2013 Victory Judge: Here Come de Judge!

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Barry Hathaway

Victory Motorcycles’ PR department says its latest cruiser model, the Judge, “has a powerful silhouette and details that evoke visions of classic American muscle cars.”

It’s no coincidence, then, that in 1969 Pontiac launched a new GTO muscle car model called “The Judge.” The name came from a comedy routine called “Here Come de Judge,” often used on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In TV show of the time. The Judge routine was popularized by Sammy Davis Jr., and Pontiac used various funny skits in its Judge commercials.

All kidding aside, the new Victory Judge is a serious contender in the performance cruiser motorcycle segment, and designer Mike Song combined a number of mechanical changes from Victory’s Hammer series along with a few retro styling cues to come up with the desired look. The drag bars and body panels are all new, as is the styling of the taillight, fender struts, and wedge-shaped covers between the cylinders. Judges feature new five-spoke cast wheels that are intended to evoke memories of mag wheels on muscle cars in the 1970s. Perhaps the biggest change is to the rims, now 16 inches compared to 18-inchers on the Hammers, along with a narrower rear tire.

The Judge is Victory’s first new, nontouring model added to the lineup since 2006, and it’s said to be aimed at Harley’s Softail Fat Boy model. Thanks to a lower seat height, the Judge is accessible to more riders, and chassis changes make it more capable in the twisties than Victory’s Hammer models.

Powertrain and Performance Motivation comes from Victory’s Freedom 106/6 V-twin, which is used throughout the company’s lineup. It breathes through four valves per cylinder, actuated by a single overhead camshaft. Hydraulic valve adjusters eliminate the need for scheduled valve-lash settings, which reduces maintenance costs. Fuel injection delivers the fuel, and there’s no cold-start control to fiddle with; just thumb the starter button and the big motor stirs to life immediately every time. Horsepower numbers are notably absent. In keeping with its muscle-car heritage, this motor is a “stroker” (108mm) and has the torque to prove it: a claimed 113 lb-ft. We’ve heard the number 85 associated with its rear-wheel horsepower, but that’s not official.

A cable-actuated, multiplate wet clutch connects engine to transmission. Lever effort is moderate, engagement is smooth, and modulation is easy. The six-speed gearbox has a positive neutral finder, which seems to be effective, and the tranny delivers consistent shifts, with a hearty clack when engaging first from neutral. Gear ratios are well matched with the engine’s character, and the tall overdrive sixth gear delivers relaxed highway cruising befitting a stroker. A carbon-fiber reinforced belt provides a smooth, quiet, and maintenance-free final drive.

The Judge has plenty of torque in every gear and doesn’t require constant shifting as a result. Throttle response is immediate yet smooth, and power delivery is strong and linear. The big twin really starts to pull around 2,000 rpm right up through redline, which is a moving target. Redline is 5,600 rpm for gears one through four, fifth gear is 4,900, and sixth and neutral are limited to 4,100 revs (for engine longevity and to limit speed). The lower redline in upper gears is a fairly common industry practice for safety and to reduce warranty claims. Top speed is limited to about 115 mph (don’t ask how I know). Average fuel economy, according to the onboard computer, was 42.5 mpg, which, combined with the smallish 4.5-gallon tank, pencils out to 191 miles range to empty.

Spent gases exit through a staggered, slash-cut dual exhaust system with a crossover pipe. Victory offers a Cobra Tri-Pro exhaust that looks better and also produces a more masculine sound and greater performance. Another choice is the X-Bow, which has a straight-pipe look. Both meet SAE’s J2825 sound standard, won’t get you a ticket, and won’t void the bike’s warranty.

Chassis and Handling

Victory uses a tubular steel frame on the Judge that feels sufficiently stiff in normal sporty riding. A single 300mm front brake rotor with four-piston caliper saves money but has to do the work of two sets found on the front of the Hammer S. However, a firm pull on the lever brings the heavy machine to a satisfactory halt. The rear 300mm disc and two-piston caliper provide good stopping power, but it’s fairly easy to skid the back tire unintentionally, even without pressing hard on the foot brake. An antilock braking system would cure this tendency; hopefully one will be offered soon.

A conventional 43mm nonadjustable telescopic fork with 5.1-inch travel is used instead of the inverted fork found on the Hammer S. A monotube rear gas shock is only adjustable for spring preload. It connects to an aluminum swingarm with rising-rate linkage and a rather limited 3.0 inches of total travel. Accessing the rear shock for preload adjustments is difficult, as you have to remove one of the side covers and jam your hand in behind the fuse box to change settings with the spanner wrench. It’s likely the majority of owners will plan to ride solo most of the time. However, adjustment should be made easier, perhaps with a remote adjuster. Taller riders and folks who want a little more cornering clearance will be interested in Victory’s optional accessory shock, which increases ride height by an inch.

Dunlop 491 Elite II bias-ply tires with raised white letters are standard fitment. Up front is a 130/90B16 with a 140/90B16 mounted at the rear. The Judge’s rear tire is 110mm narrower than the 250mm-wide rubber used on the Hammers. This changes the appearance of the bike and also makes it much quicker and easier to turn. Tire grip is good up to the lean limit, which is reached relatively early as the long footpeg feelers begin to scrape. Handling is fairly light once you’re moving and feels predictable and inspires confidence. The bike feels stable, tracks well on straights and through corners, and holds a line nicely. Suspension is well sorted, but rough surfaces can really be felt through the seat due to the short rear travel.

Ergonomics and Features

Instrumentation is minimalist, with an analog speedometer that is fairly easy to read at a quick glance and an inset LCD display. The LCD screen shows information selected by a trigger switch on the left handlebar, including gear position, trip mileage, fuel economy, and other functions. It also can display a small digital tachometer that shows engine speed in steps of 50 rpm, but it is difficult to see and doesn’t react fast enough to use for speed shifting.

Victory positioned the drag-style bars forward on the Judge and calls the somewhat clamshell riding posture “an engaged riding position.” Unless you have really long arms, you’ll probably find the position requires a stretch. We’d like to have them moved farther back, about an inch or two.

At 25.9 inches, the stock saddle gives riders an easy reach down to the pavement, which will be a welcome feature for shorter riders. It has a modicum of lower back support and is good for medium-length rides. However, the stock seat is thin and not very passenger friendly, so if you plan to carry a pillion rider you’ll want to consider upgrades. The midmounted foot controls are moved back compared to many cruisers. This also accommodates shorter riders but felt a bit cramped for my 34-inch inseam. Victory offers a slew of accessories that can turn the Judge into a respectable touring machine. These include windscreens in three heights, a touring seat that is plusher and has more room for the passenger plus a passenger backrest, and quick-release saddlebags, which can be locked yet removed without tools. (At press time, the luggage was not available for testing or photography.) The charging system also has a maximum rated output of 38 amps, which will allow for heated grips and apparel. Another item you’ll have to buy is a padlock for the steering head, as there’s no locking mechanism built into the fork.

Final Thoughts

Victory’s Judge is a tough challenger to Harley-Davidson’s Fat Boy and a number of other similar models, including Dynas. Base MSRP is $ 13,999 on the Judge, which has a larger, more powerful engine and comes in about $ 2,350 below the basic Fat Boy (optional colors add to the price of either bike). For this price, the American-made Judge has more rated torque and a slightly lower weight, which helps performance. Riding around on the Judge, I got a lot of attention and thumbs-ups from onlookers, which is a good validation of its styling. The bike feels solid and appears well made, with high-quality components and excellent paint and plating. It delivers performance equal to, or better than, its cruiser rivals along with good looks and Victory’s reputation for reliability.