First Ride Review
Motorcycle customization trends ebb and flow. Choppers, with their spindly, raked-out forks, beach-ball rear tires and bizarre riding positions, seemed ubiquitous a decade ago. But when the Great Recession popped the bubble of easy money, the chopper craze deflated. Chromed-out bling machines were out and more practical baggers, with wind-cheating fairings and handy luggage capacity, were in. On the custom front, tiny front wheels gave way to big hoops, better to show off high-dollar billet front-ends. And all that extra plastic provided a big canvas for wild-style paint jobs, as well as a place to mount block-rockin’ sound systems.
With a significant share of Polaris Industries’ motorcycle R&D focused on the Indian branch of the family tree, Victory’s two new-for-2015 models are stylistic spin-offs rather than all-new platforms. We got our first ride on the Gunner, a stripped-down bobber based on the Judge, during Daytona Bike Week last spring, and I saddled up on the Magnum, a factory custom “big wheel bagger” based on the Cross Country, at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August.
Some bikes seek attention, but the Magnum demands it. There’s nothing subtle about its 21-inch Black Roulette front wheel—said to be the largest production wheel on a bagger—with what look like silver stiletto blades embedded in its nine gloss-black spokes. There’s nothing low-key about triple-tone paint jobs with names like Plasma Lime, Ness Midnight Cherry and Sunset Red (or Metasheen Black) over Supersteel Gray, with color-matched paint on the dash, saddlebag hinges, fender closeouts and radiator shrouds. And there’s nothing understated about a six-speaker, 100-watt audio system packed into the fairing, which can be boosted with accessory speakers in the saddlebag lids. If you wear khaki trousers, this bike ain’t for you.
The Cross Country’s cast-aluminum frame, taut-but-compliant suspension and ample cornering clearance give it some of the best handling characteristics among cruisers, but the Magnum trades some agility and comfort for style and a lower seat height (just 25.7 inches, thanks in part to the sleek Low-Pro seat). The Magnum’s slammed rear end is one inch lower than the Cross Country’s, but rear suspension travel has been reduced even further, from 4.7 to 3.5 inches, and front suspension travel is down from 5.1 to 4.4 inches. To compensate for less travel, the suspension was made stiffer and more progressive, contributing to a harsher ride. The big front wheel feels a little awkward around the parking lot but its amplified gyroscopic effect helps the bike feel rock-solid at speed.
Also new to the Magnum is a low-profile Boomerang windscreen that deflects oncoming air smoothly but somewhat noisily, and an LED headlight that improves conspicuity during the day and should enhance visibility after the sun goes down. Powered by the same 1,731cc (106ci) air-cooled V-twin and 6-speed transmission found throughout the Victory lineup (good for 85 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel on the Jett Tuning dyno), the Magnum offers plenty of thrust, and cruise control is standard.
The Victory Magnum is a bike for the times, but its styling isn’t exactly timeless. If a loud-and-proud bagger that trades some comfort for low-profile style suits you, then try this bad boy on for size.