The appeal of a big, American-made motorcycle is undeniable. Anybody who's thrown a leg over of one of these iron horses will attest to the thrill derived from that intoxicating staccato of the pistons doing their thing. There's also that throb coming through the handlebars, and let's not forget the shiny chrome - and have I mentioned that unmistakable V-twin sound?
The first Victory motorcycles hit the road in 1998, and over the last several years the company has really hit its stride. Early models were afflicted with the usual teething pains associated with brand-new models; most notably, engine performance and the overall look of the bikes were seen as lackluster, yet promising. Unlike some other recent upstart motorcycle makers, parent company Polaris had the pockets and the long-term vision to keep Victory afloat through its formative years, and if the Kingpin Deluxe indicates Victory's future, the future looks bright indeed for all concerned.
Power to the People
Let's face it; the quintessential American motorcycle engine is the V-twin. It sounds and feels great, and looks perfect in the cruiser format. These facts were not overlooked by Medina, Minnesota's Victory plant when designing a new motorcycle for the American market. The Kingpin Deluxe is big, its looks stirring, and my-oh-my does it have a V-twin. Immediately after thumbing the starter, it becomes obvious there's something badass stirring beneath the porch. The note from the dual slash-cut exhaust pipes has a delightfully wicked attitude that may not necessarily wake the neighbors, but they will take notice.
The Freedom 92 cubic-inch (1507cc) engine backs up the burly auditory stylings with equally robust forward motivation. Fed by a spot-on fuel injection system with 44mm throttle bodies, the big OHC twin-banger features four valves per cylinder and 80 healthy ponies in the stable. If you think this sounds like fun, you're right, it is. The throttle response is green-apple crisp yet perfectly manageable in any situation from in-town commuting to back-road scooting. Despite being solid-mounted to the frame, the Freedom 92 doesn't transfer any overly harsh vibrations throughout the bike thanks to its very effective counterbalancers. The reinforced belt final drive probably doesn't hurt in the vibe elimination department either. The smooth shifting 5-speed tranny works perfectly with this powerhouse mill, offering the right gear for any situation. Honestly though, with the ample torque available, the amount of shifting deemed necessary is more up to the pilot than the motor. The easy-to-use clutch functioned perfectly and the engine exhibited no weak points - with its sound, power, and feel assuring us that this ride is an absolute riot no matter the road.
Which Way Do We Go?
Picking a road to ride can be a hassle on the Kingpin because your choices are unlimited. It can handle any route desired with comfort and ease; and whether you prefer mountain twisties, country sweepers, or the wide-open highway, the Victory has you covered. The handling, even in the tight stuff, is confidence inspiring to say the least. Despite decent ground clearance, dragging the floorboards is the least of your worries. This can be a little unnerving at first, but once you get used to the feeling, it's quite entertaining. The seating position is relaxed yet there's always a feeling of total control.
The Kingpin is willing and able to play as hard as you want it to. The inverted front fork and the single-shock, rising rate, rear suspension instill an excellent feel for the road. The ride is compliant enough to be comfortable but not so soft that the feel for the road is lost. Oddly enough, I initially mistook the nimbleness of the Kingpin for instability until I realized that it just has incredibly light handling. Heavier rides should require a bit of muscle to heft around, but that's not the case on the Victory. It's dumbfounding how quick and precise this good-sized bike really is. And when it comes to slowing down, the Kingpin's brakes do an adequate job. The single disc up front could offer a little more bite, especially considering the overall weight and the speed the rest of the package so easily inspires. That forward 300mm disc seems a little lonely; maybe it could use a partner.
So How Does It Really Feel?
So far we have an incredible motor and an excellent chassis. That's great, but how does it feel by and large? No worries, the Victory gravy train just keeps on rolling. The bike has very appealing looks and the fit and finish is just right. The chrome and the paint are topnotch and only add to the bike's impressive allure. From a riding standpoint, the low seat height, in combination with the narrow tank makes for excellent stability in low-speed situations, which means riders both tall and short will appreciate the Kingpin's easy maneuverability in parking lots and driveways.
The level of comfort afforded by the Victory is in keeping with the rest of the package. No matter what type of riding you prefer, the Kingpin will get you there comfortably. Outfitted with the optional Deluxe package (featuring a wind screen, saddlebags, and backrest), this bike is ready to hit the road for just about any destination. The bags aren't huge, but they offer plenty of room to pack enough duds for two people to disappear for several days. Passenger floorboards and the optional backrest should offer your riding partner a nice, comfy platform for enjoying the scenery. The windshield works quite well and drew only one minor complaint from our 6-plus-footer, who found the top of the screen right at eye level. Regarding comfort and feel on the road, the Kingpin drew nothing less than high praise.
Should I Get One?
If you're looking for a cruiser, it may be worth your while to stop by your Victory dealer and have a look for yourself.All of us walked away from the Kingpin shaking our heads in amazement. There just isn't anything bad to say about this bike. From the moment you settle into the seat, the bike welcomes you. The engine sounds like a brute, yet minds its manners perfectly until told otherwise. The handling is truly remarkable and absolutely belies the size of the bike. Comfort is not an issue, whether riding across town or cross-country, and the Deluxe package certainly opens the door for the latter. Our only real complaint about the Kingpin is that we don't have one in the RoadRUNNER garages to use for more extensive touring purposes.
Do you think they heard that in Minnesota, or should I yell a little louder?
Name Daniel Neuhauser
Years Riding 15
Height 6' 2"
Weight 198 lbs
This is one fine engine in the Kingpin. Despite a never-ending torque flow, the vibrations never become completely un-caged. The seating position is nice and relaxed, yet there's always that reassuring feeling of total control. Despite this, I still feel the frame could be a little stiffer and the brakes could have more bite. I guess those are the sort of things that one quibbles about when a bike so easily invites you to push it.
Name Chris Myers
Years riding 27
Height 5' 10"
Weight 175 lbs
My initial impression of the Kingpin was that it felt "twitchy." As I rode on I began to realize that what I was feeling was very light steering on a big ol' bike. Once I got used to that, the Victory became an absolute joy to ride. That steering combined with a powerful engine, the best sounding stock cruiser mill for my money, opened my eyes to new worlds of pavement-grinding delight.
Name Christian Neuhauser
Years Riding 27
Height 5' 10"
Weight 169 lbs
I give this bike high marks in every category. The handling is incredibly nimble for the size of the machine; it never ceased to amaze me. The engine has gobs of character to go along with buckets of torque. The sitting position is very comfortable and the sound from the stock pipes is quite impressive. I could easily see a Kingpin in my garage.
Name Paul Cook
Years Riding 27
Height 5' 8"
Weight 185 lbs
The Kingpin really impressed me with its comfort and ease of riding. The thin tank and low seat height are very inseam friendly, especially at lower speeds. The styling is very nice, especially the quality of the paint. The only thing about the Kingpin that bothers me is a floating feeling the front end gets in high-speed sweepers. On the whole, a fine motorcycle.
+ handling, comfort, style, sound
- brakes could be better
Distributor Polaris Industries
Engine Four-stroke V-twinSOHC, 8-valve
Bore x Stroke 97 x 102mm
Carburetion fuel injection
Frame tubular steel
Front Suspension inverted fork
Rear Suspension single shock link type travel/preload adjustable3.9in travel
Rake/Trail 32.8º / 5.4in (138mm)
Brakes front/rear single four piston caliper, 300mm discs / single twin piston, 300mm disc
Tires front/rear 130/70 x 18 / 180/55 x18
Dry Weight 639lb (290kg)
Wheelbase 65.6in (1690mm)
Seat height 26.5in (673mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gal (17l)
Fuel Consumption 38mpg
Colors black, solar red, sonic blue two-tones and multiple colors also available
MSRP $ 15,299 (base)