Harley-Davidson, Victory, Honda - Bikes Tested

Long-Term Bikes

Harley-Davidson Road King Custom
MSRP: $16,400
Caretaker: Kay
Measurements: 5'4" / 29" inseam
Odometer: 6469
Miles to Date: 472

As the new associate editor at Motorcycle Cruiser, I had to show gumption right out of the gate on my choice of a long-term bike. Tech editor Zimmerman had plucked a tourer, and editor Cherney went for a street rod; hence, my 2007 Harley-Davidson Road King Custom. H-D calls it a tourer, but the styling screams "boulevard blaster" with clean fenders, a chrome wind deflector and a lowered seat and rear end (compared with the standard King). New for 2007 is the Twin Cam 96 (1584cc) air-cooled, rubber-mounted 45-degree V-twin engine. Torque and power are bumped up over last year's Twin Cam 88, with a new transmission re-geared for the larger engine, and a sixth overdrive gear added.

So what could be cooler than tooling around on a bright-yellow Road King Custom? Not much, if you have a decent handlebar. The King's "beach bar" bend should be banished; it puts my wrists in an unnatural, uncomfortable position and detracts from an otherwise very enjoyable motorcycle. Steering is remarkably light once rolling, and the new engine moves regardless of which of the broadly spaced gears you're in, with overdrive best coming into play once you hit 65.

But speed is beside the point on this cruiser. The Custom is all about style and comfort (handlebar notwithstanding). The seat is fantastic at cushioning, though it could be taller at the rear-I keep nearly sliding off on hard starts! The forward-set foot controls and floorboards best fit riders in the 5-foot-9 to 6-foot-3 range. For us inseam-challenged types, the rear foot brake pedal is a bit of a reach. Also, a wider toe-shifter pedal would be nice, as well as a longer foot tab on the sidestand.

The pearl-yellow sheen of our test bike is gorgeous, and the special chrome tank console is a beautiful piece of work too. The leather-covered hard saddlebags are nice, but they'd be even more useful if they locked.

I hope to cover many more miles, especially after ditching the beach bar.

Victory Kingpin Tour
MSRP: $16,999
Caretaker: Zimmerman
Measurements: 5'10" / 32" inseam
Odometer: 1392
Miles to Date: 150

Between the vagaries of magazine scheduling and uncooperative weather, there's not a whole lot to tell you about my new long-term Victory Kingpin Tour. The short story is that the bike didn't arrive here in Connecticut until about two days before a storm system blew in with a vengeance. Since the prospect of wrestling a large motorcycle over wet, slimy roads is less than appealing, discretion overcame valor, and the Kingpin, for the most part, has stayed put. Fortunately, I did manage to get in a couple of short rides, where I found there's an awful lot to like about the Silver Streak and not much to whine about. Since the technical 411 was covered in the April issue, and since my current opinions of the KPT jibe with Cherney's, there's not much point in rehashing things just yet. For what it's worth, though, I found out that the Kingpin starts and runs just fine in 20-degree temperatures (a point I think our L.A.-based editor overlooked in his write-up).

If you can't ride, you can prepare, so I've come up with some big plans for the King. The most ambitious one is to experiment with a DOT-legal aftermarket pipe from Hacker, along with a tuning package from Lloydz Motor Workz, the acknowledged experts when it comes to hot rod Victorys. Hopefully, we'll be able to realize some serious horsepower-not that this baby needs a lot more-while remaining within both the spirit and the letter of the law.

We'll also be taking this show on the road come summer. For the first time in a while, I'll have some free days, and I plan to make the best of them with extended trips. Speaking of which, the jury is still out on the Kingpin's seat, although I'm leaning toward replacing it, in part because I suspect that somewhere, someone's got one that's just a little more comfy. I'm thinking I'd also like a set of crash bars, just to rest my dogs on, you understand, and maybe a set of HID headlights to cut through the gloom.

Hopefully, the weather will hold for the next week or two, so if the good Lord wills it and the creek don't rise, I'll be able to start racking up miles before cabin fever addles what little is left of my brain.

Honda VTX1300C
MSRP: $9599
Caretaker: Cherney
Measurements: 5'7" / 30" inseam
Odometer: 1150
Miles to Date: 500

I've always preferred Honda's not-as-voluptuous VTX to the 1800 version. When my 1300C arrived, I knew I'd made the right choice; compared with its bigger brother, the most middle VTX handles like a friggin' GP bike. For a machine that weighs in at 689 pounds wet, that's saying something.

Unlike its plodding bro, the diet-conscious VTX steers lighter and seems to have a higher center of gravity. The seating position and saddle manage to better suit my 5-foot-7-inch frame. The forward-skewed controls are positioned where my 30-inch inseam wants them, and the flat drag-style bar is an easy stretch for my stubby arms. Plus, I just plain like the elemental, chopped look of the street-rodded C version.

Course, there's much to bemoan, like gasping starts on cold mornings-the 1300 is terminally carbureted-a cantankerous jacking effect from the shaft, an evil rear suspension and somewhat general malaise in the styling. There's a mere single disc and two calipers doing the braking up front, so I'll be looking to upgrade with new pads and steel lines.

But the 1312cc V-twin engine does have a good amount of poop, it's liquid-cooled, and those rear dampers are preload adjustable. (Though that doesn't help much.)

First changes? I'd like to give it the Mother of All Paint Jobs-it looks like a blanched creampuff right now. And that suspension pogo, coupled with the shaft effect, ain't a pretty combination. I'm hoping a set of new Progressives will even her out in the back, and I've ordered a Peacemakers pipe from National Cycle to add some, er, "character" to the exhaust note-I'll be the first on my block to try the company's new metric version.

Even better, my neighbor Rebecca took delivery of a 2006 model-virtually identical to my 2007-about six months ago and has agreed to let me check in every month or so to see what's what. To date, she's put on about 2000 miles without problems, added a set of Hondaline soft bags, engine guards, a Memphis Shades shield and a custom leather bib. Next up, she says she'll add a taillight modulator out back to brighten up the VTX's fairly dim rear lighting. There's plenty of input coming from all sides, so stay tuned...