Victory Motorcycles, while still a relatively small manufacturer, has found a way to efficiently produce its cruiser line. All of its cruiser models utilize the same engine and the same basic chassis design, allowing the development costs to be amortized across many more units than if each bike were developed independently. While this is hardly unique among the OEMs (most break up their cruiser lines along displacement categories), what makes Victory different is that a single engine configuration is used for every bike they make. Additionally, the entire cruiser line (seven models) uses the same basic chassis.
With the same powerplant motivating all of its cruisers and the same basic chassis carrying both the rider and engine, what you’re getting with a particular Victory model is pretty much a known quantity, with only details like the rider’s triangle or the handling effects of different diameter or widths of tires being the primary factors in any qualitative differences in performance. So, after enjoying the recently released Gunner, I was intrigued by the opportunity to ride Victory’s other bobber, the Judge, to see if the Gunner’s touted improvements over the other cruiser models were fact or just marketing hype.
Introduced at the beginning of 2012 as an early release 2013 model, the Judge has gone through some small but noticeable changes for 2014. While some may say the changes merely homogenized the qualities that made the original Judge unique, the folks at Victory say that sales did not reflect the positive reviews by the moto-press. By replacing the Judge’s drag-style handlebar with a more traditional, slightly pulled back one, the Judge has increased its appeal to the average cruiser rider – at the loss of a little familiar differentiation.
In addition to the handlebar changes, the bottom of the rider triangle was also altered by moving the pegs four inches forward. Where last year’s pegs located the rider’s feet just behind the engine’s crankshaft, this year’s has them, as with almost all other Victory cruisers, slightly forward of the crank, giving a more expansive leg position. The most obvious visual change is the swapping of the rounded, number-plate-reminiscent side panels with ones that more closely follow Victory’s usual lines.
Since the same Freedom 106 engine is used in all Victorys, we already had a fairly good idea of how the Judge’s engine performs with this chassis. The easy-to-modulate clutch and ample bottom end make the stop-light shuffle a breeze. Out on the open road, power is always on tap. The response to the rider’s throttle inputs delivers well-metered results from the engine’s iconic black, 50-degree V-Twin and it’s claimed 110 ft-lb of torque. Vibration is minimal at most engine speeds. Our bike had one alteration from stock that should be noted: The 101 x 108mm cylinders and their four-valve heads exhaled through a pair of blacked-out Stage One Straights exhaust system.
The result of this modification is a throaty but not overly loud exhaust note and the type of well-sorted power delivery you’d expect from a factory performance upgrade. If you’re curious as to how the power delivery compared to its Gunner sibling, the exhaust brings the Judge’s performance close, but not quite to the level of the stock Gunner. This is most likely due to the fact that the Judge’s 16-inch aluminum wheels are a heavier five-spoke design, and the additional rotating mass blunts the performance a bit. The six-speed transmission has the typical Victory clunk of recent years, not the intriguing new slickness I noted on the Gunner.
The riding position is almost the same as the Gunner’s, with decent ground clearance allowing a reasonable level of corner-riding fun before the pegs start grinding. The upper body is in a good position to combat what wind blast isn’t mitigated by the rider’s position down in the bike (thanks to the 25.9-in. seat height).
When the time comes to slow down, the single 300mm floating disc with its four-piston caliper does a good job, but I can’t help but think that I’d prefer the additional stopping power offered by an additional disc. That said, the 64.8 inch wheelbase of the bike allows for a judicious use of the 300mm rear disc and its two-piston caliper for quick stops.
Since the Judge uses the same chassis and suspension, the handling is what you’d expect from a Victory cruiser. Steering inputs receive a quick response. The suspenders are on the firm side for cruisers but only exhibit some harshness over square-edged bumps. Those who want a little more ground clearance can opt for the one-inch taller accessory shock.
The Judge’s fit and finish is on par with Victory’s reputation. The Gloss Havasu Red has a pearlescence that must be seen to be appreciated. The depth of the sparkle changes radically from flat light on a cloudy day to sharp highlights on a sunny one. (The other color option is glossy black.) The rear fender has the same abbreviated length as the Gunner, though the front fender is a little larger while still appearing minimalist. As with the Gunner, this is the best that a OEM can do to create a bobber. If desired, the rest of the bobbing will have to be done by the buyer.
All-in-all, the 2014 Victory Judge retains most of what we liked about it last year while broadening the bike’s appeal with the new riding position. In the case of the Judge, $13,999 buys a sporty, good-looking premium cruiser with no frills and weighs in as a good bang for the buck.