I've had the Victory V92C on test long enough to loosen up the initially very tight 92 cubic inch (or 1507cc in European money) engine. The motor works just as it should, without much of a top-end, but it pulls hard through the mid-range allowing me to sit back, relax, select top gear and fire it through the winding English lanes. There's some vibration from the big SOHC fuel injected motor but it doesn't intrude unless you try to wring every last bit of power out of the 50 degree V-Twin. At that point it'll buzz the bars enough to rattle your finger bones.
The gearbox has received some criticism here in Britain from testers used to the dainty prod that's needed to select a gear on any sportbike. In Britain the sportbikes rule and the cruisers have a long way to go until they're accepted as "real" bikes. However, I've ridden plenty of cruisers with a clunkier gear-change and didn't have any problems with the heel-and-toe shift on the V92C. Unfortunately, the same thing can't be said of the clutch that was heavy enough to make my fingers ache if I left it in gear at a stop light. Not only was it heavy but the cable operated clutch wasn't as progressive as you might expect on a modern bike. The action felt sticky, like the cable was dry or poorly routed and the "bite" could be rather sudden, something that might catch a less-experienced rider out in a parking lot turn-around.
The UK distributor, E.P.Barrus Ltd, had delivered the bike to my door, a nice touch. They're the only motorcycle distributor I know that does that over here! I jumped on the bike, rolled the big motor over with the electric starter and stomped it into gear. I got a shock as the clutch engaged the drive suddenly and the massive cruiser shot down my graveled drive, kicking up a pea-gravel rooster tail as I hung on. You get used to it, and easing the lever out to the friction zone while you wait for the lights to change helps, but it certainly needs looking at.
Once on the move everything is as you might expect from a big cruiser: Plenty of torque from that throbbing V-Twin and a sit back, arms up riding position. The screen, an option fitted to our test bike, helped deflect the wind and kept the ride comfortable. It also kept all those English bugs out of my teeth. It did add to the wind noise, but I wasn't being buffeted as much as I have been on some screen-equipped cruisers. Also, I liked the footboards; I can't see the point of making a cruiser with pegs and, unlike on the Harley's fitted with footboards, the brake pedal is positioned so you can still get your foot on the right hand board without a multitude of contortions.
Handling was as you might expect from a bike weighing 657lbs dry. And don't forget about the balloon tires; if you try to hustle it down a bumpy English road with any kind of corner speed and the back end gyrates like a disco-dancers ass. I found that the best plan was to haul the bike down using the Brembo stoppers going into a bend, then get on the gas as early as possible and drive the beast through the turn smoothly. This tightened up the back end and kept things pretty stable. Back off in a turn while carrying corner speed and the bike would wobble again.
Surprisingly, for a bike of this size, the V92C actually steered quickly. In traffic or back out in the bends, the bike could be turned with just a pull on those wide handlebars, allowing you to sweep through the tighter and slower turns with relative ease. The front brake, while reasonably powerful, took a good squeeze of the massive lever to get real braking effort. The best stopping power came from using the rear disc in unison with the front, as the rear pedal gave good stopping power without locking the 160-section rear tire.
Back in town, the Victory was turning heads and dropping jaws, but I got the impression most people thought it was a Harley. One old guy, who stopped to admire it in a gas station, asked if it was made in England! It'll take a while to educate the British public that there's a new American on the block. The test bike was equipped with a pair of leather saddle bags that are useful for stashing the trappings of the bike journo's job like a camera and a lunchbox for those long photo sessions. They were also handy for stashing the very necessary waterproofs; Britain has been an even wetter wet place than usual in 2000. Luckily the sun came out when I took the bike to a quaint English village to roll off a few snaps, so that blue sky background hasn't been drawn in on the computer -- it's real!
The equipment includes a big speedo with a small tach mounted in the same dial. There's also
a useful digital readout that, with the help of a toggle switch on the right switch cluster, scrolls through odometer, trip meter, clock, fuel gauge and even features a dimmer switch for the clock's illumination. The rest of the switch gear is just as you might find on any other bike nowadays;except a Harley or BMW, of course, where things are still different.
The saddle was wide, supportive and very comfortable; useful on a cruiser where most of your weight is carried on your butt. Also ergonomically friendly, the Victory's engine manages without one of those side-mounted and giant chrome air-cleaner covers that I always find parked just where my knee should be.
I've enjoyed my spell with the Victory and it made a pleasant change from racing around at warp speed on our long-term Triumph TT600. Throughout the entire period of time i had the Victory, I didn't take the Triumph out once. I slipped into a cruiser groove and just couldn't be bothered to climb into full-race leathers and dodge tractors and police speed-traps on the Triumph.
It's been a while since I rode a Harley so I don't really want to stick my neck out to compare the two American brands. Although the Harley's got a long history and a badge that's hard to beat for street credibility, even in Lincolnshire, a long way from Milwaukee. If you want to be different but still ride American, it's the only practical choice available in Britain. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Victory brand carrying off a few of those Harley sales.