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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Eager engine
- Integrated hard bags
- Adjustable rear suspension
- Long range comfort
- 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 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.
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
Helmet: Arai Signet-Q
Pants: Sliders All Season 2
Gloves: Roadgear CarbonMaxx
Boots: Wolverine Durashocks