Demo ride report - Victory Vision (very long)
The weather here has been a monsoon lately so the demo this past weekend was in possible doubt. But on Saturday morning the sun was out and the roads were dry, so I canceled my Sunday appointment and got over to the dealer that morning. I and my co-pilot signed the waivers and waited for the demo group to come in from the ride in progress. We were the only LT there. It was mostly Harleys, metric cruisers, one FJR and an earlier generation Wing (GL1500?).
There were at least 7-8 Visions available to demo in all levels of trim and option configurations. We chose a loaded black one with the premium package and some other bolt-on goodies, like lower wind deflectors and highway pegs, both completely superfluous in my opinion. It even had the factory intercom, but the 7-pin plugs wouldn't work with our Baehr cables. The route was 1 hour long for a distance of 35 miles with all types of terrain and conditions: Residential parkways, rural back roads, steep climb and descent, a canyon, sweeping riverside and a 4 lane state highway.
So, lets get on with the ride.
Startup is quick and sharp since the bike was already warm. At idle, the motor is super smooth, 180 degree timing on the firing instead of the mechanical humping motion of a hog at idle. Blipping the throttle does nothing to upset the smoothness.
Getting under way, the wet clutch and low C of G make slow speed maneuvers out of the parking lot effortless. Full-on throttle gives a nice induction roar (not as sweet as a Guzzi or Duc) and bike shudders and shakes before settling down to a buzz at 4000-4500 rpm where an up-shift is in order. Thats where the power peaks out on the graph, but you really don't want to stay there. It's very buzzy north of 3500. I kept it in that range for the first half of the ride, because of twisties and hills and also because I'm used to the LT.
I finally got the hang of letting it run in the sweet spot, 2500 rpm, which can pull you along at 80 mph in 6th gear. Even 3000 rpm was slightly buzzy. The bike had 800 miles on the odometer, so it may smooth out after break-in. Power is adequate. The motor is really tuned more for torque and is very tractable in the twisties. Which leads me to:
Handling is impeccable for a bike of this size and class. All the roads we took were day-to-day familiar to me. I've ridden them dozens of times so I know what speeds I'm comfortable with according to three different bikes and a pillion on back. Keeping an eye on the speedo I could confidently carve turns at the same speeds I usually hit. I didn't have the opportunity to really push it since it was a very big group ride. It holds a line very precisely and neutrally. It is extremely well behaved and balanced with braking and speed changes in the curves.
Compared to the LT, it's an entirely different feel. First off, it's wheelbase is 1.7 inches longer and it feels longer. ( Barring rake and caster, I do believe that the Tele-lever front end of BMWs are what make them fell shorter than they are ). And the lower center of gravity means your head feels more like the pendulum weight than your feet. The LT feels like your skiing. Its left-right transitions fell snappy (relatively for such a porker) compared to the low-riding Vision where you just don't feel like you're dancing along. Again, checking my speedo, I'm moving at equivalent speeds. Maybe it's a combination of many things as well as a less peppy motor. I have no doubt that, given equal riders, the Vision could keep up with the LT in many twisty situations. But it lacks the roll-on kick out of the curves that an LT singing at 5000 rpm has. With the Victory you're more apt to pick a brisk pace and keep it steady through the curves with added throttle used mainly for keeping traction and chassis physics in check (what some might profess as good form anyways). I never dragged any metal parts.
Cruising along at super-legal highway speeds the Vision is rock steady: just a dream thrumming along. The LT has serious competition here. The cruise control works (mechanically) as well as the LTs. Brakes and suspension are top notch. The front floating disks feel good, not as inspiring as the servo-assisted chompers on the LT but entirely adequate. The rear is, I'm told, linked 60/40 with the front. I only used it in slow speed maneuvers and to set up a couple of turns. The forks are matched to the weight of the bike and might even have progressive springs. Front end dive never became an issue. The rear shock was quite stiff. It's pneumatic, so I'm sure they had it pressurized all the way in the potential case of some real heavyweight testers. If I were to test again, I'd make sure it was adjusted correctly.
Reach to the handlebars is nearly identical to the LT, maybe an inch or two higher, but my elbows are at the same relaxed place. The saddle is very plush without being soft. It reminds me of a custom made saddle a'la Rocky Mayer. It doesn't afford much fore/aft adjustment but that's no big deal, because those floorboards are like aircraft carrier decks! With my toes perched on the back edge of the floorboards, I'm in a nearly identical riding position as the LT. From there forward there are unlimited combinations and positions to fall into. It's like a ballroom. You can dance the cha-cha at 75 mph! There were some cheezy chrome bolt-on highway pegs on the forward ends, but really, what was the point?
The stock windshield seemed a little short for me. It has about 4 or 5 inches of up-down range. At fully raised, I'm looking over it with more clearance than I usually use on the LT. I could have used another inch higher. Wind protection and buffeting was as good or slightly better than the LT: Better from the knees down, a little more buffeting at the helmet, but is was a very windy day. I didn't take the time play with the adjustable vanes under the mirrors. Speaking of the mirrors, that was one annoyance. The handlebar grips and controls are right in the line of sight, so I had to crane my neck over to get a good view behind. There are no mirror stem bosses on the switch pods so supplemental mirrors might not be an option. I didn't remember to ask if the bars were adjustable. That could resolve the issue.
The switch gear is a mixed bag. The left pod turn signal switch, high-beam, horn and electric windshield buttons are all high finish and where you would expect them to be, (there is some sort of turn signal cancellation in effect). The cruise control is on the right grip so it's not as easy to engage and set. It also consists of a total of 6 push buttons: On, Off, Set, Cancel, Accelerate, Decelerate. It pales in comparison to the elegance and simplicity of the BMW switch. Sound system controls are equally cluttered: no match for the simple disk pad on the LT.
Mentally, I was in strict evaluation mode while I was riding. So other than the freeway stretch, I can't say I was grinning the whole time. After pulling back into the dealer lot and getting off, I did grin. The first thing that popped into my mind in flashing neon letters was COMFORTABLE. I'm talkin' la-z-boy, Mexican hammock, shearling slippers comfortable. With no modifications whatsoever, a bone stock Victory Vision has to be the most comfortable motorcycle I've ever ridden. The combination of floor boards, excellent saddle, wind protection and friendly, competent handling really come together in a very attractive package. Other than the mirrors and possible fiddling with windshield sizes, I can't think of anything this bike would need to make it ergonomically ready for a long, extended trip. As for my pillion, she also found it more roomy and comfortable than the LT (Caveat: I haven't done the "extra 2 inches ghetto mod" with the trunk). She also sits a bit higher than me on the Vision so she had a better view of the scenery ahead. (She's level on the LT). She complained of the vibrations the first half of the ride, but after I got the revs under control she was much happier.
If the LT had the same floorboard space, it might be able to match the Vision. Let's face it, J-pegs, Mick-o-Pegs and the like are just temporary relief while rolling along, you can't use them full time. Add to that, the stock saddle on the LT (or any other bike I've ridden) is never going to add up without some custom work.
And now for the $20,000 question...Would I buy one?
I ride almost exclusively 2-up these days. We now have logged 20k miles on the LT and the honeymoon is by no means over. We're just having too much fun on it right now. If I were to get burned by some of the quality issues known to plague a few random samples of the "Legendary Motorcycles of Germany" [knock on wood], I would most certainly jump to the Vic. Or, if I got a wild hair and just wanted something different, again the Vision tops the list. But with this being the first model year, I would rather avoid being an early adopter and get a 09 or used 08 when they start to show in the market. There's also the next generation LT to anticipate.
The word motorcycle is a verb.
2005 K1200LT "Rolf"
2007 Moto Guzzi Norge
Last edited by tkramer; Jan 28th, 2008 at 7:09 pm.