Why in the world is our resident racer Bruce Speedman in his full Dainese race leathers on an old-man bike? He didn’t look too out of place pulling up to our Hollywood offices in full race leathers on our RideApart Suzuki GSX-R600 project bike (#RideApartGSXR). The bike looked and sounded like those Dainese leathers were a good call, with the burly exhaust note from the new Akrapovic exhaust and rolls of clumped up rubber on the edge of the tires after a weekend of racing, but once we switched bikes, me in riding jeans and Icon dress boots and Bruce on the Victory Magnum, he started looking a bit excessive.
The Victory Magnum has more tech and engineering in its big, heavy chassis than any other bagger in its class. With a 88 hp and 105 ft-lbs of torque engine and well-handling chassis, we decided to put the Victory Magnum to the test and hopefully break the misconception that baggers are only reserved for old, slow, loud dudes and Bruce was here to help.
2015 Victory Magnum
The Victory Cross Country platform is one of the best handling big bikes around. WIth a long 65.7 inch wheel base, aluminum two-piece frame, torquey engine and a 43mm inverted fork front suspension, this is the sportbike of baggers. As I coached Bruce through where I wanted him for photos, he was convinced the bike would drag. He tried his hardest over the next 30 minutes to find fault or make the floorboards drag the asphalt, but he simply couldn't do it. He jumped off the Victory with a laugh and smile of satisfaction.
What you see here is the fancy version of Victory's Cross Country, the Magnum. Sharing the majority of the same parts, including powertrain and frame, the Magnum comes with a few add-ons and slightly bigger price tag: a 21-inch front wheel (compared to the 18-inch wheel), 100-watt stereo system and flashy paint standard.
This mini-road trip was one of my favorite in recent memory, and weirdly enough, the same route we are getting ready to take for the unveiling of the Yamaha FJ-09 adventure bike.
Starting in Norwalk, California, myself with girlfriend on back, headed up and out of the city hitting Hwy 1 in Santa Monica, up through Malibu, stopping for lunch at an overpriced hipster cafe and then up into Oxnard, and onward to Santa Barbara. As we exited Ventura, I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to go to Ojai. She pointed towards the highway sign with affirmation… that was the extent of our travel planning.
We headed up Hwy 33 into Ojai (read the complete road trip story later this week: Burger Barn and Hwy 33, Best Day Road Trips: Southern California) to spend the night. The next day we rode up through twisty mountain roads on Hwy 33, then back to Hwy 1 and down into Santa Barbara.
With $300 in my wallet and a few days off from work we had a great trip with a mix of long swooping twists, tight mountain roads, city and highway riding.
The following week, we did the unthinkable: split lanes in LA with a big bagger. We had the bike for a couple weeks, commuting to work from Norwalk, to downtown Hollywood. Our ride had a great mix if you were to own this bike: commuting to work, riding to the store and weekend road trips.
Ergonomics, Weight and Feel
This would be my only downfall of the bike, but it’s something you can probably solve with a salesman at the dealership.
It's all about give and take, as the ergonomics come at sacrifice of the chassis performance. The bike has a longer wheelbase and overall bigger than a Harley bagger. Both the Cross Country have about the same ride height slightly over 26 inches, although from sitting on them, the Victory feels much higher thanks to the stretched reach of the handlebars and longer wheelbase, 65.7 inches.
The overall bike is almost two inches longer than a Harley-Davidson Street Glide and that’s noticeable throughout. Most Polaris motorcycles have a kind of leaned back, ride from afar style seating position. You can feel this added length and weight from the driver’s seat, sometimes making the Street Glide feel more agile, even though the Victory could take a particular corner faster.
Again it's give and take, as the Harley can arguably be slightly more cramped than the Victory and once you're really moving and riding, the Victory has a relaxed riding position that allows for more miles with more comfort.
Handlebars, Pegs and Seat
Our particular bike had mini-apes handlebars, which put my arms almost dead level with my shoulders, straight out from my chest with my elbows just slightly bent. When I first threw a leg over the bike, I hated it, but it wasn’t noticeably tiresome unless you were putting in work, like splitting very tight lanes heading up the 110 North through downtown LA, which left my shoulders tired for work, but that was only once. The bars were actually fine and comfortable, but if I owned it, I would opt for the standard laid back bars.
The pizza-sliced-shaped floorboards (longest in the class) are angled upward and with my arms almost stretched, it made it uncomfortable when moving your feet back and froth stopped to riding and back again. Occasionally I would stumble or drag my feet in traffic as my legs became lazy.
The Magnum comes standard with the two-up seat with a solo-seat appearance, a styling option that I’ve never quite understood (the Street Glide has basically the same seat). It's a padded area of the seat that brings it back to the standard mounting point and a kind of bar-hopper rear seat, not intended for long two-up rides. The slope and angled pattern of the seat looks uncomfortable, but for my passenger it was ok. She occasionally felt unstable and a backrest would have definitely helped.
I love air-cooled V-twins and Victory’s 106ci Freedom V-Twin is a perfectly balanced engine with a smooth, strong torque curve and top-end power for days. It's smoother than the H-D Twin Cam at idle. Geared nice and high, the engine became unnoticeable at high speeds and loads of torque meant I rarely needed to shift to pass another car or roll out of a corner fast.
I rode the Victory and Street Glides before examining their engine specs and from riding impressions alone, I expected the 106ci Freedom V-twin to be a more oversquare-bore engine (bore being bigger than stroke). An oversquare engine tends to make power up into the rpm range, unlike an undersquare bore engine which produces more low-end torque.
Harley’s 103ci features a 98mm bore and 111mm stroke compared to Victory’s 106ci, 101mm bore and 108mm stroke. While the Victory is slightly more square than the HD, the difference in power delivery is due more to the overhead cam and 4-valves-per-cylinder design exclusive to the Victory. With 9.4/1 compression the bike ran fine on any fuel and wasn't too loud or noisy.
The HD has more brutal down-low torque, but the Victory likes rpms slightly better, producing a smooth and steady torque curve. So smooth you’ll often forget how fast it really is. Some statistics say the Victory engine makes almost 15 hp more than the H-D's standard 103ci.
Hands down the best part of this bike is its suspension, with a ton of innovative pieces and firsts for its class. The two-piece, sand-cast aluminum frame is connected in front of the seat, with the subframe and swing arm mounted to the rear section. Up front the engine is used as a stress member of the frame, even though it does have a downtube.
The swingarm is longer than most, adding for better traction and travel. Victory is so proud of its rear mono-shock linkage that there’s a patent pending on it.
The front suspension is essentially the same you’d find on a sportbike, with 43mm inverted forks with 5.1 inches of travel and two 300mm floating rotors with 4-piston calipers.
This added with great lean angle (we don’t know exact numbers) makes for a great handling and comfortable bike.
The 2015 Victory Magnum retails for $21,999, which is comparable and decent for what you’re getting. The H-D Street Glide retails for $20,599, but that’s the base model without ABS, which is a $795 upcharge. Then there’s a $500 upcharge for fancy paint (or $1,050 for the “Custom Color Option”).
The H-D Street Glide with paint and ABS totals $21,984, which now brings it into an almost identical price range, but still lacking the tall front wheel, upgraded stereo system and better front suspension.
Apples to apples, the Magnum and Street Glide Special have similar specs and add-ons, with the Special having a $23,399 MSRP and ABS and cruise control standard.
If the Magnum and Street Glide Special are apples, the CVO Street Glide is filet mignon, retailing for $36,349; it has all the bells and whistles and more metal flake than your retro helmet you have hanging on the wall.
The real question for me, as a rider first and a showoff a close second, is the Street Glide vs. the Cross Country, $20,599 (with color option, $22,899 in vivid black) and $18,999 respectively.
I've excluded the sport touring and supersport touring bikes - not for any particular reason, lately I've just been riding air-cooled V-twins more than any of the water-cooled foreign competitors. The Kawasaki Concours (low $16,000) and Yamaha FJR1300ES (high $16,000), have better riding add-ons, like adjustable suspension on the Yamaha. The Victory would have no issue keeping up, but it's really a different animal (feet forward, cruiser style).
Then there's the Honda F6B, which retails for $20,499, has limited travel space and a fixed fairing, but still a low-windscreen, two hard bags, style cruiser, like the Cross Country and Street Glide.
The Victory Cross Country is a better handling, smoother and cheaper bike than the H-D. The Victory is a more modern motorcycle with an aluminum frame and overhead cam engine, but sometimes the rawness of a Harley can be fun.
READ MORE: Roland Sands does 185mph on a cruiser
While the Magnum, Street Glide and F6B, win and lose in different categories, it comes down to preference with no obvious, standout winner. Luckily these companies have produced dissimilar bikes in the same class and haven't merely drenched the market in purely identical machines with different logos on the tank.
Photography by Jesse Kiser.