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As the sinister bitch goddess, Time, marches on, she offers us all sorts of little clues as to the increasing proximity of our inevitable decay and demise. The sprained ankle that should have been healed after two weeks is still nagging us two months later. The bald spot at the back of our heads is sprinting feverishly to meet the bald spot at the front. The women who want to date us already have kids, and the women we want to date are young enough to be our kids (theoretically of course).
Oh yeah, and we start seriously considering the purchase of a bagger. This is a difficult transition point in most of our lives.
While we now crave the cush, comfort and accommodations of a touring craft, we still want to feel the goose of a powerful engine shooting us forward as we snap open the throttle.
We still want to lean into long, fast, sweepers and feel the centrifugal forces tugging the corners of our mouths into a shit-eating grin.
For those of us honest enough to admit it, we still want a ride that onlookers will think is "cool" for something other than having a reverse gear.
Enter the "Neo-Tourer". When I called up H-D and Victory with the idea of doing this story, they both had the same reaction, "These are two very different bikes, Eric." and this is certainly true.
While Victory's Kingpin Deluxe features all of the tourer accoutrements, it does so with Arlen Ness' custom flair, and performance attributes that transcend the typical bagger.
Harley-Davidson's V-Rod is really a power cruiser, but when outfitted with bags, mini-luggage rack, a windscreen, and a plusher "Sundowner" seat, it becomes a "cheater" tourer that nobody is gonna mistake for a GoldWing.
As I explained to the OEMs though, they are both (as configured) American V-Twin tourers, both provide best in class power and performance, both are designed with a dramatic "custom" look, and both are clearly targeted at the 30-45 year old, "too old for a `Busa, too young for an ElectraGlide" crowd.
While they may not be twins separated at birth, as configured, the V-Rod and Kingpin have more in common than meets the eye.
Oddly enough, in the end, the marketing folk agreed with me. Hey, there's a first time for everything!
"The 44mm throttle bodies give a very un-tourer-like wrist response and I received torque on-demand whether at high revs or low."
As fate would have it, there was a new rally called "Motorcycle Madness" making its debut in Santa Maria, CA, that seemed to be the perfect destination for a road trip to test the trekability of these steeds. Fonzie and I loaded up the twin twins and decided that we would swap off every 50 miles along the 400 mile round trip to maintain an un-MOlike semblance of scientific rigor.
Beginning the trip on the Kingpin Deluxe, which adds a billboard sized windscreen and locking saddlebags to the base package, it didn't take long for me to recognize that Victory had followed up their success with the Vegas in worthy fashion. Powered by the same overhead cam, air/oil cooled, four valve per cylinder, 92ci "Freedom" powerplant that garnered such rave reviews propelling the Vegas, the Kingpin offers excellent go-power across the entire rev range.
The 44mm throttle bodies give a very un-tourer-like wrist response and I received torque on-demand whether at high revs or low. This was especially nice when making freeway-speed passes at high RPMs or squeezing that extra drop of oomph out of the low end of 3rd gear when going around a tighter than expected curve.
The whine of the overhead cams had been a pet peeve of mine when I test rode the original Vegas. However, to my delight, it was noticeably diminished in this year's iteration. The same excellent 300mm floating rotor brakes with dual Brembo 4-piston calipers up front and a 2-piston Brembo in the rear deliver stopping power to both the Vegas and Kingpin, and while the Kingpin packs 20lbs more than the Vegas and has ever so slightly different dimensions, the braking characteristics were similarly impressive.
Eighteen-inch wheels sport a 130mm front tire and 180mm back tire.
The aluminum swingarm with rising-rate rear suspension linkage and an inverted-cartridge front fork sucks up bumps like a sponge and still manages to provide adequate responsiveness in the curves. All of these features were enhanced by the fact that the bike provides excellent ergonomics for my 5'9" physique. If Victory ever adds cruise control, I might even try! The fully valanced fenders that provide its strongest custom visual cues dominate the bike's looks. Unlike the easy-to-love stretched and scalloped gas tank that dovetails into the seat, the fenders aren't going to appeal to everyone. They do add an element of retro to the tank's nouveau though, and the resulting trademark look is what sets this bike apart from the crowd stylistically.
"Comfortable knee angle, good support in the seat, bars just right. Factor in the turbulence-devouring windscreen and I honestly felt like I could have taken a nap while riding."