The rewards of Victory Motorcycles' seven years of research and engineering is ready to erupt on the luxury-touring scene as the fruits of its labors culminated in the neo-modern Vision and Street.
Victory has never been satisfied with the status quo. So when it surveyed the motorcycle market looking for an area where it did not yet compete, indicators pointed them to the lucrative luxury-touring segment. At the time, there was only one American manufacturer in the marketplace. There were a few options offered out of Bavaria, but the majority shareholder of the touring market was coming out of Japan. So why not attempt to carve a niche into the market with buyers who have the highest annual incomes? We're talking old-school male riders with six-figure salaries. Doesn't mean the bike won't appeal to the younger generation as well, but this is the group that comprises the largest slice of the luxo-tourer demographics. Sometimes it pays to aim high. It also means sometimes you fall face-first in your quest. But after seven years of research, engineering, and design, Victory is ready to dive head-first into uncharted territory with the fall release of the Vision and Street
models as it attempts to rewrite the standard for luxury-touring machines.
Will Victory be successful? I can only comment on people's initial reactions that I observed as we began our 600-plus mile exodus through the rolling farmlands of lower Minnesota. Cruising through towns with Norman Rockwell charm, mothers pushing strollers stopped in their tracks and genteel conversations outside the barber shop ceased as men and women alike turned their attention to all 30 of our trumpeting 106 cubic-inch V-Twins. Children on Big Wheels raced us down sidewalks, pointing and waving as the armada rumbled down main streets. Gray-haired women grabbed cameras and snapped shots at gas station stops. For a day I entertained visions of Brando in The Wild One as thoughts of the 1947 Hollister invasion ran through my head.
The Victory Vision is definitely a vision to behold. People wouldn't have reacted to it the way they did if it wasn't aesthetically stimulating. Victory's Industrial Designer Michael Song and his team of engineers have worked hard to make the flow of the bike appeasing to the eye while being aerodynamically efficient at the same time. Song has seen the project grow from the initial sketches of the Visteon Vision in 2000 to the motorcycle that is in the full-production stages at Victory's Spirit Lake facility. When I questioned Song on the radical styling of the 2008 Vision Tour and Street models, he commented, "It's the Victory way. Being the flagship model we wanted it to really stand out."
These are not the 'Usual Suspects.' When the invading armada of motojournalists and Victory engineers rumbled through rural Minnesota, heads swiveled.
Just wait until a Vision creeps up on you in your rearview mirror and see if you don't have a "what is that" moment. The wide-winged front fairing flares out like eyes on a praying mantis. The width works well to house the powerful HID headlight and turn signals that have been integrated into the fairing. The bottom half of the front bodywork is open to increase the airflow to the Vision's innovative intake. The neo-modern style continues with the smooth curves sculpted into its side fairings that flow into the matching arcs of the fixed hard-shell saddlebags. These same lines are mirrored in its easy on-and-off trunk. In the ultra-clean design, there is a noticeable absence of unsightly fasteners, hinges and latches. They have all been tidily concealed within the bodywork. Even the adjustable floorboards are integrated into the body of the bike. The boards are angled slightly upward and are spacious enough for good size romper stompers. I'm not a fan of floorboards in general, but the Vision's boards grew on me the longer I was on the bike. When it came time to brake hard and downshift fast, the layout of the boards made it easy for me to access both foot controls simultaneously.
But despite its visually-stimulating styling, I was concerned the motorcycle's bulk would make it a little unwieldy. With the Vision Tour's claimed dry weight of 849 lbs and 105-inches of length, the bike's size could be intimidating to the inexperienced rider. But it turned out that the Vision's handling is one of its strong points. Its adroit handling is facilitated by the bike's 26.5-inch seat height, an industry best in its class, according to Victory. Its claim holds water when measured against the 2008 Gold Wing's 29.1-inch height at the saddle and the 2007 BMW K1200LT's 30.3-inches. Harley-Davidson's Ultra Classic Electra Glide tops the class at 30.7-inches.
The low seat height is aided by the 90-degree, out-of-plane linkage of the rear suspension that allowed Victory to lower the seat as much as possible. Conventional shocks would have cut into the saddlebags and diminished some of the ample 6750 cubic-inches of storage space. Victory's standard mono-tube air shock is combined with a preload adjustable spring that is easy to access by popping open the left side saddlebag and utilizes a schrader air valve for adjusting the compression. A chart is included on the inside of the saddlebags with suggestions for settings according to the weight of the load. The stock settings smoothed out the speed bumps and potholes I actively sought out in order to test the suspension, even when we pushed the bike to above-the-limit cruising speeds. I don't recall any spine-jarring incidents during the course of our ride. The rebound on the rear was set comfortably to support my 215-lb frame, so I never had the need to adjust the settings.
To adjust the rear suspension for heavier loads, simply pop open the left saddlebag, grab a standard hand-held air pump, hook up to the schrader valve, and inflate to the suggested load settings.
Up front, Victory uses a 43mm conventional telescopic fork that combines with the front end's 29-degree rake angle and 5.4-inches of trail and adds up to one crisp handling big tourer. The front tire has been moved in closer compared to Victory's popular Kingpin model and has a rake angle that is 3.8-degrees sharper. Victory moved the rear tire back 2 inches thanks to a longer swingarm and gives the Tour and Street a wheelbase of 65.7 inches. The combination of seat height, tight rake, longer rear and with a claimed weight distribution near 50/50, the bike was stable through sweeping curves and was easy to manage at low speeds. I was able to maintain a tight U-turn radius while flipping bitches during our photo shoot with relative ease. While cutting through a hilly, curve-laden passage of Minnesotan countryside, it was easy to forget that I was on a big tourer. I even scraped a floorboard running through a 180-degree, 25 mph curve a little faster than the prescribed limit. Victory claims the Vision has a lean angle greater than its sporty Hammer. I don't have the number in degrees, but I had the bike at a pretty good lean for a big tourer before I scraped.
The Vision's chassis is composed of three big castings. The airbox frame casting houses the integrated 11-liter airbox that funnels through the aluminum-cast backbone . The airbox design is two-fold. It works to deflect intake noise out the front of the bike. It also increases the airflow to the engine and helps the refashioned V-Twin keep its power numbers up. Additionally, the high-volume airbox cools down the oil flow which enabled Victory to use a smaller oil cooler. The engine also serves to support the upper casting. Victory eliminated the downtubes you see on most cruisers by utilizing the engine as a stressed member of the frame.
The second member is the rear frame casting with the coil spring air shock tucked neatly underneath. The rear suspension allows for 4.72 inches of travel. The subframe's trim design allowed Vision engineers to drop the seat to its low 26.5-inches. The third casting is its 2-inch longer cast aluminum swingarm with rising rate linkage. The design of the Vision's frame helped Victory lower the overall part count in comparison to its Vegas model, down from 64 Vegas parts to 31 for the Visions. Besides simplifying the construction process, the reduction in parts and the cast aluminum castings also shaved off about 25 % of the chassis' overall weight.
Victory has also invested big bucks and countless hours reinventing the 1634cc mill used in its prior models. The new 1731cc mill has been coined the Freedom 106/6 V-Twin. The 50-degree, 106 cubic-inch motor is the company's biggest production engine to date.
"The cylinders are the same, but besides that, there's hardly a part that didn't get touched," said the Vision's Powertrain Program Leader, David DeLaughter.
The combination of its low seat height, 29-degree rake angle, and a longer swingarm give the Visions excellent handling and maneuverability for a luxo-tourer.
The changes start with a 108mm stroke, up six from the 102mm stroke used in the Freedom 100/6 mill used in its 2007 models. It continues with shortened rods and larger pistons. The 4-stroker produces a claimed 92-hp and 109 lb-ft of torque in the 2500 to 3000 rpm range and has a 9.4:1 compression ratio. The Freedom 106/6 V-Twin also got a set of new single overhead camshafts with self-adjusting cam chains and hydraulic lifters designed with slower closing rates. The Engine Control Module has been revamped and has 60 communication ports between the engine and computer. The closed-loop electronic fuel injection system has 45mm throttle bodies that DeLaughter claims gives it a better idle quality. The Visions utilize a wet, multi-plate clutch with hydraulic actuation. At the lever, the clutch requires a firm squeeze, but was easy to feather for low-speed handling.
In our 600-something miles of test riding, the bike consistently delivered plenty of torque throughout the powerband. When our group had 120 miles to go to get to Spirit Lake, Iowa, with only an hour and 15 minutes to get there, we were able to open the bikes up and run them hard and the 106/6 V-Twin put its broad powerband on display. The mill is capable of pushing the bike up to the century mark with relative ease, and at higher speeds the tach still consistently showed low rpm readings. At 85 mph, the Vision was just a tad over 3000 rpm. There was a slight pause in roll-on acceleration if rpm were low, but this only occurred in situations where I probably could have dropped it down a gear instead of being lazy. The power easily mobilized the motorcycle but it wasn't pin-you-to-the-back-of-the-seat fast. It is, after all, designed for touring, not racing. But if you're looking for enough power to motor up mountainous inclines carrying a passenger and travel essentials, the Vision is up to the task.
Power to the rear is delivered by a six-speed, sequential spur gear transmission with reconfigured gear ratios and an overdrive. The first gear ratio has been lowered to 3:15:1 while the sixth gear ratio is up slightly to 0.841 from 0.864. Sixth gear is your overdrive gear and aims to facilitate gas mileage and lower emissions by keeping high-speed rpm down. The reworked primary drive has an anti-backlash gear with a ramp compensator. The new torque compensator works in conjunction with the split gear on the clutch and it now has a helical gear on the crankshaft. There were no noticeable slips during our ride and power delivery was constant and smooth. The overall package performed quieter than Victory's previous models.
The 2008 Victory Vision's 11-liter airbox sits right behind the headlight and funnels air through the cast-aluminum backbone to the engine.
One thing you won't find any longer are the Brembo brakes is used in its prior models. Victory has swapped them out for its proprietary Air Victory Brakes. Up front, action to the 18 x 3-inch wheel is brought to a halt by dual 300mm floating rotors with three-piston calipers. Out back, the two-piston, single disc rear brakes are hydraulically linked to the front brakes. The linked braking system works in two ways. Light braking with the rear brake pedal engages only the rear brake, but when the foot control is pumped hard in moderate to full-braking situations, the rear will be assisted by the front in bringing the bike to a halt. Squeezing the front hand control while you're breaking with the rear will give you maximum stopping power. The system works. I can attest to its handiness when I had to brake quickly from 90 to 50 mph when the group ahead of me shagged off speed unexpectedly while barreling down the straightaway of an isolated farm road. Though my heart rate increased dramatically, the system scrubbed off the speed quickly without so much as a fishtail or any trace of the grippy Dunlop Elite 3 meats.
Next to the surprising ease of handling, the design and layout of the Vision's cockpit is also one of the highlights of the motorcycle. I wondered whether I was on a motorcycle or had climbed in the seat of an Escalade. The bike is loaded with a bevy of high-end electronics. The easy to read dials of the analog speedo and tach are front and center just below your line of sight through the adjustable windshield. Between the two is a digital gear indicator so you avoid sputtering off the line because you accidentally left your bike in second gear at a stop sign (fess up, even the best of us do it from time to time). We got to test models with available Victory Tourtech GPS systems by Garmin that are mounted just below on the back of the 6-gallon fuel tank.
I found it fairly easy to glance at the GPS readout without taking my eyes off the road for too long. The GPS interacts with the audio system and can be programmed to temporarily interrupt your audio stream to provide verbal directions. The Visions are XM radio-ready and are iPod compatible if you want to listen to your favorite MP3 playlist. Other available goodies include a 10-disc Sony CD player, driver-passenger communication systems, heated hand grips and a heated seat. Living in the great Northwest where weather conditions tend to be harsh, it's good to see Victory remembering its Polaris snowmobile origins and offering cold-weather amenities I would enjoy like the heated seat and grips.
The Freedom 106/06 V-Twin has larger pistons and a longer stroke than its predecessors, making it Victory's largest mill to date at 1731cc.
One of the best things Victory included in its long list of audio/communication goodies is a set of control buttons for the systems underneath the standard handlebar control cube. With the left hand control, you can manipulate the volume and tuning. On the right hand control, you can set the cruise control. While I didn't have any problems using the left hand control buttons, engaging cruise control with your thumb while maintaining pressure on the throttle was a little tricky. But I only attempted to use the cruise control on two occasions and it will become easier to do after you've practiced numerous times. Overall, the Victory design team has done an excellent job of placing controls within reach and putting readouts in plain sight so the rider can keep their attention focused on the road instead of trying to find the right control to push while deciding between XM, iPod, FM or CD.
The Vision's ergos provided what you would expect in a luxury-touring bike. The seat is cushy, with four inches of foam padding and lumbar support to protect your tush. After long hours in the saddle, my backside was grateful. Passengers are afforded 3.5-inches of gluteal support, since the Tour is intended for two-up, long-distance comfort. The isolated handlebars sweep back comfortably within reach and provided confident control in a relaxed upright riding position. The windshields come tall, low, or extremely low in the form of the Victory Vision Blade Windshield. I personally preferred the optional electric windshield that allows push-button adjustments for wind protection. Riders don't have to stop and make adjustments for inclement weather but can do so onboard while rolling. Working in tandem with the fairing design, windlash is directed around riders as well as on any bike I've ridden. There are small wind deflectors on the side that can be tucked in if desired, but the difference between having the deflectors out or in was nominal.
While at the Product Development Center in Wyoming, Minnesota, we were shown a video featuring the Vision's Integrated Tip Over Protection. Though the system has been integrated into the body of the motorcycle and is hardly noticeable, the engineers at Vision have your investment's best interest in mind. While it would be easy to mask any damage with amateur video editing skills, I witnessed the system in person when a short-legged motojournalist dropped the Vision Tour he was riding while trying to complete a U-turn on a hill. The combination of a steep incline, low speed, and stubby legs was too much to overcome and the bike went down. But the Tip Over Protection system worked as described, and I didn't notice any damage to the fairings or busted hand controls or bent handlebars. The rider was even able to get the bike upright despite the majority of the bike's weight facing downhill by grabbing the handlebar up front and the passenger's grip out back then squatting down with his butt against the seat and walking the bike up. So even at 849 lbs, the Tour can be picked up single-handedly, if you use the right technique.
The Vision Tour provides a pocket of protection from windlash with an electronically adjustable windshield (optional) and a wide-winged front fairing.
One tricky area of the Vision is fueling. The motorcycle has dual fuel tanks situated far forward on the bike to help even the weight distribution. The tanks have a breather tube on top that connects the two in addition to a crossover tube down low. I filled the bike while in the saddle, keeping it in an upright position. Though the right tank was filled to the rim, when I started down the highway, my fuel gauge read between a half tank and three-quarters full. My inquiries lead me to discover the bike is best fueled while resting on its sidestand to ensure that gas is evenly distributed. This is explained in the owner's manual, so word to the wise, "Read Your Owner's Manual," regardless of how tedious the read is.
I've talked about the Vision Street and Tour synonymously because the bikes are mirror images. If you remove the luggage compartment/passenger backrest from the Tour, you've got a Street. This takes about 15 minutes the first time, just long enough to find and remove eight bolts. Once the luggage compartment is off, the Tour comes with a plate that screws on in its place to maintain the bike's curb appeal. The target audiences are different, of course. People who ride solo more often than not and take only an occasional long-distance cruise would be more attracted to the Vision Street. Riders who travel two-up, take long road trips frequently and want a bike with all the bells and whistles would prefer the Vision Tour. Performance-wise, they both provided excellent handling, ample power, and rider comfort.
Questions remain as to how warmly the bikes will be received. There might not be enough chrome visible for the Harley traditionalists, and the exhaust note isn't as deep a rumble as H-D's V-Twin either, but that can be good or bad, depending on preference. Is the styling too over the top? Not for someone who is looking to be the first on their block with something unique in the luxo-touring market, something that sets them apart from the crowd, someone dissatisfied with the status quo.
The starting price range is competitive, hovering close to its competitors. The Street's MSRP is $18,999, except in Canada, where they will have to shell out $23,369 to own one. The Tour lists for $19,999, or $24,599 for our friends from the Great White North. In comparison, the 2008 Honda Gold Wing Premium Audio package lists for a base MSRP of $19,599, Harley's Ultra Classic Electra Glide sells for $20,195, and the 2007 BMW K1200LT's MSRP is $21,770. Riders can have their Vision in one of three appealing colors; Black, Super Steel Gray or Midnight Cherry. There's also a list of 60 performance and chrome accessories to further customize the Visions to a rider's style. And though I don't have the power to prophesize whether the Visions will flourish or fail, I applaud Victory for inventing a bold-looking bike unlike any other in its class. At Victory, the vision it has for the bike of tomorrow is rolling down roads today.
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