A mischievous grin split my face as I approached the empty intersection a mile from my house. Poor planning years ago had turned what should’ve been a mundane 3 way city intersection, into a quarter mile twisty motorcycle launch pad.
I slowed slightly, shifting my weight to the left, and pushed the bike over into the left hand turn into a tight arch. Grinning wide, my right hand twisted the grip as I snatched the Cross Country Tour upright and I shifted my weight over to opposite side. In one fluid motion (and with the mental fantasy of blasting around the track at Barber Motorsports) I threw the big Vic with it’s all aluminum frame over to the right and tried hard to scrape the boards as I challenged its rated 32 degree lean angle before reversing my weight again to the left side.
Accelerating, the big Vic responded with the agility of a much smaller machine as I rode her into a left hander for another short turn before the pavement straightened, and the crest of the approaching hill and common sense demanded I ease off the throttle. As the speedo slid below 70, I returned to my senses. I was just a mortal magazine editor, instead of the super human professional racer I was pretending to be.
I had lost count how many times I’d pushed this Victory Cross Country Tour in this manner. And, every time I marveled at how far it would lean before hard parts touch. Approaching 2500 miles on this long term test, I had reached a comfort level with this bike that usually only comes with ownership. I knew our relationship would end soon, but that was in the future, pushed to the dim recesses of my mind.
What was turning into a love fest with the CCT, began much differently.
As cliche as it sounds, this review almost ended before it started.
I should start at the beginning, in White Plains Maryland at Victory of Southern Maryland where I picked up the bike. My arrival coincided with appearance of the remnants of Hurricane Earl. A system that ultimately dumped record setting amounts of rain on the Mid-Atlantic States in a short 8 hour window.
I’d been watching the Weather Channel and knew I’d get wet. I wasn’t too concerned. I had the best gear that Victory, Aerostich, and Nolan manufactured. My only real concern was fatigue.
Leaving home at 3:30 am, I boarded my flight out of Augusta at 5:30. A short hop to Charlotte NC and a connecting flight to DC, put me on the ground at 9:30am. I arrived just about the time Earl and his outer rain bands came knocking on the Capitol doorsteps. After an hour’s cab ride to the dealership,(and a very interesting cold war history discussion with the Ukraine cabbie) I was more or less on the self-imposed schedule I had set for myself on this trip.
I planned to fly up, get the bike and make the 614 mile trip back home in less than 24 hours. Along the way I’d stop in Fayetteville North Carolina to see an old girlfriend. That sounds more salacious than it is. Kelly is a female friend of both my wife and I, and while technically she’s a “girlfriend” I doubt she’s ever referred to me as a “boyfriend.”
Wave after wave, tropical storm Earl was pounding the DC area
Woody Allen said, “if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans” and I think God was chuckling that day because as soon as I walked in the dealership, the proverbial bottom fell out of the clouds and what had been a moderately steady rain, suddenly became a good old fashioned frog strangler of biblical proportion, threatening to completely wash out my plans..
The pounding on the roof was so loud there was no use yelling at the employees on the other side of the parts counter, so I stood there a few minutes, smiling at Melinda Torreyson as we waited for a break in the storms fury. When it eased, I identified myself and told her my mission. I could feel her sizing me up as she eyed my blue jeans, tennis shoes and short sleeve shirt. I guess she hadn’t noticed my bag that I’d dropped by the door. Oddly I felt compelled to explain myself. “I’ve got all my gear in that bag” I said, pointing to the entrance. She laughed and said, “That’s good, because it looks like you’re going to need it.”
That was her first understatement of the day.
As if on cue, the storm intensified into a deluge that would’ve made Noah proud. The television in the customer lounge was tuned to the Weather Channel. Fast moving green bands with pockets of yellow and orange storm cells were streaming off the Atlantic heading north, one wave coming right after the other, forming a seemingly impenetrable barrier between me and the clear skies of Richmond Virginia, only 90 miles away.
As I cooled my heels and waited for a break that never came, Melinda gave me a tour of the facilities and checked me out on the new features of the Cross Country Tour.
Melinda was well into her spiel before I realized I was daydreaming about taking my bride on one last extended road trip before winter’s arrival. I hadn’t been giving her my full attention. That’s what forgetting to take your ADD medicine will do for you.
I’d tested a Cross Roads last year, and knew a little about this line of bikes. Introduced in 2009, the Cross Country immediately became Victory’s top selling touring bike, and helped move the Minnesota company from 5th to 2nd in the battle for supremacy in the heavyweight cruiser market.
The (previously optional) tour pack was now standard, and included rear speakers and integrated passenger backrest. Additionally highway bar mounted lowers with a glove box on each side and IPod / IPhone connectivity. Integrated in the lowers is what Victory calls its “Comfort Control System” of vents and air scoops, designed to channel air flow into the lower cockpit area, or block it out entirely; more on this later.
The windshield is 8 inches taller this year, and is non-adjustable. Victory engineers designed it that way and included a set of clear rounded hinged louvers below the fairing to reduce cockpit turbulence. For that, the system is flawless. Overall I liked the taller setup, but I’d have to cut the windscreen down if the CCT moved into my garage permanently. The reason? At 6 foot, I’m l looking through the windshield, instead of over it. There is some room on the fairing for manual adjustment, but the mounting system would need to be modified.
Melinda showed me how and where to adjust the rear air shock to set the bike up for transporting a passenger or bags full of gear. With 4.7 inches of available travel, this bike can comfortably transport a companion and all the gear necessary for a week on the road. With 41.1 gallons of storage,(most in it’s class with hard side bags, tour pack and glove boxes) the space is there, how you fill it is up to you.
Throw a leg over the saddle and you sink down onto the plush padded seat 26.25 inches from the ground. On touring bikes, lower is better, and the CCT setup instills the confidence and stability you get from having both feet firmly on the ground.
When not on Terra Firma,, the driver rests his or her feet on generous floorboards. Victory wisely decided against putting a rear shifter on this model, leaving ample room to shift feet positions slightly on long distance hauls. The passenger floorboards are adjustable for different height riders.
Approaching noon, it was time for me to poop, or get off the pot, as my daddy liked to say. With no break in sight on the radar, I decided my best course would be to trust the big front end of the CCT to keep the worst of Earl’s fury at bay. I figure I’d ride gingerly south until I escaped the squalls coming in from the coast. I gauged I’d be out of it in 50 miles, or just over an hour assuming I could average 40-45 mph.
You know what they say about assuming anything. (Cue the jackass sound effect.)
At that moment, as if to highlight the folly of my decision, (or maybe it was a cosmic punch line) a bolt of lightening stuck close enough for the simultaneous thunder to dislodge a glass framed picture sending it crashing literally at my feet. Staring at the shards of glass on the floor, I was reminded of a quote from Voltaire, “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.” I wasn’t laughing either.
But, it was either spend the night, or suck it up and ride. Underestimating nature’s fury, (or overestimating my abilities) I said my good byes and struck out south towards I-95 into the most nerve wracking hour of my professional motorcycle testing career.
Melinda had warned the first big sphincter tightening moment would come 15 miles from the dealership as US Hwy 301 crossed the Gov. Harry Nice Memorial bridge spanning the Potomac River.
That was her second understatement of the day.
I’ve made a few bad decisions in my time, but crossing a metal decked bridge on a touring bike with a fork mounted fairing and big rear tour pack in the midst of a tropical storm tops my list. Or at least my “I did this completely sober” list.
Cresting the top of the span and creeping along at 25 mph it happened. A sudden gust from the west whipped the handle bars so violently, my left hand came complexly off, and with the input from my right hand still on the bars, the bike leaned right, heading straight to the concrete guard rail. Amazingly I had time to wonder if the impact would flip me over the barrier, plunging me and 860 pounds of aluminum, steel and fiberglass into the dark churning water, four stories below. Thinking back, I’m still amazed at how calm I was when the grim reaper appeared.
But, just as quickly, the wind settled, the reaper vanished and I regained control of the bike well before impact. Had the gust come from the opposite side, I could’ve been pushed into oncoming traffic. Thankfully my mind was too occupied with the immediate task of survival to dwell on the painful outcome of that scenario.
Reaching the opposite shore, the recklessness of my decision was highlighted by the dozen or so cars pulled over on the shoulder on the opposite shore to wait for a break in the storm. I can only imagine what idiotic labels they mentally pinned on me as I inched along, straining my neck to get my eyes above the top of the windshield for a better view of the road ahead.
Approaching the northern suburbs of Richmond Virginia, the rain slacked off and the wind evaporated. With surprisingly light traffic, the worst was behind me, and I removed my gloves to test the stereo system on the CCT.
I’d brought an IPod and before leaving had plugged it into the Apple jack located in the left side glove box. Once auxiliary input is selected, the Victory logo displays on the player and functionality is transferred to the convenient left side handlebar controls. I never quite mastered the ability to change the play list, although I fiddled with it quite a bit. The dock is fully powered and will keep your IPod or IPhone charged during use. There’s also a separate accessory plug to charge other phones, although there isn’t a corresponding jack for stereo input. Bummer for anyone with their music on non-Apple devices.
With the tunes fired up, I entered Richmond Virginia just as Gregg Allman’s voice came through the speakers “Virgil Cain is my name and I served on the Danville train…til Stoneman’s calvary came and pulled up the tracks again…In the winter of ‘65, we were hungry, just barely alive….” “how appropriate” I thought) a song about life in the last days of the Confederacy just as I’m entering its capitol.”
Settling back, I turned that Southern classic up louder than necessary and set the cruise on 80 mph, shifted deeper into the plush seat, and spent the next few hours falling in love with this Cross Country Tour.
Soon after the September sun faded I stopped for supper. Pulling into the parking lot of a chain restaurant, the big round gauges illuminated the cockpit in a soft blue glow. In the stressful beginning of the ride, I hadn’t been able to get acquainted with anything on the bike. Before dismounting, I ran through the various functions of the controls.
A slight stretch of the LEFT index finger reaches a pull switch to cycle through the on board computer. Overall odometer miles, miles per gallon on average, fuel remaining, average speed and current speed are displayed digitally, in addition to the large analog style circular gauges with RPM, speed and fuel. An sensor relays the ambient temperature to the display, although over the course of the test I discovered it was consistently 2-5 degrees higher than those big display thermometers on the bank signs.
There’s a gear indicator in the middle of the digital readout, and while that’s handy, I noticed it disappeared when I pulled the clutch, which I almost always do when I approach intersections to stop, and while sitting at red lights. If that wasn’t a glitch limited to the test bike, I’d recommend Victory’s engineers redesign this so a quick glance will let you know if you’re in the gear you want to be in.
A toggle switch just below the instrument cluster activates the heating elements in the grips. I came to appreciate this feature the deeper in fall and the first few weeks of winter. There’s also heated seats, with those switches located on the left side under the passenger seat. I’m not a fan of heated seats on any brand. For me, if it’s cold enough to turn them on, I’ll be wearing something insulated, so all they do is make my rear end sweat, and a sweaty butt on long rides isn’t something I’m fond of.
Out front in the fairing sits a big slightly oval shaped High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamp Victory claims it’s four times brighter than halogen and lasts 10 times longer. I agree that on “bright” it punches a sizable hole in the darkness, but I didn’t like the short range on dim. There’s probably an adjustment to raise it up so it throws the light a little farther down field.
On the left, dangling below the standard set of switches reside the stereo controls. On the right, in the same position reside the controls for the cruise control. Nothing out of the ordinary to report here, so let’s move along.
While ABS isn’t standard on most cruisers, it’s on the CCT from the factory. The rest is common fare for cruisers, such as dual 300mm floating rotors and 4 piston calipers on the front over the 130/70R18 Dunlop Elite 3 tire. The front brake lever has a 5 position adjustment. Whether you like your front brake pull hair trigger strong, soft as marshmallow, or like me, somewhere in the middle, there’s a notch that suits you. Out back, a single 300mm rotor with 2 piston caliper rules over a 180/60 16 inch radial from Dunlop. Front to back the wheel base measures 65.7 inches with 108.1 inches overall parking space needed.
The remaining 7 hour ride was blissfully uneventful, and thanks to the superb acoustics of the CCT stereo system, the highway tunes banished the boredom normally associated with such a long slog. I pulled into my garage 23 hours after leaving, tired but thankful for having come in under my self-imposed deadline.
Two Up on a Week Long Cruise:
A few weeks later I had the opportunity to load up the CCT with gear and my bride and take an extended weekend trip to Panama City Beach Florida for the autumn Thunder Beach motorcycle rally. She doesn’t normally have the opportunity to ride the test bikes. Since the CCT was designed for just this type of trip, It would be a real world test and one that should highlight any flaws that I might miss riding solo. .
Packing the CCT, in many ways, reminded me of a 7000 mile trip I took in 2008 on another big Victory Cruiser, the Vision. With the voluminous hard saddle bags and the (easily removable) rear tour pack, my wife and I fit everything needed for the 5 day mini-vacation. That included my IPad, camera gear, and laptop. With a washer/dryer at the condo, I only carried 3 days’ worth of clothes.
The weather was unseasonably warm at the start of the trip and I removed my jacket a couple hours into he ride. By rearranging the contents of the tour pack, I was able to stuff the bulky jacket in with space to spare. Not much space, mind you, but the trunk closed and that’s what’s important.
And speaking of closing, the lids on the hard saddlebags are designed in such a way that they’ll close without the latch being fully engaged. I had been warned that the bags, if not properly latched, had a tendency to fly open at highway speed. If this happens, expect to see your dirty underwear or whatever else you carry, spew out on the highway behind you. With the temperature reaching into the 90’s, I remembered why I didn’t like bikes with a lot of plastic up front. The engine heat, combined with the ambient air temperature really started doing a number on my legs.
In fact I got so hot under my arse that I wondered if I’d accidentally flipped the seat warmers on. Then I remembered Robert Pandya from Victory telling me that I’d need to “adjust” the lower and upper vents for the best airflow. Robert cautioned that wide open was not always the best setting to evacuate the heat. After a bit of trial and error, I found that by cracking the left side lower vent about halfway and keeping the right side alt 25% open and doing the opposite with the uppers, the cockpit was more comfortable.
But, in the middle of summer, when the temperatures approach triple digits, there isn’t much you can do on any motorcycle to escape the heat. With its multiple power outlets, the CCT is the perfect bike to test the efficiency of those electric cooling vests.
The weather for the rest of the weekend turned out gorgeous. After spending a couple of days in PCB for the rally, we headed west to Pensacola to visit a friend and eat at the Grand Marlin Restaurant we’d heard so much about.
Waiting on our friend to arrive, my bride and I compared notes and agreed we were sold on the Cross Country Tour. For comfort, handling, and styling, no other bike, including the Vison, was as appealing to us as the Cross Country Tour. And just like the saying goes, “When mama’s happy, every one’s happy.” On this bike, mama stayed happy the whole weekend and that made the journey better than the destination. There’s no doubt this would be our next purchase.
Our little mini vacation was ending the next day and it had turned out to be one our favorite trips. So many highlights come to mind that it’s hard to know where to start first, or how much to include.
Watching the sun set on the horizon, hundreds of miles from home, while nibbling on lobster fingers and BBQ oysters is a treat in itself. Add in a two piece band, a cold bottle of Michelob, and the warm ocean breeze and you have a magical evening spent with people you love the most.
Sometimes the end is the best place to begin.
Wave after wave, tropical storm Earl was pounding the DC area