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2013 Victory Boardwalk: MD First Ride

    Since I don’t fly the cruiser flag, I was a bit surprised and extremely pleased to be included in the press introduction of the new Victory Boardwalk, held in beautiful Santa Barbara, California. There, we were  treated to some of the finest riding coastal California has to offer—fish tacos at the fabulously secluded Jalama beach, a loop through the rolling hills of the Chumash Highway, Solvang and Buellton, and on the second day an out-and-back on the legendary Maricopa Highway/Route 33, which winds its way through the stunningly beautiful, rugged, and remote Los Padres National Forest. In two days, we rode the Boardwalk close to 400 miles on a great variety of roads. Basically, we rode the hell out of the bikes, and got a really good feel for them.

    I’m going to start off by saying that the entire Victory line is smartly designed, and works very well given the constraints of the market segment in which each model competes. With this in mind, if you are familiar with Victory products, then the technical details of the new Boardwalk will be familiar. It utilizes the 106 cubic inch, fuel-injected, overhead-cam, four-valve, air/oil cooled, 50-degree V-Twin used in other Victory models. All Victory bikes are belt driven, have self-adjusting cam chains, and hydraulic lifters. With hardware like this, it’s clear why Victory claims it has the number-one reliability rating for heavyweight cruisers.

    Riding the Boardwalk was, for me (an ex-road racer and current dual-sport enthusiast), an exercise not unlike Mark Twain’s quip “Wagner’s music isn’t as bad as it sounds.” My last experience with cruisers was testing the Victory Judge, and that bike was fun and cool around town, but seriously painful to ride on the highway—the prospect of doing over 180 miles each day had me a bit anxious. Fortunately, the Boardwalk is actually a very comfortable bike for longer (if not Iron Butt-longer) days in the saddle.

    Approaching the bike in the lot outside the hotel, I immediately noticed the wide beach-cruiser bars. They are the source of the name, too: beach… boardwalk… get it? One grumpy journalist thought that was a big stretch, but it’s not that obtuse. The bars, along with wire wheels, wide whitewall tires, a sleek tank, a really striking wrap-around rear fender, and a redesigned lighting package give the Boardwalk an old-time-y vibe. It’s a handsome bike. Throwing a leg over, I notice the low, scooped-out seat is pretty comfortable. The reach to the forward-mounted floorboards is quite reasonable. The shifter is a toe-only affair (i.e. no heel-n-toe) so there is a lot of room to move your feet around on the floorboards, a big enhancement to comfort. And it’s available with 100 percent more colors than Henry Ford offered. Your choice of black or white.

    Slip the key into the chrome horn housing nestled between the cylinders, press the go-button, and the big Twin lights off instantly, with zero fuss. I’d love to say that it slipped into gear the way a college girl’s nylon thong slides down freshly-shaven legs, but it’s really more the way a hairy, sweaty lumberjack throws his muddy size-13 Redwings in the back of his pickup. Once underway, with the ritual of precisely matching engine and road speed before shifting observed, shifting can be accomplished with reasonable alacrity. Apparently, with 113 foot-pounds of torque available, the gearbox needs to be built a bit sturdier than other bikes, even those with more than twice the horsepower. The stock fueling is exemplary: it’s always spot on with no burbles, hiccups, or glitches anywhere in the rev range and under any load condition. I wish my 10-year-old Japanese bike fueled this well.

    Underway, the suspension is surprisingly good. Struggling to keep fellow ex-Honda Hawk roadracer and current madman Robert Pandya in sight, the suspension got a comprehensive workout. Right up to dragging floorboards and beyond, the Boardwalk was as steady and predictable as the proverbial rock. If a former roadracer/Boardwalk owner should desire more cornering clearance, there is a one-inch longer shock available as a factory option. Obviously, it will raise the back of the bike a bit, but the aesthetic trade-off is worth it. If you’re thinking “hey, why didn’t the jerk just crank up the preload …” it’s because the preload adjuster is buried under bodywork and other bits, and the average owner would likely take it to the dealer for that adjustment.

    One of the beauties of the Victory line is the available factory options. One of our test bikes was equipped with a wider, cushier seat, saddle bags, and a windscreen. Another test bike was equipped with a freer-flowing exhaust, a re-mapped fuel injection—together, these mods create a noticeable increase in thrust—and a “speedo unlock” which enabled a host of features on the electronic dash such as instant fuel economy: a neat diversion for the technically-minded.

    Victory is justifiably proud of its number-one reliability rating and is actively improving reliability with a testing program. Every model and every factory accessory is subjected to numerous torture tests to ensure reliability. The tests include extended time on a shaker table (a machine which can simulate a variety of frequencies of vibration that mimic actual use), and environmental testing to determine if finishes and materials such as paint, rubber, vinyl, and chrome are satisfactorily durable.

    The real bottom line for any first-person testing is to ask if I’d buy it personally, or recommend it to a friend. The answer is yes, I would. It’s a technologically-superior machine dressed up in really cool vintage duds. If someone miraculously emptied my garage of street bikes, and told me I could have a well-accessorized Boardwalk and an iPhone full of surf music … I might just be okay with that. And that’s really saying something.

    Check your local Victory dealer for availability of the 2013 Boardwalk. It will be priced at $15,499 in black, $15,899 in white — add $250 for California models.

39 Comments

  1. Mo says:

    Where is the the American Naked bike they desperately need?

  2. Auphliam says:

    Ness did not design any Victory motorcycle. Never has. Common misconception due to unknowing media wonks writing that in nearly every Victory review since he and his son were hired as consultants. He and his son (and now grandson) design graphics and accessories. Michael Song designs the bikes.

    I disagree with your opinion of the Vision. Different? Absolutely. Clown? Hardly. How would one come to that conclusion about one the most technilogically advanced touring bikes ever built? Maybe because it doesn’t look like an Ultra Classic?

    • Auphliam says:

      Awseom, I write a reply to Jamo and it get placed completely out of place. Love this board.

    • Jamo says:

      Whomever. What’s the difference? THe point is that the design was once fresh, for about six months, but then you get used to it, very used to it, very, very used to it and it just looks dated. The same thing happens to any highly styled design, bell bottoms, sports cars, Afros. It doesn’t matter.

      Harley are classic designs, not the latest fashion, and you buy a design that was right to begin with. Victory had a very nice, classic design originally. If only they had evolved it a little, smoothed out the rough edges, instead of going for a quick shot of swoopiness that is called a “Nessie” to this day.

      • Jamo says:

        Although, in fairness, this Boardwalk is bettter looking than a Kingpin, and at least it isn’t called the “Kingpin.” Bleech!

        • Jamo says:

          Still, it’s called a “Boardwalk.” The nomenclature leaves me cold. You see, the reason I go on, was that I bought a 2002 Touring Cruiser and rode it for a while. It needed improvement, but I liked it. THen, VIctory threw everyone they had sold the earlier bike to under the bus and dumped the whole line. They left a lot of people very bitter.

  3. MrFuzzwah says:

    I like It. The bike looks original yet familiar. It’s like a hot-rodded 55 Chevy. Let me add I love my 07 Hammer – especially when it’s time to leave a Dyna in the dust.

  4. k-hud says:

    I never thought I’d say this but Victory is starting to make Harley look like a bargain…

    This bike would basically be over $17k out the door and for that they couldn’t include:

    A hydraulic clutch ?
    A better job of hiding the plug wires at connection point?
    A second disc upfront? (that’s a lot of bike to haul down with one)
    A better dashboard? – Everything crammed into one tiny dial? I literally think I’d bring binoculars along to check out any lights or messages that were flashing!

    This bike shouldn’t cost that much. I’d get all above and more in Vulcan 1700 Classic for more than $3K less!

    Just sayin’ :)

  5. Ed says:

    Only one small problem, “Nessie” has not designed a single motorcycle for Victory. The Vegas, which started the ball rolling, was designed in house by Victory designer Michael Song. Try getting facts together instead of being just another “hater”.

  6. casatomasa says:

    Wow, tough crowd!! I personnaly don’t get the whole cruzzer thing although I have one in the garage. Of all the bikes I have the simplest and lightest (KTM enduro) is the most fun. Motorcycles are very social, most bikes are sold to evoke an emotion and to line one up with a certain social crowd. Everyone likes to hang with like minded riders, especially cruisers and no one cruises like HD. Don’t forget the “Adventure” crowd or the Sport crowd. They are all bikes, some manufactures have to spend millions to upgrade technology to sell their brands others spend millions on marketing and not technology to sell theirs. I myself like the technology. You know Racing>Developement, Developement>Technology, Technology>speed baby!!!!

  7. Michael_Haz says:

    That is a good looking motorcycle, especially in white.

    I admire Victory (and Polaris). It takes pretty big stones to put millions of dollars of shareholder’s money into the task of competing directly with Harley Davidson, and then double-down by saying that that will be your only kind of motorcycle.

    Victory seems to be pulling it off by offering good products that people want to buy and ride. Good job.

    IMO, the people who whine about one kind of motorcycle or another wouldn’t buy one no matter what the manufacturer does. Waste of time listening to them.

  8. Wes Baca says:

    Maybe you should try riding the GS instead of pushing it. As far as Victory’s riding position goes, it’s the same as a toilet.

    Just kidding :)

  9. Reinhart says:

    There are two kinds of riders: those that like Victory products and those that vomit up their lunch every time a “new” Victory model is introduced. Same old rearrangement of garish paint, wheels and bodywork to satisfy the most discriminating poser. I had great hope for Victory when they first started building bikes many years ago but have since given up on them. When will they introduce something other than a pimped up V-Twin?

  10. ABQ says:

    I have appreciated Victorys since they first came out with the Vegas. I still want one.
    Personally I think I am done with taller bikes. The advantage of a cruiser is that you can sit at a stop light with both feet solidly on the ground. And, if you need to back it up in a parking lot your feet will have the traction needed. Try doing that with my BMW GS. My toes are sliding the dust across the ground. And, forget about pushing the GS on gravel or even a pebble on a dirt parking lot. Yeah, dual purpose bike, snort.
    So my search for a real world bike goes on. Victory looks good for it.

  11. kawzies says:

    If you wipe out on it and go over a cliff on highway 1 in Cali you might end up “under the Boardwalk, down by the sea”.

  12. Provalogna says:

    I have no use for any of this genre of style/cosmetic contraptions, with the rarce exception being Ducati’s Diavel with its full-on performance potential.

    If I decided to own one, except for the Diavel mentioned above, I’d be as happy with a $4k Korean Kymco (the one you can’t tell from the HD with the Porsche-designed motor) as anything else, including this thing pictured above, whose OTD cost will come in close to $20k. What a sinful waste of earth’s resources.

  13. Jamo says:

    Victory needs to bring back the original Touring Cruiser design, improved, and drop the Nessies. Nobody wants this crap.

    “Nessies,” the original VIctory design by AArlen Ness, introduced in 2004, replaced an original, if trite, cruiser design that wasn’t selling very well. But Nessies isn’t a hallowed, traditional design. It’s something an old man came up with that is suitable as a one-off, but not really inspired or evocative. The design tires quickly after the first impression. The thought “what else have you got” springs immediately to mind. It’s dated and tiresome.
    The nomenclature didn’t help. I don’t want to be a “Kingpin” or a “Joker” or a “Crackpot” or an “8-Ball.” They could have gone from “Vegas” to “Vera Cruz” or “Francisco.” But they had some lower class demographic of Harley rejects in mind. THere aren’t any.

    This Victory experiment has benn poorly thought out from a long time ago.

  14. Trent says:

    I like this bike a lot; I could see the black one in my garage.

  15. Temporary Saint says:

    Right, another re-decorating of the same bike. And how about that seating position? It’s reviewed as comfortable for long rides, but it looks like your back would be aching pretty quickly. My first bike was a cruiser, and I loved it, but I just don’t get it anymore. Pay all that money for a bke that’s too big to get out of it’s own way….

    • Gary says:

      Pretty sure you can get a rider backrest as an accessory. The cruiser posture works well for touring so long as you’ve got a backrest. Cruise control also available. Those three things (cruiser posture, backrest and cruise control) make for excellent touring comfort. With a windshield, of course.

  16. kirk66 says:

    The write-up is well done. The information disseminated smartly. The conclusion is clear. Yet, I don’t buy new bikes ao I must wait 4 or 5 yrs to afford a well sorted used one.

  17. Gary says:

    Good writeup! I appreciate the colorful analogies. Well done. You say you had several bikes on hand with various accessories installed. Did any have the available centerstand? If so … did it ground out easily? I view centerstands as essential, but I heard early Victory centerstands seriously eat up ground clearance.

  18. stratkat says:

    you can have the bike, i want the camper in the background!

  19. hal26 says:

    …….those fenders………I threw up a little….

  20. Jamo says:

    At least Victory is getting away from the ridiculous nomenclature evoking criminal or insane behavior – Kingpin, 8-Ball, Jackpot. Whoever led Polaris away from the original concept did them a disservice.

    But the look is still “Nessie” and when the reviewer calls it “smartly designed” he is praising Victory’s greatest failure. The styling is poor. They all look dated and they all look alike. Go take a look at the Vision. It’s a clown. One iteration of a Nessie, once, was enough. The rest are viscerally unsettling.

  21. soi cowboy says:

    They spent 10 years building up the victory brand, then they tossed it when they bought indian. This is similar to ford buying jaguar.

    • blackcayman says:

      What if the re-bith of Indian was a LOT more like Triumph???

      It’s inconceivable that another American Motorcycle Company would be so lame as to limit their model lineup like HD did/does.

  22. takehikes says:

    Doing like HD, same bike many iterations. However, unlike those cocktail shakers this engine is a beauty, real runner…now if only they could make the damn barrels round.

  23. Auphliam says:

    Nice write up. Good looking bike. I liked the Boots vs Thong analogy. Pretty accurate description of the “tractor-like” build of the Vic tranny.

  24. kjazz says:

    I think the styling statements like the deco headlight and the wrap around fenders are cool looking. More expensive than a J-cruiser, but you gotta give Victory credit… they are making some styling statements that are unprecedented (J or HD). I went to a Victory dealership here in Dallas, TX for a peak the other day. The Judge looks WAY cool in person as opposed to the magazine articles. And that huge starship with the pointy bags looked like the love child of a Cadillac “future car” from the fifties and a 1930s Bugatti. Very hip!!!! Very nice.

    Disclaimer: I’ve never owned a cruiser and do not expect to own one, but I do not hesitate to make worthless commentary when able to do so.

  25. kawzies says:

    Ok, so it’s got a Judge tank, a Jackpot headlight, new fenders, and everything else pretty much exactly the same as any other Victory. It cracks me up how Victory keeps coming out with these “new” models without any significant differences over older ones. I guess with computerized manufacturing it’s simple to change cosmetic features these days at a very low cost. But, unlike the female form, I’ll never like those huge, tall jugs on that engine. I will admit the white version of this bike ain’t too bad. There’s 2 Victory dealers within 20 miles of me, but I almost never see them on the road. I see plenty on craigslist for sale at huge discounts with low miles tho.

    • blackcayman says:

      they are simply doing what HD is doing – a bunch of models off a couple of frame/platforms. What else can they do, if all they want is to offer an alternative to HD?

      • Jamo says:

        THat’s a large part of their problem. Also, they’re not dong it as well as Harley is doing it.

        As it is, it’s a motorcycle for disaffected Harley rejects. Except there aren’t very many, disaffected Harley rejects. Harley makes a great product, and you cannot find a lesser demographic.

  26. mike says:

    I like it. However when will Victory do something about the standard pipes. They really have ungainly appearance.

  27. HalfBaked says:

    I guess I’ll have to check back later for the multitude of cynical and petty blah blah blah comments that will undoubtedly be posted. Here I’ll get the ball rolling: for what this thing cost you can buy a [insert name of any J-brand cruiser] and still have money left over for a bunch of accessories!

  28. Jim says:

    This is absolutely the most ugly bike that I have ever seen. Shame on you Victory