2015 Victory Gunner: A Design Review

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2015 Victory Gunner

I have always wanted to root for Victory Motorcycles, but I have been waiting for them to show me the bike that would let me do that.  Having seen the new Gunner, I am still waiting.

The Gunner is positioned as a “bobber,” which raises the question of whether that term still has any meaning.  Apparently, it is any cruiser without bags or a windshield.  It’s certainly getting thrown around pretty loosely these days – the bike equivalent of “dude.”

2015 Victory Gunner

Marketing jargon aside, this is a very neatly composed bike.  The three curved forms of the gas tank, side panel, and rear fender flow well into one another.  Details such as the taillight, which is well integrated with the crease in the fender, and the small, after-market-looking turn signals work very well visually.  There is not a lot of junk or visual clutter on this bike, and that is a worthy achievement – perhaps that’s part of what makes it a “bobber.”

2015 Victory Gunner

Still, the bike just doesn’t inspire.  The problem is its overall anonymity: it just looks like a thousand other cruisers.  The Gunner is the average of the average of all cruisers.  It’s like the police sketch of the guy whom the witness described as, “I don’t know, he just looked like a guy, you know?”  It has a tidy, well-composed blandness.  Not every bike needs to be a monument to the designer’s art, but this seems specifically crafted simply not to offend.  It’s like a primetime family drama, which frankly undermines the whole outsider, gritty, antisocial attitude that we (used to) associate with bobbers.  To top it off, the denim-finish paint feels about four years out of date.  It was a fad that was a little too faddish to not fade fast, and it seems they missed the crest of the wave.


In many ways, this is a fine bike with some great numbers and a reasonable price.  The question is, apart from hitting the dead middle of everything, what will make us say, “Yes” to the Gunner over all the other cruiser options out there?

We cannot help contrast this with Polaris’ other, shinier new offering: the new Indians.  Whatever your tastes and your opinions about a bike with the size and weight of an Edsel, the new Indians are highly distinctive, bold machines that have a real identity.  They are designed with a soul, a purpose, and a “big idea.”  Less than a year out of the gate, these are the belle of the cruiser ball, and it’s not (just) because of the old brand legacy.

2015 Victory Gunner

Suddenly, Victory looks like the homely sister, and Indian has married the Earl and inherited the estate.  We still have a real affection for Victory, who has been so game on for so long, and want her to make it, but she won’t do it sitting around knitting.

Please, show us something exciting.  Sweep us off our feet.

  • Justin McClintock

    Something about the way the seat flows into the tail just isn’t working for me. Otherwise, it seems decent enough. But I think you guys really hit it on the head….it’s okay….but that’s it. Maybe if this were a competitor to the Sportster and priced like that, I’d pay attention. But given what I’m pretty sure it costs….meh.

    • Colton Shepard

      The bike is missing the passenger seat. The passenger seat fills the void between the fender and the back of the driver seat. Polaris doesn’t bother making a real solo seat, the just jip you by removing the passenger pad and pegs and calling it a solo bike

  • joe handy

    I was at the Chicago show and checked this out after the BIG REVEAL, after looking around the rest of the show.

    All I could think was “I swear I’ve seen this already.”

    Thanks for summing that up.

  • John
    • WheelieGood13

      Huh? You want a Victory big twin to look like a subpar Honda knockoff of a XR750 built in some dude’s backyard? I don’t understand.

      • John

        Yes, because it has real ergonomics. Also, the subpar Honda would kick most every Harley’s assets on almost any field of combat.

        • WheelieGood13

          Real ergonomics? Something tells me you don’t ride cruisers, and that’s okay. Here, I’ll enlighten you – what works ergonomics wise on a sport oriented bike does not work on a cruiser. No one wants a cruiser with rear set controls, it’s a whole different vibe. Now, if you want to make your cruiser into something it’s not, why not spare yourself the expense and humiliation by simply buying a sporty-ish bike?

          • John

            I don’t ride cruisers because I’ve actually ridden them and the ergonomics are borderline dangerous. It’s all good, til you need to turn and avoid a collision. I’d be dead right now if I were riding a cruiser instead of a VT500. Seriously, absolutely 100% dead. It was only the agility of that bike that allowed me to avoid certain death and by inches, not feet.

            • Piglet2010

              Imagine if you had been on a chopper with ape-hangers and birthing stirrups, er highway pegs!

              • John

                They’d have had to peel me from the back of a logging truck with no tail lights.

  • Clint Keener

    I do like the wheels.

  • 200 Fathoms

    But how’s about that white lettering on the tires?!

  • Stuki

    The idea that the absolute lowest possible seat height, all else be damned, is somehow the key to cruiser greatness, has got to go. Harley’s original Lowrider was a big hit, but c’mon! In the sportbike world, even Ducati realized chasing the highest possible rearsets and lowest possible clipons for their own sake, was getting counterproductive when taken too far. Just moving the seat on this bike a bit up and forwards, would simultaneously make it much easier to ride, and allow for a more comfortable rear suspension. While forcing the stylists to focus on something other than just trying to figure out how to squeeze the seat as low as possible between the rear fender and rear cylinder.

  • Colton Shepard

    Getting really jaded with the Polaris/Victory dog and pony show lately. This “new” model is just a Vegas with a smaller front fender and different wheels and tires; everything else is identical. At least the Judge had all new body work and mid controls.

    • Justin McClintock

      They learned from Harley…..

      • luxlamf

        That’s a ridiculous statement, you can dislike HD all you want but you cannot put them in the same category as this horribly boring Co, the difference between the Sportster line up to the Soft Tail etc.. is huge. Yes HD makes Cruisers and tourers only but the variety amongst the line ups is great. The 48, Nightster and Iron are all Sportsters, all stand out enough to know which is which. I dare you to try and tell one Victory from another.

        • Tom Byrne

          I am not a huge Harley guy, but I must agree. Harley uses more than trim pieces and trinkets to differentiate its bikes. That said, I like the Sportster and would consider the 750 version of its new Street bike as a commuter.

  • Flying Couch

    “I have always wanted to root for Victory Motorcycles, but I have been waiting for them to show me the bike that would let me do that. Having seen the new Gunner, I am still waiting.”

    I don’t know if I’ve ever read a sentence I agreed with more.

  • Zack

    A cruiser is the only type of bike I’ve never owned, and I’m thinking it’s time to check that box in the next year or so. I’d like to get something American, and I don’t have the budget for an Indian, or enough pirate themed apparel for a Harley, so pretty sure I’m going the Victory route. This one looks like a Vegas, but with better looking wheels/tires and headlight, so this may be my choice. I do wish Victorys sounded a little better though…

  • ThinkingInImages

    It’s interesting in a generic/formulaic kind of way. It’s not a style of motorcycle I’d ever own – with the exception of the Moto Guzzi California.

    It was the first picture that caught my eye. A riding friend can’t understand how I find a mild sports riding position to be comfortable. I can’t understand how a cruiser riding position to be comfortable. That picture kills it for me.

    That Ascot based racer looks sweet. I had a VT500 Ascot for a bit. Except for the oddball rectangular headlight it was a fine motorcycle.

  • Piglet2010

    Other than for people with very short legs being able to flat-foot at stops, standards are better than cruisers in every way.

  • Dave

    I always really like Victory’s concept that shows off the entire engine, rather than cluttering it with air filters or cheap wiring covers. Unfortunately, their engines just look like uninteresting slabs of cooling fins.

  • Michael Howard

    There’s a LOT of middle ground between ridiculously low and “high”.

  • Blake Bryce

    The “High Ball” is more “Bobber” than this!

  • Davidabl2

    Seeing this one I’m still waiting for Polaris’ Indian division to come out with a SportScout to fill out the lineup. If Polaris would just come out with a “street tracker” inspired bike instead of all these neo-bobbers they’d have a better chance with me. As for “muscle cruisers” Yamaha seems to better understand the mix of
    trad./modern styling that’s called for.

    • Piglet2010

      For a muscle cruiser with a blend of traditional and modern styling, I would choose the Suzuki M109R.

      • Davidabl2

        I’m must be more of a “trad” guy than you-that nosecone around the headlight doesn’t work for me at all.
        Somehow most of the “MuscleCruiser” bikes seem too V-Rod inspired to me. Even if they’re not dripping chrome.

      • Justin McClintock

        When I think muscle cruiser, I think Yamaha Warrior. Too bad they stopped making it.

  • Davidabl2

    While we’re on the subject of “Bobbers” this is what the real thing actually looked like:
    http://www.flathead-bobbers.com/flathead_1946/1946_UL_Flathead_Harley_Bobber_by_74Shop.php
    The ergs are actually better than most modern cruisers (taking into account the lack any rear suspension)
    Some would have had extenders on the back of the floorboards, which would have allowed the riders to stand up if needed like a modern ADV dualie etc.
    Note: that pogo seat could have adjustable height and dampening in a modern version.
    But all in all note the shorter wheelbase,shorter reach to the handlebars,and body positioning that’d more resemble a standard than a modern cruiser

    • Send Margaritas

      …and the solo seat. That’s actually a cool old bike. (Although the brakes don’t look impressive.)You have hope for being objective, after all.

  • http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/ Chris Cope

    I feel so bad for Victory; it seems they can’t figure themselves out. They are the Impact Wrestling of the motorcycling world, never quite grasping what it is their customers want or, in fact, who their customers are. This bike reminds me of growing up poor, when we would buy stuff on layaway. It’s as if the designer of this bike drew up the plans roughly a decade ago but Victory didn’t have the cash to pay him/her until just recently.

    I would really, really, really hope that the folks at Victory would see all the negative response I’ve seen in every forum everywhere and have a meeting where they admit to themselves: “Hey, we screwed up.” And hopefully they could come out of that meeting with a new sense of purpose. I think there are a lot of people who would like to see Victory do well, but when they’re producing stuff like this it’s hard to support them.

    • Piglet2010

      If I was running Polaris, I would leave the traditional cruisers to the Indian marque (which has the all-important to the cruiser market Heritage & Mystique™ that Victory will never have), and move Victory to traditional standards, touring bikes, dual-sports, and a more traditionally styled (as opposed to Transformer™ like) AT bikes.

  • Paolo

    A bobber? Yeah…no. This article is spot-on describing what makes it such a boring cruiser.

  • Nathan Haley

    Possibly unrelated: Why are there no American-built café racers?

  • Nemosufu Namecheck

    I just saw this bike in person and it’s a good looking bike. Nice lines, not too flashy with chrome and costs about $5k less than a bare bones Indian. Sorry it didn’t knock you off your feet. Maybe you should start thinking about a custom and get away from all of these brand name, well built bikes.

  • William Connor

    The Gunner is simply a Judge with a solo seat. Which is in itself a styled Vegas. I get using the same basis for bikes. Honestly with Victory it’s just too parasitic. They don’t sell enough bikes to steal sales from itself. Parts are wonderfully interchangeable on Victory motorcycles, the engines are good. They are easy to work on, dead simple to do regular maintenance. Things like a spin on filter and one drain plug to do a complete oil change versus the competition. What they need they already had. Vegas for the guy who needs a low cost bike and then offer the universe to customize it. Kingpin for the guy who wants more for his money and a different style. The Judge or this for those who want that performance vibe with the option of this look, the Judge style, or the High Ball. You order starts with one bike, say the Gunner as it’s the least costly, then offer the High Ball. Still solo seat but ape hangers and spoked wheels. Lastly the Judge option, all the performance but with a dual seat, candy paints and whatever else. The touring line is pretty spot on this way. From Cross Roads, to Country, to Tour. Simple.

  • Steve

    Agree completely on the “Bobber” comment. The name Bobber came from a Bobbed rear fender, this thing couldn’t be any bigger without dragging on the ground

  • Charles Quinn

    I’d love them to make a standard muscle bike, something like a VX800 or Hawk GT on steroids. But then I love the MT-01, and that hasn’t exactly sold shedloads.

    • Tom Byrne

      My warped dream is to take an old GS650 and transplant an air-cooled GSXR 600 or GSXR 750 engine. To me, that would be the ultimate bike. Oops, forgot my medication today. ;)

  • luxlamf

    There are a lot of MC companies out there and I cannot say I dislike any company more than Victory and this article is a very well written reason why. They produce extremely boring bikes and every few years they will add a new model by simply changing the wheels and color and maybe a fender. But exhaust and that horrible looking motor? No they keep those and their feeble attempt to mimic the “Harley Voice” makes them even more pathetic with their “Freedom V-Twin” and equally ridiculous names for their vehicles like “Hi-Ball” “8 -Ball” etc.. The only bike worse in my opinion that their cruisers is the Vision, a more horrendous looking vehicle has never been made in my opinion. I see every kind of bike out here in SoCal every week and I am always thankful that Victories are still seldom seen on the road. I was at a dealership event once down south of LA for a Ducati unveiling, this shop also sold Victories, I asked one salesman what the difference between all these bikes that look the same to me, he shrugged his shoulders and said “I dunno, they just give them different names and wheels from what I can tell” and that was it.

  • ChrisB

    To see a bike with cruiser ergos but a mondern engine. That would be cool. I guess the Honda CTX1300 will fill that role.

  • John

    My biggest problem isn’t the looks, it’s like “why buy a motorcycle designed to pick up women if it has no place to put one?” It has no other use than that.

  • Tom Byrne

    Almost cafe’-ish.The XR122, I mean.