April 5, 2007 "We're not rewriting American history, we're writing its future," reads Victory's website preview of its 2008 Vision cruisers. Perhaps, although the styling seems to blend the front end of a big touring Beemer with the rear of a 1930s gangster-style Cadillac. There's no denying the bike is a bold statement - but will cruiser fans, notorious for their conservative styling tastes, share Victory's enthusiasm? Loz Blain looks at a new and important motorcycle.
Polaris has been building motorcycles under the Victory brand since 1998, making an immediate impression with its Hammer and Vegas cruisers. The concept was elegant and simple: whopping big gorgeous v-twin engines, back tyres fat enough to make the sidestand redundant, and sumptuous American apple-pie designs that look custom straight out of the crate thanks to the consulting wisdom of established custom builders Arlen and Cory Ness.
The Ness influence is obvious in the long and low stance of the Victory range, the curvaceous teardrop tanks and billet headlights. The bikes look magnificent. Surprisingly for a young brand, Victory has very quickly established itself as a worldwide leader in quality, cost of ownership and service. The company outrated its American, Eurpoean and even Japanese competition in the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study, which is no small feat.
And so to the Vision; let's get the practicalities out of the way. There will be two models, the Street and Touring, distinguished mainly by the addition of a top box/pillion backrest on the Touring version. A 6 gallon/23 litre tank should provide a reasonable touring range, and comfort looks excellent for all weather conditions with the bike's mammoth front profile, thousand-miles-a-day seats and very relaxed ergonomics. Victory haven't announced the engine displacement yet, but it's hard to see the company backing down from the 100 cubic inches its "Freedom" engine packs to power the rest of the Victory range.
For all practical purposes, you'd imagine the Vision delivering the long-range comfort and options of a Gold Wing (less some of the big Honda's prodidgious handling ability) with the presence and attitude of a big American V-Twin - and the styling of... well... That's the issue isn't it?
Cruisers, particularly American cruisers, occupy a strange niche in the motorcycle world. They're quite expensive, but don't offer the performance of sportsbikes, the round-town practicality of standard/nakedbikes, or the sheer mile-munching comfort of the mega-tourers. A cruiser's appeal comes down to two things - its visual and auditory presence, and the "king of the road" feeling you get from riding it. You might call them the classic cars of the motorcycle world, the well-worn styling imbued with decades of meaning and history that makes anyone who steps astride a Softail feel as wild and free as the Marlboro man.
The Vision has some attractive lines; the rear of the Street version in particular has a muscular classic feel to it. The gleaming Freedom engine is stunning to look at from any angle, and it sounds the business. It will doubtless be an eye-catching and attention-grabbing motorcycle wherever it is ridden. Time will tell after its 2008 release whether the buying public are ready to embrace an innovative American cruiser - or whether the Vision's futuristic curves will render it a dated curiosity.