Before I laid eyes on it and spent four days touring with it, the Victory Vision wasn't on my short list of "must rides." But all of the preconceptions I had - that the bike's styling was too futuristic, it wouldn't handle well in curves and the V-twin motor would produce too much vibration for comfortable long-distance touring - proved to be invalid.
As my friend Jeff and I stopped for a break while riding in East Texas, two young ladies walked by our parked motorcycles. Pointing at Jeff's 1990 Honda Transalp, the first one said, "Wow, that's a neat bike." The other responded, "Sure, it is - but look at this one," indicating the Victory Vision, "it's bad to the bone!" Styling and curb appeal, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder. Those who love the Vision's styling really love it and those who don't - really don't. And short-lived though they were, all of my encounters with Vision gawkers took place with the "love it" crowd.
The Vision's styling is often referred to as futuristic, but it's actually futuristic and retro. In the 1930s and '40s, art deco design and an offshoot style called "streamlining" were all the rage for a wide variety of objects. Compare the Vision to pictures of the 1934 Chrysler Airflow or streamliner trains of that era and the similarities in many of the design cues are obvious.
The Vision's cockpit has a multitude of switches, knobs, and gauges (enough to keep a 747 pilot happy), which radiate an attractive electric-blue hue at night. The Victory logo badges on the side of the motorcycle also light up, and the Premium model we tested sports enough chrome to satisfy the most fastidious cruiser or touring rider. Altogether, the Vision makes quite a stunning statement wherever it goes.
The heart of this beast is its 106 cubic-inch (1731 cc), SOHC, four-valves-per-cylinder, V-twin motor, which produces 92 hp and a whopping 109 ft-lbs of torque. Benefiting from the optional Stage 1 Exhaust System, the engine of our test bike probably put out 3 to 5 percent more horsepower. Furthermore, this free-flowing exhaust system heightens the dramatic effect of the engine's aural beat too. When bringing the Vision to life, the starter makes a cool, metallic whining sound as it moves the large pistons, similar to that of a propeller aircraft start up. Then, once "we have ignition," a deep V-twin rumble is heard and felt. Although the big V-twin produces huge amounts of torque, it is delivered, generally, very smoothly to the rear wheel via the carbon-fiber reinforced belt drive.
With its narrowed front and a seat height of 26.5 inches, almost three inches lower than a Gold Wing, the Vision's saddle can be straddled by virtually any inseam-challenged rider with both feet flat on the pavement. The 6.5-inch drop from the pillion seat to the rider's roost provides comfortable support for the lower back. Handgrips on the elongated handlebars meet the hands at shoulder height and though that position feels comfortable, after several long days in the saddle my upper back and shoulders were kinked with a few knots.
The spacious floorboards are positioned forward and afford all-day comfort for legs and knees. The controls on the handlebars, and on the chrome panels underneath them, enable riders to execute a multitude of functions solely with their thumbs. This is fortunate because it's a long way from the rider's position to the triple clamp. The motorcycle's wheelbase of 65.7 inches, while long, isn't as long as it looks and is actually slightly shorter than that of a Gold Wing.
The electric windscreen and side fairing pieces that pivot allow riders to adjust the level of air circulation. The highest position of the windscreen provided the quietest, warmest ride, but caused me (a 6'1" rider) to look through it rather than over it, which I don't prefer. The cold-weather package on the Vision includes separate under-seat heaters for the rider and passenger, and each seat has a high and low setting. Heated handgrips and radiant heat from the 106-cubic-inch V-twin motor round out the package; and I was quite comfortable riding the bike in 40-degree temperatures.
Like other large, heavy motorcycles, the Vision is awkward to handle in crowded parking lots or in other confined spaces. After achieving even minimal forward motion, though, I could lift my feet and make relatively tight close-quarter maneuvers, undoubtedly due to the bike's low center of gravity. Because there's no reverse gear, the bike always should be parked on flat or slightly uphill pavement.
Where the Vision's handling really shines is in swooshing through sweeping curves. After you've increased pressure in the air adjustable rear shock, the Vision's ride may not be quite as plush as that of some other big touring rigs, but doing so enables the bike to devour curves smoothly and easily. Despite the Vision's long wheelbase, pulled-back handlebars and considerable weight, very little rider input is required to lean it over. And once set, the Vision holds its line in the curves without any wallowing when the suspension loads up.
The Vision's cruise control, creature comforts, sound system, and true overdrive sixth gear, producing around 65 mph at 2,500 rpm, make for effortless cruising. Because of its low center of gravity, aerodynamic styling and weight, it's also largely immune to strong crosswinds. And the relatively high pillion seat affords most passengers an unrestricted view of the road ahead, although it does place them higher, within the wind stream flowing across the top of the motorcycle.
The Vision's 29 gallons of luggage capacity, while not the class leader, is probably sufficient for most trips. The optional Vision saddlebag and topcase liners are both attractive and ruggedly constructed. It was difficult, however, to insert fully loaded liners into the saddlebag portals. The openings should be made a little larger or the liners a little smaller. It's worth noting that the large, industrial-strength rubber gaskets around the saddlebag and topcase openings should prevent the intrusion of any moisture. But owing to excellent weather, I wasn't able to test the bags in rain.
The Vision I tested came with a GPS, which will do for trips on major highways or to pre-programmed destinations; but I prefer to have a map in a case when touring on back roads with numerous route changes. I was able to rig a map case on top of the plastic bodywork, but its positioning and the method of attachment were far from ideal. Relatively minor modifications would allow for easier fastening of tank bags and map cases. (I know, I know - the Vision's designers are probably groaning at the very idea of mounting a tank bag on their beautiful bike, and that's probably why there's no rack for attaching items above the topcase too.)
Our test bike averaged 37.6 mpg over four days of mostly two-lane back road, one-up riding with a full complement of luggage. The mileage probably would have been higher with less aggressive, and frequent, wrist twisting.
The Vision is a lot of fun blasting through sweeping curves on two-lane roads. Any rider who has experienced rolling on the throttle of a motorcycle producing 109 ft-lbs of torque knows that the sensation produced sends little electrical pleasure pulses to the brain (endorphins) and slaps a great big smile on the face. My favorite riding maneuver on the Vision was to enter a sweeper in sixth gear, lean the bike over, roll on the throttle, listen to and feel that marvelous big V-twin pounding like a jackhammer, and to not back off until the floorboards were within a fraction of an inch from the pavement. And the low seat height and shoulder-high handlebar position accentuated the thrill factor of this experience. In fact, it was so addictive that I had to keep testing the Vision's cornering ability to make sure I wasn't missing something important.
Although there are a few minor improvements that could make the Vision more touring-friendly, there is much to recommend it just as it is. If you're looking for a comfortable, luxury touring motorcycle that's exciting on curvy back roads and also want to make a daring styling statement with your ride, the Victory Vision is a bike worthy of serious consideration.
+ styling, handling, fun
- styling, luggage capacity
Distributor Victory Motorcycles/Polaris Industries
MSRP $ 21,499 as tested
Engine 4-stroke 50-degree V-Twin with 4-valves per cylinder & SOHC
Displacement 106 cubic inches, 1731cc
Bore x Stroke 101x108mm
Fuel System EFI with 45mm throttle bodies
Power 92hp and 109ft-lbs of torque
Transmission 6-speed with true overdrive
Frame two-piece cast aluminum
Final Drive carbon-fiber reinforced belt
Front Suspension 43mm telescopic forks, 5.1in (130mm) travel
Rear Suspension single air adjustable mono-shock/4.7in (120mm) travel
Rake/Trail 29º/5.4in (137mm)
Front Brake dual 300mm floating rotors with 3-piston calipers
Rear Brake 300mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper
Front Tire 130/70R18 3
Rear Tire 180/60R16 3
Dry Weight 849lbs (385kg)
Wheelbase 65.7in (1670mm)
Seat Height 26.5in (673mm)
Fuel Capacity 6.0gal (22.7l)
Fuel Consumption 37.6mpg (as tested)
Colors Black, Midnight Cherry, Supersteel Gray