2013 Victory Judge Victory’s Lawman Means Business

Judgement Day Is Here

In the motorcycle world, six years is a long time. To the development crew at Victory Motorcycles, that’s how long it’s been since they rolled out a new cruiser, having spent the past several years working on their touring lineup. If you’ve been asleep at the wheel, you might not have noticed that most new designs in the cruiser world have been baggers of some description or another. This year, things are starting to come back around.

Victory returns to a pure cruiser design with a vengeance, in the form of the early-release 2013 Judge. Just listening to Victory designers during the press briefing was a welcome change—in years past, you’d hear mostly about focus groups and demographics. This time, it was all about capturing a look and feel, and appealing to riders with a genuine motorcycle.

From small components to large, the care taken with this design is obvious. Slim, spiky turn signals that match the attractive units on the touring models, a thick bezel on the large headlight, raised white letters on the tires and LED lighting throughout, are the sorts of details I’m talking about. And the big stuff didn’t get missed either, with a slick frenched-in taillight, pseudo number plates for the side covers, beefy conventional forks, and industrial-looking fender rails counting as good examples. Everything down to the footpeg mounts looks styled and attractive, and, more importantly, supports the overall design. With apologies to Victory, the old Hammer looks bloated and cartoonish next to the Judge.

Since this is another tube-framed Victory cruiser, obviously there are similarities to previous designs, but a big change here is the attempt to redefine the mid-mount control. On the Judge, the whole ergonomics package was a step into the unknown. Victory’s stated goal was to design a bike that appealed to a wide range of body types (including shorter riders), while also not alienating bigger-bodied folks.

I was dubious about pulled-back forward controls at first. They feel foreign, especially when coupled with Victory’s long-reach “drag bars” (in quotes because this one is merely a low-rise standard bar with a stylish kink in the middle). Most cruisers (except perhaps mid-mount Sportsters) have roughly an equivalent reach from the hands and feet. The Judge bucks this arrangement with rear-set forward controls, and a bar most riders will have to bend forward to reach. Victory explained its take on mid-mount controls as a way to get the pegs out of the way of shorter riders’ reach to the ground.

Effectively, Victory’s designers have taken a traditional cruiser position and rotated it forward, with bars 1 inch forward of a typical Victory bar, and pegs 3 inches back. Funny thing is, it works. Despite my anticipating that the position would bother my back over a long ride, I was perfectly comfortable both in back and butt after 100+ miles in the saddle. Older Victory cruisers have notoriously squishy seats, while the Judge’s perch is not only formed of supportive foam, but also has an engaging shape that wraps around the faux number plates and tank.

The Judge’s other departure from past Victory cruisers was the beefy, high-profile Dunlop 491 rubber it wore at both ends, covering very cool muscle-bike styled five-spoke wheels. The burly treads make for monster contact patches with the road and very confident handling.

The overall effect on the road is a package that works very well together. The forward canted riding position puts you in an aggressive state of mind, and the bike fits the mold. With the aggressive slant, I touched down the first couple of times I leaned into a corner, but with a little more lean, the Judge was mostly persuaded not to scrape. Victory’s 106-inch DOHC V-twin is a powerful lump, but has very mellow power delivery, letting you twist the throttle without getting into trouble too quickly. It’s a good match for a bike that’s supposed to appeal to a wide range of riders, especially beginners. Riders who want more of a “jump” off the line can always get an EFI program.

Somehow this tube-framed bike outperforms the company’s others in the line-up—at least from a seat-of-the-pants perspective. Or perhaps it’s that large confidence-inspiring front tire. It just feels more connected as it rails through turns. In recent years, Victory has become proficient at tuning their longer-travel suspensions, and the Judge is no exception, splitting the difference between comfort and control perfectly.

Despite all of this love, there’s got to be a downside, right? Of course.

The Judge’s brakes are still Victory-squishy and require some pull. I can’t help but think that dual discs might have been a good idea on a bike with this kind of aggressive character, but perhaps the equally aggressive price point didn’t allow for that option. The six-speed transmission has an unpredictability about it, too: Lever effort changes from gear to gear, sometimes sliding in, sometimes clunking, and once hopping out of second. We know Victory has spent vast amounts of time and energy on improving this area, but it’s just not there yet.

If social media and Victory’s own dealer response is any indicator, the bike is already a hit. Victory claims the Judge has spurred more hits on the Web than any motorcycle in the company’s history, and dealer orders are running at 50% over their internal budgets. We can say the hype is well deserved for this fun, stylish, easy-to-get-along-with bike. At $13,999, Victory’s first 2013 model is not cheap, but not too dear either.** CR**

Now We’re Playing Hardball

At the Judge intro, I also had a chance to spend a little time with Victory’s previous big debut, the Hard-Ball. Now, many people will scoff at a touring bike with ape hangers, but they’re looking at it the wrong way. This is a custom bike with bags.

In fact, when sitting astride the thing, and looking forward between outstretched fists, it feels entirely like a custom bike. And look around you, on the street…you can’t throw a pair of assless chaps without hitting a touring rig with apes. Probably because it works.

We’ve pointed out on multiple occasions that the Cross-series Victorys out-handle most bagless cruisers, and that carries over to the Hard-Ball. In fact, mini-apes actually make steering lighter by providing lots of leverage over the front end. Since they’re not too tall, not all the blood leaves your mitts immediately. It’s just you and your fists hanging in the wind. It’s kinda cool, but also provides plenty of cargo room, ABS and a decent amount of long-distance comfort.

Will a Cross Country provide more functionality? Absolutely. But so will a minivan, or a BMW. If this was about practicality we’d all drive Priuses. If you like the look, you’ll probably like the ride.