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Someday, sociologists will wonder about about the massive motorcycles that ran about the country at the turn of the millennia. Following a decade-long trend, displacements have doubled, wheelbases have stretched, and gross weights have ballooned.
When introduced in 1998, Victory's V92C motor was the biggest and baddest V-twin you could buy. The 1507cc platform has now been overshadowed. First, Yamaha's 1602 cc Road Star platform appeared and then Honda's 1800cc VTX juggernaut steamed in.
This put Victory at a crossroads. No longer able to compete on size alone, they were forced to rethink their positioning, and provide a better powerplant.
This they have done. The new so-called Freedom Motor makes 20% more power, 6% more torque, yet gets better economy than its ancestor. This is no ad hype. It truly is new and improved.
Most obvious, it has been restyled and reshaped. Let's face it; Victory's first motor was a tall, blocky lump of a thing. The new Freedom is gorgeous. More fins were added; the cylinders were contoured; the heads were softened and rounded.
When you combine these new shapes with the polished finning over blacked-out cylinders and heads, we finally get to see the beauty that was always within this motor. No longer looking like an industrial pump unit, the Freedom motor commanded attention at fuel stops.
Even better, they have massaged the motor to finally deliver the power and torque once promised. One of the most exciting things about the Victory's launch in 1998 was their claim of a motor that delivered more. Unfortunately, these claims never materialized, due to EPA strangulation and stunted development.
The first-generation motor MMM tested (see issue #35) produced a mere 58 horsepower and 76 foot-pounds of torque. Ample power to be sure, but neither class-leading nor what was hoped for.
You've got to give Polaris credit for standing behind their promise. They've substantially re-engineered the entire motor. The valve train was smoothed; reshaped combustion chambers boost compression; (9.2:1 from 8.5:1) Heat management was improved, the engine sheds heat more efficiently. Piston wrist pins are offset 1mm, to reduce power-sapping piston rocking and further quiet the motor. Engine management was outsourced to Visteon (division of Ford) at considerable expense. You don't drop major coin on a project like this if you don't believe in it. Polaris stands behind the Victory Brand, and is obviously in it for the long haul.
The result? How about more horsepower and torque than Harley's new 88-B motor; more than any other V-twin tourer. The V92TC woofs out 71 rear-wheel horses at 5,000 rpm, and a honking 87 foot-pounds of torque at 3,300 rpm. That's John Deere territory, folks. Indeed, according to published figures, the stock Freedom motor produces essentially the same output as an 88-B with a Stage I big-bore kit. Why buy and build when you can simply buy and ride?
Riding is what the TC does, and does right. We picked up our gorgeous Champagne and Pearl White ride in Santa Ana, CA. As we headed north and east towards Amboy and Death Valley, the Victory settled into its groove. Happily rumbling along two-laners between 40 and 80 mph, it carelessly ate up miles.
While cruising you are treated to either a mechanical symphony or a clattering racket, depending on your point of view. You can distinctly hear the primary gear whine, valve train, the "shlack" of each gear shift, tire hum, fairing roar and of course, the booming exhaust note. I don't know how cruiser riders in general feel about all this, but I thought it was a delight. You definitely know you are astride a machine.
An added benefit of the quieter motor means that Victory can now dedicate more decibels to the exhaust. The huge two-into-two pipes emit a pleasant boom. Close inspection reveals that the mufflers are actually cloaked with chrome covers. This is actually a genius move; if you scrape your pipes, you only have to replace the shrouds.
Each pipe also has a bolt-on chrome "handle" to protect the beautifully finished saddlebags in a tip over. Some riders thought they looked dorky, but we like the thought of replacing one part vs. painting an entire bag in a mishap.
The rear "handles" echo the lines and function of the massive crash bar up front. Stout and robust, they offer peace of mind and a heftier road presence.
The saddlebags were a mixed....er...bag. They have a matching two-tone paint scheme with quality equal to Brand "H". The functional lids are easily opened with one hand, and pivot on a beautiful Deco-styled hinge. The rear signals are stylishly integrated into the bag lids, avoiding a tacky added-on appearance.
On the other hand, you can't begin to fit a helmet in the bags, except for one of those shorty beanies favored by cruiser riders in general. Granted, we don't need another manufacturer making full-on dorky bags a la BMW, but once you've tasted the forbidden fruit...
Additionally, while they lock with the ignition key, the saddlebags don't completely keep out the elements.
Go ahead and load those saddlebags and hit the road. You can blast along all day at an indicated 80 mph, and the motor couldn't care less, though sustained cruising at this rate reveals three costs.
First, fuel economy. With that big windscreen, you'll stay bug-free, but at a price. MMM ran one complete tank at an average 80 mph and the mileage plummeted into the high 20's. Second; noise. The unadjustable windscreen is pretty quiet at Minnesota-legal speeds, but at anything over 70 mph, the rider is bombarded with wind roar. Third; torque peaks at around 3,500 rpm, and the engine starts to buzz over 4,000 rpm. There really is no power advantage running over 3,500 rpm.
While there is ample power to warp along at higher speeds, your mileage and hearing will suffer. Best to keep it near legal speeds, and wear ear plugs. The V92TC felt happiest and ran smoothest at 3,000 rpm in top gear, or at an indicated (and accurate!) 70 mph.
Next to the motor, the tranny is most improved. First generation gearboxes were clunky, stiff and noisy. The new product is much improved, but still not on par with Kawasaki's buttery 1500 Drifter, (see issue #38) the finest big V-twin gearbox MMM has tested. Is this an issue of Victory gearboxes still needing improvement, or that cruiser riders don't care about smooth transmissions?
The transmission may be noisy, but the interface is wonderful. Your feet rest on robust polished-aluminum floorboards. They have tasteful rubber inserts, and hinge during spirited cornering. Both floorboards have removable feelers, both to give warning and prevent damage.
Shifting is controlled by a beautiful heel-and-toe setup. A rigid, one-piece casting, the shifter is big enough to bracket my size 12EEE boots. The action is very positive whether upshifting or downshifting. We had no missed shifts in over 1,000 miles of riding.
The only complaint here is an elusive neutral. Whether from 1st gear or 2nd, while moving or stopped, finding neutral was a random event. To be fair, it did come easier as the miles added up, but we are unsure if this was due to rider finesse or the tranny loosening up. No big deal, but deduct two points for being annoying.
Power meets the road through a quiet belt drive. The rear pulley is a beautiful polished affair that compliments the spoked wheels. It was never snatchy, even with our abrupt test launches.
If you haven't owned a bike with belt drive, you don't know what you are missing. They are quiet, need no lubing or adjustment, and don't fling crap over your paint and gear. This is another place where Victory hasn't sacrificed engineering to style.
The wheels are beautiful too. Thick spokes are laced between machined hubs and weight-saving aluminum rims, all basted with delicious chrome. Victory has responded to accusations that their products had engineering substance, but lacked cruiser style. These wheels are simply gorgeous.
If you are on a budget, you can always select the V92TC Standard ($15,599 two-tone) at the expense of the spoked wheels, driving lamps, fairing lowers, back rest and chrome fender tips.
One thing about the American Southwest: exits are few and far between, even on Interstates. It is not uncommon to go 40 miles between exits, with no guarantee of fuel availability. You will frequently find signs warning "No Services Next 110 Miles."
I headed east on I-10 toward Blythe to focus on the V92TC's freeway manners. Quick math in my head gave me more than enough fuel to run the necessary 92 miles. The Tour Deluxe, like all Victorys, has that great multi-function window in the speedo. You can cycle through odometer, resettable tripmeter, clock, gauge brightness, high beam indicator brightness, alternator output, and fuel level.
The switch system is clever. There is one trigger mounted on the forward side of each handlebar switch cluster. Tap the right trigger, and you cycle between the seven functions. Hold the left, and you reset both tripmeter and clock. Best of all, this is accomplished without having to move your hands from normal riding position. MMM liked this feature when we first got our hands on a Victory, and we absolutely love it now.
With a minimum of brains you can switch between tripmeter and fuel level and calculate both mpg and distance to empty, a very handy capability. Coming up to the exit for Twentynine Palms Marine Base. I noticed the low fuel light blinking, indicating the 0.9 gallon reserve.
"What thuh?" I wondered. On the top of the ramp, I checked the tank and realized that I hadn't gassed up the night before in Palm Springs. "D'oh!"
A quick check of the map revealed 42 miles north to Twentynine Palms; 20 gravel miles south to Mecca; 21 miles east and uphill to Chiriaco Summit; and 22 downhill miles back toward Indio. I opted to double back, figuring I could always coast downhill if I didn't make it.
21.5 miles later, the Victory sputtered dead dry at 143 miles on the trip meter. "Oh well, at least there is a mega truck stop in sight," I thought, laughing at such a rookie move.
I hadn't even got my helmet off when a white pickup pulled over to offer aid.
"Outta gas, huh?" he chuckled.
"Operator error!" I replied, fumbling for my wallet.
My two rescuers sped off before I could say anything more. A few minutes later, I added the half gallon they brought me, and unsuccessfully tried to pay them for their kindness. They wouldn't even take anything for the fuel they had purchased!
I figure they were savoring yet another tale of a dumb flatlander out in the desert. MMM would like to thank David and Doris for preventing our tester from becoming buzzard bait.
The fuel capacity is somewhat confusing. Victory claims 5.0 gallons, yet when full, the display reads 4.1 gallons. Below the 0.9 gallon reserve level, the display doesn't reveal remaining tenths, preventing you from a sneaky calculation at fill-up. If you are the type that must know such things, you'd have to dead-fill a dry tank, and calibrate from there. Deduct two more points for being annoying.
On the plus side, the V92TC Deluxe comes standard with auxiliary driving lamps. They spit out a great deal of side light at night, which is appreciated in the unfenced desert. The spots are controlled by a discreet switch mounted under the top fork clamp. It would be nice to have an indicator in the gauges for daytime use. In the end, I simply kept the lights on continuously, for increased conspicuity.
Overall, the V92TC has excellent highway manners. Victory stretched the swingarm and slowed the steering (by adding trail) to stabilize ride. The handlebar is extended further for a more upright riding position. Both the V92TC Deluxe & Standard come with floorboards for both rider and passenger, to increase comfort.
Great attention has been paid to the seat. It is highly dished and offers a great deal of support. At first, I was put off at being held in one place, thinking I would need to adjust my 240 lbs. There is no need to change position as no hot spots developed, even after one 300+ mile burn.
Passenger X felt her accommodations to be comfortable, with plenty of leg room. She was pleased that her legs weren't fouled by the roomy saddlebags and liked the floorboards. The backrest was comfortable, but felt too low for her. No worry here. Victory offers a jumble of seats and backrests to please everyone.
One Victory hallmark is excellent brakes, and the TC Deluxe doesn't disappoint. Out front are twin 300mm floating rotors pinched by 4-piston Brembos. Out back is a 300mm rotor, coupled to a 2-piston Brembo. All the sauce is piped through Goodridge braided stainless-steel hoses. This is recent sportbike-spec stuff folks, and is more than sufficient to stop 750+ pounds of motorcycle. A gold star to Polaris for making premium efficient brakes a priority.
The bike rides on excellent Dunlops. A MT90B/16 491 Elite II is mounted up front, paired with a 160/80B/16 D417 on the rear, made exclusively for Victory.
The Dunlop Elite II is a proven tire. It has a rider-friendly, easy-turning round profile and provides high mileage. Also important to tourers, it is readily available anywhere. Other than this test, MMM has no experience with the new D417. Additionally, many riders will appreciate having American-made tires on their "Merkun-made" cruiser.
If you are handy, oil management couldn't be easier. A car-type spin-on filter is accessible on the back of the motor, and level is checked by a BMW-type screw-in filler w/ dipstick. Or, have your dealer do it.
The bottom line? The V92TC is certainly equal to a Road King. It has the civilized manners of that fine Harley as well as excellent paint, chrome and finish. There is no denying the superiority of the Freedom Motor over that of its competition. Unknowns? H-D's resale is tough to beat, as is their larger aftermarket support.
Whether you can go your own way or have to fit in with the crowd is a question only you can answer. For those who are ready to ride, we encourage you to try the Victory V92TC Deluxe.
Wife's First Reaction: "Jeez. It's HUGE!"
Selected Competition: BMW R1200C Montana; Harley Davidson Electra Glide & Road King; Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Nomad; Suzuki 1500 Intruder LC; Yamaha Royal Star Venture & Road Star Silverado