Gear: Helmet: Shoei RF1000...
Helmet: Shoei RF1000
Jacket: Icon Victory Death Or Glory
Boots: Alpinestar Soho
Helmet: Icon Mainframe
Boots: H-D FXRG
For years, it was a foregone conclusion that cruisers with touring accessories like fairings and hard saddlebags-baggers, in two-wheel parlance-were designed for a mission, and one mission only-to, uh, tour. They were purpose-built for the open road, constructed for the long haul, made for piling on the miles. But like everything in the 'aught' years (or the double-0 decade, or whatever we've decided to call this slice of the 21st century), it seems 'kustom kulture' has filtered down to the holiest of motorcycling archetypes- the bagger. If you need examples of the new breed of touring machine, look no further than Harley's Road Glide Custom and Victory's Cross Country, both recently released for 2010.
The simple truth is that these are not your daddy's, granddaddy's or even big brother's tourers. The obvious difference is styling: lines are stretched, and the profile sleeker, more minimal and decidedly edgier than on traditional retro rigs. We got a pretty thorough look at both machines during their respective launches (Feb. CR), but it's always a different story when you can ride them side by side. Although the Cross Country will never be mistaken for a Road Glide (and vice versa), its basic elements are remarkably similar beyond the fairing. So when a Road Glide became available for two days, and the Cross Country free for a week, we jumped at the chance to do a quick comparison.
The Birth of Cool
Harley is probably the first major OEM to acknowledge the custom bagger trend, with the Street Glide in 2006. Though the basic elements are straight out of the Electra Glide parts bin, the FLHX's cleaner profile creates a sleeker, bike. The same formula is applied on the Road Glide Custom: it skips the fender bumpers, tip lights and rails. It passes on the spotlights. The sharknose fairing supports the briefest of windshields and the saddle has a smoother, lower profile, especially the passenger section. This bagger makes no bones about its custom-bike leanings, having been dropped an inch for 2010 and sporting a frenched-in fender light.
Harley continues the custom look with 18-inch aluminum front wheel wearing lower-profile 130/70-18 Dunlops, and a two-into-one exhaust system. The familiar rubber-mounted 96-inch Twin-Cam motor and 6-speed Cruise Drive tranny still motivates the whole works though. The Shark Nose fairing of course is the signature styling bit, and within lies a high end Harmon Kardon audio setup.
Hard on the Motor Company's heels in the style department is Victory Motorcycles. Victory designers have always been up front with the bold styling and the Cross Country is no exception. Its lines speak to a style that's both modern and classic (much like the Vision), with a sweep and flow sampled from the streamline era. The Victory approach is a tad more arty than Harley's traditional one, with unique low profile turn signals, a more cohesive design, and of course that wild fairing and large chunky frame protectors that jut out in front of the rider's knees.
It's when they're parked side by side that the bikes' differences become most apparent. Most noticeable is the height differential; looking straight at it, the Victory appears to positively tower over the Harley, even though its spec sheet claims a nearly 3-inch lower seat height.
Once aboard, ergonomics further separate the two-you sit lower, in the Harley (again, defying expectation) on a flat custom seat, and more atop the Country's dishier saddle. Harley's standard touring ergos and lower steel handlebar with a flatter bend seemed to fit everyone fine. On the Country, reach to the pullback handlebar is a breeze, and the Victory offers three settings for fore and aft adjustment of both the shift lever and brake pedal.