The great American West never suffers fools. When you look at the harsh conditions faced by the hardy souls who set out to claim their fortune in California’s Mojave Desert, the stakes get even higher. Do a little research, and you’ll discover an impressive number of hamlets were born, sometimes prospered, sometimes didn’t, then died – often in dog years. Most have disappeared without a trace. A few still have bits of their remains visible in the arid landscape. Still others hang on in a semi-zombie state between self-sustaining life and their final desiccation plotted by the patient desert.

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Naturally, when the subject of human folly in the unforgiving wilds of the American Southwest comes up, your favorite MOrons, the Motorcycle.com staff, know that we’ll fit right in. (Don’t believe me? Remember this adventure?) So, we gathered a set of four baggers with fork-mounted fairings, packed up fresh undies and socks, then set out to visit a selection of California ghost/zombie towns east of our Los Angeles base.

2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Vs. Indian Chieftain – Video

Other than my curiosity about foolhardiness, our primary reason for taking this ride was to see if the changes in Bagger Land had shuffled the pecking order. For 2017, Moto Guzzi has introduced the newest member of the club, the MGX–21 Flying Fortress. Harley-Davidson has created the Milwaukee Eight engine for its touring line, which includes the Street Glide included here. Indian’s squeaker of a win by the Chieftain in the last shootout between the two could change since the bike remains mechanically unmodified, gaining only non-functional styling elements for the Dark Horse designation. Finally, does the unchanged Victory entry in the class, the Magnum, still have the chops to hang with this crowd?

There’s only one way to find out. We are heading out of town!

Baggers Brawl Indian beauty

Los Angeles, CA to California City, CA

Nat Mendelsohn, a real estate developer and sociology professor, had big dreams for California City. In 1958, he purchased 80,000 acres of land in the Mojave Desert to create a city that could eventually be a peer to Los Angeles which is 100 miles to the south. Incorporated in 1965 and structured around a Central Park which featured a 26-acre artificial lake, Mendelsohn’s master-planned city never grew the way he had hoped. Although California City grew from 3,200 residents in 1985 to more than 14,000 by 2009, thanks to the closeness of Edwards Air Force Base, large sections of California City remain empty save for the decaying paved roads – or dirt ones, like the one shown above – laid out in the familiar urban grid in the desert emptiness. Still, despite the lack of its hoped-for growth, California City remains the third largest city by geography in California.

2017 Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress First Ride Review

When we needed to define this category of motorcycles for this shootout, we selected two required features: Hard bags and fork-mounted fairings. In the case of the fairings, the first few hours of our trip were spent on divided highways with the cruise controls set for maximum pavement consumption, giving our quartet of MO saddle-jockeys a pretty good idea of what the next two days would be like. While rider height – or more specifically, rider torso length – plays a role in how the wind flowing over fairings interacts with the human in the saddle, the experience is even more pronounced with batwing-style fairings. During our initial stints on the bikes, the shorter riders noted more buffeting at elevated cruising speeds.

Baggers Brawl Indian details

The Chieftain Dark Horse has the only adjustable windscreen in this group.

Since both Burns and Troy share roughly the same height, their notes were quite similar with Troy’s going something like this: “I got wind buffeting at high speeds on all four bikes. The adjustable screen of the Indian didn’t make a difference.” While Tom Roderick and myself both experienced buffeting with these bikes, the intensity was lower for both of us. The good news is that optional windscreens are available from each factory for all of them.

The Moto Guzzi offers the least weather protection of the bunch. While taking the pressure off of the rider’s upper body, the fairing was clearly designed to flow a lot of air to the rider. When the temperature is high, this feature is much appreciated. However, cold weather makes the Guzzi’s airflow much less popular.

Baggers Brawl Moto Guzzi details

The MGX-21’s shapely fairing flows plenty of cooling air in both warm and cold weather.

All of the riders noted that, while the Guzzi flowed the most air, it also delivered the least buffeting to our noggins. Burns notes, “For me, the MG’s double-bubble windscreen provided the smoothest airflow, and when it comes to cruising along at 80 mph, its 90-degree Vee smooth-cruise rhythm is right up there.” Seasonally-Impaired Editor Siahaan concurs, ”The airflow off the front fairing and shaped screen is nice, but not if you’re under-layered on a cold ride.”

2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide First Ride Review

2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse First Ride Review

Harley’s OG bagger, the Street Glide, was perfectly fine for me up to speeds that common sense dictates I not mention. However, there were differing opinions. “I really like just about everything about the Street Glide except the height of the windscreen,” espoused Burns. “I tried to ride around on it in an open-face helmet and cool shades in the classic manner, but at any speed above 40, it jiggled my cool shades around so vigorously the road looked like WW2 aerial combat footage. It’s not so bad with a full-face with the shield closed, but that kind of defeats the concept.”

“The shorty windscreens on all these bikes impose some wind buffeting,” notes Tom, “but the Indian is the only bike here with an electronically adjustable windscreen and the ability to lessen or increase helmet buffeting to personal preferences.” Troy also noted the Indian’s adjustable windscreen as a nice feature, “But I imagine it’s even more so if you’re taller than I am and can exploit it further.”

For my body size, I experienced some mild turbulence with the windshield in its highest position that came with the increased pocket of still air I desired in colder temperatures. In the lowest position, my helmet benefitted from a greater cooling airflow and less chop.

Baggers Brawl Harley action

On all the bikes, taller riders fared better in regard to helmet buffeting.

On the Victory, I noted some mild buffeting at highway speeds that really only became bothersome at speeds above 85 mph. The rest of the time, it felt like a good combination of airflow and weather protection. Again, optional windshields are available to suit riders of various sizes.

2015 Victory Magnum Review

When it comes to carrying capacity, these baggers have a variance of 26 gallons between the largest and the smallest. The Magnum checks in with a whopping 41.6 gallons of combined capacity between its two bags, and for this reason alone, I snapped up the Magnum. With the help of several layers of foam, I turned the left saddlebag into my camera bag.

The Chieftain placed second with a 34.4 gal. total for its pair of bags, which also score bonus points for having push-button unlocking capability when the wireless key fob is within range. However, our Indian test unit then lost points for having the secondary unlock button on the fuel tank stop working. For most riders, this wouldn’t be a problem. They’d have the key in their pocket. However, with our constant bike rotation, we keep wireless fobs in the saddlebag while riding. Otherwise, we risk stranding the poor sod who was not given the fob from the previous rider. If the section of road this exchange takes place on is particularly nice, it may be quite a while before we notice that we are one bike short in the mirrors. So, for our trip home, we could ride the Chieftain, but we (well, Troy in this case) couldn’t access any of the gear in the saddlebags. Back at home a locksmith was able to open the problem bag – only that didn’t make Trizzle’s  ride home the night before any warmer.

Baggers Brawl Indian details

Having extra layers with him for the chilly ride home did Troy absolutely no good when the electric lock button broke with the key fob locked inside the bag.

The Street Glide checks in with 32 gallons of combined capacity and absolutely no drama when accessing their contents. The MGX–21 came in a distant fourth with less than half the capacity of all the other bikes. The culprit in the Guzzi’s 15.4 total gallons of capacity is the bag shape, which tapers quite stylishly towards the rear of the motorcycle. Critiques of the size aside, the MGX’s bags close with multiple attachment points for the side opening, making sure the bags are watertight.

After this section of our ride, the MO Scorecard lists the Street Glide on top with an 89.4% in the luggage category, with the Magnum finishing second with an 81.1%. Despite the Victory’s large volume, the Harley’s easy-to-operate latches helped it to win here. We’ll get to the wind/weather protection scores later.

Baggers Brawl Victory beauty

California City, CA to Keeler, CA

The birth and ongoing death of Keeler is inexorably tied to that of Owens Lake. Although much of Keeler’s history is the result of the boom and bust of the mining industry, an earthquake in 1872 helped to drive the town’s early growth by lifting the lakebed in a nearby town requiring that a new dock be built in Hawley. The town would later be renamed Keeler after Julius M. Keeler, who owned the mill that processed the ore for the Owens Lake Mining and Milling Company and designed the town which would support the mill. A small-gauge rail line reached Keeler in 1883 and allowed the town to ride the boom-and-bust waves of silver, lead, zinc, and limestone which finally ceased in the 1950s. However, it was Owens Lake that terminally wounded Keeler. Los Angeles’ thirst siphoned away the water of Owens Lake in the 1920s, leaving behind an alkali dust storm breeding ground, the offspring of which frequently traced a path through Keeler, making many residents choose to leave. Although the town still has a U.S. Post Office, the population has remained at just 66 in the last two censuses.

As the four-lane divided highway narrowed down to two lanes which required that we hustle by cars we wanted to pass, we began to focus on the engines. All four of our V-Twins were quite comfortable in high-velocity cruise mode, delivering pleasant sensations to all our contact points with the machines as we churned through the miles. From a powerplant perspective, we wouldn’t hesitate to straddle any one of these mounts for a transcontinental tour.

Baggers Brawl Harley action

With the new Milwaukee Eight engine, Harley has refined the Street Glide’s engine manners at the same time it improved the power. “The new engine has way more power than the old one,” Burns wrote, “Hitting Resume on the cruise control gets you easily and smoothly back up to 80 after you have to slow down.” Burns also goes on to note that the Street Glide has ”a really reassuring pleasant 3500-rpm drone at 80 mph.” Troy continues the love but with a dose of reality: “The new Milwaukee Eight engine is pretty nice. Smooth, robust power down low with a decent midrange punch if you want it. Didn’t fare very well in our top gear roll-ons, but if you want a drag racer, look somewhere else.”

One engine feature that Tom was happy about had nothing to do with the Milwaukee Eight upgrades. “When it comes to baggers, I like having a heel/toe shifter,” he said, “The Harley is the only bike here that comes equipped with one.” Troy, on the other hand, respectfully disagreed, saying that it cramped his foot on the floorboard.

Baggers Brawl Moto Guzzi action

The MGX-21 may have had the smallest engine, but it walloped the other bikes in top-gear roll-on contests.

The other new kid, the MGX–21, doesn’t have a new engine, but Tom summed it up as being “easily the fastest bike here with an engine that spins up and revs more like a sportbike than a cruiser.” The love was universal. “Despite giving up 300-odd cc to the others, the Guzzi killed the others in top gear roll-ons,” Troy noted. Burns best sums up how, from the moment the throttle was cranked open in top gear roll-ons, the 90° V-Twin pulls away from the others: ”My favorite engine by far; it produces a major torque wallop at about 4k rpm that closes the gap with whatever bike it’s behind with one quick thwarp of the throttle.” Several of the testers also praised the MGX for its “sportbike-like transmission,” too.

121316-Baggers-Brawl-Shootout-hp-dyno

While the Harley and Indian have almost identical horsepower curves, the Victory just keeps on building power. Exploiting its higher revving engine, the Moto Guzzi builds horsepower in the top end.

The Indian has the next newest engine and received glowing reviews with one Burnsian outlier. “The Indian is plenty torquey, but it’s really low-revving blatty nature makes it my least favorite of these four. It also puts out the most heat, which wasn’t a problem at all in the perfect weather we had for these two days, but it can be a problem in Wisconsin in July.”

121316-Baggers-Brawl-Shootout-torque-dyno

Again, the Harley and Indian perform like brothers from another mother with ample torque from the bottom of the rpm range. As with horsepower, the Victory builds to a peak later in the rev range. Since torque is a function of displacement, the Moto Guzzi shows its disadvantage here. Still, its curve is remarkably flat.

However, Troy shows that one man’s blatt is…well…let Troy tell us: “The Indian has a really sweet exhaust growl. More pleasing to my ear than the Harley’s, even.” (Remember, Harley made a big deal about how the new, quieter Eight allowed for more volume from the exhaust.) My opinion of the Indian’s engine is pretty closely aligned with Tom, who gushed that “the engine performance, sound, and clutch engagement are, dare I say, cruiser perfect.”

Baggers Brawl Indian details

Half our testers judged the Indian’s motor as almost perfect for a cruiser.

First introduced in the 2008 Victory Vision and moved to the entire Victory line in 2011, the Freedom 106 engine is beginning to show its age. That’s not to say it isn’t fun. Where it lacks the instant power delivery of the newer engines, it grunts it out in the end. Just listen to Burnsie: “The old 106 maybe doesn’t have the instant torque of the others, which shows in our little roll-on tests, but once it’s rolling, its easy free-revving nature and great gearbox is perfectly satisfactory.” Troy goes into a little more detail saying, ”In the top-gear roll-on I did with Tom on the HD, we were neck and neck at first, the Victory eventually edging away the closer we got to redline.”

If we had to point to one feature of the Freedom 106 engine that illustrates its age, we’d go straight to the cable-operated throttle. While this itself isn’t a terrible thing, riders will experience the throttle grip rotating in their hand as the cruise control modulates the Magnum’s speed. Also, the technology that allows ride-by-wire also enables things like traction control to be implemented. (To those who say cruisers don’t need TC, I suggest they go ride a Big Twin in the rain on a Las Vegas freeway during peak traffic and try to modulate the power transfer from the rear tire to the oil-soaked, wet pavement.)

The Moto Guzzi easily wins the powerplant scores with a 94.4% for the engine and a 90.0% score for the transmission/clutch category. The Harley and Indian tied with engine scores of 88.8% while the Chieftain held a solo 85.0% second place for transmission/clutch.

Baggers Brawl Moto Guzzi beauty

Keeler, CA to Darwin, CA

Around 1874, the settlement of what would soon be Darwin was established and named for early explorer and prospector, Dr. Darwin French. Fueled by the booms that accompanied the mining rushes of the era, Darwin soon had a post office, drug stores, hotel, restaurants, and saloons to free the prospectors of their money. Because of its remote location, Darwin gained a reputation for the types of activities that have kept Western movie fans interested for generations with many shootouts and stagecoach robberies taking place. At its population peak in 1877, the town supported approximately 3,500 residents. However, a smallpox epidemic coupled with an economic slowdown decimated the town a year later, dropping the population to less than 10% of its previous level. The early 1900s saw a resurgence of Darwin in a new mining boom, but two fires destroyed portions of the town. After a couple more small mining booms, several of Darwin’s mines were purchased in 1945 by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, turning the town into one of the largest lead producers in California. Today, the mines are said to be closed, and the 2010 census listed the population at just 36 hardy souls. 

Our short jaunt from Keeler to Darwin gave us a small sampling of blind sweepers cresting hills and long straight roads that forced us to choose between epic views in late afternoon light and a chance to discover the top speeds of these baggers. (Preservation of our licenses dictates that we not say what speeds those were, but if we did, you might be surprised.)

Baggers Brawl Victory action

The Victory Magnum is sensitive to the amount of air pressure in the rear shock. It also can lose air if parked unused for a period of many days. The good news is that it’s easy to pump up.

During these first few sweepers, we got our first inkling that something was amiss in the Magnum’s handling. On the freeway portion of the ride, I’d puzzled over how the Magnum steered slower than I remembered but failed to check the preload pressure at our next gas stop. Additionally, the Victory, by virtue of its massive saddlebags was carrying all of my heavy camera gear, further exacerbating the problem.

So, when we finally got to a series of rollicking corners, Tom was at the helm of the good ship Magnum as it was tossed about. I’ll just let Tom relate his near tale of woe: “Air shock lesson number one: If you have an air shock, check it regularly. It wasn’t until dangerously dragging an exhaust pipe around a corner that we checked to see what the problem was, and the empty air chamber in the rear shock was the answer. After filling it to the appropriate level, the behavior of the Victory changed for the better with more ground clearance, quicker steering, and a slightly higher seating position which provided a better line of sight over the dash.”

Once the preload was set at the correct level (we can hear you groaning in frustration, Victory-rep Robert Pandya), the Magnum was remarkably better. “Suspension-wise, it might be the best of the lot when you remember to keep a few pounds of air in the shock,” stated Burns.” For having that big front wheel, which is really more style than substance, it seems to handle and stick to the road just fine.” Even Troy used the word transformed in his notes.

Baggers Brawl Victory details

The Magnum’s bags are cavernous. The mirror to this one holds two camera bodies, three zoom lenses, two flashes, one battery charger, and three layers of foam padding to hold everything in place.

While we could debate which bike has the best suspension, the classically styled Street Glide was selected as the best handling of the group. Tom labeled the Street Glide the “lightest, most maneuverable bike of the four, especially in parking-lot situations when the H-D’s tight turning radius comes into play.” (Note to readers: When you read parking-lot speeds, think endless U-turns during photo shoots.)

Burns concurs: ”Too bad about the really limited rear suspension travel, but I’ve never ridden anything that makes more of 2.1 inches. At least the seat’s low, another thing that makes the H-D feel like the lightest and most manageable of these four bikes.” Still, Troy felt that, despite the improved rear suspenders, “road imperfections seemed to blast through the suspension’s travel quickly before reaching the rider.” We have to acknowledge that the low seat height Burns pointed out is mostly the result of the diminutive shock stroke.

I was astride the Harley during one of the most challenging sections of road we encountered on our after-dark scythe through the canyons and was able to use the decent ground clearance and responsive steering to my advantage when the road tossed unexpected changes of direction into the headlight beam.

When it comes to the Indian, multiple testers praised the suspension and handling. Troy felt the “handling seemed neutral for such a big bike” while I thought it hid its weight well once it got rolling. “For the long and boring,” said Burns of the Chieftain on the freeway, ”it’s virtually identical ergonomically to the Harley albeit with much better rear suspension when the road goes bumpy.”

Baggers Brawl Moto Guzzi action

The MGX-21 handles well at speed but suffers from awkward steering at parking-lot speeds. The Guzzi’s shapely derriere is responsible for the small internal size of the saddlebags.

The MGX–21 is a puzzler. Yes, it handles well, but it also behaves oddly. It, like the Magnum, are the only bikes here with a 21-inch front wheel. To accommodate that large front hoop without the front end flopping during low-speed maneuvers, Guzzi added a device that looks a bit like a steering damper and connects the lower triple clamp to the frame below the frame’s neck. As the fork is turned from center position to the stop, the device gets compressed and offers progressively more resistance, making for an unusual feeling at full lock. For an in-depth look at this characteristic, read my review of the MGX–21.

Despite the anti-flop gizmo, the MGX’s handling initially feels odd. It feels extremely top-heavy, and this is especially notable when picking it up off its sidestand. More disconcerting is the Guzzi’s odd low-speed steering characteristics, particularly noticeable during full-lock turns.

“Guzzi engineers knew they had a front-end flop issue on their hands, otherwise they wouldn’t have outfitted the MGX with an anti-flop mechanism,” Tom noted. “It was probably the best fix without designing a new frame for it. Once underway, though, it flies straight and maneuvers in the twisties with surprising alacrity. Coupled with that amazing playful engine, the Guzzi is surprisingly sporty.”

While we all groaned over the effort required to lift the MGX off its stand, its top-heaviness goes away once rolling and we were able to adjust to its handling idiosyncrasies as the miles piled up.

Baggers Brawl Harley beauty

Beatty, NV to Rhyolite, CA

Ironically, the second youngest town on our tour is also the one that is completely abandoned and mostly in ruins. Built from mining camps that naturally formed at new mineral deposit discoveries in 1905. The largest mine, the Montgomery Shoshone Mine, was purchased by Charles M. Schwab a year later and invested in Rhyolite’s infrastructure, which sprang up quickly, including electric lights arriving in 1907, along with running water, telephones, a hospital, and even an opera house. The town reached its population peak between 1907–08 with estimates between 3,500 and 5,000. Then it all fell apart. The fall in ore production and national financial concerns caused investments in the town to stop. The mine closed in 1911, and by 1920 Rhyolite’s population declined to almost zero. The town’s story doesn’t end there, though. The ruins became a tourist attraction, a role it still plays today. It has also been used as a movie location. Though some of the buildings, particularly the Bottle House, have been restored and fenced off, Rhyolite remains uninhabited to this day.

The 47° morning air as we rode from the very much alive Beatty, NV to Rhyolite had us thinking about creature comforts. You can bet that we discussed the lack of heated grips on all of these bikes as we clutched cups of coffee over breakfast. The consensus was that, not surprisingly, the MGX–21 was the coldest that morning, giving the windchill a direct path to the rider’s torso. Since none of these baggers have lowers, our legs were out in the breeze, and the engine heat from the motors was appreciated.

Baggers Brawl Indian beauty

The riding positions of the baggers cleaved our quartet down the middle. The Chieftain Dark Horse and the Street Glide had the most upright and relaxed riding positions. Both have wide, comfortable seats with floorboards in relatively neutral locations. “One of the best seating positions here,” said Troy of the Chieftain. ”It didn’t feel like I was riding a huge motorcycle thanks to the proximity of the controls and the position (and shape) of the seat.”

Given their different builds, you would expect a bike that fit Troy to be the wrong size for Tom, but he gushes, “When it comes to long hours spent riding horizon-to-horizon straight interstates, Harley knows how to coddle a derriere. The combination of one of the most comfortable seats in the history of motorcycling and the Street Glide’s very neutral seating position makes it the best bike here to attempt an Iron Butt rally.”

Baggers Brawl Moto Guzzi details

The baggers’ brakes were all triple-disc systems with a pair of four-piston calipers in the front and either 320mm discs (Harley and Moto Guzzi) or 300mm (Indian and Victory). All bikes were equipped with ABS. The MGX wore the bright red radial-mounted Brembo calipers shown in the photo.

Both the Magnum and the MGX–21 put the rider in a more feet-forward position that can put stress on spines. In addition, the Guzzi limits the rider’s ability to move around by having a farther reach to the bar and pegs. While the Guzzi isn’t uncomfortable, the riding position is a little more towards the cruiser sporty end of the spectrum with a bit of a reach to its bars. Also, the narrower MGX seat gives less support to the tuchus. The Magnum’s wider seat and more laid-back riding position gives the pilot more options for wiggle room on long stints.

When riding long distances, it’s nice to have something to listen to. On this ride, Burns discovered the pleasures of plugging his smartphone into a bagger’s USB port and having all of his music a couple button-pushes away. While all of the baggers had stereos, the Guzzi, as we’ve noted in the past, has much less power with which to overcome road noise. Also, Tom noted, “The Guzzi needs an antenna. In far away places where the other bikes were able to pull in some kind of radio signal, the Guzzi was playing nothing but static.”

Baggers Brawl

Badwater, CA to Los Angeles, CA

With our daylight on our second ride day consumed by the photo and video shoot, we rode the 250 miles from Death Valley’s Badwater Basin to our respective homes scattered across L.A. and Orange Counties. Stopping in Baker, CA (home of the world’s tallest thermometer!), we fill our tanks one more time: Greek food for our bellies and Premium Unleaded for the baggers.

Riding 250 miles home is a great way to noodle over our two days of riding. So, when we got home and opened up the famed MO Scorecard, we knew which bike was the winner, right? Uh, no.

The world’s tallest thermometer beckons with food and fuel for the ride home.

The world’s tallest thermometer beckons with food and fuel for the ride home.

The participants in our most recent bagger shootout, the Harley-Davidson Street Glide and the Indian Chieftain, were separated by a mere 0.75 percentage points. Did the Street Glide’s Milwaukee Eight or Moto Guzzi’s MGX–21 Flying Fortress shuffle the baggers pecking order? Well, for the first time that we can remember, a shootout has resulted in a tie! With a score of 87.3% the Street Glide and Chieftain Dark Horse topped the MGX–21’s 86.3% and the Magnum’s 85.1%.

So, with that small a spread in scores, the prospective owner has price and attraction to guide a purchasing decision. With an $1,109 range in price, the difference is largely negligible. The prices, as tested, break down as follows: Moto Guzzi MGX-21, $21,990; Indian Chieftain Dark Horse, $21,999; Harley-Davidson Street Glide, $22,594; and Victory Magnum, $23,099.

What these scores and prices say to us – and hopefully to you – is best summed up with a quote from our own John Prognosticator Burns: “In general, for all four of these, “baggers” is no longer a pejorative – and if you’re attracted to this style of bike, it’s hard to see why anybody needs anything bigger for weekend tripping around the country.”

2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide
+ Highs

  • Milwaukee Eight Power
  • Super comfortable seat
  • Improved suspension
– Sighs

  • Still want more power
  • Still want more rear suspension travel
  • Not everyone will recognize you’re riding a new Street Glide
2017 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse
+ Highs

  • Exceptional Thunderstroke 111 engine
  • Excellent fit and finish
  • Keyless ignition
– Sighs

  • Helmet buffeting for some riders
  • Funky pouch in fairing for storing/charging phone
  • Unlock saddlebag button failure
2017 Moto Guzzi MGX–21
+ Highs

  • Best performing engine
  • Styling tour de force
  • Sporty handling
– Sighs

  • Funky low-speed handling
  • Tiny bags
  • Least weather protection of the group
2017 Victory Magnum
+ Highs

  • Huge saddlebags
  • Engine still pulls hard after all these years
  • 21-inch wheel works surprisingly well
– Sighs

  • Sensitive to rear preload air pressure
  • Cruise control rotates cable-operated throttle in your hand
  • Love it or hate it styling
2017 Bagger’s Brawl
Harley-Davidson
Street Glide
Indian Chieftain
Dark Horse
Moto Guzzi
MGX-21
Victory
Magnum
MSRP $22,594 $21,999 $21,990 $23,099
Engine Type 107 cu in (1753cc), Air-cooled, 45° V-Twin 111 cu in (1811 cc), Air-cooled ,49° V-Twin 1400cc, 90° V-Twin, Air and oil-cooled with an independent cooling pump; oil radiator with thermostat controlled fan 1731cc, Air-/oil-cooled 50° V-twin
Bore and Stroke 100mm x 111.1mm 101mm x 113mm 104 x 81.2mm 101mm x 108mm
Fuel System Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) Closed loop fuel injection / 54 mm bore Phased electronic Multipoint sequential injection, Magneti Marelli IAW7SM, “ride by wire”, 52 mm throttle body, IWP 243 Magneti Marelli injectors, double oxygen sensor, integrated management of 3 engine mappings, traction control, cruise control Closed loop fuel injection, 54 mm throttle body
Compression Ratio 10.0:1 9.5:1 10.5 : 1 9.4 : 1
Valve Train Single cam, four valves per cylinder Two valves per cylinder, pushrod operated, hydraulic lifters 4 valves per cylinder, DOHC SOHC; 4 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters
Peak HP 78.1 hp @ 4800 rpm  76.1 hp @ 4500 rpm  85.4 hp 4700 rpm
Peak Torque 101.8 lb-ft @ 2900 rpm  105.0 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm  99.3 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
lb/hp 10.6  10.9  9.4
lb/lb-ft 8.2  7.9  8.1
MPG 37.6 mpg 36.3 mpg  37.2 mpg  37.6 mpg
Transmission 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed
Final Drive Belt Belt Shaft Belt
Front Suspension 49mm conventional fork 46mm conventional fork, 4.7 in. travel 46 mm conventional fork 43mm inverted cartridge fork; 4.4 in. travel
Rear Suspension Dual emulsion-style shocks, hydraulically adjustable preload on left shock. Single shock, 3.7 in. travel Dual shock absorbers with adjustable rebound and remote spring preload Single air-adjustable shock; constant rate linkage; 3.5 in. wheel travel
Front Brake Dual 320mm, four-piston calipers, ABS Dual 300mm floating discs, 4-piston calipers, ABS Dual 320 mm stainless steel floating discs, Brembo radial callipers with 4 horizontally opposed pistons: ABS as standard equipment Dual 300mm floating discs, 4-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brake 320mm, four-piston caliper, ABS 300mm floating disc, 4-piston caliper, ABS 282 mm stainless steel fixed disc, Brembo floating calliper with 2 parallel pistons: ABS as standard 300mm floating disc, 2-piston caliper, ABS
Front Tire 130/60-19 130/90B16 73H 120/70-R21 62V 120/70R21
Rear Tire 180/65-16 180/65B16 81H 180/60-R16 80H 180/60R16
Rake/Trail 26° / 6.8 in. 29° / 6.1 in. travel 27.8° /4.9 in. 29.0° / 5.6 in.
Wheelbase 64.0 in. 68.1 in. 66.7 in. 65.7 in.
Seat Height 27.0 in. 26.0 in. 29.1 in. (28.3 in. option) 25.7 in.
Curb Weight 830 lb. 831 lb. 795 lb. 805 lbs.
Fuel Capacity 6 gal. 5.5 gal. 5.4 gal. 5.8 gal.
Total Bag Volume 16 gal 17.2 gal 15.4 gal. 21.3 gal.
Available Colors Vivid Black, Black Denim, Superior Blue, Velocity Red Sunglo Thunder Black Smoke Black Habanero Inferno Orange w/ graphics, Gloss Black w/ graphics, Indy Red Pearl w/ graphics
Warranty 24 months  2 year, unlimited mileage 24 months, unlimited mileage  2 year, unlimited mileage

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  • Auphliam

    LOL did you guys really score the Harley bags (3rd smallest) over the Victory’s (Largest) because you can operate a lever easier than a button? C’mon

    • Evans Brasfield

      If you read the article, you can probably guess which bags I scored highest.

      • Old MOron

        And we can guess which bags Troy scored the lowest.

        • TroySiahaan

          I loved them… until I didn’t.

  • Old MOron

    Oh man, I’ve been waiting for this shootout. Well, not the actual shootout, so much, because I’m not in this market. But I knew the write-up would be MOronic. You can’t get this kind of stuff anywhere else!

    And it’s fun to tie things together. For example, Evans snapped up the bike with the biggest carrying capacity, and we know from other stories that he always over packs. It’s fun to connect the dots.

    Similarly, if Trizzle was under-layered for the ride home, did his coat with the fur not protect him? Or has that thing gone the way of his mutton chops?

    • TroySiahaan

      Hell no! The fur coat is a keeper!

      • Old MOron

        Hang on. Let me find that song again.
        Oh yeah, here it is:

        He had the motorcycle jeans
        Coat with the fur
        Everybody on the street
        Was looking for sure

        He hit the road
        Next thing you know
        Trizzle got low, low, low

        Coat with the fur
        Coat with the fur
        Coat with the fur…

        • TroySiahaan

          Wow. Just wow.

  • faztang

    Just curious why did you use the Magnum instead of the Cross Country?

    • Evans Brasfield

      Since the MGX-21 had the large front wheel, we wanted to have at least one more big one for a comparison.

      • Buzz

        It also seemed like you chose “Custom” style baggers instead of standard ones. Was that to fit something like the Guzzi in as well?

  • JMDonald

    Give me the Guzzi.

    • Evans Brasfield

      It’s great. Just don’t plan on carrying a lot in the bags. 🙂

  • Do another comparo when the K1600B comes out.

    • Evans Brasfield

      Now, there might be a reason why we did our fork-mounted fairing baggers before the frame mounted baggers, but MO never comments on future shootouts, now do we?

      • Not too many frame mounted ones. A few. I look forward to it.

      • TheMarvelous1310

        Remember to include the Vaquero! Everybody forgets the Vaquero.

      • Paragon Lost

        Really looking forward to the comparison between the frame mounted baggers once the K1600B comes out. 🙂 That one might make me trade in my Road Glide Special.

        • Evans Brasfield

          Before that happens, we have another interesting baggers shootout we’re putting together. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you any more…

          Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

  • Douglas

    I can’t see much sense in getting one of these, unless it’s to cram a 200+watt amp and subwoofers into the bags (which most of the hepcats I see on baggers seem to have traded for even larger bags that have 1.1009″ ground clearance) and to have a place to mount the $500 26″ wheel/tire combo they purchased to profile with. If one is gonna tour, why wouldn’t a tall screen, trunk and lowers be the wise choice, even for a few hundred extra?

    It was mentioned that more power was desired from the H-D……it’s available in the various “Stage” kits labeled “Screamin’ Eagle” for just a few thousand more…..

  • Paul Buntz

    Weight of a Chieftan Dark Horse is 831lbs., not 783 lbs. according to Indian website. The lighter weight of 783lbs. is for the non-bagger, simillar -named Chief Dark Horse.

  • Barry_Allen

    I like the single scale speedometers on these (well three of them; no picture of the Victory’s gauges.) I especially like Indian’s use of a variably graduated dial that can show miles or kilometers per hour with a simple settings change. Switching to kph helps to keep the occasional foray into Canada more on the legal side of the RCMP. When is one of these road trips going to lead you MOrons all the way to the home office, anyway?

  • Buzz

    I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing yet.

    Which one did Evans crash?

  • RevD

    Whoa! hold on fellers, run those numbers for storage past me one more time.
    Victory = 41.6 GALLONS???? that means I can pour 4 full jerry cans in each side!!!!
    I’m pretty sure the numbers for the rest of the bikes are out of whack too.

    Looking back through your archives to the 2014 comparo between the Street Glide and the Chieftain things are off by quite a bit there as well… 16 Gallons per side for the HD and 17.2 for the Chieftain. I have a hunch these figures are total volume and should be halved to reach the volume per bag, which gives us (sorry guys but the rest of the world has gone metric) approximately 30 and 32 litres per side – which from personal experience is about right.

    The MGX 21 at 15.4 gallons I would peg at about 28 litres per side.

    Victory lists a total volume for the Cross Country Tour at 41 US gallons. My guess is the top case on the CC Tour would come in at about 60 litres giving the side cases, which are identical to those on the Cross Country, close to 40 litres each.

    For reference, a litre and a US quart are basically the same volume, the litre being just a tiny, tiny bit bigger.

    • Evans Brasfield

      You are right about my miscalculation. In my spreadsheet, I had it set to double my entries. Mea culpa.

  • Buzz

    Great story. I need to get back on the open road. I’m not a fan of the Street Glide because it makes compromises I’m not will to accept in a long distance ride. I’d prefer a regular Electra Glide or Road Glide.

    By the way, it’s hearty souls not hardy souls.

    • Evans Brasfield

      I understand your preferences. They make sense.

      About hardy, it works both ways and is the subject of much confusion. I looked it up while writing the story just to be sure. This is the best description that I’ve found online:

      http://grammarist.com/usage/hardy-hearty/

      • Buzz

        Ahh, interesting. I haven’t seen it expressed in that manner before.

      • Old MOron

        Good stuff, Evans. I can see that both usages might apply here, but you chose “hardy” in light of the rugged conditions.

      • Ian Parkes

        Interesting. I’ve never heard the expression ‘hearty souls’. Only the hardy ones get a mention around here.

        • Evans Brasfield

          They’re quite filling. Comfort food, you might say.

  • Derrial

    I purchased a Moto Guzzi California Touring and drove it though some of the same locations in this article on my way to the Northeast in May. The purchase was inspired from previous write ups and videos on the brand from motorcycle.com. I have to say it was my first Guzzi and probably the last bike I’ll ever own, it’s that good. Lots of highs and very few sighs. One hint, if you like the Guzzi, Moto International has some fantastic markdowns in the off season unlike some of the other brands, not sure about the MGX though. Moto Int. even paid my airfare to pickup the bike, I’m in no way affiliated with Moto Int, just a satisfied customer. I wish I had enough money to buy a bike every year so I could repeat the journey through Death Valley.

    • johnbutnotforgotten

      MGCT definitely a better choice than the MGX 21 styling exercise. bigger bags, better wind protection and no 21″ wheel handling weirdness. Been a Moto International customer for over 30 years (even though they’re 250 miles away) and i echo your praise. Dave and the crew are amazing.

      • Buzz

        I have a California with air box and fueling mods. Goes like stink!

      • Evans Brasfield

        It is a nice bike, but it didn’t fit the parameters of this test.

  • TheMarvelous1310

    Even as a Harley-Davidson fan, I have to consider a tie with a Indian a clear loss. You can’t definitively beat a years-old design with a brand new engine and suspension?

  • OLD SCHOOL RIDER

    OMG YOU GUYS MUST REALLY BE KIDDING ME ..HD IS AS OLD AS OLD CAN BE AND VOTED BETTER THEN ALL OF THEM ..LOOK AT THIS LIE YOU COMPARED THE MAGNUM AGAINST THE STREET GLIDE …BASE HD AGAINST TOP OF THE LINE VIC PRICE A BASE VIC IS A CROSS COUNTRY AND IS WHAT LIKE 19K TOPS AND HD BASE IS LIKE 22 HELLO 3K DIFF … COME ON LADY’S STOP PLAYING US LIKE IDIOTS LETS GET APPLES WITH APPLES ..ALSO THE VIC IS OUT DATED COME ON THE HD MOTOR IS LESS POWER AND SAME TORQUE.. HOW ABOUT ITS ABOUT TIME HD CAUGHT UP AND SMELLED THE COFFEE ..AND INDIANS BAGS ARE BY FAR THE CATS ASS WHAT MORON LOCKED THE FOB IN THE BAG ON A COLD DAY AND COULD NOT GET WARM OMG YOU GUYS SUCK AS BIG HD SHAFT AS YOU CAN ..LETS DRINK SOME JD AND I WILL REALLY TELL YOU EXACTLY HOW TO DO YOUR JOB I HOPE YOU DONT GET PAID FOR WRITING THIS CRAP CAUSE YOUR NOT WORTH IT

    • Evans Brasfield

      Brilliance.

      Absolute brilliance.

      Thank you!

  • kenneth_moore

    Why does Tom gush so often? Is it treatable?

  • The Dude

    Actually I don’t like any of ’em. I have a RoadKing. 🙂

  • Derrial

    A am a disappointed with Guzzi to say the least… I just got a call from my local Guzzi dealer to inform me Guzzi corporate denied my request to fix the side bag seals that were leaking along with water that puddled in the headlight bucket. The dealer said the Guzzi’s response was that it was never implied that either was waterproof. Nice way to build brand loyalty.

  • Ricky Lepre

    Exceptionally well written article.With enough detail not to make it to boring. I really love watching you guys on Youtube. I have watched many of your reviews and read your articles. Right up thee with the Australian writers. Well done guys. Please keep it up. I would love the Fortress but not here yet in the land of Oz. Purchased a California Touring second hand and love it.All the other bikes command a big price down here and the Harley’s have great resale value so the Motor Guzzi ticked all the boxes. Especially ride,design and most of all electronic safety features. ( I wanted the odds stacked towards my side in the case of an unforeseen riding event)
    Love your articles and all are brilliant bikes.

  • vinagaroon

    The Guzzi looks like it would burn your legs. Looks like the knees and shins almost touch the cylinders.