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Gear Review: 55 Collection Hard Jacket

Product: 55 Collection Hard Jacket Made in: Barcelona Cost: €480 (US $510) Website:www.55collection.com
It’s likely you’ve never heard of 55 Collection; the Barcelona-based leather goods company is relatively small and has only been on the scene for a few years. So, allow me to introduce you to a company that’s making some of the best-looking and unique motorcycle jackets out there at the moment.

Adopting the “non serviam” nonconformist attitude that seems to run through a lot of Spain’s motorcycling culture (check out the crazy/beautiful custom works of El Solitario MC, for example), 55 Collection’s jackets may split opinion because of the company’s willingness to make jackets that are fashionable – that is to say, jackets that have a strong fashion element. The old dudes will decry hipsterism or some such thing. And indeed, I’ll admit that when company founder Aitor Gonzalez offered me a chance to try out one of his jackets I naturally defaulted to the most conservative of his offeri…

Worth waiting for

Victory Judge
In my previous post, I talked about how I'm struggling with the concept of delayed gratification. After flirting with the idea of chaining myself to challenging monthly payments for the sake of a brand new Triumph Bonneville, I've decided instead to hold onto the objectively superior bike I've already got, ride it into the ground and in the meantime set aside money for something I really want.

I've wanted a Victory Judge ever since they were first introduced, but it's been off the "Bike I'll Get Next" list because of, primarily, two things: cost and the absence of ABS.

Give it two years, and at least one of those issues will definitely be resolved. Recently, I wrote to Victory (which already offers ABS on its tourers) to ask about anti-lock brakes being made available on its line of cruisers. Obviously, they're not going to share specific secrets with some random fan boy who emails in, but they did tell me this: "Victory have always been applauded on their handling and brakes... [but] yes, our R&D facility do keep tabs on EU rules [a] and we will always look to work within guidelines."

It other words, ABS is coming within at least two years. That gives me time to save up.

Although, by then I may no longer want a Judge. The Minnesota-based company may produce something even better. Recently, a rumour came out that Victory is working on a new water-cooled engine. That's exciting news not because of the presence of water cooling (after all, Victory bikes have been oil cooled for quite a while now), but more for the fact that a new engine means Victory is moving forward.

After the launch of Indian last summer, the immediate question that came to the minds of a lot of people, including myself, was: What now for Victory motorcycles? With both it and Indian owned by Polaris, how was it going to differentiate itself?

"Keep moving forward," Polaris VP Steve Menneto told Forbes last year. "When we acquired Indian, that allowed Victory to really go all out."

The Gunner, the first Victory offering to come in the wake of
Project Rushmore and the Indian launch, was a disappointment.
However, it certainly didn't seem like that recently when Victory announced the addition of the Gunner to its lineup. Little more than a Judge with a different seat, it was a real disappointment to me. I mean, I'm sure it's a great bike, but I had high hopes for what would be first out of the gate in the post-Indian world. I was imagining a bold step, a statement of difference. In writing about the future of Victory last summer I opined that they could draw on the expertise of their parent company and build an adventure bike of some sort to rival the BMW R1200GS.

In fairness, I suppose history has shown that bold steps don't often work for American vehicle manufacturers. And Victory simply doesn't have the wallet to take gambles like, say, the Honda NM4. It has to know that what it makes is going to sell. And in the God-blessed United States of America what sells –– especially in the Upper Midwest, where Victory is based –– is a cruiser. But I was still disappointed by the Gunner.

So, news that Victory is working on a new powerplant is encouraging. They're not just sitting around redecorating old bikes. They really are moving forward. And it's exciting to think of where it could lead. At present, Victory is a one-engine company; all its bikes run on the Freedom 106 engine. Please don't ask me to explain anything about engines. I don't have a clue. I think it would be cool, though, if this new water-cooled engine were added as an addition to the lineup. Rather than simply replacing the Freedom 106 in all the bikes.

From the leaked sketches obtained by Motorcyclist, it appears the new engine will go in a Judge chassis. Again, please don't ask me to explain anything about a chassis. I am just regurgitating stuff from Motorcyclist so I can point out that, in some way, Victory are following my advice from last August. At the time, I suggested improving and then keeping the Vegas 8 Ball as the "iconic premier machine of the marque" –– the philosophical heart of the Victory lineup, if you will. It appears Victory is doing that, but with the Judge.

Good call, Victory. That makes sense. The Judge, with its lesser rake, is a more manoeuvrable machine than Victory's other cruisers, and that fits with what Steve Menneto told Motorcyclist in an October 2013 interview: that Victory intended to "focus on performance and innovation as core brand values." Yes, you have to take that with a grain of salt, since it's performance and innovation within the cruiser context, but it's still exciting.

A sketch of a possible design for a new Victory.
Will this be my next bike?
So, what will the future hold? Will Victory make something on par with the Ducati Diavel? The Moto Guzzi California? The Honda F6C? Will the lineup have two different engines?

Personally, I'd like to see the new engine be lower displacement, so Victory could offer an affordable bike like the Harley-Davidson 883, or the Triumph America, which serve as "gateway" bikes to draw people into the brand. At present, Victory doesn't have that. And I think that's something that hurts them. They are a relatively unknown cruiser brand whose cheapest product costs thousands more than the cheapest product of the best-known cruiser brand in the world.

Also, on a side note, I have trouble believing that Victory's cheapest product, the Vegas 8 Ball, is appealing to anyone who doesn't live in a trailer park. It looks cheap with those rims. The Judge and the Gunner (and, sort of, the High Ball) are stylistically right. I'd like to see these style cues followed on a more affordable machine.

What will happen, though, is anybody's guess; only time will tell. I just hope it will be worth the wait.

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(a) From 1 January 2016, ABS will be mandatory on all motorcycles above 125cc sold in the European Union. 

Comments

  1. It seems to me... that what you want is a "performance" cruiser... Somehow, you got stuck with your Minnesota "I want big cruiser" mentality and are lusting after hogs (that's not complimentary by the way).

    There are other companies making performance cruisers... There's one that is iconic.
    It's called "Diavel", you might want to look it up.
    - 162hp
    - 93 lb-ft torque
    - 240 mm rear tire (it's a cruiser!)
    - ABS with Brembo all around

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've really never liked the look of the Diavel. It's squished and seems to remove a lot of the elements of a cruiser that appeal to me. If I were going Italian, I'd choose the Moto Guzzi California. But therein lies one of the primary reasons I ever really consider cruisers in the first place: the most notable ones are made by US and UK companies. If I can, I would like to buy American. And until Motus actually gets off the ground the best American bikes are cruisers. I would love Victory to tap into Polaris' expertise and produce something to rival the BMW R1200GS. I just don't think they will.

      Delete
  2. Oh ok, you want the whole cruiser experience, but with the convenience of ABS safety.
    I remember a friend of mine bought a huge scooter, a Japanese 650. Really that thing was huge.
    I bought a Harley Davidson Sportster Nightster XL1200N.
    When his 11-year old daughter saw my bike, she and her friends were jumping up and down crazy. They all wanted a piece of my bike. Took pictures sat on it. The works.
    Then his daughter turned to him and asked him: "Daddy, why didn't you buy a real motorcycle, like Eyvind's?"
    that was hilarious. He sold his big scooter soon after.
    If I had more dough, I'd buy a softtail to have in my garage. They look awesome, sound awesome. Girls go crazy when they see one and even more when they ride one. They just don't do anything for me anymore.
    All of this is of course meaningless to you until you actually own one and get it either in our out of your system.
    For me it was out. Sold my Sportster (that thing was torquey and fast). I was spending so much time on my K1200R that it was dumb to be making payments on that Sportster.
    So, save up and scratch your cruiser itch!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Chris,
    When we toured the Victory/Indian plant in Spirit Lake, IA, we got a rather up close and intimate look at all the models of both bikes. The Vegas 8 Ball does NOT look trailer parkish, believe me. All of the bikes were beautiful!
    Our friends recently test rode both Indian and Victory models. The company has been hosting demo days. Unfortunately neither day could I get there. But our friends who are long time riders both espoused their deep love for the Chieftain and their mild enthusiasm for anything Victory. After riding the Indians, the Victory paled in comparison regarding the balance, weight and performance. So I would want to ride it myself to render an opinion, but I respect these two and their input.
    Smooches,
    Sash
    Www.Sashmouth.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Chris I saw a Victory today (not sure what model) but it looked pretty sweet. Kinda out of place with all the Harley's in the Parking lot..but it looked nice. Several of the folks in my HOG Chapter made positive comments on its styling. You know what they say, "You can take the boy out of Minnesota but you can't take Minnesota out of the boy." Maybe the Victory is your destiny. :-)

    Cheers,
    Curt

    Live Free. Ride Hard. Be Happy.
    www.curtcarter.com

    ReplyDelete

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