2014 Victory Ness Cross Country Limited-Edition Review

What's in a name, anyway?

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2014 Victory Ness Cross Country Limited-Edition

Editor Score: 82%
Engine 18/20
Suspension/Handling 13/15
Transmission/Clutch 8/10
Brakes 8/10
Instruments/Controls4/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9/10
Appearance/Quality 9/10
Desirability 7/10
Value 6/10
Overall Score82/100

Forget Carnegie Hall; the best way to Sturgis is to ride, ride, ride.

To make sure we got that message loud and clear, Victory Motorcycles invited a select few moto-journalists to take the long way to the World’s Largest Motorcycle Rally this past summer. Quality backroads, beautiful scenery and a rockin’ good time was promised, and a slew of Victory touring bikes were conscripted as chariots, including a Vision or two and several Cross Countrys.

Our meandering route took us north and east out of Boise across the Sawtooth Mountains to Butte, Montana (and its trippy time-capsule gem the Hotel Finlen). We traversed Yellowstone National Park, just missing rodeo night but barely making Last Call in Cody, Wyoming, before an exhilarating run up the Western slope of the Bighorn Mountains. From there it was a long, lonely jaunt through cornfields, a gawk-stop at Devil’s Tower and a short stretch of superslab that brought us to Sturgis, and the reveal of the new Indian Chiefs.

2014 Victory Ness Cross Country-Limited Edition Highway Action

Purple mountains’ majesty? Check. Amber waves of grain? Double-check. I’ll tell you whut: we were a glorious, thundering herd, charging headlong through Big Sky Country with days and miles to burn. Damn, if we didn’t flog that slippery sumbitch Fun into submission.

But hey, this is work. My presence on the Victory ride was not only to get to the Rally and the Reveal, but to evaluate one of the company’s 2014 touring bikes, with their signature 106-inch Freedom V-Twin engines, killer stereos, massive floorboards, copious cargo space and standard antilock brakes.

Now, everyone knows motorcyclists hate to backtrack. Because we reviewed a CC Tour back in 2011, and because the newcomers to Victory’s MY14 lineup, the 8-Ball versions of the Cross Country and Cross Roads, weren’t around, I chose the Limited-Edition Ness Cross Country for this evaluation.

2014 Victory Ness Cross Country-Limited Edition Action Right

Granted, it’s not a “Cross Country Tour,” but the only real difference is the standard CC foregoes the top case. And the Ness Limited-Edition is smokin’ hot.

Since Arlen Ness first applied his signature touches to a Vegas in 2004, the First Family of Fabrication has collaborated with Victory on a Ness Signature Series each year. Cory soon followed his dad’s lead, and it wasn’t long before Cory’s son Zach got the itch and started contributing his distinctive vision to the line. For the last few model years, each Ness has customized a limited-edition Victory as part of the series – with sexy results.

As we reported in July, the Ness family scaled back its Victory collaboration for 2014. A septuagenarian who’s been building and customizing motorcycles for nearly 50 years, Arlen is an icon who’s earned the right to do whatever the hell he wants and has settled nicely into his role as Grandfather of motorcycle fabrication.

Meanwhile, grandson and budding reality TV star Zach is busy working on his show on Nat Geo called “Let It Ride.” The 2014 scale-back was also an effort to put individual customization back in the hands of the consumer.

“We wanted to offer one bike at a more attractive price point where the owner can add Ness and Victory accessories on his own,” Cory told Motorcycle.com. The Victory website lists a whole host of available accessories, including 34 Arlen Ness products from mirrors and grips to covers and gas caps to pulleys and engine covers.

2014 Victory Ness Cross Country-Limited Edition Action Overhead

The Limited-Edition Cross Country rides alone in this year’s Victory/Ness lineup.

All of these reasons contributed to the Ness family’s decision to, rather than produce their traditional “Signature Series,” pool their talents into this one limited-edition Cross Country for 2014.

Just as no one who’s familiar with the history of custom motorcycles would ever question Arlen Ness’ expertise when it comes to American V-Twin cruisers, no cruising or touring enthusiast who’s ridden one would ever doubt the excellence of the Victory Cross Country. Since their introduction in MY2010, the CC and its non-faired brother the Cross Roads have been universally lauded as top-notch baggers, and they’ve been Victory’s top-selling models from day one.

Want proof? Shortly after its debut we ran a Cross Country up against Harley’s Road Glide, and gave the nod to the upstart “New American Motorcycle Company.” The following year we held a Bagger Shootout, we compared the Cross Country to a Street Glide and a Star Stratoliner Deluxe – and the Victory came up victorious again. The 2014 Cross Country is essentially the same bagger that won those shootouts and earned those raves, save for different skin.

Continuing the theme, enhancements to the 2014 Ness Limited-Edition are purely cosmetic, unless you consider a stitched gunfighter-style seat a comfort upgrade. Featuring “Havasu Red” Ness Legacy paint with sharp black tribal-esque graphics outlined in white, it differs from the standard CC because of a tinted boomerang shorty windshield, matte black fork uppers and highway bars, black engine with contrasting chrome heads and shimmering diamond-cut cooling fins, that exclusive seat, an engine-mounted number plate and an autographed Ness family photo.

2014 Victory Ness Cross Country-Limited Edition Cockpit

Like all Cross Countrys, the Ness Limited-Edition boasts standard creature comforts like cruise control, non-linked ABS and an excellent audio system with iPod hook-up and intuitive fingertip controls. The system on this bike is further enhanced via high-quality Kicker speakers for superior output and quality.

If the Cross Country rivals the Harley Street Glide, then this Ness Limited-Edition sort of goes after the new Street Glide Special, which starts at a comparable $22,499. (“Sort of,” because with a limited production run of only 500 it could never seriously challenge the King of Baggers). Now, in this currently bagger-crazed industry, the base Street Glide is, by far, the top-selling H-D in the world, and its Special brother takes the bagger king even further up the throne with enhanced suspension and the larger-screen, voice-activated BOOM!Box “infotainment” system that includes GPS.

Fact is, the full-color BOOM! Box system leaves the Victory’s (and most other baggers’) dash-mounted entertainment consoles as outmoded as a VHS player at Best Buy. Considering that A) the Indians are now out and proud, B) even Star has an integrated dash-mounted GPS on its V-Star Deluxe that we fully expect in the Stratoliner Deluxe very shortly, and C) Harley has pushed the “infotainment” bar ever higher, we hope Polaris refocuses its substantial energies back onto its Victory brand. And this entertainment console would be an excellent place to start.

In our opinion it’s the only place to begin, because in every other facet the Cross Country and, by proxy, this Ness Limited-Edition are among the finest baggers in the segment. The Ness CC makes no mechanical upgrades to the Freedom V-Twin, but this motor doesn’t need them. Performance-wise, it might not be able to compete with the Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111, but the vibrant Victory Vee is faster and more powerful than Harley’s Twin Cam. A dyno run during our 2010 Bagger Blowout showed the 106-inch Freedom making nearly 12 more ponies than the 103-inch. Harley. (Both engines lost handily, however, to Star’s 1854cc V-Twin – the same mill found in the aforementioned Stratoliner Deluxe as well as the Roadliner of our recent World Cruiser Shootout.) Still, the diamond-cut cooling fins and chrome heads sure make the mill of the Ness Edition pop, visually.

2014 Victory Ness Cross Country-Limited Edition Action Left

Before you make the same mistake I did and wonder aloud about the bike’s lack of custom wheels and exhaust, consider for a moment the Limited-Edition’s healthy $22,999 MSRP and how much higher it would likely be if this bagger sported a pair of custom rims and aftermarket pipes.

When it comes to handling, the Cross Country is as nimble as you’d expect from a full-sized bagger, and can hold its own with any bike in the genre – saving, perhaps the new Indian Chieftain (we really can’t wait to test that bagger against its competition!). Its only deficiency is some slow-speed awkwardness due to a center of gravity higher than a Street Glide. During our Sturgis run, the Ness Cross Country’s maneuverability made it a canyon-carver’s dream, especially as compared to the Visions and Cross Country Tours we had at our disposal, and we eventually all had to agree to take turns aboard it.

2014 Victory Ness Cross Country-Limited Edition Blue Action Right

The Victory ride to Sturgis through Big Sky Country also provided an opportunity to ride the 2014 Cross Country Tour, with its top case and touring windshield. In 2012 we lauded the bike’s successful transition from a streetwise bagger to an interstate king, and I echo that praise and his lament that the high, 20.5-inch windshield isn’t adjustable. As compared to the Ness model, in curves and through small towns I felt every ounce of the 85 pounds the top case adds to the Tour’s curb weight.

For distance riding, the Cross Country is as comfortable of any bagger in its class, and that includes the new Honda Gold Wing F6B, another bagger I’ve been fortunate enough to review. The rider triangle is amenable for riders of all sizes, thanks mainly to the largest floorboards in the class. The CC boasts about 5 inches of suspension travel both front and rear, and has excellent cornering clearance.

2014 Victory Ness Cross Country-Limited Edition Action Front

One advantage of this Ness version is that the Cross Country’s shorty windshield, too diminutive to make any discernible comfort difference on the highway, acquiesces to its form rather than its inadequate function, and is sexily smoked.

My August ride to Sturgis provided what I felt was a unique perspective to review a healthy sampling range of brand-new 2014 baggers. And after five days of tooling these Victorys around Big Sky Country, I spent the next few days riding the new Indians around the Black Hills. Two weeks later, I was in Denver for the launch of Harley-Davidson’s 2014 touring motorcycles and their “Project Rushmore” refinements.

If my evaluation of the Twin Cam 103’s performance seemed less than complimentary coming from an unabashed fan of the Motor Company, it’s fair to note that A) we tested the Harleys at more than a mile above sea level, and B) I’d just gotten off similar bikes that featured larger engines, both of which performed with no noticeable drop in power up and down darn near every peak from Idaho to South Dakota.

The new Indians may be media darlings and Harley-Davidson is king, but don’t underestimate the power of a Victory. While it’s admittedly pricey, the 2014 Ness Limited-Edition Cross Country holds onto all of the excellent attributes that make its namesake such a successful model.

At a full four thousand dollars more, though, is it worth the extra money? It’s a hot-looking bagger, to be sure, and for some owners it may be worth that extra money to be part of an exclusive, limited production club of just 500 bikes. I guess the answer depends on how much “extra money” you’ve got laying around.

+ Highs

  • All the great qualities of its namesake
  • 5.8-gallon fuel tank
  • Gorgeous paint
- Sighs

  • Without engine, wheel or exhaust upgrades, $4K price bump hard to justify
  • Audio console outmoded
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  • Max Wellian

    Suspension/Handling 8/15 ???

    You noted it is as comfortable as anything in the class, has class leading travel, has outstanding cornering clearance and is a canyon carver’s dream and then you give it a failing grade. WTF?

    • Jonny Langston

      That’s an error, Max – i gave it an 8/10. We’ll get that fixed ASAP.

  • Jonny Langston

    That’s an error, Max – i gave it an 8/10. We’ll get that fixed ASAP.

  • Nedemeyer Muldoon

    wow..those are the 2 ugliest color schemes I’ve seen on a bike in some time.

    • Max Wellian

      Gaudy is the calling card of the Ness stuff.

      • H.R. Paul

        unique would be my word of description…this is why Baskin and Robbins has 31 flavors of ice cream :)

  • Bmwclay

    Was there ever a 1932 Victory? How about a 1948 Star? Finally, we get a chance to buy a true Indian, made in America with more stock power than any bagger or cruiser for less money than a blinged up Harley. Our first ride on a new 2014 Indian will be the story we will tell our great grandkids in 50 years…………not Victory or Star or god forbid, even Harley.
    I know where my money is going. Guess I.m going hafta change my posting name.

    • disqus_n1PKrzRRDY

      Yeah … it’s not like Polaris is going to use the 15 years of market experience invested in their Victory brand to revive the historical Indian brand name … since they own both. No doubt, it will be great to have the Indian name available again, but how much are the two brands going to remain truly distinct or not share and borrow tech ?

      • H.R. Paul

        the answer is very distinct…

    • Strat19

      Bmwclay, if you think the Indian has more power than any bagger or cruiser out there think again. The first dyno sheet posted by a mag shows a whopping … 73 HP! and 100Lb/ft.. my Stratoliner is dyno proven 89.5 and 112.4 stock, But i do love the look of the Indian Bagger….

      • H.R. Paul

        I have a Strat S. too…slick…how’s this for a thought? The Stratoliner from Star (Yamaha) was introduced in 2005 and has not changed once since then. It was and continues to be a class leading product. It has only increased in price $2000.00 in 9 years, and this is the fully loaded bells and whistles product. But if you want to talk pure motor…1885 CC’s air cooled twin that is very quick for 700+ pounds, it still remains to be the biggest and fastest motor in production for this twin class, and AGAIN, it was brought out in 2005. What product in the cruiser group from any part of the planet has accomplished this. If you don’t like the Strat, and you want a powercruiser, buy the Warrior edition, same honking motor, slightly regeared to make you pay attention when you roll on the throttle, check either model, if you come away unimpressed, and truly have given it a clear, unbiased test, I would personally want to know what your feeling are.

  • H.R. Paul

    Did anyone bother to read the article. Harley has a big problem they haven’t had since maybe the 1940′s. Besides all the fine built built Japanese machinery that has been available for some time, there are two serious players right here in the states they have to contend with. Victory and Indian, both owned by Polaris ( which by the way is in a much better financial situation than HD because of it’s cash reserves and a much better managing group that HD is sorely lacking). Harley is introducing seven new platforms this year in a miserable economy on a somewhat shaky financial situation, tough for any company to weather. Two of their top tourers have liquid cooling, finally.

    But the biggest issue is, Victory and Indian brought their “A” Game….it will be interesting to see what the 2014 season brings…

    • Max Wellian

      Harley makes a fine bike. And this year they’ve made it better than ever. I’ve read a little about them and cheap bearings seem to be at the base of their problems. They fix that, they are still hard to beat. Vic still has them by a little on handling and power, but Harley has the paint, fit and finish, and panache.

      I’ve ridden sport and ST bikes for decades, but now I love my Vic. Harley makes a nice bagger now too though.

    • Kevin

      I agree with your evaluation as far as it goes, but Harley, Polaris, Triumph, and the Asian bike builders have a new and not insignificant problem in the Italians bringing real technology to cruisers.

      • H.R. Paul

        Totally agree Kevin. Never my intent to exclude the European product. Your evaluation is spot on. Moto Guzzi just received the Moty award for cruiser of the year. 2014 is going to be a plethora of choices for quality machinery, both here and abroad, in a very tricky economy.

  • Auphliam

    I’ve got to question the claimed weight of the trunk (85lbs ?). I own a Cross Country Tour and have taken the trunk off several times. While it is a bit ungainly to try and carry, I doubt it weighs much more than 40 pounds…either that or I’m alot stronger than I thought I was.

    Victory makes great bikes. I wish more people would actually ride them instead of waiting for any chance to post on any press release with “Arlen Ness is an idiot” type comments. If you don’t like Ness style, buy black…its the fastest color anyway :)

    • Jonny Langston

      Maybe it’s the hardware? The straight CC weighs 85 lbs less than the Tour, and the Ness CC weighs the same as the straight.
      Aside from the trunk & the windscreen, the Tour & the straight are the same bike.

      • Auphliam

        The Tour has Hard Lowers too. Maybe that’s where the extra pounds reside.

        • Jonny Langston

          Ahh yes, that’s true. But those shouldn’t- I don’t think- affect the handling as much as all that weight sitting up behind you. I could REALLY feel the diff…

          • Auphliam

            Yeah, I doubt they have nearly the effect the trunk does, if any. It’s the main reason I keep mine (trunk) off, save for when its absolutely needed. You can definitely feel it back there.

          • Kevin

            It is the worst possible place to put weight IMHO, and it is made worse by carrying anything in it, which in making a trip from Boise to Sturgis I am speculating you did. Does that account for feeling about 85lbs heavier? You ride many more bikes than I, but my limited experience indicates that aero resistance can make a bike feel heavier too, the Tour offers a lot more resistance than the straight or the Ness and you rode in a part of the country where the wind always seems to be blowing at a good clip,(I just made the trip from Delaware to Washington state again at the end of last/beginning of this month) so you probably had a good chance to evaluate how the aero affects the bikes. Like to hear your thoughts on it, and by the way your comment of the seamless operation of the active brakes on the new H-D proved to be spot on in my test ride. Wanting to replace my bike with something new this Spring but 2014 is proving to be a tough year to sift through all the new and improved options.

          • Jonny Langston

            Of course, we were fully loaded. I’m sure that made itself apparent. Didn’t notice the wind effect.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Really like the Vic Cross Country. Not necessarily the Ness version – too cheap and not extroverted enough for such a ride, but the bike itself is pretty sweet indeed. I do not have a bagger now as I still have a pulse and ride an FZ1, but I could see a CC as my next stop on my personal highway to geezerville…