2008 Victory Vision Street | Motorcycle Test
Potato-potato-potato. That repetitive onomatopoeia was once used in a courtroom to describe Harley-Davidson’s distinctive V-twin idle, a rumble of such specific timbre and cadence that the manufacturer sought to trademark its sound. Victory Motorcycles, keenly aware of the lure and lore of air-cooled V-twins as popularized by Harley, has literally built its new Vision—not to mention their entire brand—around that storied powerplant configuration as well.
However, the new flagship twists the American cruiser paradigm. Surrounding the traditional engine type with sweeping bodywork, Victory complements the engine’s innately anti-technological stance with lines that are simultaneously futuristic and nostalgic. The Street version is low and streamlined, while the Tour variant adds a trunk that doubles as a passenger backrest and stereo speaker enclosure, cutting a taller and busier profile. (Click image to enlarge)
X-ray the Vision, and more futuristic forms become evident. Large, twin aluminum tanks flank the steering head and store a total of 6 gallons of fuel, and the engine, which acts as a stressed member, suspends from the cast aluminum frame without the aid of a downtube. A hollow subframe and swingarm serve to reduce the Vision’s weight, though, at over 800 lb, the hulking mass of the bike is certainly no featherweight. Air is fed to the engine through the gently humped curve of the frame, and an air filter positioned just behind the headlight is easily accessible but out of sight. The bike’s skin carefully drapes the engine (which is referred to as a "jewel in the setting" by Victory brass) and is thoughtfully designed with nary a cheap finish in sight—the metallic-looking accents that might easily have been constructed of plastic are, in fact, real aluminum. Included with the premium luxury package, among other amenities, are extra chrome bits and a backlit Victory badge, boasting to the world—day or night—of the owner’s penchant for non-Harley motorcycling.
Helmet: Bell Sprint
Eyewear: Mercedes Benz MB50701
Jacket: Vanson Cobra Mark II
Gloves: AGV Sport Force
Jeans: Salt Works Varick Street Low Rise Boot Cut
Boots: Harley-Davidson Torrent. (Click image to enlarge)
Resting, the Vision cuts an imposing profile that suggests a need for substantial lower body strength and the ability to manhandle an unwieldy slab of two-wheeled mass. Straddle the Vision, and you’ll be met with an entirely surprising experience. The seat, which rests a mere 26.5 inches from the pavement, is narrow but comfortable, and its substantial 4 inches of padding is generously cupped at the rear for support. The handlebars—thick and authoritative—are mechanically isolated from the vibes of the aforementioned 106 cu in twin. Along the top of the tank is an aluminum panel with a two-line LCD display for the stereo system, a flat expanse for an optional GPS unit, the ignition key, and a few stray buttons. Unlike a Gold Wing, the Vision doesn’t offer a built-in display screen, making the optional GPS unit feel like a bit of an afterthought (though it does integrate with the bike’s electronics, as does an iPod). The dashboard fascia features an analog speedometer and tachometer, and an LCD screen that displays the time, ambient temperature reading, and a large gear indicator.
Start up the chortling, 1,731cc engine, and you might be surprised by its gutsy counterpoint to the modernity of the bike’s bodywork. Rest your feet forward on the wide floorboards, and the daunting task of maneuvering the bike grows less off-putting. At slow speeds, the Vision is a pleasant surprise, as it does not want (barring absent-minded rider inattention or negligent handling) to tip over. Should the rider lose grasp of his iron and aluminum steed, the Vision is designed to rest on wings on the edges of the floorboards to protect the lavish bodywork from the ravages of asphalt.
The engine revs eagerly throughout the powerband (though 90% of torque is delivered at only 2,000 rpm), and increased speed only enhances the bike’s stability. The 6-speed gearbox feels solidly isolated and substantially constructed, lending it an air of impenetrability from the torquey engine.Considering the Vision’s size and heft, turning the bike comes easily, and the chassis tends to feel at once reassuringly solid and surprisingly compliant. Rear suspension stiffness can be adjusted via a Schroeder valve and compressed air, compensating for passenger and cargo loads.
At speed, the Vision Street’s cockpit is a relatively peaceful (though not entirely sheltered or silent) place, depending on the position of the adjustable windshield, with optional electric control. The stereo is available with XM Satellite Radio and iPod connectivity, and provides an adequate distraction from the diegetic sounds of the highway. Small, folding Lexan winglets are cutely low-tech ways to deflect air from rider knees, while optional heated grips and seat surfaces (including the passenger’s backrest) enable comfort in cooler climates. (Click image to enlarge)
In spite of its oversized proportions, the Vision copes well with curvy roads when ridden spiritedly. With sufficient lean angle and forethought, the Vision turns with surefootedness and stability. The bike’s stopping ability is strong, and a linked action activates when rear brakes are applied (though the most effective stops come when the front brakes are manually applied as well). Pedal effort is a bit high, presumably in order to avoid brake lockup, but one glaring omission is the lack of an anti-lock system, even as an option. The decision to omit ABS is a paradoxical one, at best. The Vision, after all, pushes design boundaries with its striking exterior, but acquiesces to the perceived hesitance of consumers by omitting state of the art brakes.
On the road the Vision is, of course, no match for more sprightly sport touring bikes, but it holds its own on rough surfaces, twisting pavement, and rollercoaster roads that challenge the chassis, suspension and brakes. And while Vision riders are generally insulated from extreme jostling, wind noise, and stomach tightening g-forces, they are not exempt from the visceral roots of two-wheeled transport. After all, the throbbing V-twin that sits between the rider’s lower legs feels very much alive as it pulses, heats up the insides of the calves, and single handedly prevents the Vision from feeling numb, or worse, boring.
So, if there is one element of the Vision’s personality that rises to prominence, one aspect that screams louder than practical aspects like storage space, cruising range, or ride comfort, it is that big American V-twin, the one that defined another manufacturer’s style and identity, and paved the way for more modern takes on long distance cruisers. It is not the Vision’s only defining feature, but it is certainly one of its most visible. The exposed V-twin takes an otherwise swoopy bike and adds a bit of spirit, a charming spark that makes the Vision more entertaining, dynamic, and alive than most other tourers.
In this age of engineering ad nauseam and relentless technological perfection, the combination of character and originality make the Victory Vision attractive to anyone who itches for a ride off the beaten path.