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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

What I want: Victory Judge

Would you like some awesome with your awesome?
Yeah, I'm not really sure who they're trying to sell to, either. I imagine at least one member of the marketing team for Victory Motorcycles has a mullet, and that all of them can sing Bob Seger or Bachman Turner Overdrive tunes from memory. Victory's headquarters is in Iowa, after all. And its parent company is on the frontier of outstate Minnesota (1).

Victory's advertising strategy is frequently outdated and sexist. And it's difficult to guess who, exactly, is being targeted with crap like this. Stereotypical Harley riders? Guys who live on 1980s action-adventure movie sets? Even Harley realises there's not much to that market and has (wisely) broadened its focus. Is Victory trying to garner those last few big-bellied weekend road pirates who have yet to have hip operations?

Rather than trying to garner Harley's sloppy seconds, Victory should be focusing on the fact that it has a superior product: a legitimately American motorcycle that is made of awesome. The Victory Judge is my money-is-no-object bike, the machine that I see myself riding when I daydream of being like the Road Pickle kids. 

I mean, just look at it. Take away the idiot image that Victory is trying (and failing) to sell, and look at the motorcycle itself. It looks good, it sounds good, and by every account I've seen or read it is great to ride. I think one of the best testaments to the Victory experience is this video of an Australian fella test riding a Vegas 8 Ball and loving it, despite being a sport bike rider (he even earns himself a speeding ticket).

And to speak to the bike's reliability, this dude rode a Vegas 8 Ball from London to the Iraq border and back –- 13,000 miles in total. With at least 1,000 of those miles being on dirt roads.

There is so much wrong with that name, by the way: Vegas 8 Ball. Why, Victory? You're a company from Minnesota/Iowa. Why not show a bit of pride in who and what you are? The Victory Judge is a good enough name, I suppose, but why not something truly local like the Victory Hiawatha? The Victory Hawkeye? Seriously, yo. The Victory Hawkeye. That is a bad-ass name. One that fits a bad-ass bike.

As I say, I like to daydream of owning a Victory Judge, strapping a bit of gear to the back and setting out to navigate the great American rivers of concrete. True, I've never seen one in the flesh, so it's possible I'd change my mind, but my gosh is it a beautiful thing.

I'm not entirely sure what it is about the Judge that appeals to me more than other Victory models. All are effectively the same bike, with a 1737cc engine (106 cubic inches) and similar frame. I can't really see why you would pay you would pay £5,000 more for a Vegas Jackpot (idiot name!) than for the Vegas 8 Ball. Apart from the fact that the dude in the Vegas Jackpot promotional photos is clearly riding through downtown Minneapolis.

And perhaps therein you can see one of the biggest appeals of the bike to me: it's made in the region in which I am forever pining to return. When I imagine myself on a Victory Judge, I imagine myself first and foremost riding up to my best friend's cabin in Forest Lake, Minnesota. It is an American motorcycle that comes from the part of America I know and love. And, yes, that is a bit overly sentimental and patriotic, but I don't care. I love these bikes and I want one. It is a bike that definitely passes the Chris Jericho test.

It will be a while, though. At the moment I am some £11,000 short of its asking price.

–––––

(1) Minnesota, of course, is my adopted home state. I was part-raised in the Twin Cities, the region's cosmopolitan centre. For us Cities kids, the great spaces of Minnesota that are not within 45 minutes drive of either downtown Minneapolis or downtown St. Paul are known as "outstate." As with Ireland's concept of things beyond The Pale, anything outstate is a hinterland: a lonely agrarian wasteland of classic rock and the previous decade's fashions.

Comments

  1. I agree with you about the Victory being an attractive motorcycle with an unfortunate marketing philosophy.

    Remember a couple of years ago when there were all those AXE body spray commercials with multitudes of women chasing men? And at the same time Dove was having its "Real Beauty" Campaign? Well, they are owned by the same company with polarized marketing for its different brands.

    So, since Polaris owns Victory and is planning on releasing its newly acquired Indian line maybe they are planning on marketing Victory as rude bad-boy motorcycles and Indian as a classic by-gone days motorcycle.

    Whatever their strategy, or rationalization, is, they should concentrate on demonstrating the fact they have excellent motorcycles and not on the showy splash of slick marketing campaigns that do not really appeal to the average motorcyclist.

    Great write up.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's a sweet bike.

    I'm not sure I understand the hate-on for Victory's ad campaign. OK, the fact that the women are Playboy models is a little silly, but the photos I saw were pretty damned tasteful. I mean, they were dressed more modestly than most women I've seen at motorcycle gatherings. Maybe I missed the outrageous nekkid photos, in which case, please provide a link.

    And as an aside, have you seen the men in motorcycle ads? If I ever see a dude who actually looks like that, I'm not going to know how to react. Well, after the pointing and laughing, I mean.

    I also thought the video was pretty cool. Not as cool as Aprilia's response to BMW's tablecloth trick ad, but for an American cruiser company, it wasn't bad. Hell, they had a woman - who wasn't white - riding and keeping up with a man.

    ...Maybe I'm their target market. In which case, they've fucked up, because I lust after Euro sportbikes. ;)

    Anyway, that IS a cool bike.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, in fairness, Victory's ad for the Hardball (http://youtu.be/cG1WtduxTYQ) centres on a Hispanic dude who rides around Minneapolis and commands white people to follow him. He never speaks, just nods at them. But still I think they're targeting a burned-out demographic with a confused marketing strategy. Personally, if it were up to me I'd be targeting more tech-savvy audiences with a message along the lines of: "American authenticity to counter your otherwise virtual world." But I suppose that would be cheesy, too.

      Delete
    2. OK, I follow you now. I agree they should be playing up that they are both American and feature modern technology. One of my major gripes with HD is that they are old fashioned, probably because their customers demand that.

      Victory can't win HD's market, they need to carve out their own.

      Delete
  3. I think there are a couple of items you've overlooked.
    Number One being the 80's revival in the U.S. Hell, my 23-y-o kid knows more songs from the 80's than I do anymore. They want everything 80's; Def Leppard shirts, leg warmers, spiky hair and the attitudes. Even though they really don't understand the attitude anymore than my generation understood that of the 60's (but we thought we did, while listening to The Doors, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix). The ad seemed very 80's to me; something quite reminiscent about it. So, perhaps it's the younger 20-something crowd they are targeting by promising instant validity as a rider, like their fathers. . .
    Number Two would be the Chick Factor. More and more chicks are riding and we're all pretty sick of the Harley vs. Sport Bike shit. I would love a Victory because it's a hot bike, but also because it's neither of these two. Don't get me wrong, I love my Ninja 500, but the shit I take for riding it could fill the Grand Canyon. I love American made products, I love the vintage look to the bike, and I identify immediately when I see chicks riding hot bikes. It makes me say, "I want one too!"

    So the brain trust of male riders should try to stop thinking out of the Harley vs. Sport Bike Box and realize that the rest of us don't give a rat's ass about this whole competitive falderall. Take it from the hottest 40+ Chick who ever strapped on a 400 lb vibrator and rode it across America, that Victory gets me wet.

    Just sayin. . .

    By the way, thanks for the mention Chris! You've earned 18 Sash Smooches for the love!

    Smooches Boys,
    Sash
    www.SashMouth.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. "The Victory Hawkeye" is a badass name. Perhaps (let's hope) they're saving that model name for an Indian. "The Indian Hawkeye" is near-perfection in the bike naming world. It sounds anti-P.C./counter-rebellious, but is above the fray. It can't really be criticized as "Indian" is the heritage company name, and "Hawkeye" isn't really a native American term, yet sounds like one.

    The downside would be that "The Indian Hawkeye" would go directly from 3rd gear to "punt."

    P.S. If you find yourself on an Indian Hawkeye, good luck trying to pass.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Victory Hawkeye? Maybe they could get Alan Alda for their spokesman.

    ReplyDelete

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