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.