Long-term: 2010 Victory Cross Country

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Brian Nelson

Unlike many motorcycle manufacturers, Victory has eschewed the alphanumeric formula for its machines and has instead chosen to name them. The Vision is indeed visionary, the Hammer is about as subtle as a blacksmith, and a well-appointed Jackpot is reminiscent of the Vegas strip. What are we to make of the Cross Country?

That's a good question. Thus far, Minnesota-based Victory has done pretty well in tagging its rides. But with the Cross Country it's easy to assume the company might be going out on a limb. So RoadRUNNER's editorial staff decided that there's really only one way to find out. In planning a four-part feature on America's coast-to-coast Route 50 we thought it essential that a homegrown machine be employed for the journey.

It's not like we haven't had some time on this bike. The Cross Country and its sister model, the Cross Roads, were unveiled last spring in Texas Hill Country. We took part in that event and came away with positive feelings toward both machines.
Designed less like luxury touring mounts and more along the lines of traditional cruisers, these Vics target riders who put equal emphasis on errands and explorations. While both bikes are well equipped to handle either duty, the Cross Country is far better situated to tackle the latter. Our sea-to-shining-sea story pitch was met with great enthusiasm from the folks at Victory. Our journey would be well over 3,000 miles, two-up, and appropriately loaded. Their engineers had worked tirelessly to get this bike right, and they assured us that the Cross Country was perfectly suited for our needs.

Engine and Transmission

The business end of the Cross Country is the Freedom 106/6 V-twin. This big double banger sports an impressive 1731cc, single overhead camshafts, and four valves per cylinder. For warmer desert days the factory oil cooler gave us additional peace of mind.

A closed-loop electronic fuel-injection system delivered smooth, reliable power delivery, while a counterbalancer kept the vibes at bay. Horsepower readings check in at 92 ponies, while torque tugs mightily at 109 lb-ft. Our well-stuffed bags and two-up burden did challenge the Cross Country's passing ability in top gear, but a drop down to fifth was usually more than enough to motor past slowpokes, even on steep upgrades. And despite several stretches of rather aggressive throttling, fuel-consumption figures right at 40 mpg proved to be the norm.

The Victory's 6-speed tranny handled the demands of the journey with no difficulty. Though not the best passing gear, the true overdrive six-cog was an absolute joy while chuffing across the Great Plains. Even at increased velocities the high gear delivered a near vibration-free experience. Both up and down shifting were effortless albeit clunky affairs, a characteristic not uncommon to big cruisers. Even finding neutral required only one stab. Operating the cable-actuated clutch was pure butter, and never once was any slippage or fade noted. The audible sixth-gear whine that we noted in our evaluation of the sister ship, Cross Roads, was present in this unit as well. But since we routinely use earplugs it became moot as an annoyance.

Typical of Victory's perfection-oriented engineering staff, however, the issue has been rectified for model year 2011.

Chassis and Brakes

A two-up, bicoastal trek will tax any chassis. We'sre happy to report that the Cross Country passed with flying colors. The stout, cast-aluminum frame that contains the high-flow airbox uses the engine as a stressed member. Designed for increased rigidity, this superstructure maintained its composure through the tightest of twists. And despite having the lowest seat height in its class at just 26.2 inches, the big Vic absolutely belies its cruiser heritage in the handling department.

A huge piece of this bike's back and forth ability can be traced to the suspension. The sport-inspired, inverted front forks feature cartridge-damped tubes with progressive springs. Beneath the seat an air-adjustable rear shock serves up 4.7 inches of travel. An air pump is included to adjust the suspension. We played with various settings but found that the air-pressure suggestions for weight and riding style in the owner's manual were spot on. There's no doubt that at 765 pounds the Cross Country is a heavyweight, but with its quality legs it delivers feedback and performance rarely found on a machine its size.

Because the chassis has the ability to inspire speedier bouts with the asphalt, good binders become that much more important. That necessity has been addressed as well. On the front hoop a pair of four-piston calipers work on 300mm rotors while a single, twin-piston unit grabs a 300mm disc. A solid yet progressive feel at the lever is delivered via steel braided brake lines. The levers are fully adjustable, enabling each rider to dial in the reach to his or her comfort level.

Going the Distance

With a very long journey ahead of us seat quality was important. Striking an exceptional balance between soft and firm the throne delivered the goods for both rider and passenger. A built-in backrest was perfect for me, and kudos go out to Victory for adding an accessory Lock and Ride Passenger Backrest for the lady. At 5 feet 10 inches tall I enjoyed the optional Blade Windshield. The fork-mounted fairing features an easy-to-read instrument cluster and a very competent audio system with a convenient iPod hook up. Nearly every stereo and gauge function, including the electronic cruise control, can be safely controlled via handlebar-mounted switches. A short list of added accessories that also came in very handy included the Highway Bar Close-Outs. When rain threatened, this foldable, easy-to-store piece could be fit snugly across the built-in, chrome highway bars. And installation is quick and easy because no tools are required. We weren't expecting a GPS, but our hosts included their optional Garmin Zumo 660 for our trip.
 
Stowing our gear was also easy. The sturdy and easy-to-open saddlebags offered 21 gallons of space. These bags, waterproof and key-lock secure, are excellent travel companions. To make packing even easier a custom pair of optional Saddlebag Liners let us know exactly how much stuff we could comfortably stuff.  

Extra-long floorboards measure 18 inches and are mounted to allow for both feet forward and up and down placement. The fuel tank holds 5.8 gallons, another comforting attribute when negotiating the lonely expanses of Nevada's desert.

At no point in our cross-country excursion did we question our decision to employ Victory's Cross Country. The standard equipment performed flawlessly, and the quality options available from the vast accessory catalog allow for nearly endless customization. When we arrived in Ocean City, MD, we saw a road sign proclaiming that Sacramento, CA, was just 3,073 miles the other way. Time permitting we wouldn't think twice about doing a load of laundry, gassing up the Cross Country, and doing it all over again.

 

2011 Victory Cross Country: Cory Ness Version by Ken Freund

I had a chance to put some serious road miles on a new Ness version of Victory's Cross Country touring cruiser, and I grabbed at it. The Cory Ness Signature Series Cross Country is loaded with custom accessories including knurled handgrips, brake pedal, and shift lever. It also has a custom suede seat, and the paint and graphics are a bright, two-tone crimson. Plus, it has all the normal Cross Country touring equipment, including a huge tail trunk that allowed me to stuff in a week's worth of gear for all sorts of weather conditions. The taller accessory windscreen was fitted, which makes it even better suited to long highway trips, especially in the chilly weather I encountered.

Mine was a Cory Ness serial number one, and it garnered attention at every stop. Virtually all the comments were positive, and it was surprising how many people still haven't heard of Victory. It's a quality machine and didn't give a moment's trouble in more than 2,000 miles. With a rated 97 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque, the big bike had plenty of power for the endless western highways and mountain grades I was traveling, and it still had whomp in the thin air of Flagstaff, AZ, at 7,000 feet elevation. About the only gripes I had were with the custom knurled grips, which abrade gloves and are cold when temperatures are low, and with the knurled shifter, which chews up boot tops. I'd gladly trade them for a set of rubber-covered ones and electrically heated hand grips. But after a day of more than 500 miles I still felt good, and that's what this bike is all about.