by Kevin Kocur
The year is 1969. Led Zeppelin’s first studio album was released, a photographer snapped that famous shot of The Beatles crossing Abbey Road, Scooby Doo debuted on television, the Boeing 747 made its maiden flight, and you could walk into a Pontiac dealership and lay your eyes on one of the sexiest muscle cars of the year. Officially named The Judge, this special model GTO had gorgeous lines, five-spoked wheels with white-lettered tires and a badass motor under the hood.
Flash forward a few decades and history is repeating itself. Only, with handlebars and minus a couple of wheels. All rise!
The Victory Judge ($13,999/$14,399) is a bike I had anxiously awaited to ride. Aside from the sexy lines, badass motor and five-spoke wheels with white-lettered tires, it also comes with sensible handlebars and mid-mounted foot controls.
Not to sound like a broken record, but I have never been a fan of big reaches and forward foot controls, or floorboards for that matter. The Judge’s bars offer better feel that I’ve not experienced since I rode a V92SC back in ‘99. Between the new bars and mid-mounts, the Judge fits me better than any of Victory’s current offerings. Not everyone agrees with my preference in ergonomics and Victory’s sales growth proves just that.
A new-for-2012 model, the Judge shares many components with other Victory models. Power comes from Victory’s proven 106 cubic-inch Freedom V-twin, backed by a six-speed overdrive transmission, which sends 110 foot-pounds of torque to the 16” rear wheel via belt-drive. The frame and cast swing-arm were first used on the Vegas, back in ‘04, and the forks are used on the Highball and Vegas models. Even the gas tank is re-purposed – it’s from the Cross Roads/Country tourer, reworked to fit the Judge’s chassis (I got that bit from a Victory engineer). It’s a great recipe Polaris is making money on: borrowing from existing models to create something new while keeping costs down.
When you first throw a leg over the bike and settle in, you’ll really notice its 25.9-inch seat height. You’ll also notice the 64.8-inch wheelbase, and that you’re pretty much sitting behind the engine. Long and low.
Notice a single gauge on the handlebars. It features a speedometer and an LCD screen that can be toggled between odometer, trip meter, tachometer and clock.
Reach between the cylinders on the left side and switch the bike on, then thumb the starter button. The Freedom 106 fires instantly and the V-twin’s sound is seductive. The clutch pull is stiff, but movement is smooth. I shift into 1st and we’re under way.
I find the nearest freeway ramp and drop the gavel. 106 cubic-inches of American muscle thrusts us forward and we quickly leap into 3rd and are well up our way to 6th. The Victory’s transmission is a bit of a conundrum. Redesigned in 2011, shifting is loud but solid and you never wonder if you’ve just changed gears. In a nutshell, it’s like every transmission of every Victory that I’ve ever ridden. It just takes some getting used to. Nonetheless, the 106/6 combo is in a league of it’s own and we’re picking up speed at a pretty good clip. Lest I find myself standing in front of a different kind of Judge, I decide to back off a bit.
The ride is decent, thanks to 43mm Kayaba forks and a single Kayaba shock with adjustable pre-load. It’s a little stiff, but never jarring. The suspension works well once the road starts to curve. The Judge likes to be pushed in the corners, but don’t go overboard as things will start scraping sooner than you might think—the first being the mid-mount ‘pegs. Drat. It’s a shame, as the 16” front and rear Dunlop tires give the Judge neutral handling and very good feedback.
To stop, I employ the 300mm single rotor in the front and back, squeezed by a four-piston caliper fore and a two-piston version aft. Brake feel is good but the rear brake appears to lock up easy without cautious modulation.
Our test bike’s Lock & Ride windshield, passenger backrest, custom seat and leather saddlebags from the Victory accessories catalog transformed the bike within a few minutes. While my passenger suggested she could have used more legroom, she said the backrest held her comfortably and securely in place atop the small pillion platform of the optional seat.
With or without the accessories, there’s very little that I don’t like about the Victory Judge. It’s a fun bike to ride. But I also found myself just wanting to stare at it. There are so many fantastic little bits to enjoy. It’s so nice to see an American V-twin so devoid of chrome. It’s just so… sexy. Plus, it sets the Judge apart in a sea of McCruisers.
To quote Victory: “American Muscle never went away. It just needed handlebars”. Muscle and a price tag around $14K? The defense rests, your Honor.
by Guido Ebert
The 2013 Victory Judge likely will not stand out in a parking lot crowded with V-twin cruiser-type motorcycles. Which, I think, may actually be a factor that benefits sales of the model for the Minnesota-based brand.
It is no secret Polaris’ line-up of Victory motorcycles have incorporated relatively progressive designs since the introduction of the company’s second generation of bikes in 2003. This particular model appears to be different.
Before the Judge, I had the pleasure of riding seven Victory motorcycles over the past 12 years, including the first-generation V-92 TC, and second-generation Vegas, Vision Street, Hammer S, Jackpot, Cross Country & High Ball.
Something I immediately noticed with the Judge versus the other Gen. II models was the relative ease with which I was able to leave my local filling station. You see, often times, those other bikes attracted time-consuming “walk-ups” – folks desiring to know more about the far-out-looking two-wheeler I was jockeying. That didn’t happen during my month with the Judge.
Victory reps tell me the Judge is positioned as “a modern no frills cruiser focused on performance and handling” with a design style nodding toward the American muscle car culture of the late 1960s and 70s.
Powered by Victory’s preferred air/oil-cooled 1731cc (106 cu. in.) fuel-injected V-Twin offset to the right, angled at 50 degrees and rated at 113 ft. lbs. of torque, the Judge seems to be at a lower state of tune than, say, the Hammer S, but still puts the power to the ground.
Downstream from the powerplant, the staggered, slash-cut dual exhaust in flat black isn’t much of a head-turner (visually or aurally) although the design fits well with the bike and decibel output can be easily modified by rpm choice. And, if you’re still not content with the level of feedback, you could always inspect the Victory accessories catalog for the new stage 1 straight pipe.
The 6-speed constant mesh transmissions I have experienced on Victory motorcycles have always shared one trait: clunking into gear. “Clunk” is a rather primitive word, but one that best describes the sound while shifting up and down through the first three gears at pedestrian speeds. The trait makes the transmission a love-it-or-hate-it affair. Some (myself included) enjoy a bit of feedback from a weighted gear change, and the issue disappears once at speed.
Cruising at 70 mph in 6th gear left the engine at around 2,500 rpm, but pick-up was immediate without the need for a downshift and each gear extended well with plenty of pull.
When it comes time to stop, employing the single 300mm front disc with 4-piston caliper worked spot-on, although lockup of the 300mm rear disc with 2-pot caliper did occur quicker than I expected under panic stop situations (I found the High Ball to deliver a similar experience).
The wheels both are cast 16×3.5 in. units wrapped in 130/90 B16 67H front and 140/90 B16 77H rear Dunlop 491 Elite II tires, a combination that along with the bike’s 64-inch wheelbase offers relatively quick handling via a well-positioned, low-tucked center of gravity.
Together with the tire/wheel set-up, the conventional 43mm fork does its rather simple job on this bike while the single, mono-tube gas shock and preload adjustable spring mated to cast aluminum swingarm offer a similarly smooth experience once adjusted for the individual rider and/or load.
MMM received the Judge after it was used by a petite female rider. By the time I rode the bike to Minneapolis from the trade-off point at the Polaris factory in Spirit Lake, Iowa, my 180-lb. frame and numerous cloverleaf turns managed to test the bike’s ground clearance, carving a racing stripe along the underside of the exhaust and grinding away at the right foot-peg mount.
The Judge’s standard seat height of 25.9 inches should accommodate the shortest of riders (let alone my 5’9” frame), but this particular unit was outfitted with a Touring Seat from the Victory parts catalog.
The Touring seat forced my rear deep into its pocket and the handlebar position proved comfortable, hands at armpit height, elbows bent and arms in a relaxed position.
As for my lower extremities: the Judge’s lower controls are four inches further back than on any other Victory model. While I personally felt as if I wanted those four inches back, to test sizing, I suggested my friend Jay swing a leg over the bike. Jay is 5’4” and the owner of a V-twin cruiser that has been customized to fit his frame. His verdict: Lower controls were perfect with seat, but seat forced too much of a reach to the bars.
Different folks, different strokes.
As the accompanying photos show, the Judge MMM had access to also was outfitted with the Victory parts catalog’s Lock & Ride “Fly Low” shield, which initially impeded my line of sight, but became a useful amenity once I spent a minute with an Allen tool to utilize the 2-inch vertical adjustability; Lock & Ride passenger backrest my wife said added a feeling of security; and leather-wrapped Lock & Ride hard saddle bags, the tops of which are secured by hidden plastic snap buckles rather than the leather straps displayed and swallowed more than expected.
The bike was colored Gloss Sunset Red ($14,399). Other colors include Suede Nuclear Sunset and Gloss Black ($13,999). The side covers actually came color-matched, but I chose to apply one of the three sets of stickers available from the Victory accessories catalog in an effort to show some of the options with which to personalize the ride.
The Victory Judge is built of a comfortable yet flexible cruiser platform that provides a generous amount of get-up-and-go, easy handling with a low center of gravity and an engaged riding position.
Even with its accessories, this is a Vic that won’t stand out in a crowd. But, with more positive attributes than flaws, it shouldn’t have to.