By Bud Wilkinson of RIDE-CT.com
R. Lee Ermey has had a successful, in-your-face second career as an actor and TV pitchman. His prior occupation was as a drill sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was in the Stanley Kubrick movie “Full Metal Jacket” and hosted the TV series “Mail Call” and “Lock n’ Load” on History. He’s become so well known that his website sells “Gunny” ringtones, “Gunny” DVDs and even an autographed “Gunny” action figure.
Ermey’s unmistakable voice was echoing in my head last Saturday afternoon as salesman Steve Marquardt of Willow’s Motorsports in Cheshire pointed out the features on the new Victory Cross Roads that the dealership was loaning me for a five-day test ride. That could have been because I’d recently seen Ermey’s latest TV spot – one that challenges riders to forgo a certain iconic brand in favor of Victory.
So why was I hearing his words from another Ermey commercial? It was the one for Geico where he plays a therapist who shouts at a milquetoast patient that maybe he should “chug on over to namby-pamby land” and then tosses a box of tissues at the guy on the couch.
Maybe it was because I was lacking in self-confidence myself at that moment; concerned about being, in Gunny’s words, a “jack-wagon.” What if it’s too much bike for me? What if I drop it on a country road and can’t get it upright again? When your garage is filled with middling to small motorcycles – in 1,000cc, 750cc, 650cc and 500cc sizes – a 106 cubic (1731cc) motorcycle that weighs 745 pounds before gas is added looks and feels extremely hefty. And it is, at least until you get used to it.
Marquardt advised that, yes, the Cross Roads is a big V-twin bagger but is easy to handle once it’s moving. He also warned that the breeze over the windshield causes head buffeting at more than 60 or 65 miles per hour. He was right in one case and wrong in another. The Cross Roads is exceedingly maneuverable once rolling, but the buffeting didn’t become noticeable or bothersome for me until, well, let’s just say above a legal cruising speed.
Having the Cross Roads for five days provided time to become comfortable with the bike and to notice any flaws. It also provided a chance to show it off and get outside opinion on the styling. While opinion was split on looks, largely because of the large “V” tail light and turn signal array, I got a lop-sided response on price. One person guessed $18,000, two folks said $22,000 and one person even said $25,000 when I asked them to guess the bike’s price. That speaks well for the fit and finish. The actual MSRP for a 2011 model in crimson is $15,499, which is nearly $2,000 less than a comparable Harley-Davidson Road King. That doesn’t include the windshield and passenger backrest that the test bike had.
What’s to like about the belt-driven Cross Roads? Practically everything, starting with the throttle. Roll-on in first gear is smooth with lots of feel and power is always at your fingertips. The six-speed overdrive transmission pleasantly thunks and the centered gauge with needle speedo and digital tachometer/odometer is in plain sight. My 30-inch inseam forced me to reach a bit to operate the shifter and rear brake, but wasn’t a problem once I adjusted. The bar graph fuel indicator for the 5.8 gallon gas tank left me wondering, though, why it showed “empty” and was flashing a warning when only 3.6 gallons were needed to fill it.
With dual disc brakes up front, the Cross Roads has plenty of stopping power and a rear 180mm tire offers firm footing for what is truly a nimble ride for its size. I tried the cruise control on Route 8 on Wednesday afternoon, in very windy conditions, and felt it a little herky-jerky. I preferred instead to enjoy a smoother ride by retaining throttle control myself. Also on the plus side – spacious matching hard bags.
Victory began selling motorcycles 13 years, positioning itself as an American-made alternative to Harley. It even proclaimed itself “The New American Motorcycle” in what came off as a “me too” statement. That slogan was recently discarded in favor of the line “Ride One and You’ll Own One.” The new TV commercial shows Ermey going to Sturgis, S.D. to challenge Harley riders to try Victory and compare. Additional and longer online videos expand the effort.
Indeed, Victory is now dismissive of Harley with Ermey wisecracking about a “poser parade” and the company proclaiming “We Build the Best Bikes on the Planet” and “We Stand Behind Our Bikes” in those videos. Sounds like market research at work to me. Having finally ridden a Victory for more than a round-the-block test ride, I can say that the Cross Roads certainly lives up to the boasting.
Here’s an example of how Victory’s trash talking Harley: