough to push most air around riders and though the new speakers added a little weight to the fork-mounted fairing, steering isn’t affected. The Magnum also gets a new LED headlight, the old halogen unit, adios.
The press launch came with a Vegas twist. Our testing grounds would be Las Vegas proper, the challenge, a poker run to four locations spread out around the city. During rush hour. In 2.5 hours. Stakes were high as the best hand won a 2015 Victory Magnum for their publication to use as a giveaway prize. Would love to see the face of a Motorcycle USA fan when we handed them the keys to their new bagger.
But a nefarious cast of characters stood between me and the prize, Hot Bike’s “Holt the Hustler,” Motorcyclists’ “Cheatin’ Heart Cherney” and “Shifty-Eyed Cyril” of Cyril Huze blog fame. Hard to beat these hoodlums, but had to try.
After plowing over speed bumps in a parking garage, we dodge and weave through rush hour traffic. We’re not even to our first stop at the MGM Grand before we notice subtle differences between the Magnum and Cross Country. After a multitude of corners, turn-in on the big-wheeled Magnum doesn’t feel as sharp as the Cross Country. Executing U-turns on city streets, steering is a tad slower and heavier. The Magnum’s suspension is firmer, a bit stiffer and quicker to rebound. The Freedom 106 engine is untouched and the intake and split dual exhaust are the same so the 1731cc mill sings the same song, torque-rich on the bottom end. Last trip on our dyno, Victory’s Freedom 106 mounted in a 2015 Gunner churned out 101.03 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm. Being unchanged, there’s still a familiar little bog trying to pick back up from low rpm without a gear shift.
With the first card in-hand after our pit stop at the MGM, the next stop at the Pinball Hall of Fame is just a few blocks up East Tropicana Avenue. Even in a city that’s seen it all, the Victory Magnum is garnering its fair share of attention. The new LED headlight matches its avante-garde styling better than its halogen one. Bits of sun are bringing out the tiny flakes in the paint, its floorboards are allowing us to stretch out and the easy reach to the bars is keeping us comfortably upright as we turn up the tunes and enjoy the ride.
Stepping into the Pinball Hall of Fame, I’m a kid again. Just about every pinball machine I dumped countless quarters in growing up is inside. The place is buzzing, bells chiming and lights flashing as steel balls roll down wooden decks. Drawing a card at the Pinball Hall of Fame comes with a challenge – editor with the highest score on the 1969 Gottlieb Road Race pinball machine earns an extra five points toward the draw of a new card, increasing their chance of winning the promotional Magnum motorcycle. The flippers on the game suck, the gap between them is huge, and there’s not much action on the bumpers. Maybe I just suck at pinball. “Dastardly” Don Canet of CycleWorld has brought a ringer, his fiancée, who proceeds to set a high score. “Holt the Hustler” has so many quarters in his pockets his pants are sagging. We note our pitiful score and draw our second card as we lick our wounds, then head out to our next stop in old Las Vegas.
The 9-spoke Black Roulette wheel on the front of the Magnum measures 21 inches tall by 120mm wide and is wrapped in a Dunlop Elite 3 tire.
The interior of the console of the 2015 Victory Magnum is color-matched to the bike and the audio controls on the left switchgear housing is new. The mini-apes are an aftermarket addition.
At the heart of Victory’s 2015 Magnum is the tried-and-true 1731cc Freedom 106 V-Twin.
Victory already has a slew of accessories for the 2015 Magnum, from tri-oval exhaust to ape hanger handlebars to saddlebag lids with speakers.
At the Pinball Hall of Fame, we switch our stock Magnum for one outfitted a sampling of Victory’s factory aftermarket goodies, most notably mini-ape handlebars and tri-oval exhaust. Bringing the bars up a bit is more to our personal liking, both in riding position and leveraging. The aftermarket exhaust have a bigger bark, and gives it just a little more snap at the throttle. And for Cross Country owners who like the look of the Magnum, Victory says most of the new kit can be retrofitted on older models.
The Golden Nugget is on the north end of town, the hotel a popular haunt since the “Rat Pack” days. A jaunt up Interstate 15 breaks up the stoplight-to-stoplight monotony. As day-time temperatures climb, the stop-and-go and long stints idling is causing the big V-Twin to run hot, sizzling the inside of our right leg. Thoughts of a liquid-cooled Victory flash in our heads again.
The Golden Nugget buffers the Fremont Street Experience, Vegas’ open-air mall bustling with tourists. As one of our photo stops, it requires plenty of low speed passes and U-turns. Despite a curb weight approaching 800 pounds, the Magnum is very manageable at slow speeds. We grab our third card and head a few blocks south on Las Vegas Boulevard to our next destination.
The Gold and Silver Pawn Shop has become a tourist attraction thanks to a little show called Pawn Stars on the History Channel. With time running out and traffic to fight, we didn’t have a chance to go inside and see if the Old Man was around or talk to Chumlee, but we did pick up our fourth card with just enough time to jam back to our host hotel, the Palms Casino Resort, where we drew our last card and turned in our hand.
With the sun sitting just above the mountains, we take one last blast down the freeway. The Magnum accelerates quickly up to freeway speed, its suspension providing a cush ride on rough roadways. We take advantage of a vacant floor on the top of a parking garage to mash some brakes, the four-piston calipers on the front of the Magnum putting a firm bite on the dual 300mm discs. The rear also has a 300mm floating rotor, the caliper with two-pistons instead of four, and the back is grabbier than the front and will lock the back wheel sometimes before the ABS intervenes.
We roll into the Palms with a handful of nothing. Our last card completes our random collection of numbers and suits in our pairless, Jack-high hand. “Shifty-Eyed Cyril” has somehow pulled three Aces. We shake him down, check up his sleeves, look behind his ears, but he comes out clean. To the victor go the spoils.
It’s little surprise Victory put the custom touch to a Cross Country. The motorcycle is its best-seller. The bagger craze has reached a fevered pitch. In the glamor of a city like Las Vegas, the Magnum is right at home, be it in its Plasma Lime or Ness Midnight Cherry livery. The Magnum is going to set you back more coin, the price of the Metasheen Black over Supersteel Gray version starting at $21,999 and peeking at $22,999 for the Ness Midnight Cherry one. But if you tried to swap out wheels, revamp the fork, drop the rear, install new audio, seat, headlight, then have it custom painted, then the $3000 to $4000 jump in price compared to a stock Cross Country doesn’t look so bad. The Magnum is about as close to custom as you’ll get in a production bike, so leaving the work to Victory and having more time to hit the Vegas strip makes sense.