2007 Victory Kingpin Tour | The New American VIP

After years of flashy new models and industry-shaking innovations, the New American Motorcycle Company is catching its collective breath. For 2007, Victory has chosen to spotlight revamped versions of existing bikes rather than new ones. The blacked-out version of its hot-rod Hammer hit the runway first, followed by the lower-key Kingpin Tour-a traveling version of the Kingpin. This latter bike is more significant than it might seem, though; it effectively phases out the last of the company's old-generation bikes, the 92-cubic-inch, five-speed V92TC Touring Cruiser.

It's a big shift, but don't pity the discontinued TC. That bike was old-spec, whereas the rest of the Victory stable carries the company's new DNA-smoother and more powerful 100ci Freedom engines with six speeds (in all models except the bare-bones five-speed 8-Ball). The new-for-2007 Kingpin Tour steps in to fill what Victory calls the "soft-tourer" niche. In cruiser parlance, that means a windshield, lowers and saddlebags. On the Tour, however, Victory ups the ante with the addition of a topbox.

If the extra storage space is meant to elevate the Kingpin to a full tourer, we figured a shakedown cruise would be the best way to determine if Victory's newest traveler could measure up to the hype. Our mini-tour would graze the California coast up to San Luis Obispo, sashay over the coastal range and blast down through the Mojave Desert-a nice mix of urban angst, mountain twists and wide-open roads. Let the (over)packing begin.

Once we began stuffing our gear into the Kingpin Tour, we started to pine for the TC. After all, that bike did have its good points-like tremendous storage capacity. The new Tour's saddlebags are much smaller because the right one has to slot in over stacked dual mufflers along the right side. As a result, each of the Tour's bags holds just under five gallons of stuff. The trunk adds another 13 gallons of capacity, for a total of 22 gallons. That may sound like a ton of room, but it's just enough for one low-maintenance rider for the weekend or a really Spartan couple overnight.

How Ya Doin'?With a weekend's worth of gear tucked in, we settle into the Tour's low, 26.5-inch seat, which sports a wide dish that tapers to a narrow front end. This smoothly integrates into the split-tail fuel tank, but the back edge of the saddle kicks up sharply. With our feet firmly on the ground, however, the bike feels light and well-balanced. In the morning chill, just a touch of the handlebar-mounted fast-idle control is enough to fire up the Tour, and it belts out a loping, solid tone from the exhaust. Victory has always served up bikes with superb injection, and the mapping of the Kingpin Tour proves to be no different.

The 100-cubic-inch Freedom engine burbles as we pick our way through L.A. traffic toward the twists of the local hills. Accelerating hard in first gear can be a rush, but we quickly reach the rev limiter, which comes on like a soft suggestion rather than the abrupt shutdown found on most bikes. The Kingpin can haul serious ass; another whack of the throttle, in third, gives us an 80-mph smile in the space of a long exhale. The Freedom engine makes power way down in the rpm band and comes on strong as the revs rise, but it delivers the goods with class. This means no lunges or flat spots, just a hint of abruptness from drivetrain play. The OHC, 50-degree V-twin is a happy revver, but the counterbalanced engine is also smooth, and we never felt vibration to be a serious issue. Most big twins sound overly muted, but the Tour ekes out a clear rumble, especially under acceleration.

Picking through the gearbox, it's a breeze to pass slower vehicles, even uphill. The 1634cc Freedom V-twin is built for torque (a claimed 100 foot-pounds of the stuff to supplement the 80 horsepower measured at the crank). If the clutch feels slightly stiff and initial engagement is abrupt, it all becomes a breeze once you adapt (the clutch can, however, heat up and get grabby in stop-and-go traffic).

Once the freeway's big rigs melt into the rearview, it's time to test the Tour's six-speed transmission. Victory is quick to proclaim the sixth gear as a true overdrive, and there's no doubt it's a tall one, but we didn't feel comfortable slotting into it at less than 55 mph. The upside of these ratios is that the engine isn't being taxed, even at 90 mph in that top gear. There's enough power to support the gearing, though we always downshifted when passing for more solid acceleration.

Facilitating all this gearbox-stirring, the heel-toe shifter is well-positioned for easy access. The rear portion of the shifter lives almost at the level of the floorboard, so gears are selected with a consistently positive snick. The riding position feels ideal for my 5'7" frame, too-the rubber-mounted handlebars aren't too high, and the vibration-isolating floorboards afford my feet a host of positioning options.

Tour GazingWith two hours of urban grind behind us, it's time to pull over for java at a gas station-cum-coffee shop in Ventura. It also gives us the chance to ogle the Kingpin Tour in a less-harried setting.

Victory has been getting high points for its bikes' styling, and it's easy to see why. The beautifully angular custom headlight, first making its appearance on the Jackpot and now found across most of the line in 2007, is just one example of how the Kingpin Tour manages to combine retro style with modern details to great effect.

The curved, six-spoke, cast aluminum wheels and flared fenders add to the Tour's eye-catching flourish. That outrageous bodywork cloaks the 99-inch-long bike, and the 180mm rear tire matches the oversize proportions-we like the fact that the Kingpin Tour has escaped the meaty-rear-tire syndrome seen on many Victory models. This bike also kicks in a reasonably wide 130mm front tire for a welcome balance.

Fit and finish is first-rate, with a slew of small touches like the split-back tank and a flush-mounted taillight that matches the curve of the massive rear fender, which also gets chrome trim. Another top-shelf touch is the deep, metal-flake paint-on our bike, a gorgeous combination of metallic blue and creamy contrasting stripes.

Opening the trunk to retrieve some Corn Nuts (we could've brought a carton-the box holds a full-face helmet with room to spare), we're disappointed to find the walls feel thin and flimsy, especially for a bike of this build quality. The trunk mounts on a rack that offers front-to-back adjustment so that the integrated passenger backrest can be tailored to fit the passenger. Though not especially roomy, the bags can be easily opened with push-button latches, while the trunk has a twist-type latch. (Both the windshield and bags can be detached with the included hex key.) The bags' appearance and mounting bracketry, however, look like obvious add-ons, and are not smoothly integrated with the rest of the bike.

A Handful?After our caffeine fix, we head into the hills. Deep into the rolling turns, the Kingpin Tour responds well to even subtle inputs. Most of the twisty bits are taken with just one gear, with plenty of torque and engine braking on tap to accelerate and slow between the curves. Victory motorcycles with the bigger 250mm rear tires resist turning into corners, but the Tour steers more surely and with less muscle, thanks to its conventional tire sizes.

The additional weight of the luggage had just a minor effect on handling. Though the front wheel can feel like it's flopping in heavily, it's just a matter of adapting to it. The long wheelbase provides a stable, well-planted feel, and easy sweepers are a joy. When the road gets really twisty, you may need to back off the throttle to adjust for the Kingpin Tour's extra weight, but the bike generally enjoys the same neutral handling characteristics as the standard Kingpin.

A bigger beef is the shortage of cornering clearance, felt most at low speeds and in right-handers. The front floorboards will touch first and hinge up, but the floorboard mounts drag hard soon after.

On the other hand, where most touring bikes are referred to as lumbering, the adjective we'd use for the Kingpin Tour would be athletic. This became a welcome description on the downhill ride, where the weight bias shifts to the front of the bike and braking inputs are more frequent and pronounced. Like all Victory models except the Hammer, the Kingpin has a single-disc front brake. It's adequate with one person aboard, but with a passenger and loaded luggage, we'd prefer two. Still, we were happy with the brake's two-finger feel and progressive bite, especially at lower speeds.

It became windier and cooler on the mountain pass, and a bit of drizzle threatened to crash the party. In these conditions, the fork-mounted windshield is surprisingly effective. The screen provided near-perfect air deflection for our frame, and we could see over the top with only minor buffeting along the helmet sides. There is about four inches of vertical adjustment to the screen.

By the time we made it to the flats, the sky had cleared. Coincidentally, it was also time to top off the tank. Though the Kingpin Tour's seat is fuller than others, we were ready for some relief. Unlike most seats, the Kingpin's saddle is firm, but the dished shape locks you in. And although the overall riding position suited me, the kick-up at the back of the seat put extra pressure on my butt-which had me wanting to cry uncle after about 120 miles.

Luckily, my comfort threshold in the saddle happened to match the range of the gas tank. Holding 4.5 gallons, the tank includes a one-gallon reserve, and the reserve light would flicker on after about 130 miles. Fuel economy ranged from a disappointing 32 mpg during a hellish afternoon of start-stop gridlock to a more satisfying 42 mpg when trolling at mellow speeds. It's safe to say that a fatter tank would better suit the Kingpin's style and fit the Tour's travel-oriented role more appropriately.

After a refill of the smallish tank, we were back on the road. The suspension provided fairly smooth sailing over most uneven pavement, thanks to the robust, inverted fork with its 5.1 inches of travel. The rear suspension's monoshock let in harder bumps with its more-limited 3.9 inches of movement, but only the sharpest surface defects came through enough to upset us.

At the end of the ride, we came away really liking what the Kingpin Tour had to offer. It's more versatile than one might imagine and hits the light-touring target Victory was aiming for (best for weekend duty, though). Moreover, the Tour does it with power, style and an attitude all its own. We have some qualms with the Tour's steep buy-in ($17, 999), but then Victory's Custom Order Program lets you custom-build your own, too.

High Points
* Light Steering
* Powerful Motor
* Good Wind Protection

Low Points
* Small Gas Tank
* Cramped Seat
* So-So Fuel Consumption

First Changes
* Bigger Tank
* Aftermarket Seat