2015 Victory Gunner Review
Working off a single basic engine and chassis platform, Victory has managed to successfully craft a wide range of motorcycles with distinctive missions. Often, its cruisers are marketed craftily, with evocative names such as the beach-sailing Boardwalk and ape-equipped High-Ball.
For better or for worse, the 2015 Victory Gunner’s name is a bit less descriptive. While the Gunner is not equipped with firearms of any kind, it does exude a masculine authority, with its darkened motif, fat tires, and Victory’s ubiquitous Freedom 106/6 powerplant. The moniker is a tie-in with Victory’s boisterous spokesman R. Lee Ermey, a decorated actor and former Marine Corps drill sergeant whose nickname is The Gunny.
Perusing the specification chart, the Gunner is a close brother of the Judge — a motorcycle we liked quite a bit after its 2014 update. The two bikes share the same rake, wheelbase, suspension, and tires — two peas in a pod.
To attract a slightly different set of riders, the Gunner’s seat is dropped nearly an inch, and it is a solo ride. For those of us who value motorcycles as something to ride, rather than simply something to be seen riding, this is all good news. There is nothing extreme about the Gunner’s ergonomics or styling — it’s a down to Earth motorcycle of which The Gunny would undoubtedly approve, even without an endorsement deal.
Handling on the Gunner is quite good, with much of the credit going to the wheel and tire selection. Dunlop 491 Elite IIs, with hot-rod inspired raised white letters, mounted on cast aluminum wheels put tacky rubber to the road and provide reassuring feedback.
With a 130mm 16-inch tire up front, the front end is as planted as you would expect on a bike weighing 678 pounds wet, while the 140 16-inch rear gives the Gunner a balanced feel and little resistance to turning.
Styling considerations aside, fat tires work great on cruisers, regardless of your intentions. The high profile Dunlops are a godsend in town, sucking up potholes and other nasties on the often under-maintained streets of Los Angeles. You can change lanes on uneven pavement without worry, as the front tracks wherever you point it without protest.
Pumping out 110 ft/lbs of torque at its peak, the Freedom 106/6 is both torquey and rev-friendly. As The Gunny, once said, “I hate to hear ‘less is more.’ It’s a crock of crap.” Still, right off idle, Victory’s undersquare air-/oil-cooled, SOHC, 4vpc motor is not unruly; despite the large power production numbers, the engine is not an arm stretcher and will not wear you out around town.
The six transmission ratios are just right, and shifting is much improved over last year’s sometimes-vague gearbox. However, the gear position readout remains inconsistent, especially when the clutch is engaged or you are taking off in something other than 1st gear.
All told, this is simply a stupendous bike around town. Take it out for a few hours and when you get off to stretch your legs, you’ll find out that you didn’t really need to do that. The ergonomics on the Gunner are ideal for those who want to take in the town without frequent stops, and the 4.5-gallon tank means you can go a long way without a break.
The pulled back bars keep your spine happy, and the footpegs are forward enough for good legroom, without forcing you into an unnatural position. The counterbalanced motor has the nasty vibes under control, so your hands won’t feel beat up, and the bar controls are not unduly stiff.
Blacked out as it is, the Gunner is a stealth cruiser. You won’t get the sort of attention from passers-by that you will on a chromed out bike with a metal-flake tank. Instead, you cruise by unnoticed, taking in the surroundings without causing a commotion — though your dealer will offer you EPA-legal Victory Performance Stage 1 Straights if you don’t mind turning heads with a bit more of a growl.
Taking the Gunner into the canyons is a pleasant surprise, even with 32 degrees of rake. The suspension is taut, yet without a scent of harshness, which is quite a feat given the stingy three inches of rear wheel travel (though it is assisted by rising rate linkage). This makes the Gunner rock solid in turns, though not as set in its way as you might think.
If you like your line in a corner, you can keep it. The Dunlops track beautifully and predictably. However, when faced with an unexpected decreasing radius turn, the Gunner responds to a bit of muscle and will change lines with authority and security.
Cornering clearance is decent, though anyone who likes to lean will touch down here and there. Even after the peg feelers start scraping, rest assured that there is quite a bit more lean angle available before something unforgiving touches down.
In normal situations, we were satisfied with the 300mm rear disc and the 140mm rear Dunlop slowing things down. When you find yourself needing serious stopping, a fat front footprint is a good thing. There is a four-piston caliper grasping a single 300mm floating front rotor, and to extract strong deceleration, you will need a vice-like grip. A normal squeeze is much less effective, though it’s nice to know the extra braking is there in the front should you need it. There is no ABS, and we didn’t miss it in the dry.
It is fascinating to watch how many variations Victory can squeeze out of a platform. Fortunately, they have some creative designers who are up to the challenge, and it does help that they’re working with a great engine, well-designed frame, and quality suspension components — features common to all Victory motorcycles.
The question isn’t whether or not the 2015 Victory Gunner is a quality motorcycle. It has superb DNA, which gives the potential buyer a sense of security. When you look at the Victory line of cruisers, if you buy into the basic concept, it is more a matter of choosing a bike that suits your tastes and will best accommodate whatever requirements you bring to the showroom floor. Our expectation is that a motorcycle is enjoyable to ride, and the Gunner exceeds that by a wide margin.
- Helmet: Bell Pit Boss
- Eyewear: Wiley X Jake
- Jacket: Icon 1000 Chapter
- Gloves: Tour Master Gel Cruiser 2
- Pants: Icon Strongarm 2
- Boots: Chippewa Harnes
Photography by Kelly Callan
Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine. For subscription services, click here.