Review: 2014 Victory Cross Country

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2014 Victory Cross Country

Victory Motorcycles is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, and it’s time to stop considering the brand a start-up venture. As the brand enters its teenage years, it has reached a point where I have started to expect maturity in its product line, and the 2014 Victory Cross Country delivers exactly that. The bagger, which debuted as a 2009 model, is part of a lineup of baggers: Cross Country, Factory Custom Paint, 8-BALL, Ness, Cross Roads, Cross Roads 8-BALL and Cross Roads Classic. I spent some time riding the 2014 Cross Country Factory Custom Paint in Two-Tone Boss Blue & Gloss Black (MSRP $20,749 in California, $300 less in the other 49 states). All Victory motorcycles come with a one-year/unlimited miles warranty.

What’s New

The Cross Country returns essentially unchanged for 2014. The 8-BALL strips away a few extras, like audio and ABS, and the Factory Custom Paint adds, well, factory custom paint. The Ness gets some love from Arlen and Corey Ness in the form of special paint and chrome stuff with Arlen’s “A” on it.

In case you’re not familiar with the Victory lineup, it’s all built around Victory’s own air/oil-cooled Freedom 106/6 V-Twin engine. The 106 has single overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, and uses electronic fuel injection with dual 45 mm throttle bodies. With a 50-degree angle between the cylinders, the Freedom displaces 1,731 cc/106 cubic inches. That’s bigger than Harley’s base 103 engine – no accident there, as the Motor Company is the big boy on the block, and undoubtedly the benchmark for American V-Twins.

2014 Victory Cross Country

Where the Cross Country diverges even more from the Harley herd is in frame design. Cross Country is built around a two-piece cast aluminum frame (as opposed to a traditional steel tube frame), which gives the bike incredible rigidity. Cast aluminum doesn’t flex like steel tubing. Cross Country gets a single, air adjustable rear shock with 4.7” of travel, and an inverted telescopic fork up front with 5.1” of travel and 43 mm diameter legs.

Cast aluminum wheels (18” front/16” rear) get shod with Dunlop Elite II rubber out of the factory, with dual discs and 4-piston calipers up front and a single rotor with a 2-piston caliper in the rear. ABS is standard.

More details shared across the lineup include belt final drive and a six-speed manual transmission with constant mesh.

The Ride

Weighing in at 760 lbs (dry weight), the Cross Roads is a big bike, so the combination of big engine/powerful brakes is welcome. What would a bagger review be if I didn’t say “all that weight seems to slip away once the bike is moving?” It’s just plain physics working to give a good sense of straight-line stability. Victory doesn’t make any horsepower or torque claims, but the 106 has been reliably measured at 88 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque over the years, and I think that’s probably right. The power gets delivered a very smooth and linear fashion, with a big V-Twin feeling of low-end torque – just what bagger riders are looking for.

2014 Victory Cross Country

While Harley has been incrementally improving chassis stiffness to improve stability and cornering, Cross Country has stiffness to spare with its cast aluminum frame, and the bike feels rock solid on the road. I did a lot of freeway riding during my time with the Cross Country, using it to ride to a couple of remote launch events for other bikes. This is an all-day bike, with a comfortable, low seat and roomy floorboards. I’ve got big feet (size 14), and I never felt cramped. When I got a chance to leave the freeway and explore some more interesting roads, the Cross Country was a very willing partner. I never ran out of cornering clearance, even when I pushed the pace a little on my favorite canyon roads.

I was a little disappointed with the Cross Country’s fairing and short windshield. There’s a standard AM/FM stereo system on the bike, and an iPod/MP3 connection in the right hardbag. The challenge is that it’s impossible to hear music or voices at touring speeds because the wind blowing over the shorty windshield and under the fairing is so loud. There are accessory fairing lowers and taller windshields in the Victory accessories catalog, which might mitigate this issue. I didn’t get to test them, so I can’t make any promises. The Cross Country’s instrumentation is very good, with a combination of digital and analog information that’s clear and easy to read in all conditions. I was less pleased with the hand controls, especially the audio panel added on the left side and the cruise control on the right. Neither was intuitive, which meant I had to take my eyes off of the road to operate them. If I had more time in the seat, I might have been less distracted in time – but I did put on quite a few miles, and never felt confident in their operation.

Another tweaky issue I had was with the fuel filler flap, which hinges from the rear and made fueling with the California evap nozzles an adventure. Victory’s PR guru showed me the trick to getting the right angle on the tank by filling from the bike’s left side instead of the right side, but a more ergonomic design would trump the trick any day.

What’s Good

  • Eager engine
  • Integrated hard bags
  • Adjustable rear suspension
  • Long range comfort

What’s Bad

  • Wind noise around the fairing
  • Transmission could be smoother
  • Fiddly radio and cruise control buttons look like an add-on
  • Fuel filler unnecessarily challenging

The Price

The Victory Cross Country starts at $18,999 (plus $300 in California) in Suede Titanium Metallic, which comes without ABS. Gloss Black, Havasu Red and White Metallic bikes get ABS and a $19,999 (plus $300 in CA) sticker.

The Victory Cross Country Factory Custom Paint trim level is new, with four color combinations available for an upcharge of $500 to $1,000. Otherwise, it’s the same as the base model. The 8-BALL strips away some options like audio and ABS, shaving a grand off the bottom line, and the Ness adds Arlen Ness’ styling paint, a different seat and some bolt-on doodads for an additional $2,500.

The most direct competitor for the Cross Country is the Harley-Davidson Street Glide, which starts at $20,399. I’d throw the Honda Gold Wing F6B in there, too (starting price $19,999), and the Kawasaki Vulcan Vaquero ABS SE ($18,699). Don’t forget Polaris stablemate Indian Chieftain, which starts at $22,999.

2014 Victory Cross CountryThe Verdict

The Victory Cross Roads has a unique feel and a look all its own. It is a worthy competitor to the Street Glide. It’s better in some respects, not quite as good in others. It’s going to be a matter of taste for a lot of people – the Street Glide is a little more bad ass, and there’s no denying the appeal of the H-D vibe. The Cross Roads doesn’t give up anything in ride quality, so it might attract buyers who are less brand conscious, but still want an American-made air/oil-cooled V-Twin. With 15 years under its belt now, Victory can make some claims about durability, build quality and dealer support that were challenges when the brand was a startup. Harley’s wide appeal, ridiculously strong resale value and two-year warranty are still hard to combat, but Victory’s making modest headway.

I really enjoyed my time with the Cross Country. It was one of those bikes that called me out to the garage for a look and begged to be ridden. I would address the wind noise issues right away, and ride the wheels off it with confidence, never worrying about resale value a bit – mostly because I hang on to my bikes forever. Would I choose it over the Street Glide? I can’t answer that yet. Maybe I need one of each.

RideApart Rating: 8 out of 10

Gear:

Helmet: Arai Signet-Q

Jacket: Harley-Davidson FXRG Perforated Leather

Pants: Sliders All Season 2

Gloves: Roadgear CarbonMaxx

Boots: Wolverine Durashocks

  • William Connor

    One of the main features of the Cross Country and Victory motorcycles in general is a much lower cost of ownership. They have for the last two years been the most reliable brand, supplanting Honda at the top of the heap. They are also easier to service and maintenance costs are significantly less. I have owned two and both were rock solid motorcycles.

    • Nemosufu Namecheck

      Really interesting – where are you getting this data from? I didn’t know anybody was really tracking it.

      • William Connor

        There is no one source for the data and of course individual owners may have issues with specific bikes. Let’s just look at one metric for this discussion. Oil changes. Let’s use a standard kit from each manufacturer to compare. An oil change kit from Victory runs about $60.99 online. That includes oil, filter, and new crush washer. There are no other items needed and it works on every Victory. HD oil change kit will run you around $100 online for a complete kit (Prices change for different models sportster versus touring etc.). It includes new primary gasket set (3 gaskets), oil filter, and oil, which is used for the transmission and engine which are serviced separately. Labor for each is different as well. Most dealers locally charge a 1 hour minimum which is around $90. They do cut you a small break on an oil change when you go there however. Victory is $120 locally and HD charges $160 for an engine oil change and over $200 for the full oil service with gaskets. This is a very good article on how to change the oil in a touring HD, http://www.motorcycle-usa.com/684/15962/Motorcycle-Article/Harley-Davidson-Touring-Bike-Oil-Change.aspx This is a lot more complex than a Victory. Victory process is take out oil filler cap, remove drain bolt, remove oil filter, wait for oil to drain out. Repeat process in reverse order using new crush washer on drain plug and fill with 4.5 quarts of oil. If you do this every 5k miles as recommended you can see how little items are changing the overall ownership cost.

        • Nemosufu Namecheck

          Thanks William – good insider information. I can see how this info would be helpful in the bike reviews. Consumer Reports was the only bike reviews I had seen that could be considered reliable at all and their first go was shaky at best. My oil change kit for my bike costs $50.56 and is fairly straight forward. I would hate to own a bike if you were too afraid to do the work yourself. Labor costs are uncontrollable especially if you move often.

  • Campisi

    “… There’s no denying the appeal of the H-D vibe.”

    Oh yes there is.

    Also, why bother telling us what gear you used if you don’t appear in any pictures or comment upon them in the review?

    • NOCHnoch

      Affiliate marketing link$!!!!

      • Campisi

        I’m not even taking a dig at anyone here, I just thought it was strange.

        • E Brown

          I assumed it was habit, since such lists seem to be SOP for the site.

          • Send Margaritas

            It is, but it’s the same HD haters.I view it as a combination of personal taste and ignorance. Piglet stereotypes the riders, with all the logic of racism. Some don’t like the V-Twin Cruiser style…but probably never road such a low heavy bike in a strong crosswind…they’re minimally effected. Others view the technology as antique, and don’t see the character of a v-twin…unless it is a KTM SuperDuke 1290 (admittedly, a very nice bike!). I’ve got a cruiser and a sport tourer, and appreciate them both. Growing up, I rode Harleys, for they were what friends loaned me, so there is a nostalgia there, that I think some miss out on with stereotypes and preconceived ideas. That said, I can find something to like about most any motorcycle, even if I have favorites.

            • Michael Howard

              Part of the “hate” is backlash against the pervasive attitude of “You wish you had an H-D” that many of us have to deal with on a daily basis. I love ALL motorcycles but when I am constantly berated, ridiculed and insulted by idiots who believe you have to ride one brand/style of bike, it can eventually lead me to finally say, “You know what? Your bike is NOT the most wonderful bike in the world. It has faults when compared to other motorcycles.” I don’t go out of my way to insult H-D riders and their bikes. But when they start bragging about how superior they and their bikes are (and what a loser me and MY bike are), I will often respond with a dose of reality.

              • Brett Lewis

                In regards to the specific group of people you’re talking about; they used to have a leg to stand on with the bikes being made in the US, but they talk trash about the Victory too, just not as loud.

              • Andrew Pickle

                The first poker run I ever went on in my life, I had a guy come up to me and say that the only reason I bought my Victory was that I couldn’t afford a Harley….this dude was riding an 883 Sportster…..

            • Blake Bryce

              Loved the “Clydesdale” reference. I too ride a cruiser and would only trade it for, well, a bigger cruiser. But I was telling my wife the other day in a perfect world I would own 4 bikes, a touring, a cruiser, a sport, and a dual sport.

    • Piglet2010

      “I don’t have a bad enough attitude to ride a Harley” – Vulcan 2000 owner.

  • daveinva

    Generally not a fan of Victory’s swooping lines, but this one’s quite attractive.

  • Scott Edson

    I personally have never needed music, so I don’t need the fairing.

    It’s going to be a long time before I wear out my 2007 Stratoliner, but a few years ago I was starting to think about replacing it with a Cross Country. Not now – Polaris may have cannibalized their market because my next bike will be a red Indian Chief.

    • Michael Howard

      You are aware that fairings do more than house entertainment systems, right?

      • Scott Edson

        What, provide less wind protection than a typical wind screen?

        • Michael Howard

          Sorry that you’ve apparently never ridden behind even a half-decent fairing.

  • Charles Quinn

    I don’t get it, H-D gets slagged constantly for the ‘Mr Potato Head’ approach of rehashing the same old bikes with slightly different parts, but in their range they have four different engines and four different chassis, most of which have changed significantly (or been developed new) over the last 10 years. I’m struggling to see what Victory has done to improve their bikes over 15 years. I know they’re a ‘new’ company (not really, Polaris already had massive powersports experience) but after 15 years of Hinckley Triumph we had a range of sportsbikes, tourers, retros and cruisers with parallel twins, triples of different capacities and a straight three. Victory has been successful on its own limited terms but it’s been a massive disappointment to me in terms of offering genuine alternatives.

    • William Connor

      HD gets slagged for their engines being roughly the same for 100 years. While that is not true it’s the pervasive though among many. HD major limitation in engineering is the air only cooling on most of the motors. It limits so many things. Victory has had 3 iterations of its motor over 15 years. They are oil cooled by direct firing oil onto the hottest points inside the motor. This is why they run lower engine temperatures and make more efficient power. They also engineered the motors to be easier to work on and maintain with automotive style filters, minimal gaskets, and one oil for the engine and transmission. Simplifying the engineering delivers a more reliable product. I love HD and it’s products and think they will continue to dominate for many years. They do need to address some concerns in the area to continue to stay ahead of competition and meet environmental standards.

      • Charles Quinn

        Thanks William. I guess with the v-rods, streets and project Rushmore the Harley liquid cooling program is well underway. The way they’re nibbling at it I’d say they’re itching to go full liquid but they don’t want to be the first to give up on air cooling completely.

        • William Connor

          I would agree. Although many other’s have already gone liquid cooling they would be the largest cruiser manufacturer to do so and certainly the first American cruiser manufacturer. I fully expect some big changes to Victory this year as well, but I don’t think we will see liquid cooling yet.

  • NOCHnoch

    Does the beer gut come standard?

  • Blake Bryce

    My next bike will no doubt be a Victory. Something about the High Ball that just calls to me. Also the fact that it is an American company that started with the proverbial middle finger up to H-D. Any stock Vic will out run any stock H-D, and as often as they can they buy billboards that are near H-D shops just to remind big brother they are not alone anymore.

    • Paolo

      I want a High Ball too! There’s no Victory in Central America though, so basically I’m screwed until further notice. I’ve heard spare parts for these bikes are hard to come across though.

      • Blake Bryce

        Too bad… There are a few guys making after market parts. Arlen Ness has some great parts, and Zach Ness has become a part of Polaris so I see some really exciting things happening in the near future.

        • Paolo

          What I’ve done in the past is that I buy them wrecked @online auctions, then buy the spare parts online, and then fix the bike locally (usually me+friends or me+mechanic) I’ve done this 4 times already (1 Yamaha and 2 Hondas, and now my 2005 H-D Dyna) but I’m a little hesitant on trying this method on a Victory since used parts can be hard to find and I haven’t found any online diagrams from which to choose OEM parts if needed…

  • Davidabl2

    It’s really too bad that these bikes are so ugly. I could make the tired jokes about them not being ordinary baggers.. but “two baggers’ the rider needs a brown paper bag over their head, passengers or even onlookers do too ;-)

  • thegreyman

    “It’s better in some respects, not quite as good in others” Dude— QUANTIFY your statements. When I read half-ass reviews like this. It really makes we wanna quite my job and become a moto-journalist.