2012 Victory Motorcycle Review
It is fascinating to watch just how many models Victory can wring from a single motor platform without surrendering to redundancy.
The 2013 Victory Judge is the latest Freedom 106/6 V-Twin powered motorcycle from the American manufacturer, and it doesn’t ride down the road previously traveled by Victory.
On first glance, one may view the Victory Judge as working the same stoplight dragster side of the street as the Hammer line. Indeed, Victory describes the 2013 Judge as offering "muscle car inspired styling and American power." A Hammer owner certainly might see the bike in that way.
Instead, the Judge is designed to be accessible to more riders via a lower seat height, and more willing to take to the canyons, thanks to a number of changes – some big, some small.
Perhaps the largest change is the move to 16-inch wheels on the Judge, compared to 18s on the Hammers. Not only are the wheels smaller for quicker handling, but the rear Dunlop 491 Elite II tire on the Judge is 110mm narrower than the 250 Dunlop Elite 3 on the Hammers. This means the Judge is much more willing to carve a tight line.
Low seat height is a constant goal of cruiser designers. The advantages include a more secure feeling at stops for shorter-inseamed riders, and a lower center of gravity. The Judge’s 25.9-inch seat height is a full inch below the Hammer S.
The Hammers go with inverted forks, for a modern look. The 2013 Victory Judge has traditional forks, giving the Judge a bit more of a retro feel, keeping with the "muscle car" motif. The Judge’s forks are also tucked in a degree for more aggressive handling. Also, the wheelbase is cut down nearly an inch, working toward the same goal.
Finally, the Victory Judge gets its own set of mid-mount foot controls, putting the rider is a more sporting position, and the drag bars are set back a bit from the triple clamps. Styling is more bobber and retro than the vaguely futuristic Hammers.
Okay. So we’ve established that the 2013 Victory Judge is its own man, not beholden to any previous Victory motorcycle model. It is time to take to the streets.
Hopping on the Judge, you immediately appreciate the low seat height. Balancing its 660 pounds, plus rider and liquids, is not a problem. Most riders will be flat-footed at stops, with a bend in the knees. Sometimes mid-mount pegs can get in the way, but that is not the case with the Judge. Victory’s engineers placed the pegs in a slightly forward position for riding that keeps them out of the way at stops.
The Victory 6-speed transmission is fairly close-ratio, so first gear is high. This keeps the torquey motor from ripping the bars from your hands in normal use. The 113 ft. lbs. of torque delivered from the air- and oil-cooled motor is appreciated around town when you’re just cruising. Despite the sporty bent of the Judge, it’s still, at its heart, an in-town cruiser.
You will not have to worry about making a good show at stoplights. The Freedom 106/6 motor is a great one. Keep the revs low and it’s docile when you aren’t in a hurry. Rev it up when you want to impress spectators, and observe the RPMs if you want; with just the flick of the left index finger on a button located on the backside of the left switch housing, the digital display in the speedo housing can be toggled between odometer, a trip meter, and a digital tachometer.
More metric feeling than American, it is muscular, though not rough. Start-up is smooth, and so is the relative lack of vibration. It’s tame compared to a Harley, and riders of Japanese cruisers will be instantly familiar with the motor’s feel.
Suspension on the Judge is quite impressive. The firmly plush forks and shock suck up road impurities nicely. You feel the road, but smaller potholes and other inconsistencies don’t knock the bike and rider around.
In the canyons, the suspension is steady through corners, so you can pick a line and know the Judge will stick to it. Ground clearance is decent, and many riders will never touch the peg feelers down. In higher speed sweepers, the suspension keeps the Judge at the top of the stroke, so touch downs at speed are especially unlikely.
The fat tires certainly help all around. They not only assist the suspension, but they are very balanced in size. This gives a great feel when leaning into a turn, or exiting. Both grip the road well and there is no pushing or feeling that the back Dunlop Elite II will step out.
Back in a straight line, the 2013 Victory Judge feels good up to 100 mph, which is far faster than you need to be riding it. A four-piston caliper grips the single 300mm disc ably. The braking is more controlled than aggressive. Certainly, it will be adequate for the vast majority of Judge riders, especially with the nice large footprint of the 130mm Dunlop Elite II front tire. There is nothing fancy like ABS, though we didn’t need it, even in the rain.
The wind will catch your arms at freeway speeds, so be prepared to hang on. The seat provides a bit of support from the wind blast, so you will feel secure at freeway speeds.
Unquestionably, the Judge is not a tourer, as the ergonomics just aren’t aimed that way. Still, for the die-hard who wants to drain the 4.5-gallon fuel tank a couple of times a day on a vacation, Victory offers a touring seat (more seat for the passenger, especially), passenger backrest (can be locked, yet removed without tools), saddlebags (again, lockable and no-tool removal/installation), and windshields (three heights to choose from).
One accessory (of 90 from Victory) that we did avail ourselves of is the Cobra Tri-Pro exhaust. Not only does the Tri-Pro look considerably cooler than the simple straight slash-cut exhaust, but it also generates a pleasing growl. Responsible pipe manufacturers, such as Cobra have been working to provide good-sounding exhausts that meet the SAE J2825 sound standard, while providing improved performance and not voiding the factory warranty. If I were buying a Victory Judge, I’d make sure I put either the Tri-Pro (shown) or the X-Bow (which has a straight-pipe look).
Victory is also offering graphics packages for the number-plate style side covers. We haven’t seen any, and it’s hard to imagine how stickers are going to look as good as the rest of the Judge. Regardless, we’ll withhold final judgment until we can see for ourselves.
Riding the Victory Judge is a blast. The good looks result in thumbs up from people in cars and on foot. The riding position is humane, though some might with for bars pulled even farther back. The seat is good for short- to medium-length rides, and there’s a touring seat for the miles accumulators. You definitely look good and feel good on the 2013 Victory Judge, if the aggressive hot-rod persona is you.
It feels a bit early to be riding 2013 model, but if Victory can get away with that in February 2012, what difference does it make? It’s all about the ride, and the 2013 Victory Judge is a strong performer with charismatic looks.
2013 Victory Judge Specs:
- Engine type…4-stroke 50-degree V-Twin
- Cooling system…Air / oil
- Displacement…106 ci / 1731 cc
- Bore x Stroke…101 x 108 mm
- Compression ratio…9.4 : 1
- Valve train…Single overhead camshafts with 4 valves per cylinder, self-adjusting cam chains, hydraulic lifters
- Fuel System… Electronic Fuel Injection with dual 45mm throttle body
- Fuel Capacity…4.5 gal / 17.0 liter
- Exhaust… Staggered slash-cut dual exhaust with crossover
- Oil capacity…5.0 qts / 4.75 liters
- Charging System…38 amps max output
- Battery…12 volts / 18 amp hours
- Primary Drive…Gear drive with torque compensator
- Clutch…Wet, multi-plate
- Transmission…6-speed overdrive constant mesh
- Final Drive…Carbon Fiber Reinforced Belt
- Length…92.0 in
- Wheelbase…64.8 in
- Seat Height…25.9 in
- Ground Clearance…4.7 in
- Rake/trail…31.7 degrees
- Dry Weight…660 lbs
- GVWR…1151 lb
- Front suspension:
- Type…Conventional telescopic fork
- Fork tube diameter…43 mm
- Travel…5.1 in / 130 mm
- Rear suspension:
- Shock absorber…Single, mono-tube gas
- Swingarm… Cast Aluminum with rising rate linkage
- Travel…3.0 in / 75 mm
- Adjustments… Preload adjustable spring
- Front…300mm floating rotor with 4-piston caliper
- Rear…300mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper
WHEELS & TIRES
- Wheels front &rear: 16 x 3.5 in
- Front Tire…130/90 B16 67H Dunlop 491 Elite II-RWL
- Rear Tire…140/90 B16 77H Dunlop 491 Elite II-RWL
- Gloss Black…$13,999
- Suede Nuclear Sunset…$14,399
- Sunset Red…$14,399
- Helmet: Bell Vortex RSD Apocalypse
- Jacket: River Road Mesa
- Gloves: RSD Domino
- Jeans: Icon Victory
- Boots: Icon Accelerant Waterproof
Photography by Barry Hathaway