For many motorcycle travelers, having all the bells and whistles is an integral part of the touring experience. But for a growing number of riders, some wind protection and a good set of bags is more than enough to carry the day.
In 2008, Victory Motorcycles dove headlong into the luxury touring market with the Vision. Its groundbreaking style featuring a mix of futuristic and classic influences has drawn both stalwart adherents and fierce detractors. Yet, as those Vision-ary plans were nearing completion, there was another, more traditional, long-distance machine also in the works. Victory has long been aware of the importance of the touring rider, and they understood that success within this highly competitive demographic would require much more than a one-trick-pony.
This past October, the team from Minnesota unveiled the Cross Roads and Cross Country touring machines to the motorcycling media in the Texas Hill Country. With a look and feel more akin to traditional cruisers, these two new entries in the long-distance game offer intriguing options for those in search of viable travel mounts that won't require an unenviable investment. Both models looked great and worked exceptionally well during the brief press rides, but we prefer more real-world testing. As luck would have it, a Cross Roads just happened to be available for a few extra days of in-depth evaluation.
Engine and Transmission
First off, don't assume that the Cross Roads is a Jackpot with some afterthought saddlebags, or a stripped-down Vision. The Cross Roads is a completely new model that has been three years in development. Nine engineers devoted their full attention to the fledgling project. Over 2,500 hours of analysis, 307 different tests, 2.4 million miles of simulated road testing, and 250,000 miles of on-road analysis are wrapped up in the Cross Roads package. The Freedom® 106/6 engine was chosen to supply the go-power. This air-cooled, 1,731cc, V-twin package boasts single overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and the added bonus of a factory oil cooler. Horsepower and torque readings are impressive at 92 and 109lb-ft, respectively. This mill, shared with the Vision, has no issues motivating the 850-pound luxuro-tourer, plus, the Cross Roads is 100-pounds lighter. That's good math in anybody's book. A closed-loop electronic fuel injection system feeds the counterbalanced two-banger almost perfectly, with only a very occasional miss just off idle to report. While the power delivery won't be dislocating any shoulders, it's well up to the task of dispatching hay-laden tractors or odiferous livestock semis with ease. And even with bags packed, the Cross Roads consistently averaged 40-miles per gallon.
The transmission is a six-speed box that shifts quite well despite the clunkiness so often found on big cruisers. Going through the gears is hassle-free and finding neutral rarely poses a problem. Though the clutch is an "old fashioned" cable-operated system, it's smooth and requires less of a grip than some hydraulically actuated units. The only nit to pick here is sixth-gear. While it functions fine and serves up a low RPM cruise on the open road, there was an audible, mechanical whine that could be heard above the wind noise.
Chassis and Brakes
Beneath all the shiny bits, a very well designed chassis keeps the wheels firmly planted and the ride remarkably supple. But don't think the Cross Roads is a big softy; it's quite the contrary. It all starts with a cast aluminum frame with a high-flow airbox built in. It also uses the engine as a stressed member. The resulting rigidity is very evident when the twists tighten and lean angles increase. The ground clearance is nothing short of amazing for a classically styled tourer, especially considering that it has the lowest seat height in its class, at a scant 26.2-inches. While aggressive cornering will cause the floorboards to clash with the asphalt, the sparks fly far later than with similar models.
Another part of the superior lean-ability of this bike can be attributed to the suspension. The front forks are sportbike-style inverted, cartridge damped tubes with progressive springs. Though tipping the scales at a somewhat portly 745-pounds dry, the Cross Roads displays a planted feel that belies its size. Out back, the air adjustable rear shock serves up 4.7-inches of travel, more than enough to tame the rough stuff and keep the rear tire glued to the pavement. The Victory engineers on hand for the test ride urged us to "bend it in" when taking corners; we did, and it works - very well.
With superior cornering inspiring the potential for a speedier demeanor, good brakes become all the more important. Here, the Cross Roads excels as well. Up front, twin four-piston calipers pinch 300mm rotors. The welcome addition of steel braided brake lines adds to their firm and positive feel. And with an adjustable lever, each rider can tune the pull to his or her preference. Out back, a twin piston caliper also grabs a 300mm rotor. Be gentle on the rear though, it can be a little grabby, especially in slippery conditions.
When thinking of longer journeys, most riders designate the three most important aspects in a cruising tourer as the seat, wind protection, and storage capacity. On all these fronts, the Cross Roads has it covered. The saddle is wide and supportive, while striking a nice balance between showroom soft and high mileage firm. The rider also benefits from built in backrest support. Once underway, the breeze is kept at bay by a full Lexan windshield. At 5'10", I found the screen perfectly to my liking. I could look just over the top, yet still reap the benefits of bugs and such being directed up and over my head. For those that prefer the wind in the face, loosening four readily accessible bolts is all it takes to lose the screen. With our ride involving several days of East Texas exploration, the stock saddlebags proved another great benefit. These easy to open, lockable compartments are absolutely cavernous, providing a combined 21-gallons of storage capacity.
The list of touring goodies doesn't stop there. The floorboards are super long at 18 inches and are angled to accommodate about any conceivable foot placement. The large and beautifully sculpted fuel tank holds 5.8-gallons of gas. Though the reserve warning light flickered to life a little after four gallons, a better-safe-than-sorry attitude was welcome in a state as vast as Texas. And while we hope they never get used, attractively chromed, tubular highway bars are nice additions just in case gravity checks in.
2010 Victory Models
Along with the impressive Cross Roads, we were able to sample several engaging new models from Victory motorcycles. Despite the rather sketchy economy, Victory is forging ahead with new models and making interesting changes to several existing machines. Though time was short and motorcycles many, we did our best to get a little taste of everything.
The Cross Country is the sister machine to the Cross Roads we tested. The chassis and engine are identical, but the Country version has a few more amenities to pique the longer-distance traveler's interest. The most obvious difference is in the wind-tunnel optimized fairing. This larger windbreaker features a two-speaker stereo system that's iPod, XM, and CB/Intercom ready. There's a power socket and an external antenna for better reception as well. Victory further sweetens the Cross Country's long haul appeal with the addition of a factory cruise control. Another neat feature is the aerodynamically designed highway bars. These chromed beauties will protect the bike in the event of low speed incidents, and they have hidden mounting locations for highway pegs and driving lights. For added comfort and convenience, adjustable foot controls are standard, and a two-inch lower seat option is available for the Cross Country and Cross Roads models.
Vision Tour Premium
The V-crew's top shelf tourer receives a host of updates for 2010. Riders fascinated with all of those bells and whistles will appreciate the new Vision. Upgrades include linked ABS, a new radio interface, and a quieter yet more aggressive brake pad material. The old Powerlet power port has been changed in favor of the more universal cigarette-lighter style, and the side stand is now easier to reach.
On the road, the Vision offers a spectacular ride, as usual, and the ABS works remarkably well. While the anti-lock pulses can be felt, they're not as overt as we've experienced on other models, and riders less experienced with front brake usage will benefit greatly from the linked system. On a bike this size, this optional equipment is very welcome indeed.
The popular, more economically minded 8-Ball series received two new additions for 2010. The Vegas and Kingpin are joined by a Hammer and Vision to further round out the line. The Hammer receives the blacked-out treatment on the engine, handlebars, forks, fender rails, and wheels. It also comes with a five-speed transmission.
The Vision 8-Ball offers the basic luxury touring features without a lot of pricey, extra gadgets. While the fancy paint is swapped for basic black, the Vision's 106/6 powertrain still provides the motivation. And with a 2-inch lower stance than the standard Vision, the 8-Ball version is an attractive travel package for those who may be inseam-challenged. Though it is delivered with no radio or cruise control, these can be added as options. Sure, you don't get all the features of the top-shelf Vision, but the 8-Ball is delivered for $ 5,000 less.
Manufactured in conjunction with Lehman Trikes, the Crossbow is a luxury touring option for the three-wheel crowd. It features Lehman's No Lean suspension, which is comprised of a rigid swingarm and straight-axle rear differential while maintaining the Victory air-adjustable suspension and final belt drive. The outer styling is seamlessly integrated with that of the Vision, offering those interested in the third wheel an appealing option indeed. The Crossbow will be available through authorized Lehman Trikes dealers.
+ handling, comfort, large saddlebags
- loud sixth-gear
Distributor Polaris Industries Inc.
MSRP $ 15,999 (Solid Black)
$ 16,599 (Solid Midnight Cherry)
Engine50º V-twin, SOHC, 8-valve
Bore and Stroke 101x108mm
Fuel System EFI w/45mm
Power 92hp/109lb-ft torque
Final Drive belt
Frame cast aluminum
Front Suspension 43mm inverted, 5.1in travel
Rear Suspension single shock, air adjustable, 4.7in travel
Rake/Trail 29°/5.6in (142mm)
Front Brake dual 300mm disc,
Rear Brake single 300mm disc, 2-piston caliper
Front Tire 130/70-R18
Rear Tire 180/60-R16
Dry Weight 745lbs (338kg)
Wheelbase 65.7in (1,670mm)
Seat Height 26.2in (667mm)
Fuel Capacity 5.8gal (22l)
Fuel Consumption 39mpg
Colors Solid Black, Solid Midnight Cherry