2014 Victory Judge Motorcycle Cruiser TestWhen introduced last year, we found the Victory Judge to be a bracing addition to the brand. Inspired by muscle cars, the Judge benefits from the strapping Freedom 106/6 powerplant that puts out a massive claimed 110 ft/lbs of peak torque, making it a formidable presence on Main Street.
However, last year’s Judge was not perfect right off the bench. Our biggest complaint was with the too-forward handlebars mismatched to pegs that were mid- mounted. The unwieldy seating position got tiring quickly, and frequent breaks were necessary to allow some back relief.The other problem was a peculiar styling detail — mini number-plates below the seat on which Victory expected you to attach graphics stickers to give the bike a custom look. We couldn’t buy into that at the time, and it seems we were not alone.Victory has solved both of these problems in the Judge’s sophomore session. Most importantly, the bars have been pulled back considerably — four inches— and the pegs moved up an identical distance. This gives the Judge a seating position that is more laid-back cruiser than awkwardly hunched over.The styling of the back end of the Judge has been nicely cleaned up. The oddball number plates are gone, replaced by more traditional side panels with sculpted lines that flow naturally from the superbly styled fuel tank. The rear fender has also been trimmed a bit, and the fender brace is cleaner.Additionally, the seat is now a two-piece unit, and the rear portion is easily removed for solo riding. We definitely prefer the look of a one-man seat when riding alone.On this particular test bike, per our request, Victory swapped out the plain Jane — but perfectly functional—stock round-tube exhaust for the Cobra Stage-1 Tri-Pro Exhaust. This exhaust nicely complements the new styling, as well as delivering a warm, sociable growl.Looks do matter on a cruiser, of course, though we are confident that you know what you like. In the case of the ride, although some are willing to sacrifice practicality for pure attitude, we like to put time on our motorcycles and ride them more than a few minutes at a go.The torture test of any urban cruiser is long in-town rides on congested city streets. We have no shortage of those in Los Angeles, and into the beast of the belly we rode, repeatedly, on the Judge.We welcomed the new ergonomics in theory; in reality, the new seating position absolutely turns the bike from a chiropractor’s dream into a motorcycle you can take out for long rides in stop-and-go traffic without regretting it in the morning.The bars are wide and the grips fall naturally to hand; a nice reach is still needed, so the Judge doesn’t entirely lose its assertive fist-forward look. The pegs were moved up four inches, but they started off mid-bike, so they aren’t fully forwardly mounted. Your legs get a slight bend, much like your arms — at least for someone about 5′ 10″ or so — and the balanced ergonomics are an unmitigated success.Victory did not abandon the hot-rod ethos of the Judge, by any means. The bars are not unduly wide, like the beach-cruiser Boardwalk. Instead, they feel just right for giving you the leverage you want to easily manipulate the (claimed dry) 660-pound machine, be it in town, on the freeway, or on twisting backroads.Handling and power are excellent on the Judge, once you escape the confines of heavily populated areas. Just as those 110 ft/lbs of torque take you away from freshly green lights with unquestioned authority, that same muscle pulls the Judge out of corners strongly.You do have to pay a bit of attention to your selection of ratios in the six-speed gearbox, though, as you exit a turn. If you haven’t shifted down enough, the Freedom 106/6 will get quite chunky when given throttle at too low of an engine speed. An extra down won’t hurt, as the Judge’s motor is more than willing to rev.Cornering is about two things — setting your line and being aware of the limited cornering clearance. Once the 130mm front 16-inch Dunlop is put into place, for better or for worse, it is securely planted and reluctant to change direction. The 65-inch wheelbase and 32-degrees of rake aren’t excessive numbers, but at around 700 pounds with the 4.7-gallon fuel tank filled with premium, the package trends away from agile.If you lean over a moderate amount, the peg feelers leap into action, though the folding pegs give you plenty of warning and room for error. Take a ride on the Miracle Mile on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, and you will discover that the suspension is not very responsive on the woefully under-maintained, heavily travelled thoroughfare. Expect a jolting ride when the pavement deviates from smooth.On the newly repaved roads in the Santa Monica Mountains, the firm suspension means no wallowing and a nice feel for the road. Pick your routes wisely.Good in the canyons and on city streets, the Judge is not the Victory of choice for the open road or long rides. With your arms spread out, you become something of a sail on the freeway, and there is no relief from the windblast.The new seat is fairly hard and not designed for the long haul. The saddle feels good around town, and is an excellent perch for curvy roads, but it simply demands that you make stops now and then to give your posterior a break.Victory does a good job of positioning its motorcycles, and the Judge has found itself a niche in which it excels. For a night on the town, it turns heads and is a prime ride with a good sound—budget for the Cobra Tri-Pro or similar — and if your favorite weekend hangout is separated from your house by a road through the hill country, you are going to be very satisfied with the new 2014 Victory Judge.Photography by Kelly CallanRiding Style:
This week Teejay chats to Tyler Poppe. Tyler works on the TV show Mayans MC–and yet he doesn’t ride an American V-Twin. Wassup with that?? Also, Arthur finds out from friend Mike Cardillo about his thoughts on the full-size version of the Kawasaki KLX 140R F trail bike.