2015 Victory Gunner First Ride

Bobber or Not?

Down an alleyway behind a small cluster of buildings on the east side of the Daytona International Speedway stands an unobtrusive but full-size hangar serving as Polaris’s de facto fleet center during Bike Week. It was the place I’d be picking up Victory’s early-2015 model release, the Gunner, for a test ride. As I threaded my way between the Cessnas and Piper Cubs, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of Victorys stashed in the corner: two red Judges, a High-Ball and the Gunner (presumably mine). That these three particular models occupied the same area may have been sheer coincidence, but it provided a handy reference point; you can draw a pretty straight line between the Judge, the High-Ball and now, the Gunner. It’s the same Victory cruiser series setup, with a tube chassis and 43mm fork, all rolling on 16- inch wheels…even down to the same 64.8 inch wheelbase. The High-Ball may scream Outlaw, where the Judge’s vibe is more casual and uncommitted, but the Gunner comes with a stripped down focus. Let me count the ways.

2014 Victory Gunner

Stripped or Just Slick? It starts with the black handlebar – a more functional and neutral unit than either the Judge's pullback, tiller-like affair, or the 'Ball's raise-'em high unit. Then there's the price: at $12,999 (just $500 more than the Vegas 8-Ball), the Gunner is Victory's second least expensive motorcycle, and just going by the spec sheet alone, looks like quite a bang for the buck. The muscular style stands solidly apart from its lower-priced sibling's skinny chopper vibe, which runs on a 21-in. front wheel. Like I said, the Gunner's stance is purposeful. But is that enough to call it a bobber, as all those cutesy Victory ads targeting the Harley Softail Slim would have you believe? The Wikipedia tells it, a bobber is "a motorcycle that has the front fender removed, the rear fender made smaller, and all superfluous parts removed to reduce weight." Not to nit-pick, but ain't nothing "bobbed" about the Gunner's rear fender. In fact, the Judge's fenders look leaner… yet Victory chooses to call the Judge a Muscle Bike. Apparently, it all comes down to different wheels and handlebars. As for the Slim, well, the Gunner comes pretty close to hitting that target spot on. The Slim's styling, wheelbase, weight, and even lean angle, are all matched fairly closely by the Gunner's numbers, though the Harley does offer an ABS option and other paint choices. But the Slim is also nearly $3K more expensive. Moving on….

Low and Tight Sling a leg over and you're positioned a friendly 25 inches off the deck, with the Gunner's sleek, streamlined solo seat offering a nicely-shaped bucket and decent support. The mid-rise standard bars are plenty comfortable, especially after the Judge's setup, which I found too pulled back for my liking. The Gunner's footpegs are positioned virtually the same (or close) as the Judge's semi-forward knobs, but with the different bar bend, there's the sense that your tailbone's not getting quite the same pressure on it now that you're tilted a skosh more forward. It's the kind of layout that should fit riders of all sizes well, and over two days and a couple hundred miles, I had no comfort complaints.

Despite its stripped down aesthetic, the Gunner brings some nice detailing too. The most eye-grabbing features are the uber-sharp Suede Metallic paint, and the chunky Dunlop hoops with bold raised white lettering. Look familiar? They should – you’ve probably seen them on the Judge. But those sweet pseudo-spoke cast wheels are exclusive to the Gunner, and if you take the time to really check them out, you’ll catch some very cool machining. They’re a seamless melding of old-school, spoke-like appearances with the convenience of modern cast wheels, thus allowing the Gunner to wear tubeless tires. A brief fender rides atop the front tire to keep the bobber theme intact (as a side note, the Gunner also brings the same ridged fuel tank as the High-Ball).

Victory Gunner 24-spoke wheel

A stab at the starter spools up the familiar 106 cubic inch engine, with the requisite twin cylinder quaking below. Engage the thick shift lever for the usual Victory ka-'chunk,' and roll the throttle for an instantly-on power surge; the 110 ft.-lbs. of torque still make themselves readily apparent. The 106 engine is well-matched to the Gunner’s 6-speed tranny, which, despite the characteristic clunk, feels smoother shifting than previous examples. A Victory rep we spoke with credited that to constantly improving manufacturing processes, rather than any changes in the gearbox. That said, we still encountered some false neutrals on the Gunner throughout our two days tooling around Daytona in heavy rally traffic. Another quirk that made itself felt at low speeds was a slight abruptness during on-off throttle transitions, but that truly would qualify as a nit-pick rather than any notable flaw.

Victory Gunner's 106 c.i. V-twin engine

So really, there are no surprises here: Grab the right grip at just about any speed and the grunt is delivered with authority. If we’re talking seat-of-the-pants impressions, the Gunner feels somehow snappier compared to its other cruiser stablemates, even though it rolls on the same frame, with the same motor and the same exact mapping and cam timing. The subtle difference is felt, perhaps, because the Gunner is a touch lighter; while the basic foundation is virtually identical to Victory’s other cruisers, it carries about 10 lbs less mass (part of that due to the new wheels). But the fact that the Gunner uses many already-existing pieces from the Victory inventory may just explain the low price. The 43mm front fork is standard issue for the cruiser line, as is the rear suspension, along with the 300mm disc brakes. So the biggest distinction between the Gunner and the rest of the Victory cruiser line is its handlebar and wheels. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – Harley has been making hay with the same four platforms for decades now, and it seems to work for them.

The Gunner has somewhat heavy steering but it tracks stably once your line is set

Snap and Turn

But just because the Gunner rolls with virtually the same frame and tires, it doesn’t mean it handles like the Judge. The ergonomic tweaks on the new bike, to my mind, work better. The bars are more neutral, the pegs seem more friendly and the bike just feels tighter. Throw in the fact that the Gunner is lighter – though not by a huge amount – and it’s enough to make your steering inputs affect the bike differently. Underway, the Gunner feels generally as solid and stable as you'd expect, and it (a bit like the Slim) steers a little on the heavy side, though it tracks on long sweeping turns like train. With one brake disc on each wheel, the four-piston caliper does a pretty good job of slowing the front; the rear disc gets squeezed by a two-piston unit with similar results. Unfortunately, there’s no ABS, nor is there any option here. With a 25-inch seat height, you’d expect suspension travel to be pretty compromised, and 3 inches isn’t a lot, but the Gunner makes good use of its mono-tube shock, with only hardest-edged bumps making their way to my backside.

Victory Gunner's ride quality isn't too firm or too soft - unless you're on the sand

Make it So

This latest Victory cruiser is trendy, agile, and now easier than ever to customize with an array of accessories. We rode two variations of the Gunner – one bone stock and one accessorized with V bars, Stage One pipes, various billet covers, a luggage rack and floorboards. Long story short, I preferred the more relaxed bend of the stocker’s bars, as well as the less intrusive feel of the stocker’s footpegs; the floorboards seemed like they touched down more easily than the pegs (and the Gunner in general doesn't have a tremendously generous lean angle). Of course, there’s nothing wrong with an aftermarket red leather seat, and Victory emphasizes that there’s a host of other accessories available now to trick out the Gunner to your liking, including billet engine covers, grips and mirrors. Of those items, I’d definitely recommend the Stage One pipes – they look and sound way better than the stockers, and they’re a bit lighter as well. The tidy rear rack also turned out to be a good looking piece that sharpened the Gunner’s overall vibe, and it came in handy for hauling our luggage.

Victory has rolled out a host of accessories to support the Gunner.

There's nothing particularly innovative about the Gunner, but there’s no denying its fun-to-ride qualities and all-around goodness. Basic visuals and minimal trim make it an appealing rider’s bike, with peppy power and solid good looks. In fact, it's my pick of the line. The styling, fit and finish is what we’ve come to expect from Victory these days - very good - and there's no question this bike will appeal to big twin riders looking for snap and attitude. I’d suggest a little more leeway with the hacksaw, and maybe another marketing slogan, but even if it’s not necessarily a bobber (keep chopping guys) sometimes a solid, all around cruiser is okay too. And in that sense, the Gunner definitely hits the target.

2015 Victory Gunner

Base Price: $12,999 (Suede Black metallic)

Warranty: 1 year, unlimited miles

ENGINE Type air/oil-cooled 50-degree v-twin

Displacement, bore x stroke 1731cc, 101 x 108

Valve train SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder

Compression 9.4:1

Fuel system EFI

Transmission 6-speed, belt final drive

CHASSIS Overall length 93.4 in.

Wheelbase 64.8 in.

Wet weight 678 lbs.

Seat height 25. in.

Rake/trail 32 degrees / 6.7 in.

Wheels 24-spoke cast aluminum

Front tire Dunlop 491 130/90 B16

Rear tire Dunlop 491 140/90 B16

Front brake 300mm disc, 4-piston caliper

Rear brake 300mm disc, 2-piston caliper

Front suspension 43mm fork; 5.1 in travel

Rear suspension: Single gas shock; 3 in. travel, preload adjustable

Fuel capacity 4.5 gallons

Victorymotorcycles.com

The Gunner rolls with Victory's evergreen 1731cc 50 degree V-twin mill, so you get plenty of torque down low, and accessible power throughout the rev range.
These V-bars are just a few of the new accessories available for the Gunner. These units sit a bit lower and more forward than the stockers.