Victory Vision – Long-Term Review
Despite its contemporary looks, Victory's Vision motorcycle is hardly new, having first been introduced to the world in 2005 as a concept bike.
Back then, it was presented as an 800-cc liquid-cooled parallel twin with automatic transmission. Its bulbous front end offered storage where the fuel tank would normally be. In other words, Victory invented the Honda NM-4.
The mind spins at what might have been had Victory chosen to pursue such a direction. Instead, the Vision became a top-of-the-line tourer, powered by an air and oil-cooled 1731cc V-twin.
Brought into production in 2008, it remains relatively unchanged today, which seems to be the formula for tourers: Find something that works and don't fuss with it. By and large, the Vision does work. It's insanely comfortable, ludicrously huge, and refreshingly, looks nothing like a Harley-Davidson.
I put more than 2,500 miles on a Vision recently––primarily on my trip to EICMA, but also on the familiar roads of Wales, where I live. I rode it in good weather and bad, at high speed, through cities, and down winding country roads. My aim here is to offer an extensive review, so if you're the sort of person who thinks it's clever to write, "TL;DNR," you might as well click away now.
Without a doubt, the best aspect of the Vision is its mountainous Freedom 106 engine, which Victory wisely chose to showcase in the bike's design. It's the first thing to catch your eye about the bike. And, after covering so many miles, it's the thing that stays with me most.
I can still hear its sound—not of pipes, but the engine itself. Indeed, quiet standard pipes allow one to better appreciate the engine. Push it, accelerate hard, and the Freedom 106 roars like the muscle cars of teenage daydreams.
It's not something you hear on start up, though; the Vision is well-mannered below 3,500 rpm. Were it a person, you could invite it to dinner at your grandma's. Considering peak torque of 108 ft. lbs can be found at just 2,600 rpm, it wouldn't be surprising if many Vision owners never knew their bike's darker side. This would be a shame, because nearing peak horsepower (92 hp at 4,750 rpm) takes you closer to God.
I mean, I don't want to get weird here, but that engine spoke to me, man. It connected with my soul. It told me things.
At cruising rpm (below 3,500), the bike sails at 70-80 mph without strain. If Earth had an engine to keep it spinning through space this is what I'd imagine it to sound like: powerful, steadfast. It will lug around the Vision's 900+ lbs. all day. As well as whatever weight you might add in terms of rider, passenger and luggage. I suspect you could also tow a jet ski and not notice much change in performance.
Admittedly, all that power doesn't present itself in the form of bladder-loosening speed and acceleration, but that's not the point of a bike like this. And you'll still have plenty of "go" to beat most cars from a red light, as well as pass them on country roads.
Clutchless upshifts are possible. Why you would bother to do such a thing on a Vision, I don't know, but the point is that you can. Which goes to show that the transmission is far slicker than it sounds.
I tend to enjoy the loud CLUNK that announces first gear on cruisers, as well as the slightly less loud THUNK that accompanies all other gear changes. You feel manly and Thor-like when you hear that sound. Unless you hear it over and over and over and over. In heavy traffic situations, the sound of constant gear changing got on my nerves; the firmness of the clutch tired my hand.
But, again, that sort of riding isn't the intended use. Avoid rush-hour traffic and the transmission will always sound bad-ass, while at the same time, as I said, being relatively smooth and assured. False neutrals are few and far between. Shifting is never sticky.
Performance, Handling and Brakes
I was surprised at how light steering is. This has to do with the fact that the fairing isn't mounted to the handlebars. In very high winds, the steering can feel just a bit too light, but in all other situations it means the Vision is more maneuverable than you would expect.
That's the theme of this motorcycle: It's better than you expect. It corners better and leans further than any other big V-twin I've experienced, encouraging you to push harder through bends.
The brakes do a good job of slowing all that weight, but don't be so naive as to attempt to use just one finger on the brake lever. The stronger brake is the rear; mashing on it hard will help activate the bike's combined anti-lock braking system.
I got a chance to test that system on a foggy and wet highway—thanks to Italian drivers—and can happily report it works well. Unobtrusive at other times, it kicks in steadily and with an assured quality that makes you want to send Victory a Christmas card.
The Dunlop Elite III tires that come standard on the Vision, however, it will make you want to send a big box of your own feces. Simply put, the tires are an insult to this motorcycle. It angers me that tires so atrociously ill-equipped to handle wet weather have been placed on a vehicle designed to cover great distances.
In fairness, those great distances are at the heart of why the Dunlops are so poor. The compounds with which they are made give them longevity, allowing folks to claim upward of 20,000 miles on a set. The drawback is that those hard compounds make the tire unsuitable for anything less than ideal conditions.
Were it my bike, the Dunlops would be scrapped immediately. I'd rather suffer the expense of tires that allow me to ride than save money and sit at home each time it rains.
The presence of the Vision's reverse gear is damned useful. It's engaged by pulling a lever near your left thigh and pushing the starter button. Perhaps to compliment this, Victory should consider adding something like the assisted hill start feature now showing up on so many of Europe's high-end heavy bikes.
To that end, I'd like to see more electronic wizzbangery on the Vision.
That may just be personal preference; I'm a sucker for doo-dads. Perhaps something like traction control would be unnecessary on a bike with such smooth power delivery. And how many rider modes do you want for a tourer?
But a slipper clutch could be potentially useful. In fact, I wouldn't complain if the bike were equipped with something like BMW's Gear Assist Pro feature. Electronic suspension would be nice, too. The Vision's air-pump-adjustable rear shock is easy enough to use, but it's not something that can be done while riding.