Skip to main content

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…

Deep sigh: Victory's 2015 model year line up

The Gunner looks cool; it needs ABS.
We're always toughest on the people and things we love, I guess. This is why we sometimes fall into the trap of hurting feelings when offering "constructive feedback" to partners, We want the things we love to present their best selves, to fulfil their potential. And the expression of this desire can sometimes come out as overly harsh.

Outside of personal relationships, though, we pay less attention to feelings. We speak our minds a little more forcefully. This is why we throw things at the TV when watching our favourite teams lose. It is why we turn apoplectic when the politicians supposed to be running the countries we love fail to do so effectively. Caring about something can make you very angry when that something fails to live up to your expectations.

Essentially, this emotion was at the heart of the post I wrote not too long ago, lamenting that the majority of Minnesota motorcyclists are fat, old and woefully under-skilled. I had a few people react negatively to that post (in part, I think, because I inarticulately failed to isolate my criticism to my own specific Minnesota experiences), but I don't really regret writing it. Like the Spanish Inquisition toward the Pope, I possess an almost fanatical devotion to the state of Minnesota. And when I feel it or its residents have let me down in some way I can't help but react with a certain amount of vitriol.

I tell you all this to explain why I am today banging my head against the table and swearing profusely at another Minnesota thing: Victory Motorcycles.

I absolutely love Victory. I love the fact they are from Minnesota; I love the power and ease of the Freedom 106 engine used in all Victory machines; and I love the look of most of their bikes. But this weekend the Mendina, Minnesota-based company announced its 2015 line up, including a "new" model, and my general reaction to said line up is utter exasperation. 

Why? Well, first off, let's take a look at this video, shall we?


"Leading the charge is the Victory Magnum," announces the video's breathy voice over.

There are so many things that make me angry about this bike that I'm not sure where to begin. The fact that it's not new is a good place, I suppose. Anyone with eyes can see the Magnum is just a Cross Country with a big, kiddie-toy-esque front wheel and idiot paint job. That's it.

The Cross Country is a hell of a bike, without doubt, but it's been around since 2010. Adding a massive, comical, obviously-compensating-for-something 21-inch front wheel to the Cross Country does not a new bike make. If anything, it just ruins an otherwise brilliant motorcycle by making it considerably harder to handle (a).

Neither is the look of the Magnum new by any stretch. This is the same crap Paul Teutul was churning out of Orange County Choppers back in 2004. Good grief, y'all. The Magnum is a 4-year-old bike with a 10-year-old design.

Also, it is named after a condom. I mean, I realise Harley-Davidson is fond of giving its bikes names that sound like types of condom or dildo (e.g. Fat Boy, Wide Glide, Night Rod Special), but Victory has just straight up stolen the name of a prophylactic and given it to something you're supposed to put between your legs.

Whereas I guess the name High Ball was already provocative enough. Like the Cross Country, it gets new paint and wheels for 2015, but no name change. Meanwhile, the Gunner (itself just a Judge with a different seat) also gets new paint. And that's about it (b).

"As for our touring bikes," growls the voice over. "We let the odometer do the talking."

Huh? In other words: they did nothing. 

Most glaring amongst the things they did not do is make anti-lock brakes available on their line of cruisers. I mentioned in my previous post that Victory will have to offer this in the EU from 2016. It appears they are content to wait until the very last minute to offer the feature (or perhaps they're planning to drop out of the European market?). Whereas ABS has existed on all Harley-Davidson models for roughly a year. Victory sees itself as a competitor to the Milwaukee-based brand but the fact is it is getting its ass well and truly kicked. 

The Harley-Davidson Softail Slim costs more than a Victory Gunner
but has ABS, tachometer, gear position indicator and keyless start.
Also available on all of Harley-Davidson's models are tachometers, gear position indicators and keyless starts -- the latter of which is not available on any Victory model (c). And, of course, these days Harley-Davidson is developing an awesome-looking electric motorcycle. Victory has responded by offering different paint schemes.

This. Is. Embarrassing.

I have long been a fan of Victory, loving the look of bikes like the Judge, the Gunner and the Boardwalk, and, of course, placing the Cross Country right near the top of Dream Bike list. But seeing the company not try on such an epic scale really frustrates me.

I understand that to a certain extent it behoves Victory not to change too much in an aesthetic sense, because the company is still only 15 years old. Having a load of models that look the same helps to establish a distinct, identifiable Victory "look." But I don't think that vindicates making no other changes in terms of performance, braking, features or ergonomics. 

At one point in the promotional video, with heavy rock riffs blaring and the bikes being followed by a shaky camera across desert landscape, the voiceover huffs triumphantly: "In this pack, we're never satisfied." 

I'm not satisfied, ether, Victory. You could have done so much better.

____________________

(a) Look closely at about 32-33 seconds in the video and you will notice that even the professional rider Victory hired wobbles this bike. Elsewhere in the video, the same rider is able to go offroading with a Gunner, so that really tells you something about how crappy the Magnum is.

(b) In addition to these minor aesthetic changes, Victory also appear to be dropping the Judge, Boardwalk, Jackpot and Cross Roads models in 2015. That's a shame; I really liked the Judge.

(c) Victory's baggers and tourers offer anti-lock brakes, tachometers and gear position indicators standard. As such, I do not see how it would be at all difficult to offer these things on cruisers.

Comments

  1. Look at the models riding bikes in this video, and it's evident what they're trying to do, appeal to youth. As for lack of anti-lock brakes and other amenities, as well as rehashing the same old platform with new paint and wheels, well that's just to keep price down.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm very disappointed with the new victory lineup. I was hoping for a Highball or Judge with ABS but they decided to put a crappy paint scheme on the Highball and dropping the judge completely, unless we get a February launch of a new judge as a 2016 model much like the Gunner earlier this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd like to think that's possible. Or, at the very least, that Victory will announce then the option of ABS on its cruisers. It's really hard to figure out Victory at the moment, i.e., where they're headed, or where they'd like to be headed. I wonder if they know or if they're just sort of lost for the moment.

      Delete
    2. I think Polaris knocked it out of the park with the Indian and they put victory on the back burner for a couple of years, while they work on the ridiculous Slingshot and new Indian tourer. I love the cross country, But it's out of my price range and doesn't fit my lifestyle. I'm considering a 2013 Hardball yes going back a year to get ABS. If my local dealer gives me a good deal. I'm upgrading from my 07 vtx1300 and I dont want to wait another year to get disappointed again.
      What I dont understand is why not include existing tech into a good selling product. When euro and Jap bikes have dynamic/ active suspension, quick shifters, variable engine modes and Traction control we're still wishing for ABS.

      Delete
    3. The more I think about it, the more I think there may be some truth to the theory that Victory is the red-headed stepchild of Polaris. What's sad is that moto-journalists are beginning to notice. Motorcycle USA wrote that when they were first invited to the Magnum's launch "visions of a liquid-cooled Victory danced in our head. We were reading the clues wrong. "

      While Motorcycle.com said: "If it seemed like the loud and proud Magnum might’ve been a good time to squeeze a little more juice out of the tried-and-true but not-updated-for-a-long-time Freedom 106 V-Twin, we agree. But that didn’t happen. It’s still a perfectly acceptably torquey/powerful engine, but we do need to keep up with the Joneses, don’t we?"

      In reviews of the Gunner a few months ago, both organisations, and CycleWorld lamented the absence of ABS. Victory is in danger of earning itself a bad reputation amongst moto-journos and that can be very, very hard to climb back from. And if the moto-journos' negative attitudes become the negative attitudes of the general public it could very well spell doom for Victory.

      Delete
  3. I don't understand Victory's game plan... They pump you up with words "Watch for our new this and that" and give you pimped up leftovers...

    Is it a company policie imposed to launch a new bike and to put it out of service 2 years latter... Goodbye Juge & Boardwalk... And by the way since we can produce awsome looking motorcycle why don't we stop doing that and focus on Cross Country look alikes...

    Sorry for the attitude but Victory's is shooting down my dreams of owning one day a cool bike...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I would like to buy a new Victory crossroads as I like the Roadking style but want a Victory. Oh wait a minute they cancelled that model.Harley's had a Roadking for 25 years or more. If Victory doesn't keep models for very long how do they expect to gain a following.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well since these comments Victory have released a "new'"Judge. I got excited until I saw the specs.... Nothing but a new paint job and ABS. Still got that skinny rear tyre and blacked out motor. I believe HD at the moment are leaving Victory for dead and Polaris are too busy concentrating on the Indian, and they cant even get the Indian right with a 12litre tank on the Scout. (what are they thinking?)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi everyone. I in Europe sure like the 2015 Judge, with ABS, BUT the price is way too high for a bike rather poorly equiped when you compare it with the competition. Why in 2015 does a so-called "muscle bike" use a skinny 130 rear tyre, no inverted front fork & a single front disk ? Beside, that bunch of unprotected wires behind the rear cylinder & that ugly piece of plastic (where is the American Iron gone ...) to hide & "protect" the ABS electronics look real cheap. Not a good bang for the buck in my humble opinion. I'll pass, unless the local dealer gives me a very good deal.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was wanting a Victory, but the company looks to be losing it's focus. They introduced the Boardwalk, which I really loved the fender styling, but then abandoned it, it had so much potential to replace the Kingpin but they seemed to half ass the effort - the inverted forks and better handlebars would have made a huge difference imo. The Crossroads was awesome with the "leather" saddlebags and nostalgic two tone paint schemes, but the even dropped that. I assume it drew sales from the Cross Country and possibly an Indian model.

    I am glad Indian is doing good, but I don't like the retro full skirt fenders, the over sized engine treatments. I preferred the sleek styling that Victory was going for.

    Now I am not sure where to go, I sure hope the 2016 lineup is stronger and better, becuase at this pace i see victory being an "also ran"

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ride review: Harley-Davidson XL 883 L (aka Sportster SuperLow)

Yes, as a matter of fact, it is like riding a tractor.
That's the criticism so consistently levied against Harley-Davidson motorcycles: that there is something agrarian to the experience. And I can now say from personal experience that all those critics are right. But I can also say those critics are leaving out a key piece of information, which is this:
TRACTORS ARE FUCKING AWESOME!!!
It's a tractor that hurtles forward with roller-coaster intensity, a tractor that goes really fast, a tractor that makes you feel like Brock Lesnar in a children's ball pit. A tractor from the Land of Bad-Ass, with which you can sow the seeds of awesomeness.
But let me back up a bit...
A few days ago, I decided to take the day off, solely for the purpose of getting a chance to ride around and finally make use of the free breakfast coupon sent to me by Thunder Road. As I was gearing up, I suddenly decided that since I was already heading west, I might as well push a few miles further and che…

Ride review: Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt

Imitation, Charles Caleb Colton famously noted, is the sincerest form of flattery. If that's true, the flattery the Harley-Davidson Iron 883 receives from Yamaha's XV950 is enough to make one blush. Put the two bikes side by side, and the inspiration for the latter is undeniable. Yamaha claims its bike has a "new neo retro Japanese look," but that's clearly just nonsense –– lorem ipsom that was used instead of "totally looks like a Harley-Davidson Iron 883."
Certainly the XV950 –– known as the Star Bolt in the United States –– isn't the first example of a Japanese OEM adhering faithfully to the styling cues of America's best-known motorcycle manufacturer. The orthodox members of the Church of Jesus Harley Latter-day Davidson write these bikes off as "wannabes," and tend to be pretty dismissive of anyone who would dare consider purchasing one. But I'm going to commit blasphemy here and tell you that the XV950 is unquestionably the …

Ride review: Triumph Bonneville

"OK," I said. "I want one." "Well, you know, maybe you should ask your wife first." "She loves Triumphs," I said. "Still, Chris. You should give it a think. Go home, discuss it with your wife, give yourself a chance to think clearly. After all, this is one of Triumph's most popular models; there's plenty of stock available."
The voice of reason in that conversation was Drew, the salesman at Bevan Motorcycles. He was doing his best to talk some sense into me after my test ride of the 2014 Triumph Bonneville. I was wild-eyed and yammering like a teenage boy who has touched boobies for the first time. This, my friends, is what the Bonneville does to you. It is an instantly rideable, instantly enjoyable, instantly lovable motorcycle that surprises you in just how good a simple motorcycle can be.

The Bonneville, of course, is a storied machine that's been around in one form or another for 55 years. It is a classic. Partially b…