2014 Victory 15th Anniversary Cross Country Tour Limited-Edition Review

A 5,000-mile test ride

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2014 Victory 15th Anniversary Cross Country Tour Limited-Edition

Editor Score: 80.5%
Engine 17.0/20
Suspension/Handling 12.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 7.5/10
Brakes 7.5/10
Instruments/Controls4.0/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.0/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 6.0/10
Overall Score80.5/100

We already knew Victory‘s Cross Country (and Cross Roads) were great bikes, comparing favorably with their big-inch cruiser rivals since their launch in 2009.

2011 Bagger Shootout: Victory Cross Country vs. Star Stratoliner Deluxe vs. Harley-Davidson Street Glide

But you never really know how good a touring bike is until you really get out on the road on it on your own, away from the manufacturer reps and seven-course repasts and down comforters every night. With a little downtime in my schedule due to yet another career realignment, it felt like a good time for a little moto-walkabout – a two-week, 5000-mile loop through Arkansas, up to visit the old homestead in Kansas City, out through Nebraska, then south through Colorado and home again to the OC.

2011 Victory Cross Country Review: Cory Ness Signature Edition

Both “Cross” bikes use the aluminum frame Victory first devised for its Vision in 2007, a great bike with styling that may have been a little ahead of its time for the traditionalist tastes of many buyers of this kind of motorcycle.

The original Vision Tour, a little too avant garde for most, carried its fuel tanks up front. The Cross Country uses the same basic aluminum frame.

The original Vision Tour, a little too avant garde for most, carried its fuel tanks up front. The Cross Country uses the same basic aluminum frame.

That aluminum backbone is a very solid platform that gives the Country a feeling of aircraft-level structural integrity when it’s time to make time. Together with 4.7 inches of air-adjustable suspension at the rear and an inverted cartridge fork up front, this traditionally styled touring bike serves up a highly contemporary ride at speeds its competition can’t really match. I didn’t get east of the Mississippi in the course of this little working vacation on the CC, but now that states like Texas and New Mexico and Arizona have 75-mph speed limits even on many two-lanes, this bike’s ability to shrink vast expanses is really appreciated.

US Route 60 through New Mexico will get you there in no time; 3500 rpm is a very happy place on the Cross Country Tour. I’d have to cut an inch off the bottom of the Klock Werks custom screen if it was my bike, to lower the distorted zone a bit. Otherwise all systems are go. Mileage can dip to 36 mpg battling headwinds at speed, but usually stays above 38. Go slower and enjoy around 41 mpg.

US Route 60 through New Mexico will get you there in no time; 3500 rpm is a very happy place on the Cross Country Tour. I’d have to cut an inch off the bottom of the Klock Werks custom screen if it was my bike, to lower the distorted zone a bit. Otherwise all systems are go. Mileage can dip to 36 mpg battling headwinds at speed, but usually stays above 38. Go slower and enjoy around 41 mpg.

That 1731cc (106 cubic inch) 50-degree V-Twin doesn’t disappoint. It’s not exactly a fire-breather, but then it is being asked to propel a bike that Victory says weighs 845 pounds – and that’s before you put 5.8 gallons of gas in the tank and start filling its massive saddlebags and trunk with ammonite fossils, bottles of wine, buffalo bones, your own middle-aged self, etc.

Early gearboxes were a little long of throw and clunky, but Victory tightened things up for 2011, and this latest model shifts as well as anything in its class, which I suppose is a backhanded way of saying it maintains just a little of the agricultural feel people expect. And maybe agricultural is a good thing; tractors are expected to last forever and do. Service-wise, the Victory’s four valves per cylinder use hydraulic lifters, which means maintenance mostly consists of an oil change every 5000 miles. At the end of my 5000-mile ride, the bike had used about one-half quart of the five its sump holds.

Springtime in Paris (Arkansas)

Springtime in Paris (Arkansas)

Here’s what went wrong: After a day-and-a-half of frog-strangling rain in Arkansas, the cruise control stopped working. No big deal in Arkansas, because I was on twisty two-lanes nearly all the time. But I knew the ride back west would be a carpal tunnel catastrophe without it. Luckily, when I got out from under the clouds and let the Missouri air blow-dry the unit for about half a day, the cc fixed itself. The control buttons do hang down in the weather, right below the right switchgear. A nice bead of silicone around the unit’s seams might not be a bad idea. Then again, the rain may have been a complete coincidence? Anyway, the cruise control has been working fine ever since.

The gas gauge is a good substitute for a nagging spouse. The needle goes to E and the light comes on when there’s still at least 1.5 gallons in the tank. No biggie; I rely on the tripmeter. The farthest I pushed it was 5.4 gallons and 205 miles. (Capacity is said to be 5.8.)

060414-2014-victory-cross-country-tour-arkansas2 134 (2)

About once a day, the left side cover would come loose and nudge the inside of my left knee. I’d stop and stick the front two pins back inside their rubber grommets. The rear grommet was missing. The cover would stay in place until the next least convenient time to come loose: Passing a truck while eating a banana. Banked over in a fast sweeper while wondering what happened to all the good XM stations? Have I got the economy package here on a $29,999 motorcycle? Maybe the fix is as easy as a new rubber grommet for the rear pin.

Baby Jesus was good to me on this trip nearly all the time. Temperature 76 degrees …

Baby Jesus was good to me on this trip nearly all the time. Temperature 76 degrees …

Sometimes, not all the time, the shifter doesn’t want to return to center after you’ve been cruising awhile and want to downshift from sixth. You need to monkey with it quite a bit to get down to the lower gears. Annoying.

Absolutely no one could have predicted this. Maybe don’t pack so many fossils and bottles of Arkansas port if you plan to ride in sand? Luckily, some Colorado grandmothers on Harleys were there to help me pick her up. Good crash bars limited damage to light scrapage on the left lowers.

Absolutely no one could have predicted this. Maybe don’t pack so many fossils and bottles of Arkansas port if you plan to ride in sand? Luckily, some Colorado grandmothers on Harleys were there to help me pick her up. Good crash bars limited damage to light scrapage on the left lowers.

The things the bike does well far outnumber those minor failings. Originally I was going to get a new BMW R1200RT for this trek, which would’ve been better in Arkansas and on a couple of mountain passes in Colorado, but for the other 4000 miles of mostly straight and not-so-narrow (and fast), you begin to comprehend why motorcycles that look like this one own the American highway. And off the American highway, I doubt the BMW would’ve gotten nearly as much love from passersby.

For 155-pound me, the Country’s just too large in parking lots and in tight quarters, but at least the seat’s really low, and once rolling and ensconced in its deep dish atop the bike’s 65.7-inch wheelbase, I may be starting to “get it” at last. Those long floorboards give you all kinds of seating options. Now and then you can stand on the passenger ones and do a Leonard Di Caprio “king of the world” full-body stretch out over the bow and let the breeze air out your Aerostich suit.

Your magnetic tank bag’s place atop the steel tank makes it easy to access snacks and your cocktail shaker on the fly – as well as your phone, which gets wired into the sound system and charged inside the left lower’s glovebox. The stereo’s great for listening to NPR when you’re parked and trying to clean all the nooks and crannies after a long ride. At speeds above 70, not so much – though you do get enough volume for a little background music.

Springtime in the Rockies: Red Mountain Pass on Highway 550 south of Ouray, temperature 35 degrees. Thank god for heated grips and seat.

Springtime in the Rockies: Red Mountain Pass on Highway 550 south of Ouray, temperature 35 degrees. Thank god for heated grips and seat.

You can also reach down and open the vents in the fairing lowers to let air in, as well as a pair of really clever winglets on either side of the main fairing’s lower edge which can either block or direct air right toward you.

At the end of the day (really 16 days and 5,464 miles), I have to say this is one sweet North American motorcycle. I did an 800-mile day and one 900-mile jaunt that lasted about 16 hours, and I actually felt okay at the end of both of them, mostly due to the sheer largeness of the thing that allows you to move around as much as upon your favorite couch, while the continent becomes your big screen TV.

Nice, warm, easy-to-read instruments complete with all the automotive-style fuel mileage readouts, range, etc. – which I use not at all. On my last day, I was comfy in my Aerostich suit from 35 to 102 degrees (after I removed an UnderArmour hoodie).

Nice, warm, easy-to-read instruments complete with all the automotive-style fuel mileage readouts, range, etc. – which I use not at all. On my last day, I was comfy in my Aerostich suit from 35 to 102 degrees (after I removed an UnderArmour hoodie).

So, $29,999 is a lot of money for this 15th Anniversary Limited Edition, complete with special paint and badging, billet wheels, chrome trim, GPS, etc. But the base model gives you all the essential ingredients, including cruise control, ABS and heated grips and seats, for fully $7500 less. And if you really want to flout convention, the original Victory Vision, still years ahead of its time, is even less expensive.

All of a sudden, I think these are all really underappreciated motorcycles. It should be really interesting to see what Victory comes up with now that Indian’s become Polaris’ “traditional” brand.

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  • rfeather

    I’ve just completed an 8,000+, four corner of the contiguous US ride on my Cross Country Tour, including the Iron Butt 50CC (two 16 hour back-to-back rides). The Tour is a great bike: I never worried that it would start, run well with no problems, or get me to the next destination in comfort and safety. My blog of the trip is located here: richfeather.blogspot.com.

  • http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/ Chris Cope

    I’m intrigued by your comment that the Victory Cross Country Tour “serves up a highly contemporary ride at speeds its competition can’t really match.” At present I ride a sport touring bike but really love the look of the Cross Country. I don’t have experience, though, with such bikes. Is it really the case that they struggle to cruise at high speeds? I live in Europe, where speed limits are aggressively ignored, so cruising at 85 mph is quite common. Would a Harley struggle to do that? It sounds like the Victory would be OK, according to this review. Is it fair to assume that it would not have trouble picking up to, oh, say, 100, should the need arise?

    • john burns

      I think the Victory cruises at that speed in a way more relaxed way than the typical Glide. 85ish was my default speed and the CC is completely relaxed and happy.

      • http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/ Chris Cope

        Thats good to know. Thanks!

    • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

      If you want to haul ass over great distances, get a BMW, The RT is a gem and spanks the crap out of the luxoboat vtwin tourers on the open road or the twisties. Even my archaic 2009 RT will cruise at 110 for as long as I don’t encounter any gendarmes.

      • Max Wellian

        RTs are great bikes. I’ve rented a couple of them. I also own a Victory. The RTs are faster, but I don’t have any trouble hanging with them on twisty roads on the Vic. The RTs are too tall for many people. Too tall for me really, especially with a passenger. I see the new ones have a lowered seat that looks promising, but they are all out of commission due to a shock recall. Vics are also simple and as low maintenance as an axe and they are much more impervious to cross winds than the RTs.
        My Cross Roads will run 100 mph without breaking a sweat and that’s faster than I’ll go with on a bike for more than a very short distance anyway. I enjoy maintaining my license and reasonable insurance rates. For those more adventurous, cams can be dropped in these things that will have them put out 130 hp and they don’t seem to stress the engine much.

        • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

          I keep my bikes stock, more reliable that way. I had a Nomad before the RT. Losing 250lbs made a big difference. I will agree that the RT has a bit more maintenance than I would like. It’s not a GTO bike, Gas, Tires, Oil. I did test ride an Ultra, Vision and Voyager before the RT and the one thing that stood out with the Vision was the brakes. Wooden and high effort. May be braided lines and HH compound pads would help. Read the LA Sheriffs test of authority bikes and it seems that the braking problem is for real. The Victory’s had the worst braking performance of all the bikes tested and the test riders commented that the brakes smelled like they were burning. That said, I am big and tall, 6’5 and over 300#. The Victory would be about the best cruiser for someone my size and if I was in the market for a touring cruiser it would be on the top of my list.

          • Max Wellian

            Yeah, Vic brakes are pretty wooden initially, but they break in and work a lot better with mileage. Either that or I just get more used to them. My bike has steel braided lines stock. I just bought a set of EBC HH pads to go on along with a new tire tomorrow. I’m anxious to see the difference.

          • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

            I have found that HH compound pads have a lot more bite. They are noisier though. The Vision I rode was a demo bike, so I would hope that it was broken in. The Vision reminds me of what the offspring of a Harley and BMW would look like. It was way ahead of HD at the time it came out, although HD has mostly caught up. I heard that Victory is coming out with an updated Vision. I wonder if that’s true? Here’s a link to the LASD motorcycle tests: http://shq.lasdnews.net/shq/vehicle_testing/2014_motorcycle.pdf

          • Max Wellian

            I don’t think Harley’s caught up, but they do have better brakes.

            They still fit even their top of the line tourers with crap damping rod forks and poor shocks. If you want a suspension comparable to a Victory’s. they have one, but it’s another $1k or so out of the catalog + labor.

            They also never fixed their frames properly and by all reports of people who ride them spiritedly, they still need a True-Track link to keep them from wobbling. I can ride my XR like a sport tourer and it don’t wobble.

            Vic has applied for water-cooling at the patent office, so I reckon that’s where they’re going next, leaving the air-cooled line to Indian to fight with Harley. I think it’s a shame as the Vic big twin is a great engine, reliable, and as low maintenance as a motorsickle gets.

            I looked over the specs of the new Vision in your PDF and didn’t see anything functional that has changed much if any. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

          • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

            Yeah, it’s all the news now. Victory has water cooling coming down the pike. I await to see what will be. It should be good.

          • Max Wellian

            I got my HH on and the feel was immediate even though they hadn’t even had a chance to bed in. Feel like my FJR’s brakes now. Surely, Vic could have put something like this on there to begin with, but maybe they are afraid such stopping power would spook a croozer owner or somethin? Anyway, the first time I got on them kinda hard, my first thought was how nice it would be to have ABS…

          • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese
          • Max Wellian

            The Victory “Commander” appears to be based on a Cross Country:

            http://victorypolicemotorcycles.com/commander1.html

          • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

            Yes they are.

          • Max Wellian

            The track times are very curious. Even disregarding the Vic, the California has 5° more lean angle on each side than the Harleys and got rave reviews from everyone about how sporty it is and it got beat by the Harleys as did the Vic.

            Methinks the testers are long time Harley riders and need a little more time to get the best out of the other machines.

          • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

            Actually, the BMWs beat all the american bikes if not all. That cop Nowlen seems to be the best rider. FWIW, the cops are probably BMW riders or were.

          • Max Wellian

            Yeah, they have 46° of lean angle compared to Harley’s 31° and Vic 33°. Actually, the 33° on the Vic is adequate to have a good time without grinding on all but the tightest roads. But on a track, the additional clearance not mention higher power to weight of the Beemer is going to give it a huge advantage.

          • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese
  • Kevin Butler

    I have a 2014 Street Glide Special I regularly cruise at 85 to 90 on y way to and from work. It will hit 100 mph in fourth gear

  • Kevin Polito

    I have ridden large V-twin cruisers for more than a decade and love the sound and feel and comfort, but it occurs to me that a 600-lb RT that gets 60 mpg and does everything as well or better makes more sense than an 800-lb cruiser that gets less than 40 mpg. I just need legs that are 4 inches longer to be able to ride an RT. Making the RT seat thinner and shortening its suspension would adversely affect both ride comfort and handling, so those aren’t useful suggestions.

    • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

      60MPG? Not for me. I get low 40s with my 2009. Of course it helps to have a 7.1 gallon tank. BTW, I came from a Nomad.

  • toomanycrayons

    I liked the frame picture. Whoa, wouldn’t that look great with a little chip saddle, and some wrapped pipes? After that, the added-plastic version just falls over in the sand for me. I’ve demo-dayed some BMW tourers. They felt like huge plastic sails in a crosswind. With Victory demos, I stayed with the Hammer S: Loved it! So, that’s what cruisers are (should be) all about? (So, they stopped making them.) I appreciate the conclusion that bikes like the Cross Country will get you there, but so will a car. I can’t wait ’til they invent them…

    • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

      Well, that’s one thing I concede to my Nomad. It’s 250lbs heavier than my RT and didn’t get upset by the wind. That’s about it though.

      • toomanycrayons

        I think the big advantage for the Nomad is that the wind can see through it. So far my favourite BMW is/was the R1200S (in Yellow). Yeah, they don’t make it anymore, either. There’s a theme here somewhere…

        • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

          BMWs aren’t what they used to be, that’s mostly bad, some good.

  • Oslo Norway

    John? Please tell me you didn’t lose at the dirt drags again to Grandma…

    • john burns

      these were some fast grandmothers, Oslo. One had GILF1 license plate on her Hog.

  • Kevin Polito

    I have ridden several of the Victory tourers (Vision, Cross Country, Cross Country Tour) and can’t fault them in any performance area — good power, good braking, good handling, good on bumpy, twisty roads (although there’s noticeable driveline slack, and the faired models fried my short legs). They just didn’t put a smile on my face. Some bikes have an indefinable quality that you connect with immediately, and some don’t. I rode an Indian Chieftain recently, and I immediately felt good on it, in addition to it having excellent performance.

    • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

      I found the braking higher effort and wooden on a Vision. Not as good as a HD and definitely not a BMW.