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2013 Victory Judge: MD First Ride

In our preview of the Victory Judge, we gave you all the specifications and details, and now we have had a chance to ride this  2013 model that will be available in dealers this April.

Victory is an interesting company.  It is American through-and-through (owned by the giant conglomerate Polaris), but unlike Harley-Davidson or Indian (recently purchased  by Polaris, as well), it is a brand built from scratch just more than 10 years ago.  H-D sells far more bikes than Victory, of course, but, sort of like those old Avis commercials comparing themselves to Hertz, Victory views itself as the “try harder” company.  There is some truth to it.

With double digit sales growth in North America last year, Victory managed to finish first in at least one survey for both owner satisfaction and dealer performance.  Challenging H-D riders at Sturgis this year to test ride a Victory, the company gained plenty of converts.  Indeed, Victory says 23,000 potential customers test rode a Victory last year due to aggressive marketing of the bikes and the availability of test rides that goes beyond that offered by many competitors.  Its “Ride One and You’ll Own One” marketing campaign is based on confidence rather than cockiness according to a company representative.

While the very first Victorys introduced more than a decade ago could be a bit crude, the company quickly developed (through careful engineering) engines and chassis that are easily competitive, if not class leading in many respects.  We first sampled their huge 106 cubic inch (1731cc) 50 degree v-twin in the Vision Tourer, and that engine has spread to other models in the line as it has been refined and enhanced (along with its six-speed transmission).

The version of this v-twin in the new Judge puts out a claimed 113 foot/pounds of torque … making the six available speeds overkill to some extent.  There is more than enough power everywhere above idle to shove the huge machine forward with urgency.  The relatively light weight of 660 pounds (by heavyweight cruiser standards) helps out, as well. Big twins are known for having clunky transmissions, but the six-speeder in the Victory is as good as any we have experienced in this category.

Victory says the Judge is the first completely re-designed cruiser model in the line-up since 2006.  The styling is entirely new, along with the chassis ergonomics and plenty of details.  From the LED tail light to the fender and tank contours and custom-looking seat with contrast stitching, the Victory looks and feels like a quality product.  Steel and aluminum are found where you might expect to find fiberglass or plastic on some of the metric competition.

Other design details include the new 16″ wheels, as well new covers for both the ignition and engine.  That new seat is contoured in a manner to offer some back support while riding, and is low enough that virtually any rider will have no trouble planting both feet on the ground while stopped.

Victory refers to the foot peg placement as offering “mid-controls”, although they are still forward from where they would appear on a standard motorcycle.  This offers one advantage in that you will not find the pegs in your way when you put your feet on the ground.  The bars are a comfortable width that require a bit of a stretch in reach for this 5’10″ tester.

An extremely long pull throttle (the first quarter inch of turn doesn’t seem to do a whole lot) initially masks just how much power is on tap.  A healthier twist reveals all that torque publicized by Victory, and a smooth, linear progression of power.  Vibration levels are well controlled for such a large displacement, narrow-angle twin, but you never forget there are two 865cc cylinders beneath you beating away.

The long wheelbase and generous curb weight will never allow this bike to chase supersports through the canyons, but the relatively narrow rear tire and extremely stiff chassis make the handling solid and predictable, if not nimble.

We found the seat extremely comfortable during our 120 miles of testing.  It is both firm and supportive, and that huge scallop does create some needed back support given the low seat height and relatively high pegs.

In typical press-intro fashion, our group of journalists rode the bikes at a pace faster than 95% of customers will ever ride.  This revealed not only the aforementioned solid handling, but the fact that the brakes, although ultimately plenty powerful,do not lend themselves to corner carving.  The front brake is not as progressive as it could be, lacking initial bite and coming on strong only in the last third of your lever pull.   The rear brake is fine, but it can easily overwhelm traction when slowing for corners at this admittedly unrealistic pace.

Overall, the new Judge works very well.  If the ergonomics work for you, it is an easy bike to ride, and an easier bike to look at.  By current standards, it is even relatively affordable at a base price of $13,999 for the black version shown ($14,399 for the optional Suede Nuclear Sunset and Sunset Red models).  Victory will have plenty of accessories available at launch, including saddlebags and windshields, among others.  For additional details, visit Victory’s web site.

50 Comments

  1. takehikes says:

    I’ve said for a long time that I like the victory after I rode one. I will look real hard at it the next time I buy. So far as taking wind out of HD”s sails it’s a tough nut. Victory will have a better chance than most being American made and that is exactly one of the reasons why I’ll be looking hard at it to support US.
    As regards getting around HD’s perceived value and greatness it’s almost impossible. Example: I own a sweet Yamaha Road Star that I have heavily modified, it’s a damn fine cruiser (once I took about 100 pounds off of it), powerful and reliable. Yet when folks ask me what I ride they kind of shrug their shoulders….until I tell them I have a early 70′s HD Sportster then they light up. Not guys that really know anything about motorcycles but the public and the wannabe’s that might buy. yet in the real world no one, including me, would take that Sporty over the Roadie. So it’s all about perception and right now Victory has a hole card and that is being an American company. If they play on that, keep improving and giving rides they will continue to make inroads. I still don’t get why they bought Indian though.

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  2. sliphorn says:

    Nice looking bike, but for me I’d prefer the riders triangle to be more standard-esque. Closer to the Bonneville T-100, I guess. A seat height in the 30 to 32 inch range, foot pegs further back than the Judge, and bars a tad closer. All in all though, the Judge is a nice looking bike. The great thing about the old standards? It was easy to make ‘em your own with accessories and what not.

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  3. Mike Simmons says:

    Sorry guys, just can’t get excited about another Harley wannabee.

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  4. Lucky says:

    Victory is certainly moving ahead faster than the competition. So, I give them credit where credit is due. They just keep on raising the heat under Harley’s saddle. Competition is what makes them all better. I just spent my cash on a Chinese scooter that has superb performance, braking, and yes, dealer support. It gets along just fine in my garage with the Harley. Let the best bikes win!

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  5. Reinhart says:

    Funny how the article is about a Victory motorcycle and a lot of posters chime in to say how much better it is than a Harley. It seems that the average rider still wants a Harley no matter how much effort they put into designing Victory motorcycles. People like the look, feel and heritage of a Harley even if it doesn’t go as fast or brake as well as a Victory. Look at it this way: some folks prefer to buy and drive cars made in the sixties even though they lack the performance and comfort of a late model automobile. They prefer the rough edges and quirky handling that comes along with a 40 year old car. It’s the same thinking that’s carried over to the motorcycle world and is easy to understand if you just open up your mind a bit. Not everyone wants to go fast or drag their knee around the corner to get their kicks…some just enjoy the ride.

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    • bikerrandy says:

      Must be what keeps HD in business. I’ve never understood this mindset, but I’ve never owned a cruiser either.

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    • dannytheman says:

      Go as fast, yes, but since Harley has adopted Brembo brakes, and offered anti lock on various models, I think they would equal out. There are, today, many more Harley Davidson dealers across the nation. If you ride cross country and leave the confines of your neighborhood, it is a nice feeling to know you can get help just about anywhere in the States. I added all Harley dealers to my GPS before leaving for any long rides. Nothing happened, but I knew I had a pretty nice network of support IF I needed it.
      When you go to a Victory dealer, it’s confusing to know if the guy who works on Snow Machines, and 4 wheelers is the guy who truly knows your bike. (Not saying there are not bad Harley mechanics)
      Now as to 40 year old stuff. The new bikes have different shocks, different brakes, 6 speed transmissions and now 6 gallon tanks. So while the look is similar, the bikes are better/safer. Kind of like Ford/Chevy/Mopar launching a new Mustang/Corvette or Charger. IMHO!

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    • mr_dirtrider says:

      Yeah, the difference in the car analogy is that those cars actually are 40 years old. I’d like to have my 1978 RM125 back, but I don’t want a brand new air cooled dual shocked MX bike.

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      • dannytheman says:

        I am not sure I get what you are trying to say? You would prefer to have 1978 RM125 today? Drum brakes, heavy as hell?
        My point was that Harley has made the important changes that needed to be made and still look like the harley. Same as a Corvette/Chevelle/Charger look similar to the old one, but have all the advancements of modern technology. If you would prefer to stay with using a carburetor and changing rings all the time go for it. I used to change the rings after every race, then every second time add a piston. Nightmare.

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        • HalfBaked says:

          The ’78 RM125 and the most recent model were virtually identical in terms of weight. The latest RM had about 50% more horsepower but that wouldn’t make a sub 200 lb bike feel “heavy as hell” by any means. Maintaining a 2-stroke MXer and a modern 250F don’t even compare the cost of the 4 stroke is much more expensive and time consuming.

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  6. Scorpio says:

    My hat’s off to Victory. A couple of my Club’s members ride them and love them; I’ve only ridden one (a Vegas) and was more impressed with the ergos than the riding experience, but the Judge is a good direction. I like how fat front tires don’t follow pavement imperfections, and applaud the diet and MSRP compared to their other offerings. I could see myself owning one with a bikini fairing and some performance/suspension/braking mods. I could also see myself owning a Harley so I’m not stuck on brand…although I’m nowhere near tired of my Bonneville so it will be a while!

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  7. Neil says:

    Points well taken, Steve. I have the bad back but I like Sportsters in general, but, for the money, they are not worth it. My $600.00 used Honda VFR was VERY fine on stock suspension and the motor blew the Sporty into the weeds. Owned both. Rode the VFR three times as far! I am not spending more money for suspension when I just overpaid 11,000 bucks for a Sportster. So how about Harley just makes the bikes with decent shocks and forks to begin with? Fine down South as I said. A waste of money up North. The Honda CB1000R, bone stock, same money, will outride the Sportster and look good doing it. That does not have to be true but Davidson, who bought Harley, makes it so. Nice tourers. Poor everything else, except down South, dollar for dollar. The Victory comes off the sidestand much easier and has an amazing stock seat and I’ll take the 8 Ball over the horrid Blackline any day of the week. “While the very first Victorys introduced more than a decade ago could be a bit crude, the company quickly developed (through careful engineering) engines and chassis that are easily competitive, if not class leading in many respects”
    Your bike is very nice, Steve, but… :-)

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  8. Joey Wilson says:

    VICTORY has made large strides, and I’ll be interested to see where they’ll be going in the future.

    While they are in the process of being ‘careful’ no to blur the ‘brand identities’ of Victory and their new acquisition of Indian, a suggestion:

    Make a real standard off this running gear (along the lines of a Bonneville, W800, CB1100) with spinoffs of that platform of a cafe / bobber (sure, go ahead, and hire a cafe guru like you got Arlen Ness to consult on your cuisers) and a serious sportbike version as the third variation. You’re certainly close to having enough motor, the other parts are out there, GO for it !

  9. Tom R says:

    I’m not one who wants to own/ride any current cruiser bike, but “if a gun were held to my head”…I would choose the black Victory over ANY H-D.

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  10. Reinhart says:

    Same old engine, new paint and bars. Yaaaaaaaawn.

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  11. dannytheman says:

    And it being over 600 pounds I would like addition rotor and brake on the port side bow!

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  12. Marty says:

    Getting closer to a Standard. Sigh. Good looking bike though. I still think Yamaha should sue them for using the Vision name as I owned two of them :)

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  13. JPJ says:

    “Competition improves the breed”! So it goes that Victory and it’s bikes is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Manufacturing great bikes from small beginnings.Clearly a great alternative to Harley and the Jap cruiser market. I wish them much sucess.

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  14. Jamo says:

    1. It still looks like a “Nessie” to me. What’s “all new” about the design?

    2. I don’t know what you mean by “double digit growth.” You mean sales were more than 10 times the previous year’s? I don’t believe it. Do you mean 10%? So what?

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  15. Kevin says:

    When discussing reach to the bars or windshield height, the height of the rider is not enough information.

    A short rider with short legs and a long torso may be able to see over the windshield while a tall rider with long legs and a short torso may have to look through the same shield.

    A statement that a given bike is a good fit for a rider of a given height ignores the fact that there can be major deviations in leg length or torso length within people of the same height.

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  16. dannytheman says:

    I led a ride last fall to a Victory dealer that was having the demo truck out. 30 Harleys pulled in and test drove 12 various models of Victory! Everyone loved their engine and power. BUT, the little extras, cruise control, turn signals, aux switching looks very foreign and cheap, not well thought out. A couple 11 mile rides is not the same to many of us that ride 18 hour days at times. But they seemed ergonomically acceptable.
    Of those 30 Harley riders, not one switched yet to a Victory!

    But I could see why someone would!

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  17. Tom says:

    Looks like the front wheel needs to be switched with the back wheel. What is the deal with cruizers with big wide front wheels? I see some of the Harleys doing the same thing.

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  18. Asphanaut says:

    “double digit sales growth in North America last year.”

    No wonder Victory doesn’t listen to me when I keep wishing they’d expand their line to include a 500 lb sport tourer with a torquey V4 and retains some classic American styling cues so it’s as cool to look as it performs in corners.

    But I’m glad to see Victory having success. They are producing some good looking machines that perform very well within their genre and have introduced both styling (scalloped tanks and fenders, instrumentaion on the headlight) and functional improvements (engine and frame tech) that force others to raise their game as well.

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  19. jay1975 says:

    The more I see it, the more I like it. Man I need a new job so I can afford some new toys.

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  20. kando says:

    Best Vic so far although I never have liked the two stacked pipes, would like to see one on either side……

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    • Pop Pop says:

      “Best Vic so far”

      I agree…nicely done. I’ve never like their pipes though, they don’t really flow well with their bikes, at least to me.

      “would like to see one on either side”

      I’ve always liked this look.

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  21. Pat says:

    To each their own. I do not bash others choice of rides, nor I’m I brand loyal. I am on my second Victory, my current TCD has over 88,000 miles on it. When I decide to buy again, I will pick a bike that fits my style of riding, (which has changed greatly in the past 35+ years of riding) and that catches my eye the way a beautiful woman does, (makes me do double takes) and fits me comfortably. (at least with a few mods) This new Victory isn’t for me, but I can see how it would attract others. And though I hated the Judge when it first came out, it really does look better in person.

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  22. YesFan says:

    “Greyhound taking a dump” – Funny though I have no idea where you get that impression.

    The Judge seems like a tight, well-sorted package. Geared for the Muscle-bike crowd. I like it. It’s reminiscient of what Vic seems to be doing these past few years and that’s bringing a more contemporary design language to their two-wheeled machines.

    Now to the never-ending HD VS Vic debate – I rode HD for 25 years and picked up a Vic in 2006 – after 4 years of having both brands I let the HD go due to never really riding it anymore. The Vic spoke to me and that’s what I went with. To each his own.

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  23. FreddyJ says:

    Frostbite…you talk all about how people shouldn’t dog other people’s ride, then end with, “Not everyone wants to ride a bike looking like a Greyhound taking a dump”…?!

    I agree that everyone should be able to vote with their wallet–to each his/her own. I can even see the appeal of a cruiser and might consider owning one some day (but not for the price of a car). However, many of us are frustrated by the chest-thumping of manufacturers and their “performance” bikes that just…aren’t.

    I used to own a Buell before I started doing track days, and I think that Erik was on to something. Light weight + good torque + great handling = fun that can also be comfortable and versatile. I wonder what might have been had H-D taken Buell off the leash and allowed them to design their own motor 5 years earlier.

    I may be wrong, but I would bet that it H-D and the like whose time is coming, not the ‘younger riders’ you refer to.

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    • frostbite says:

      Hey Freddy J – At least I did NOT name and Motorcycle Brand DID I ? Just the STYLE – SO WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM ???? Not everyone wants to get off a bike after a weekend ride of over 1,000 miles suffering from a shagged back, thank you very much … Been there and done that, and will not go back to that style of motorcycle again except for a short blat down a country lane or a racetrack for a few laps … Sports bikes – regardless of maker, all have one thing in common – they aren’t built for anything like long distance comfortable riding – especially riding 2 up (with a pillion rider / passenger) – Ask your closest female friend to go for a weekend ride with you on your sports bike – I know what you will be told ….

      In ALL my years of riding and working on motorcycles I have basically ridden every style and common brand and some exotics – it has never worried me what anyone else is riding, as long as I am enjoying the bike I am on at the time I just don’t care who is riding what …. Hell, I have met some cool people from all walks of life riding anything and everything from mopeds to Munch Mammoths and they all have one thing in common – they all enjoyed their bikes – for whatever reason for buying it. And SO IT SHOULD BE – Get out there and ENJOY YOUR OWN RIDE – Whatever it IS – OK.

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  24. Tom says:

    I remember when Harley’s had single piston caliper brakes and very very low powered engines that had a tendency to leak oil and we won’t even talk about the lack of vibration isolation. The clutch pull was like one of those bar room strength testers. Much like the carnival ride height requirement, those bikes had a long list of obstacles to clear back in the early evo days and earlier. Sport bikes during this period had multi-piston brakes that worked. Suspensions that didn’t bottom out and frames that weren’t hinged in the middle. As a Harley rider and a sport bike owner I couldn’t believe how Harley was getting away with such terrible brakes, suspension and stock power. The normal thing to do was toss a lot of iron in the bin and pull out the aftermarket catalog to get the bike to be safe.

    I think if it weren’t for companies like Victory today’s Harley’s would still be running single piston brakes and flexy frames. I’m glad there is competition as it breeds better design.

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  25. RAD says:

    Well said frostbite I could not agree more .

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  26. craigj says:

    Oh boy another cruiser with a restyle the equivilant of the 80′s “bold new graphics”. Wake me when it’s over. I’m almost 50, and there is NOTHING in the entire lineup of HD and Victory that interests me as a consumer in the slightest. I take that back, I do like the XR 1200 but it’s too small for my 6-4 frame. I find it terribly sad that the only American motorcycle that appeals to me can only be found by searching for a low mileage used Buell Ulysses.

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  27. Denny says:

    Eh… good looking american harley. Does the name make any difference? They are all alike.

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  28. bikerrandy says:

    Just looking at the pics……..avoid the speed bumps and corners!!

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  29. ben says:

    I am not a cruiser fan but that bike looks pretty good. Certainly a great deal better than the same old same old HD crap. I have zero interest in owning a Harley simply because I do not buy into the marketing hype and there is certainly no good reason to own one if performance and excitement are your main criteria when considering a purchase. This victory is another story, though. I could ride that thing and not feel like grandpa out on his putt putt

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    • Steve says:

      Let the Harley-BASHING begin……

      Ben…do you actually believe the B-S you throw at us in your post? I can buy ANY bike I want.. MV Agusta, BMW, Triumph, Ducati, etc… but I choose to own & ride a Harley & NOT for any marketing hype reasons. I ride my Street Glide because it satisfies my requirements & expectations…. e.g. large dealer network, ergonomics (I’m 5’6″), loads of torque, touring ability, saddlebags, windshield, floorboards, quality product, etc… I always tell people riding a Harley (in my opinion & compared to other bikes) is like riding a tractor… very comfortable, lots of power & torque. & that suits my riding style perfectly! You can disagree all you want but my opinion comes from experience, not marketing hype & I know how/where I like to ride. If your preferences are different, a Harley might not satisfy your requirements, etc…

      I guess your statement is true for you though…. After reading the article & looking at the pics, you seem to have been converted from “I am not a cruiser fan” to “This victory is another story, though. I could ride that thing” all because of Victory marketing hype!

      Look Ben… to each his own… I don’t know what brand bike you ride or what type of riding you prefer but I’m 55 & old enough to be a grandpa although I am not & I find riding my Harley up Mt Washington or down to West Va or out West to the Rockies is one of the best feelings I can experience while I am here on Earth! If that’s how “grandpa feels riding his putt-putt”, then I’m all in!

      If you put the negative anti-H-D emotion aside Ben, you will see that most of ride bikes that satisfy our expectations & requirements.. which is usually the only reason we buy anything… not because…as you call it “marketing hype”…

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      • frostbite says:

        Hey Steve – Don’t let it worry you to much – these younger generation of motorcycle riders just don’t realise that their time is coming – IF they live long enough … They don’t appreciate LONGEVITY of models and Simplicity of Design – and I find it personally Distastefull to BAG/CAN someone elses ride – Best thing they can do is shut their trap and enjoy their bike – If it worries them what someone else is riding then THEY have the problem … Hey BEN – “GET OVER IT” – Not everyone wants to ride a bike looking like a Greyhound taking a dump. Cheers ….

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      • Neil says:

        I was in a Victory dealer last weekend. Very comfy bikes. A nice fresh edge. – If we look at a comparable Harley, and I have ridden from the Sportsters to the Road King and Fat Boy, my issue is that below the larger bikes, which are too heavy, in my opinion, they just don’t ride well, for the money you spend to me. But the biggest thing is that I too do not like the tattoed, loud exhaust, no safety gear, whack the throttle open and then hope it’ll stop (with its crappy brakes) attitude. But yeah, we all have choices. If for no other reason, I do not like Harley for misleadingly selling Sportsters that do not have northern climes very good suspension for the poholed roads they will be ridden on. Fine in Florida though. They are making money for literally GARBAGE suspension that some new rider up North will attempt to ride safely with her friends on the larger and frankly much safer chassis wise big Harleys. They are literally destroying the backs of northern non touring Harley riders and ignoring that fact. But the tourers ride nice.

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        • Steve says:

          Neil… I do not have ANY tattoo’s & while my bike is slightly tweaked… K&N air filter, SE Super Tuner to richen it up, Dyno tune, stainless headers w/o cats…. I retained the stock mufflers so the bike has a little bark but it is not loud or obnoxious.

          Oh… my brakes… stock Brembo’s w/ABS…. crappy? I think not.

          Are you freakin kidding me with the “destroying backs” line? 99% of all motorcycle suspensions on stock bikes suck! Even top end sportbikes with the latest Showa suspensions F&R get replaced with Ohlins & Harley & Victory are no different although they are getting better with gas charged rear shocks & better front tubes. Sounds like you have a personal issue with some woman who bought a Sportster & also has a bad back. No bike has it all so why don’t you suggest she get some YSS gas charged rear shocks sprung for her weight & get the Race Tech Emulators installed with heavier fork oil up front…
          Your “misleading” statement shows your cards Neil…. & what’s the deal with “up North” vs FLA?? They don’t make bikes specific to were they will be ridden….

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      • ben says:

        I can apprechiate the desire to ride a comfortable bike. I ride a V-strom for that reason. I am honestly not at all interested in Harley- I have been into bikes since I was 9, lisenced and riding street since I was 16 and I am currently 37. The entire time, my entire adult life the Harleys have looked the same. Every year they hang some new fenders on the same old putt putt crap and all it a new model. same shit, different decade. I am not at all enthused by Harley products, the XR1200 is nice and I could ride one if it could lose 100 pounds.

        It is not that I am interested in bashing harley, I wish I could find anything to like at the H-D dealer… it is just more of the same slow crap year after year. no thanks.

        at least Victory is trying here. Harley just seems to try to find new ways of keeping the harley fad/marketing machine on steroids going. No thanks

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