Road Test Review
A year ago this fall, as I was riding a 2011 Victory Cross Country to New Mexico and back from Southern California, I wondered, “What could make this bike even better?” The cruise control worked great, its luggage system held a huge amount and I was enjoying the radio—but we always want a little more now, don’t we? Well, on the other hand, its lowers were really not much more than gussied-up crash bars, and since they did not blunt the wind, my legs became cold in the higher elevations. On those rain-soaked roads anti-lock brakes would have been a welcome addition, and the bike could have used a few additional creature comforts. All of these were on my wish list.
It’s almost as if the good folks at Victory read my mind, since for 2012 it has introduced an upgraded model called the Cross Country Tour that keeps all the good stuff from the original, and incorporates substantial improvements in terms of comfort and function, the sound system and safety considerations. It now presents itself as a state-of-the-art machine with all the amenities any dresser rider could possibly want.
As for the basics, the Cross Country Tour is still powered by the same air/oil-cooled, 50-degree V-twin motor with single overhead cams and four valves per cylinder that debuted several years ago. It displaces 1,731cc—that’s 106 cubic inches for bikes made in American places like Victory’s Spirit Lake, Iowa, factory. This bad boy has a 9.4:1 compression ratio, and sips 91-octane fuel through a pair of 45mm throttle-body injectors. Bore and stroke are 101 x 108mm. The whole shootin’ match is counterbalanced for vibration control, and then set into a two-piece, sand-cast, hollow aluminum frame. Power is leveraged through a six-speed transmission, the top gear of which is an overdrive; it all hooks to the rear wheel by means of a belt final drive.
The first thing you notice about the Cross Country Tour as compared with its predecessor is its new set of lowers, enclosed pieces replacing last year’s open framework. A glove box on each side will easily hold a pair of gloves and more behind its little door, and the left one includes an iPod hookup. Below these is an enclosed section that can fully block the windblast to the legs, or the rider can grab the hand lever on either side and rotate this section out of the way to allow the wind to blow through. Likewise, that clear deflector at the lower edge of each side of the fork-mounted fairing can be positioned to deflect the wind away from the body in cool weather, or pivoted to direct it toward the torso when it’s hot.
Another change this year is the new windscreen, which is even taller than the previous accessory tall screen. My only complaint with the Tour’s amenities is that even though I’m 6 feet tall I still had to look through the screen rather than over it, which can be a problem at night, or in rainy or misty weather. Taken together, however, the lowers, deflectors and windscreen combine to offer nearly total wind control and protection.
Hit the starter button and the Victory comes to life with a muted, throbbing idle. Chunk it into gear and note that this model has an unusually heavy clutch pull. I don’t recall that the bike I rode last year required near as much clutch effort, so this may have been a peculiarity of our test bike.
The rider sits in the bucket of the cushy one-piece, two-up seat, feet on long floorboards, hands holding widely spaced grips. If the ride becomes chilly the rider can close all the wind controls and turn on the new heated grips, which have a high and low temperature setting. Still cold? Activate the heated seats via separate toggle switches for the rider and passenger portions, which are located on the base of the dual seat’s left side; each also has a high and low setting. In a minute or so you’ll feel the seat begin to ooze warmth, which will be downright cozy on those evening rides.
Passenger amenities include the padded backrest mounted on the trunk as before, but new this year are the three-position footboards. They can be placed at any of three heights by unbolting and reinstalling their brackets. This not only varies their height within a 2-inch range, but depending upon how you turn the brackets the ’boards can also be tilted 10 degrees.
Despite its bulky appearance and hefty wet weight of 868 pounds with a full tank of gas, the Cross Country Tour has a relatively light feel on the road. Part of this is its 29-degree rake with 5.6 inches of trail. Still, with that 65.7-inch wheelbase, it’s solid on the road. Another plus is that despite its relatively low seat height of 26.3 inches, the bike has an acceptable level of cornering clearance and doesn’t usually drag parts while cornering.
Victory boasts that the Cross Country Tour provides “the most storage of any bike in the world,” more than 41 gallons worth, and I could not dispute that. The bags are huge, their lids open outward and their flat inner walls make them easy to pack. The rear-opening trunk will swallow a pair of full-face helmets and most of whatever else you wish to carry. Factor in the glove boxes in the new lowers and if the Tour doesn’t provide enough storage for you, you’ve probably over packed. The bags and trunk are all lockable with the ignition key, and unlined, but your Victory dealer will cheerfully sell you a set of liner bags for them.
That trunk has a “Lock & Ride” feature that allows it to be removed or installed quickly and easily without tools. To do so, the rider begins by unhooking the wiring harness for the trunk (located behind the left side cover), then pivots two handles upward that are located below the trunk. This releases the trunk and the entire unit can be removed.
The 106-inch motor has a pleasant note, and with its counterbalancer is a model of smoothness. When last we tested a Victory 106 in a Cross Country, in our May 2010 issue, it cranked out 87.5 horsepower at 4,900 rpm, and generated 97.5 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 rpm, and this engine is identical. Shifting requires some effort and produces some satisfying clunks, especially when stuffing it into first gear. Power delivery is very controllable, and at 60 mph in sixth gear the motor is turning a lazy 2,300 rpm. For simplified maintenance it features self-adjusting cam chains, utilizes hydraulic lifters and oil-change intervals are 5,000 miles.
On my New Mexico trip last year I noted that while riding the highway for hours on end in sixth gear with the cruise control set at 70-75 mph, this big-incher returned a surprising 50 mpg. That, coupled with its 5.8-gallon tank, gave it a potential range of 290 miles. This year, in more conventional all-round city/country usage, our test bike averaged 38.6 mpg.
The bike is suspended by a 43mm male-slider cartridge fork that provides 5.1 inches of travel, but offers no adjustments. The rear single air shock offers 4.7 inches of travel. Access the Schrader valve located behind the bike’s right side cover, consult the small chart in the right saddlebag lid specifying the recommended air pressures for various loads and weights, and use the hand pump provided to adjust the shock’s air pressure. I found the suspension well controlled, short of plush, and very acceptable for a bike this size and heft.
Another upgrade on the Tour model is anti-lock brakes, a nonlinked system that utilizes a pair of 300mm front discs activated by four-piston calipers, and a single 300mm rear with a two-piston caliper. Utilize either brake while upright in a straight line and you’ll feel the wheels repeatedly come to the point of near lockup, then release.
The sound system offers an AM/FM radio standard, with an iPod cord and satellite radio available as an option. Four speakers, a pair in the fairing and a pair on the trunk, surround you with sound. Audio quality is good, but at highway speeds most of the sound is lost in the wind.
The bike offers a high-intensity discharge headlight that Victory states is four times brighter than a standard halogen light, and lasts 10 times longer. We now tend to carry cell phones and GPS, and for charging such devices, the Tour offers three 12-volt plugs, one in the dash, a second in the left glove box and a third in the trunk.
Complaints are minor. I’ve already mentioned the tall windscreen. Also, the control pods for the sound system below the left grip and the cruise control on the right are not illuminated. Until you become familiar with them, you will be fumbling around for them in the dark.
In addition to its large speedometer and tach, the Cross Country Tour’s instrument panel includes a fairly accurate fuel gauge and ammeter, gear indicator and clock. Repeatedly pull a switch near the left grip and the LCD display will cycle through two tripmeters, ride time, average mpg, average mph, range, current mpg, running time and odometer.
With all this luggage capacity and passenger amenities, it’s comforting to know that the CC Tour has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 1,360 pounds. Subtract its wet weight and you find the bike offers 492 pounds of load capacity.
If you’re ready to spring for a 2012 Cross Country Tour, the bike’s MSRP is $21,999, and color options include the Solid Sunset Red shown, plus Solid Black or Solid Pearl White. An option is the more basic Cross Country model, which is essentially last year’s model without the trunk and this year’s updates, but it does have ABS; it sells for $18,999.
On last year’s long ride I put more than 3,000 miles on the Cross Country, and really came to appreciate its handling, power, luggage capacity and sound system. Now that it has been upgraded with the new airflow controls, heated grips and seats, and the rest, the Cross Country Tour can match other top-line dressers for comfort features, while its ABS provides an additional safety margin. Put it all together, and Victory has a bike that now excels in every functional category of long-distance travel. Hmmm, now where’s my map of New Mexico?