by Kevin Kocur
My new neighbor was scraping her windshield. It was a week before Thanksgiving and there she stood, an ice scraper in one hand and a travel mug of hot coffee in the other, with her head slightly tilted, trying to make sense of what she was seeing: a man in a spacesuit standing beside a curious-looking motorcycle idling in the driveway next door.
Rewind to a week or two before that scene. I get an email from Editor Pearman detailing our last test bike for the year. We were getting a Victory Vision, with the Tour Premium package, for review. Truth be told, I had been secretly hoping for a chance to ride this beast since the first time I laid eyes on one. I’m a huge fan of Victory motorcycles (and not just because of their Minnesota connection,) but I’m just not a fan of cruisers.
It’s no secret that I love quaint, controversial and just plain unusual motorcycles. The Vision…controversial? Perhaps. It’s hard to argue that the Vision’s styling is not controversial. You either love it or hate it. I had it for almost a week and everyone who saw it made a comment about the bike. No one walked away without some form of opinion.
To some, style is everything. From their home furnishing to their motorcycle, looks matter. The Victory’s styling is unique and the bike flat-out owns it.
Even as unique as it is, I still can’t help but see bits of other motorcycles whenever I stare at the Vision. Some may agree that the front fairing has elements of the later-model Gold Wings, as well as the BMW R1200RT. And showcasing the V-Twin motor, as opposed to hiding it behind plastic, is a classic American design practice. And why not? Victory has created a visually stunning power plant. It would be a mortal sin to hide something that looks this good.
“Yeah, yeah,” you’re thinking, “the motor’s a sight to behold. Big deal. There’s a ton of bikes out there sporting attractive mills. And a lot of them are pooches.” I’ll let you in on a secret: you won’t be feeding any Milk Bones to the Vision.
So let’s jump back to the beginning. It’s the morning after I picked up the Vision, and I’m preparing for my morning ride in to work. The bike’s warming up, and I’m doing some last minute adjustments to my riding gear before swinging a leg over the seat. I throw a quick wave to the aforementioned neighbor before snicking the bike into gear. All the while I can’t help but think that my commute is going to be so much better than hers! Maybe my mode of transportation doesn’t feature an onboard fax machine or cappuccino dispenser, but it does have heated handgrips, heated seats and an electronically adjustable windshield. And the best part—only two wheels.
As I reach the freeway, my butt is already warming up, and my hands are toasty. Blasting west on I-694, I hit the switch to adjust the windshield. A couple of quick adjustments and I arrive at a setting with almost nil buffeting. I settle into traffic and note that it’s moving a little quicker than normal. Not to worry, as the 106 cubic inch V-Twin isn’t even working up a sweat. And that’s when I remember that there’s still another gear.
Yup, on the Vision you have six of ‘em to choose from, with the sixth being an overdrive. For this morning’s commute, fifth gear’s perfect. Rolling along, the sound from the sculpted, integrated exhaust pipes is pure bliss. I love, love, LOVE the sound of a V-twin and the Victory does not disappoint.
Nor does it disappoint when it comes time to wick up the throttle. In fact, I was happily surprised the first time I got on the gas as the bike pulls hard through all of the gears. You would never know that you’re riding a bike weighing close to 900 pounds. Well, at least not until you need to move it in and out of your garage a few times or slowly circle a parking lot.
Exiting the freeway, the triple disc brakes work wonderfully, hauling the Vision to a halt with minimal effort. All Visions come with a semi-linked brake system. The front is independent of the rear, but the rear pedal will activate the center piston in each front caliper. While this system works well, I do find it odd that a $20K motorcycle lacks ABS brakes, especially since ABS is offered by all the competition. Maybe for 2009?
When I pull into the parking lot, I am exhilarated and, more importantly, not cold!
When lunchtime rolls around, I use it to go outside and give the Vision a good look over. There’s a lot to take in. She’s not a tiny gal, but she’s got some really great curves. There are neat features, which are not immediately evident, including the tip-over protection nicely integrated into the frame. Overall, I really like the lines of the bike, particularly the tail section. The taillights are beyond cool (“V” for Victory!) and the Tour Trunk (aka top case) looks great on the bike—which is not easy for me to say because I generally despise them. Sure they’re practical, but they often kill the lines of most bikes, or at least make them look top-heavy. On the Victory, the trunk looks like it (dare I say?) belongs there.
While wandering around the bike I dig the key out of my pocket and start opening stuff. Good thing that I like that top case, because it’s sort of a necessity. While the saddlebags are stylish and blend nicely into the rest of the bodywork, they don’t appear to be very big inside. Truth is, the bag volume is on par with that of the Goldwing. I guess the suitcases on my K-bike have spoiled me.
Lucky for me, the trunk has plenty of room. It easily swallowed my full-face helmet and overstuffed courier bag with oodles of room to spare. It even has a light inside the lid. Nifty. Stepping back and taking it all in, the Vision is a joy to look at—and dig those wheels!
When the work week is over, most of us look forward to getting out on the open road. It’s no surprise that the Vision really shines on road trips, regardless of how far you’re going. I take advantage of a November “warm spell” and hit the road.
Once underway, I start to explore all of the bells and whistles that touring bikes are known for, and there’s nothing lacking here. In addition to the electric windshield, there are some clear, adjustable wings to deflect wind off your legs. What’s that? Throttle hand getting tired? Just set the electronic cruise control and fugettaboutit. Want to know how far you can go before you need gas, or how far you are from home? No problem. You can switch between odometer, two trip meters, or even see what your fuel reserve is by merely toggling a switch with your left index finger. And you audiophiles will be thrilled with the four speaker sound system and MP3 capability.
The cruise control and most of the audio controls are also accessible via controls that are easily within reach of your thumbs. The longish bars (a bit too long for my taste) will accommodate most folks, and I found the overall ergonomics decent.
As for the seat…I could probably live with it. While I prefer a seat that puts the rider a bit higher and permits more movement, the Vision’s huge floorboards at least allowed me to move my legs around to prevent cramps. Unfortunately, the Vision’s decidedly foot-forward controls made the reach to the shifter and rear brake a bit of a stretch, since I usually had my feet resting at the very back of the ‘boards. If only I had known that the floorboards and controls are adjustable before I dropped off the bike.
When day becomes night, the Vision still has a couple of tricks up its sleeve. The most noticeable thing is the dash. All the gauges and the audio display are backlit blue. Riding at night, you and everyone else around you can’t help but notice the cool, blue glow.
The dash isn’t the only thing that will get noticed at night, as our test bike’s fairing emblems are backlit as well. I believe this to be an industry first. Two thoughts pop into my head: why hasn’t anyone thought of this before and when will others follow? Add to that the exemplary headlight, the HID driving light and those oh-so-cool taillights. She looks as good at night as she does during the day.
Part of what makes motorcycle touring great is the ability to share the experience with a passenger. For some, the creature comforts for the passenger are just as important as they are for the rider. Potential Victory Vision owners will be happy to know that your passenger will be taken care of. In addition to the tour trunk, which doubles as a backrest, and spacious floorboards, the passenger has their own control for the heated seat. Our tester lacked the optional luggage rack so we were unable to attach any of our stuffed animals. In addition to the trunk rack, Victory offers 59 other accessories for the Tour.
Since I was riding solo for the week, I asked the Wanchenas to evaluate the bike in two-up mode. After stopping for lunch, we switched bikes and I was left riding die Publisher’s BMW K1200LT. I enjoyed trying out one of the Vision’s competitors, as well as watching the big Victory in action.
The results? While the passenger accommodations were deemed wonderful, the seat height difference between the rider and passenger put the passenger much higher up than the rider, which made the bike feel a bit more top heavy at lower speeds.
Still, there’s a lot to like about the Vision, and I applaud Victory for challenging our perceptions of what a touring motorcycle can be. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing a lot of them on the road.
One thing’s for sure, when you’re riding the Vision, no one will be mistake it for your neighbor’s McBagger®.
by Sev Pearman firstname.lastname@example.org
Strong statements can polarize and there is no stronger statement than the futuristic styling of Victory’s new touring platform, the Vision. Designed from the ground-up as their new flagship, Victory wanted the Vision to stand alone. Love it or hate it, the Vision turns heads.
In order to score a hit with their target buyer, Victory relied heavily on market research. We at MMM are suspicious of focus groups, but Victory spoke with riders and asked them what they liked and what was lacking in their current bike. They used this knowledge to set design priorities.
Research for what would become the Vision actually began in 2000. Parent company Polaris authorized full vehicle development in 2004 and running prototypes were shown in late 2006. Production models began to emerge in May of last year.
Their target rider would be in the late 40s and well-heeled. These riders wanted a cruiser V-twin engine, weather protection, hard luggage and above all, style. It was important to be able to both see the engine and hear its music. These criteria determined the final product: the Vision is a bike with a big presence, a visible V-twin motor and unique style.
I won’t waste your time blathering on about style. You either like the looks of something or you don’t. The forward-looking bodywork of the Vision follows a careful balance of function and design choice. The smooth organic lines were determined by the desire to keep the engine visible and by wind tunnel testing. The Vision is honest in that its forms are at least partially determined by function.
The Vision comes in two models, the Street and the Tour. The platforms are identical except for the trunk on the Tour model. The Street comes in Standard and Premium levels. The Tour adds a mid-level Comfort trim level to the mix. This all reads like a luxury car ad and the MSRP of your Vision will reflect this. The Tour Standard ($19,999) comes with halogen headlights, cast wheels (unique to the Vision,) cruise control, a premium 4-speaker audio system, and manually adjustable windshield. The Tour Comfort ($20,499) adds an electrically adjustable windshield and heated grips and seats. Our tester was a Tour Premium ($21,499), which adds the features of the Comfort, plus an HID headlight, backlit side badges and chrome handlebars and tip-overs.
The distinct bodywork cloaks a technological marvel. Everything about this bike is based on engineering, performance and handling. To power the Vision, Victory refined their existing Freedom motor. A longer stroke increases displacement to 106 cubic-inches (1,731cc.) Compression was bumped to 9.4:1. Pistons, rods and cam gear are all new. The cam chain features hydraulic adjustment. The new 106/6 features 4-valve heads and maintenance-eliminating hydraulic valve adjusters. Revised oil circulation improves oil cooling.
These changes combine to increase power to a claimed 93 bhp @ 4,500 rpm. Peak torque is 109 ft-lbs @ 3,250 rpm (at crank.) If you are the type who thrives on excess, Victory offers two different Stage I slip-on pipes. While we didn’t test these, we expect them to be loud and louder.
By reducing intake noise and quieting the motor with a redesigned primary cover, Victory was able to run a proportionally louder exhaust and still meet noise regs. The highly styled two-into-two pipes generate a pleasant boom. Despite its throaty rumble, the Vision is mercifully quiet and passed the “E.L.T. test:” my young neighbor did not cover his ears when I steamed in and out of the garage.
Victory paired the motor with a 6-speed gearbox that features a 0.84:1 overdrive. Final drive is by toothed belt, reinforced with carbon-fiber. The ratios keep the engine speed near the 3,250-rpm torque peak when underway.
“Yeah, but what is it like to ride?” you ask. First of all, this thing is physically huge. The Vision Tour is 104.9-inches long. The 65.7-inch wheelbase is shorter than the 66.5-inches of the 1800 Goldwing. While bodywork hugs the narrow V-twin engine, the bike is 44.9-inches wide. I wouldn’t want to learn how to lane-split on her. Victory claims a dry weight of 849 pounds. Wet weight is just shy of 900 pounds. To put that in perspective, a Wehrmacht-issue BMW R-75 with sidecar weighs less than the Vision Tour with a full tank of gas and a spare pair of socks in the trunk. This isn’t so much a dig at the Vision, but exasperation at the ever-increasing mass of all tour bikes.
The Vision features a low center of gravity (CoG) but this can only hide so much. This is a lot of motorcycle and the Vision is corpulent below 10 mph. Despite good upper body strength, I wrestled with her at stops. Parking maneuvers are a challenge on a grade or soft surface.
Thankfully, the mass melts away at speed. Vision engineers employed mass-centralization to concentrate the mass of the bike near the CoG. This greatly aids maneuverability. Think of a spinning figure skater: as she draws in her arms, her rotation speed increases. The more you can centralize mass on a motorcycle, the easier it is to change direction.
All this means that the Vision is a delight on the road. Small steering inputs result in precise direction changes. While no sportbike, mid-corner line changes are controlled and precise. The long wheelbase, compliant suspension and mass soak up road irregularities. The Vision combines the plush highway manner of a cruiser with the taut cornering abilities of a sport-tourer.
The rear shock is air-adjustable, accessed inside the left saddlebag lid. A handy chart with suspension settings is printed right by the valve. These trick details make for quick, easy suspension adjustments.
The electrically-adjustable windshield is a delight. I experienced some wind roar at freeway speed when set at the highest position. This disappeared when riding below 60 mph or when the screen is lowered below eye level. If you can’t find a sweet spot with the stock shield, Victory offers several accessory screens.
The seat is awesome. Despite the low 26.5-inch seat height, there is a full 4 inches of foam. The anatomical tractor shape is comfortable for a 250-mile tankfull and is very narrow in the front. I could easily flatfoot it at stops with my 32-inch inseam. I didn’t notice the output from the heated seat, but I wear armored overpants when I ride. Righteous riders in denim and chaps are more likely to feel the heat. Having said that, I was able to feel some warmth when set at the higher position.
Passenger X liked the rear seat. Your perch is higher than that of any other touring bike for a better view of the road ahead. There is ample space between you and the rider. She liked the full floorboards. Inexplicably, she didn’t turn on the heated passenger seat, despite the cool, late-autumn temperatures. She felt that engine vibration was perfect: she could feel the power pulses from the engine, but they never became intrusive or buzzy. Overall, she liked the passenger seat more than that of the Honda Goldwing, but not as much as the BMW K1200LT.
Even though the rider’s seat locks you in one position, your feet are free to roam about on full-length floorboards. Even better, the floorboards and control levers can be set in one of three positions to accommodate different size riders. Genius!
The heated seats are paired with excellent heated grips. With the temperature hovering just above freezing and with the setting on low, I was able to ride for hours wearing only uninsulated elk skin ropers. The best part about heated grips is that you can continue to wear thinner gloves, even when the temperature drops.
Our Tour Premium came with a four-speaker audio system. I always wear earplugs and had to jack the volume pretty high in order to hear it. I suspect that riders who enjoy music while riding may ride without earplugs or use bud ear speakers. In addition, all Visions include an MP3 input. You open the left tank panel door, connect your player, and close the hatch. While any MP3 player will work, Victory recommends non-hard drive models. If you have an iPod®, you can control your player remotely using the audio buttons if you spring for an additional cable ($39.95.) Magic! The left tank door also conceals a 12VDC power point, another nice touch.
Available options include an integrated GPS built by Garmin for the Vision, an XM receiver, CB/intercom and trunk-mounted 6-CD changer. All of these options were designed to harmoniously integrate into the audio center. As with your MP3 player, the bike’s audio controls will work each of these components. There is no messy and expensive installation. All of these items are truly plug-and-play.
All Vision models come with state-of-the-art electronic cruise control, standard. Similar in function to current auto offerings, it compensates for hills and grades. You are able to fine-tune your speed by bumping the controller up or down.
The saddlebag volume is disappointing. Huge lids conceal bags with average volume. Total capacity for the two bags is 14.6 gallons (55 liters.) I stuffed my electric liner, heavier gloves, and some paperwork into one bag and that was about it. To be fair, the volume of the side bags is on par with that of the competition. For serious touring, you’d want the space offered by the trunk. The lids seal well and latch positively. While the bags kept out one cold rain, I didn’t do our hose test, so I can’t report on whether or not they leak.
The trunk adds another 14.6 gallons (55 liters) for a total storage capacity of 29.2 gallons (110 liters.) It easily swallows two full-face helmets. The lid opened and closed positively. Our tester had a handy lid light (standard) useful for finding your loose change, as well as a second power point. The trunk is removable in just a few minutes should you so choose. An available cover snaps in for a clean look.
Linked brakes enhance braking performance. The front brake lever pinches two of three pistons in each caliper. The rear pedal adds the center piston of the front calipers to the stopping power of the rear. The Vision remains composed, even during aggressive braking. ABS is not available.
I recorded an average fuel economy of 44.2 mpg. With 6.0 gallons (includes 1 gal. reserve) you can travel an easy 250 miles before stopping. The onboard trip computer starts to count up when you reach reserve.
Serviceability is splendid. The oil filter, battery and pancake air filter are easily accessed from the front of the machine. Victory has ingeniously cast a tie-down loop into the frame. No need to mess with soft ties or worry about scratching your paint.
Somebody did their homework: the Victory Vision works. While some are put off by its unique look, owners love it. Dean Cross from Warner Victory/Polaris in Bloomington, Minn, is delighted with the Vision. “It’s the best-selling Victory ever,” says Cross. The 100/6 is a motor that integrates good looks, power and economy. Victory can take a bow for building a bike that looks like no other and is built to ride.
WFO*: Seamless integration of electronic systems. Practical details that delight. Styled like no other machine.
Sputtering idle: Liar bag lids conceal smallish bags. Top-shelf price will exclude the unwashed. Distinct styling baffles some riders.
Wife’s First Reaction®: “Heated seats? Really?”
By the numbers: Rider: Editor Pearman 5’-10”/250 lbs/32” (height/weight/inseam) Total miles driven: 950 Fuel consumption: 46.7/42.1/44.2 (high/low/avg.)
Selected Competition: BMW K1200LT; HARLEY-DAVIDSON FLHTCU Ultra Classic Electra Glide & FLTR Road Glide, HONDA GL1800 Goldwing, MOTO-GUZZI Norge 1200, TRIUMPH Rocket III Touring, YAMAHA Royal Star Venture.
*Wound Fully Open