MotorcycleUSA went international when Duke took the Kingpin Deluxe from Victory's Minnesota HQ up to Canada for a surprise family visit.
"Yeah, I figured it would be a good idea to ride up to Canada for the weekend," I said to the crew at Victory. "So how about I take one of those Kingpins I enjoyed on our little ride here in Minnesota?"
And so it happened that I rode a Kingpin Deluxe to my family home up in Canada last fall - and nobody knew I was coming.
But that's just the back-story to what is an evaluation of a substantial, high-style cruiser that proves to be charismatic and surprisingly versatile.
For those who haven't been paying attention, there is more than just one real American motorcycle company. Its name is Victory and, as a subsidiary of the billion-dollar Polaris Industries, the Victory brand is making significant headway into improving and expanding its line of big-inch cruisers, including the fat-tired 2006 Jackpot
we rode last fall.
Victory Motorcycles came of age in 2003 when its Vegas model wowed the industry with its striking design that included a scalloped fuel tank that blended into the seat and a raised "spine" motif that flowed from the front fender over the tank and to the rear fender. But more than just a looker, the Vegas managed to out-point the venerable H-D Softail Deuce in terms of performance when MCUSA tested the cruiser duo
, and a few of us even judged the Vic to have a style advantage.
The Vegas kickstarted Victory in a big way, and it was soon followed by a variation on the theme called the Kingpin. Visually, the Kingpin differs from the Vegas by its flowing fenders, a wider front wheel and tire, and an inverted fork in place of the conventional legs of the Vegas. Less visible are smaller details such as the Kingpin's 0.7-inch shorter wheelbase (65.6), a marginally steeper rake, and a boost in trail from 4.94 inches to 5.44 inches. Those sculpted fenders and beefier front end help contribute an additional 19 lbs to the Vegas' claimed dry weight of 620 lbs. Since the Vegas weighed 663 lbs on our scales, we expect the Kingpin to come in about 680.
The Kingpin originally debuted with a 92 cubic-inch mill and a 5-speed gearbox, a combo that cranked out more power
than the comparable Harley Twin Cam motor. For 2006, the Kingpin (and all Victory's except the Touring Cruiser line), receives the brawnier 100-cubic-inch version of the company's air/oil-cooled 50-degree V-Twin first seen in last year's Hammer
. The additional 127cc (and other tuning) results in a much stronger pull, especially down low. Comparing our dyno runs from the 1507cc Vegas to the 1634cc Hammer, the 100-cube motor blasts out 74 ponies, a modes 7 horsepower bump. But the major change in the powerband is a 13% leap in torque, with 89 lb-ft arriving a full 900 revs sooner at 2800 rpm.
The Kingpin Deluxe is the touring-oriented cruiser based upon the standard model seen here that starts at $15,999.
The powertrain is dubbed the 100/6, and the 6 refers to the number of gears in the overdrive transmission. The new tranny together with the burlier motor adds up to a much more enjoyable and efficient package.
The Kingpin makes an excellent cruiser platform, but I wanted something more accommodating for my trip. Throwing down an additional $1500 on top of the Kingpin's $15,999 base price gets the Deluxe version, which includes a broader seat, saddlebags, a windshield, lower wind deflectors, and chrome front and rear fender trim. Any potential passengers are treated to floorboards, a backrest and a roomier seat.
The 'Pin's only notable touring deficiency surfaces when it's time to load up the mule. The lockable saddlebags are stylish and handy but are slim and not very capacious; there is always a tradeoff between style and utility. Entry is limited by the inner clasp that partially blocks the opening. Their limited capacity might be enough for a solo weekend getaway, but is woefully inadequate for a two-up sojourn.
A potential solution for this lack of cargo space is the prototype topcase currently under evaluation by Victory that is seen in these pictures. For those of you unlucky enough to have never sampled a topcase such as this, you're missing out on the handiest storage device that can be fitted to a bike. This prototype lockable box easily swallows a loaded backpack with room to spare, and its integrated design also serves as a backrest for your lucky pillion. (Tell Victory your thoughts on the desirability and price of the topcase in a
special Talk Back survey we've created.)
As I'd sampled the Kingpin the day previous, there were no surprises as I set off on a brisk fall day from Victory's facility in Medina, Minnesota. The SOHC, 4-valve motor is a willing partner, though it must be said that its manually adjustable fuel enrichener lever is a bit bogus on a fuel-injected bike. We expect an automatic cold-start system from a $16,000 piece of equipment.
Once warmed, the 100/6 Freedom motor is a treat, and even more so with the optional Stage 1 kit installed. Consisting of a vented airbox cover, a K&N filter and less-restrictive slip-on mufflers, the kit's modest price of $550 is well worth the 10% bump in power that makes the Kingpin even livelier. Its fuel-injection offers flawless response, and the extra bark from the freer flowing exhaust offers a meaner sound without being obnoxious.
So off I went, rumbling through the rural Minnesota countryside and vibrating some of the last few autumn leaves from their treetop perches. Not far from its birthplace, the Kingpin Deluxe was very much in its element. Sixty miles per hour on a fairly remote two-lane stretch of blacktop, feeling the buzz of setting off on a 1200-mile adventure that will climax when I make a surprise visit to my nephew Blake on his 14th birthday.
The extra items that make up the Deluxe model include the windshield, bags, a comfier seat and better passenger accomodations. The topcase seen here is a prototype under evaluation that greatly augments the limited capacity of the slim saddlebags.
I cruised along merrily as I schemed ways in which to give my family as many surprises with my visit as possible. I was appreciative of the Deluxe's windshield that allows for faceshield-open riding, giving a rider's senses a more direct interface with the passing environment. Its factory-set height forced my 5'8" body to look through it rather than over it, but it can be raised or lowered on the fork tubes by a couple of inches to suit riders of different heights; Victory offers shorter and taller accessory shields. For me, the shield induced little buffeting or noise, though the amount of both increased when sitting taller.
I became even more grateful for the windscreen when clouds opened up in a downpour about 20 miles north of St. Cloud. The long Kingpin tracked its way securely through the rain at a 60-mph clip, the shield forcing aside the bulk of the deluge. Hands stayed dry in waterproof gloves, though the same couldn't be said for my feet. The lower wind deflectors mounted on the fork tubes proved to be moderately effective at keeping away wind and rain.
Unless you're riding in a very arid region, nearly any road trip can fall victim to the threat of precipitation. If you're lucky, you'll also experience the relief of clouds scattering away in the direction of the horizon you're pointing at, encouraging a light-hearted feeling that'll shame any triple-cappuccino you can name. The closer I got to the Canadian border, the brighter the skies became.
The 'Pin and I happily rolled along Minnesota's I-94, motoring past the cottage country of Brainerd (formerly the site of AMA Superbike races) and then Detroit Lakes (which isn't anywhere near Detroit, MI, and only otherwise noteworthy for being the closest thing to a city I'd see until I reached my home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba). The fertile fields around me were releasing a rich aroma from their various crops, providing a direct connection with the land providing the backdrop of my journey.
With earplugs in, the muted drone of the 50-degree V-Twin through Stage 1 pipes sounds like the radial engines of a B-17 at cruise as I bombed my way toward the border. The engine's vibes are a constant yet subtle reminder of the machinery below, but numb hands on the Kingpin will be caused only by cold weather, not intrusive vibration. An engine-induced gear whine noticeable at highway speeds is the only slight annoyance. The Deluxe's broad seat lived up to its name as it cradled my posterior, and the 'Pin's floorboards allow feet to change positions, which is a bonus on long hauls.
The miles were passing easily below me, and before long I was through the border and onto the last part of my journey home. The 50-mile section seemingly lasted minutes as I drew closer to my old stomping grounds.
The slender saddlebags are sufficient for the light solo traveler on a weekend getaway, but would fall short on extended jaunts or with a touring companion riding two-up.
I decided to surprise my dad, Stan, first. Once he recovered from a near heart attack, he revealed that the rest of the clan was celebrating Blake's birthday on a nearby golf course. I rumbled off with great anticipation.
The Canoe Club is divided by a road, so all golfers must cross through an underpass to access the back nine. And there I waited, trying to look inconspicuous while jotting notes about the Kingpin. Brian, my ex-brother-in-law, was only about 30 feet away when he became the first to spot me. "No way!" he muttered excitedly and then began to snigger. That let the rest of the group know something was up, and soon the jaws of Blake, my niece, Nicole, and my sister Debbie, with her current boyfriend, Clyde, slacked open when they saw who had ridden in to see them. It was an unforgettable moment, especially since my California digs don't allow visits back home as often as I'd like.
After many hugs, they called off the rest of their game. Walking back to the parking lot, the group got their first look at the Kingpin. I wish I had a picture of their faces when they saw the slinky cruiser, but suffice to say they were suitably impressed. I fired it up for them and had to smile when 16-year-old Nicole told me she liked the sound and the smell of the exhaust, proving that, even without a DNA test, we are deeply related.
We all got together the next evening for a farewell family dinner before my departure the next morning. I had already given Blake a ride on the Vic, which he loved, but there were other prospective riders chomping at the bit. It made my heart sing to hear Nicole giggle with glee as I leaned the trusty Kingpin back and forth along an empty road, and I know that I can't ride too fast for Blake. As for Debbie, she's a motorcycle girl just aching to get out.
As special as those rides were, the best one of all was when I took my 72-year-old dad out on a motorcycle for the first time since he was a child. He was the one who agreed to pitch in half the cost for my first dirt bike all those years ago, and now, finally, he agreed to let me take him for a ride. Afterward, he didn't say much about his ride, as usual, but I know he was smiling inside his helmet for most of the ride. It was a touching moment for me, being able to give my father a new experience in his life after he's done so much for mine. It was a heart-warming feeling that was a payback of sorts for all that he's shown me through the years.
This prototype touring trunk easily swallows a loaded backpack with room to spare. Do you think this is an accessory Victory should put into production?
The Kingpin Deluxe actually makes for a good pillion hauler, with a comfy seat and decent legroom. But the best part is the backrest, augmented in this instance by the prototype topcase. This enhanced the confidence and, hence, the comfort of the riding experience. Depending on your load, you should know that a combined weight of 300-plus pounds will overwhelm the rear shock and have you wishing the shock's locking-ring preload adjuster wasn't hidden under the bolt-on seat.
The return journey back to Victory HQ gave me ample time to contemplate the subtleties of the Kingpin Deluxe. Ergonomically, it seems to have been designed for a taller person than I. Its bars are a slight reach for my short arms, and I found the floorboards are a bit too far forward, placing too much pressure on a short rider's spine. I'd prefer another inch of pullback in the bars, which Victory can supply from its generous accessory catalog. Its seat didn't warrant even a squirm on a 500-mile day.
The Kingpin's cockpit is a pleasant enough working environment. Its clutch has a moderate pull for a big V-Twin, and its turnsignals automatically cancel. A tachometer might be nice, but it's really unnecessary with a grunty low-revver like the 100/6 Freedom engine. Its mirrors offer a clear and unobstructed view rearward. Fuel mileage ranged from 37-42 mpg during my fill-ups, giving the 'Pin a realistic range of 175 miles to its 4.5-gallon tank. You'll want to fill her with hi-test, as the engine will detonate when lugged with lo-po fuel in the tank.
The Kingpin handles better than you might expect, offering better front-end feel with its 130/70-18 Dunlop Elite II instead of the narrow 21-incher on the Vegas, both rears are the same a 180/55-18 Dunlop D417. Its front end will follow pavement grooves, but it nonetheless cruises happily at 65, or 75, or 85 mph.
My test bike was fitted with Performance Machine billet wheels, a $1000 upgrade over the standard cast-aluminum wheels. Not only do the PMs look great, their lighter weight also contributes to better handling and suspension control. Get them when you buy the bike; otherwise they'll cost ya an extra $800 when you splurge for them afterward.
Victory slightly narrowed the Kingpin's frame this year with a claimed increase in cornering clearance, but its wide floorboards can't offer as much lean angle as the pegs on the Hammer. Still, this is nothing unusual in this class and there's more clearance than many potential buyers will use.
The Kingpin's suspension proved to be better than I anticipated. The 43mm inverted cartridge fork and rear shock (with 5.1 inches and 3.9 inches of travel, respectively) do a wonderful job of soaking up bumps, even on frost-heaved pavement, and smooth normal-sized bumps excellently. Although I'd prefer to have the power and control of dual-disc front brakes, there's still plenty enough bite from the 300mm single disc and 4-piston Brembo caliper through the steel-braided lines to lock up the wheel.
The windscreen of the Deluxe enables open-facesheild riding. Seen on this bike we rode in Minnesota is the Deluxe's standard backrest.
Cruising back through northern Minnesota made me want to re-name this region "Buick-ville." Of all the non-trucks I passed on the roads from Canada's border to Victory's headquarters, I'd estimate that one in three cars I passed were Buicks of some sort! It was like something Rod Serling might've dreamed on a bad night.
My own dream of sorts was coming to an end as I burbled my way into Victory's parking lot. I had a truly wonderful trip, but did that color my perceptions of this bike that I now found quite desirable?
No. The desirability of the Deluxe-equipped Kingpin centers on its versatility. Cruisers generally aren't the most adaptable machines, but the Kingpin Deluxe can profile with the best of them while being able to also swallow up whole states in a single gulp. Bone up another $100 for the optional quick-release windscreen system, and the bike can be converted from a tourer to a cruiser in a minute - as long as you don't mind keeping the not-easily-detachable saddlebags on. Victory is currently gauging public interest for a quick-detach system.
Of course, liking a bike and paying for it are two different things, and this one ain't cheap. The starting point of the Kingpin Deluxe is $17,499, in line with other bikes of its ilk. But getting carried away on the options sheet can quickly ramp up the price. Add the cool grand for the PM wheels, another $1000 for our optional paint, the $550 for the Stage 1 kit, and the $350 for the HID headlight, and you're now looking at a $20,000 motorcycle. Depending on who you are and how well your banker knows you, that can be a lot of money.
Still, there's little beyond the price tag to complain about with the Kingpin. It looks cool, performs great, and it has an excellent reliability record. If the entry fee doesn't offend you, we have no doubt you'll really enjoy this bike.
Ever wish your voice would be heard by a manufacturer? Now's your chance. Use this Forum link
to let Victory know if they should put the prototype topcase into production and how much you believe it should cost.
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