We hitched a leg over the 2016 Victory Cross Country Tour in Austin, Texas, and charted a course for Galveston for the annual Lone Star Rally. If you’re going to be living off the back of a motorcycle for a week, you’ll quickly learn to appreciate the Cross Country Tour. The amount of storage is phenomenal, its topcase huge, saddlebags deep. We stuffed the saddlebags with gear and clothes then slid our backpack, computer, cameras and snacks into the topcase and hit the road running.
We rolled out of town right at dusk, the moon hanging so low on the huge horizon it looked like you could reach it before dawn. With Texas-sized speed limits of 75 mph, we set an aggressive pace over the rolling hills of Highway 71. In overdrive sixth gear, rpm is nominal and the big V-Twin of the Cross Country Tour exerts little effort maintaining an 80 mph pace. The backlit dials of the tach and speedo and the glow of the digital display makes the occasional peek at the bike’s vital signs quick and easy at night. The stock headlight punches a healthy-sized hole through the dark, country stretches. If it didn’t, there’s no way we could travel as fast as we are. There’s super-sized deer in these parts, large packs of feral hogs, too, both known to dart across highways at will without caution, the bane of motorcyclists trying to make miles at night.
Hearing ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” come over the radio miles outside La Grange, Texas, seems most appropriate. Who better to jam out to than the bearded boys from Tejas while trying to outrun an approaching thunderstorm when you’re rumbling down a rural Texas highway? I have to stretch my thumb at times to maintain grip and navigate the audio control buttons hanging in the housing below the left grip, but it doesn’t take long to master them without having to take my eyes off the road. Twisting the throttle of Victory’s Cross Country Tour with my right, I settle in and enjoy the twilight ride down to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Cross Country Tour’s well-padded, smartly contoured seat, long floorboards, and wind-deflecting front fairing makes it easy to log a lot of miles comfortably. Placement of the bars feels natural for a rider of six-foot-stature. The angular shape of the fairing is fairly aerodynamic and the windscreen sits high enough to send air over and around. Though it’s mounted to the fork, the polycarbonate fairing is lightweight and doesn’t hamper steering.
In fact, it doesn’t take much input at the handlebars to coerce the big tourer to lean. The Texas Hill Country provides the perfect testing grounds for a motorcycle’s handling. The Cross Country Tour executes turns with rock-solid steadiness and tracks truly as it holds its line. It allows riders to carry plenty of speed into turns, responds in kind with confidence-inspiring stability, and gives until it’s skimming the bottom of the floorboards on pavement. A 26.3-inch seat height places the center of gravity low and helps make it manageable during parking lot maneuvers as well, but you will be aware that this bike is a few lbs south of 900 pounds. With a little finesse of the clutch and taps of the rear brake, we do the obligatory biker crawl through the heartbeat of the Lone Star Rally without much fuss as we join the parading procession down The Strand.
The distinctive lines of the Victory Cross Country Tour give it an identity unlike other V-Twin touring competitors.
Victory’s 1731cc Freedom 106 V-Twin hasn’t changed for years, which isn’t a bad thing. Combining an almost four-inch bore with a long 4.25-inch stroke, the undersquare design delivers a healthy dose of torque immediately off idle. Rev it up and drop the clutch and the Cross Country Tour will bark the back tire as it surges to freeway speed in two quick shifts. The powerplant dollops out solid midrange as well and provides just a bit of over-rev at redline. The one detraction is if you’re not on the throttle hard, the engine chugs a bit as it builds up rpm and fueling feels a tad spotty. While our time onboard the 2016 Victory Cross Country Tour was in cool, fall temperatures, the air/oil cooled mill still runs hot in stop-and-go freeway traffic, most noticeably the rear cylinder head closest to your thighs.
Like the engine, the six-speed overdrive, constant mesh transmission of the 2016 Cross Country Tour is “the same as it ever was.” First, second, third comes with the requisite thunk, upshifts after that less harsh. Overdrive sixth proves its usefulness on the interstate, quelling vibrations in the bars and lowering rpm to an efficient pace while still letting riders conjure enough power to pass. Ratios overall are productively spaced. The gearbox includes a neutral assist function which makes slipping into neutral a fuss-free affair.
Thanks to a generous-sized 5.8-gallon tank, riders can easily log 200 miles on the Cross Country Tour before looking for a gas station. Thankfully, since riders will be spending plenty of hours in its saddle without a break, the motorcycle’s suspension provides a relaxed ride. The single mono-tube gas shock on the rear of the Cross Country Tour has an ample 4.7-inches of travel which rebounds smoothly and compresses without bottoming so riders roll instead of slam over the harsh stuff. The rear can be dialed in for preload via a standard hand-held air pump that connects to a valve residing in the left saddlebag. The 43mm fork does a bang-up job of keeping the front end planted and tracking true, and though it ranges through 5.1 inches of travel, seldom does it blow through the full stroke and get unsettled.
Galveston Island has stretches where you can still ride on the beach. Doesn’t get much better than this.
Another feature on the Cross Country Tour that facilitates smooth miles in the saddle is its Comfort Control System, a combination of upper and lower vents manually adjusted by the rider. The lower air controls are integrated flush into the fairing lowers and operate via a convenient handle. Fully open, air is directed to a rider’s shins. The upper air foils are mounted at the base of the front fairing. With all the vents closed, air diverts around the rider. Angle the upper vents and an air flow can be channeled directly into a rider’s chest. Though the vents can be reached in motion, it’s advisable to set them roadside because accessing them while riding is a stretch. And while the leg vents are integrated cleanly into the fairing lowers, the clear plastic foils of the upper vents feel a bit flimsy and don’t flow into the otherwise clean design of the motorcycle.
The 2016 Victory Cross Country Tour continues to utilize hydraulic brakes with floating rotors teamed to standard ABS. The twin 300mm discs on the front feature 4-piston calipers, but grab a handful of front brake and the initial bite is a little soft as it takes a second for the calipers to really dig in. Though the backside sports a single disc, responsiveness and power on the rear is better, the bite quicker. The braking package as a whole is effective but the ABS continues to pulse noticeably at the pedal as the system pumps the brakes. The ABS is non-linked, utilizing sensors in each wheel that monitor wheel speed and engage upon sensing slippage or wheel lock.
Seeing how tourers are meant to travel two-up, Victory keeps a pleasurable passenger experience in mind by providing them with three-way adjustable floorboards capable of being tipped at a 10-degree angle. While the Cross Country Tour is equipped with heated seats for both rider and passenger, the pillion gets the convenience of their own set of controls. They don’t have their own access to audio controls for the speakers on each side of the backrest, though. Our Galveston run was a solo trip so we can’t comment on the comfort factor of the seating position, but the backrest and padded perch look comparable to competitor’s arrangements.
- We rode from Austin to Galveston on the 2016 Victory Cross Country Tour for the 2015 Lone Star Rally but made sure we spent time on Galveston Island's beaches as well.
- The 2016 Cross Country Tour has a well-padded seat with a comfortable contour which makes it easy to log long hours in its saddle.
- The Music Ranch is a diamond in the rough that has the potential to be an outstanding music venue on the Austin scene.
- The 2016 Victory Cross Country Tour can out-hustle other similar touring bikes in the twists and turns.
The 2016 Cross Country Tour is loaded with useful features for riders as well, from cruise control to heated grips to a trio of 12 Volt outlets, including one in the topcase. The dials of the speedo and tach are easily viewable at speed while the digital display for the gear indicator is centrally located. A larger digital display provides riders with a bounty of pertinent info including range, fuel economy, twin tripmeters, a clock, and ambient temperature. The left lower leg fairing houses a cable to connect your iPod to in addition to providing a handful of storage space. While all the gauges and displays are neatly housed within the fairing, the control housings for the audio system and cruise control hang crudely below the grips and are plastic and flimsy.
But our gripes with the 2016 Cross Country Tour are far and few. With a torque-rich engine, well-balanced chassis, deceivingly stable handling, and well-sorted suspension, the 2016 Victory Cross Country Tour is primed for the long haul. At 41 gallons, its storage capacity can’t be beat. Throw in plenty of rider-friendly extras and the fact that the base CCT undercuts Harley’s Ultra Classic by $1550 and Indian’s Roadmaster by $6000 and you’ve got an American-made, V-Twin-based touring motorcycle to be reckoned with.
- Tons of storage space
- Deceptive Handling
- All-day comfortable
- Chugs a bit if you don’t open it up
- Rear cylinder head still hot!
- Soft bite of the front brake