By John Burns

A new six-speed transmission and more powerful cruisers lead the way

Dang, what a ride. At one point I came swooping over a rise and around a corner there in western Colorado on a swank new Cory Ness Victory Cross Country right into the teeth of a hailstorm—in spite of the fact that the sun was shining upon waving fields of grass and wildflowers, and just as the parts of me not covered by my excellent new Aerostich Falstaff jacket were drying out from the previous deluge. One minute later, the hail stopped, Colorado 141 dropped back down along the river (busily carving an excellent new Grand Canyon, minus the minivans), the pavement dried and my Cross Country commenced another giant slalom between the river bank and the red canyon walls. Heeled over not quite onto its floorboards in fifth gear and honoring the speed limit mainly in the breach, the CC is solid as a battleship and responsive as a really good modern motorcycle. Taking time to air up the Victory bikes' shocks with the correct preload makes a big difference; with 22 pounds in there, the Cross Country can be whipped along at a surprising pace. They tell me you can also just roll along and enjoy the scenery.

One of our complaints with the 2010 Cross Country was its whiny, semi-uncooperative gearbox. Whine no more: For

Zach Ness Victory Vegas 8-Ball: Not content to squeeze design ideas out of Arlen and son Cory Ness, Victory has now recruited the grandchild. Zach Ness' first effort is a Victory Vegas 8-Ball in Black suede with a full complement of Ness-ccessories.

2011, Victory has overhauled its six-speed overdrive transmission—complete with new engine cases—and produced a motorcycle that shifts as well as it does everything else. Along with tighter tolerances and bigger, stronger gears come a raft of benefits: a 66-percent reduction in driveline lash; a new Neutral Assist (which positively puts the bike in neutral when you toe the lever upward from first gear below 5 mph); a stretching-out of the bikes' recommended oil-change intervals to 5000 miles; and, last but not least, the reduction in drivetrain noise allows the Victoiy cruisers to emit a bit more exhaust noise. A little more rumble than before is nice, and the new six-speed goes in all the 2011 bikes across the board.

Every new Victory gets a 106-inch Freedom V-Twin, too. The Cross bikes (Cross Roads and Cross Country) and Visions use the Stage 1 version, with claimed output of 92 hp and 109 ft.-lb. of torque. All cruiser models—Vegas, Hammer and Kingpin—get a new Stage 2 version said to crank out 97 horses and 113 ft.-lb. And though 1 am not a fan of loud pipes, these are just louder enough.

Victory's engineers are also proud of their new Lock & Ride Trunk for the Cross bikes (retrofittable to 2010 models). It is sweet indeed for those who refuse to travel light and/or don't want their significant others falling off the back. The front of the trunk comes with a padded passenger backrest and dual audio speakers, and when you click the thing into place (in seconds, without tools), plugging in one cord gives you quad-speaker sound, a big trunk tail-light and an accessory power outlet.

As part of Victory's new CORE Custom deal for the Cross Roads, a buyer can pick out a bare-bones bike at the dealer, in Crimson or Black, and have it outfitted on site in hard or soft saddlebags (the soft ones are also new for 2011), forged or tubular steel highway bars, and can add a medium windshield and trunk for one low, low price. Okay, not that low, but Victory also prides itself on undercutting that other maker of American touring mo

torcycles. Cross Roads bikes start at $14,999, Cross Countrys (with standard fairing, stereo and cruise control) start at $17,999.

All the cruisers get new instrumentation with more info; and nearly all the cruisers get blacked-out brake calipers, triple-clamps, etc. A new sidestand hook is easier to find with your boot, road racing background, a dirtbike or two might seem to be the logical next direction for Victory. But Blackwell discourages that idea for the simple reason that dirtbike sales are in an even worse place than street motorcycles over the last few years.

"Why not something completely different? Why not some kind of motorcycle that's never been done?" asks Blackwell.

Umm, yeah. Why not? There are interesting things going on in Polaris snowmobiles with low-emissions fuel-injected two-strokes, and have been for awhile. Who knows what they might come up with up there in Medina? □

The Vision now comes standard with ABS, the Stage 1 106-inch engine, tubular handlebars and other detail changes—and starts at $23,199. Or, go whole anti-hog with the Arlen Ness Victory Vision (left) for quite a few dollars more.

and most importantly, all the cruisers get the Stage 2 106-inch engine and bigger exhaust openings to allow it to more fully exfoliate spent hydrocarbons and sound waves.

I had never ridden a Hammer before and was slightly amazed at how enjoyable this one is to ride in spite of its 250mm-section rear tire—a little heavy-steering but loads of fun in the curves just the same, with reasonable cornering clearance and strong brakes. If people keep building cruisers like these, I may get on board. Wait, I think I already am. The basic black Hammer 8-Ball sells for $14,499.

The Colorado cloudbursts weren't the only refreshing things; it was also invigorating to be riding around with Victory's Vice President of Motorcycles and former motocross champ Mark Blackwell, as well as a bunch of Victory engineers and designers. With Polaris' expertise and Blackwell's extensive off-

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