On a warm fall afternoon, Dr Hilgers and his wife stopped in to the Arizona Victory location on Cave Creek Rd with a twinkle in their eye. They both always loved the stylish profile of the Victory and felt their innovation is second to none. But that day they were thinking something just a little bigger and it wasn’t engine size. They were excited to put their own flare on something stylish and unique.
The Hilgers are dentists in the far west valley area. Kelly practices Pediatric dentistry and Michael practices Orthodontics. Since both of them deal with kids they saw an opportunity to take their dental practice to a new level. They wanted a couple of show stopping bikes that would encourage kids to get excited about dental care. Something they could showcase at charity events that would make a positive impression on a young mind.
Street bikes weren’t the way this dynamic duo started. Both started riding off road motorcycles as kids and loved to ride in the open spaces where they grew up. They continued with their love of motorcycles with more dirt bikes. These Victory bikes are the first street bikes they have owned.
Knowing this made Dan at Arizona Victory realize he had to really step up to the plate for these two. The Hilgers’ first met Dan in Phoenix at his dealership and soon realized he had the same interest in helping people as theydid. Dan was excited at the prospect of building two custom bikes for children’s charities. What was even better is Dan’s team was able to pull it off in a very timely manner without the normal complications associated with a custom build. Michael and Kelly appreciated his hard work and dedication to this project.
The bikes were built around the themes of the west valley dental offices. Charlies Chopper is the green Pediatric Dentistry Bike. It is the more “futuristic” of the two bikes complete with green ghost flames. The Mardi Gras Chopper is more old school in its design. They both express the attention to detail these dentists use daily in their practices. The bikes are both fun and eye catching.
When I asked Dr Hilgers if he hoped to introduce kids the world of motorcycling as well as trying to reach them about dental health he said he wanted to educate the kids about both. And he was excited to be able to use these bikes for such great causes. “We want kids to be able to dream about their future and realize that anything is possible and to put dentistry in a good light that is warm, fun and inviting.”
The bikes have already been on tour during spring training, several church charity events, and bike night at Westgate in Glendale. Unfortunately these bikes aren’t going to see many miles on the odometer. They are teaching tools and will be used for parades, charity events and motorcycle shows.
Dr Hilgers said working with Arizona Victory was a very positive experience and he would love to do it again. He also feels his bikes have been a tremendous success primarily due to the help of everyone at Arizona Victory.
A Contrasting Picture for Harley’s 1Q
Harley-Davidson Motor Co. does not currently expect to lower its new motorcycle production allotment this year despite a challenging first quarter in U.S. retail sales.
Harley-Davidson executives voiced the possibility of that scenario changing in the future in a recent earnings report, but are expecting their initial 2010 production target of 201,000-212,000 motorcycles to hold up through the end of the year.
Three positive issues are helping to keep production steady at that 2010 target range: dealer inventory levels, dealer network health and international bike sales. The latter fell only 3 percent in the first quarter compared to a year ago, with Europe showing little if any decrease. U.S. retail sales, on the other, decreased 24 percent, meaning overall bike sales dropped 18 percent compared to the first quarter of 2009.
While the U.S. market continues to be challenging, Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell pointed out two positives during the company’s recent quarterly earnings report. The first-quarter decrease in sales was the smallest quarterly year-over-year decline since the last year’s first quarter and the rate of the decrease lessoned throughout the first quarter.
“We’re making some real progress on a number of fronts with some encouraging directional improvements,” Wandell said.
Dealer inventory levels continue to be in “adequate” shape, Wandell said. Harley in fact noted in its earnings report that dealer inventory is down 23,000 vehicles compared to a year ago.
Harley-Davidson is seeing some dealer losses, although it continues to be in small numbers. Harley said it had six dealer points close in the first quarter. Last year, Harley had 28 dealership or Secondary Retail Locations close, or about 3.5 percent of the company’s retail operations. Harley officials, however, did say they expect more dealer losses in the future.
Hardbagger Heaven - Victory Gets Touring Right
By Jon Langston, Photos by Brian J. Nelson
When Victory Motorcycles released its striking Vision a couple of years back, the bike turned heads, raised eyebrows, and drew a nationwide chorus of long, low whistles. Folks didn’t know what to make of the Vision; its swooping lines and high-tech gadgetry had admirers praising its futuristic presentation, while haters loathed the bike — mainly for the same reasons. One thing everyone could agree on, though: It was different.
As it turns out, the bold Vision wasn’t the only trick up Victory’s sleeve.
Say hello to Victory’s brand-new hardbaggers, the fully dressed Cross Country and its bare-bones brother, the Cross Roads. Both are designed to flesh out Victory’s touring line. But before you think they’re a corporate reaction to the polarizing Vision, know this: All three bikes were on the drawing board at the same time, apparently these two just took a bit longer to reach the showroom floor. Which is fine; touring riders should appreciate that the Victory folks took their time here, because where the Vision is decidedly not for everyone, the Cross Country and Cross Roads are meticulously refined, fully realized touring bikes that hit their target dead on. And that target is you.
Last fall, Victory flew a gaggle of moto-journalists down to the Hill Country of Texas to put the new baggers through their paces, and RoadBike can dutifully report that A) just because the calendar reads October doesn’t mean that summer is over in Texas; and B) Victory’s array of touring bikes is now complete and can proudly line up tire to tire with anyone’s.
As mentioned, all three Victory tourers were in R&D at the same time (as proof, Polaris Vice-President Mark Blackwell and the Victory design team provided a snapshot of one of these hardbaggers in mock-up stage that had a time stamp from 2006, two full years before the Vision was introduced), so it’s no surprise that the Cross Country and Cross Roads share DNA with the Vision; both feature the same eager motor, the 106" 50-degree Freedom V-twin (counterbalanced for efficiency and smoothness with single overhead cams and four valves per) that pumps out 92 hp and 109 ft-lbs. of torque. All three feature a hollow, two-piece aluminum frame that utilizes the engine as a stressed component; both the X-Country and X-Roads feature an all-new, split dual exhaust; and both put the battery inside the chin fairing for space, and the air intake under the gas tank for quietness. And speaking of that tank, both the Cross Country and Cross Roads boast a massive, road trip-friendly 5.8-gallon fuel capacity, and all three motorcycles feature a gas-saving, noise-reducing sixth-gear overdrive. (Finally, someone gets a touring tranny right.)
According to Victory, the Cross Roads and Cross Country are class-leading bikes in several categories. Not only are they the lightest bikes of their kind, but the 26-1/4" seat height is the lowest among comparable tourers. Victory claims the 21.3-gallon capacity in the lockable, removable saddlebags is the greatest cargo volume of any OEM hard-bagged cruiser — 70 percent more than a Star Stratoliner’s and 25 percent greater than an H-D Street Glide’s. And the 18"-long floorboards? That’s right, the largest in the class.
Both bikes have an adjustable monoshock rear suspension and inverted front fork, each of which offers approximately 5" of terrain-eating travel. Both rock lightweight, hollow-spoked wheels, both feature adjustable foot controls and handlebars that rotate fore and aft for customized rider ergonomics, and both bikes accept a plethora of Pure Victory Gear accessories of the cosmetic and/or functional variety.
All these factors come together for a truly joyous motorcycle ride. Handling is, in a word, superb. The notorious Hill Country was no match for either bike, and the Cross Roads especially didn’t mind being flicked to and fro, usually to avoid cow patties. But it was when I got off the farm roads and throttled up to highway speeds on the straightaways that both bikes, this time the Cross Country in particular, truly shined. Once I shifted into the sixth-gear overdrive (which interestingly makes more noise than fifth if misused, whining discernibly at too-slow speeds or on a grade), both motorcycles really showed their mettle. You could jump from 65 to 90 mph in seconds, if you were so inclined, and at cruising speed, the whirr of the overdrive makes it clear that you’re moving right along at top fuel economy.
The fairing on the Country and the shield of the Roads pushed the sultry Texas air and (most of) its requisite bugs right around me, while the massive saddlebags effortlessly held three days’ worth of clothing and gear. And those largest-in-class floorboards? Call them best in class. Seriously, these are the most rider-friendly floorboards I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding with. I was able to stretch my legs way out in front and chill on my heels, or bend my knees and put my weight on my toes, and still feel secure no matter where my boots rested.
In either position, both bikes behaved magnificently — nimble yet stable. That’s a delicate balancing act, and one of the main reasons for the recent popularity of H-D’s Street Glide. Trying to be all things to all riders is where so many touring bikes fall short; most do one or the other extremely well, but rarely both. That is not the case here. Obviously, the lighter Cross Roads is a bit more flickable with its bolt-on windshield (which is pretty easy to remove, by the way), but the highway-oriented Cross Country more than holds its own in the handling department. Even fully loaded and two-up, both bikes are agile yet firmly rooted, while the surprisingly lightweight engine provides ample giddyap.
Thinking Man’s Bagger
With its sculpted countenance, there’s no denying that the faired Cross Country is aiming at fans of the Street Glide. Its aerodynamically designed fairing, massive hardshell bags, stylish engine guards, and all the creature comforts one could expect from a vehicle designed to go the long haul combine to make the Cross Country all that, and the proverbial bag of chips. Throw in a few select Pure Victory accessories such as a driver backrest, higher windscreen, and GPS unit, and it could easily rival an Ultra Glide rather than a Street. This might be the most comfortable, agreeable tourer I’ve ever ridden, and not just because of the low, nicely shaped seat. There are a host of reasons.
First and foremost, the bike is far lighter than it appears to be. At 765 pounds, the Cross Country weighs only 20 pounds more than the windshield-only Cross Roads, so the fork-mounted fairing unit doesn’t render the bike top heavy at all, surprising, since its sharp lines and broad shoulders house the headlight assembly as well as the stereo and instrumentation. Astride it, flat footed and arms folded, I was able to sway the Cross Country side to side with ease.
Second, these ain’t your daddy’s bolt-on, bent-to-order highway bars. Made of solid forged aluminum, the flat, wide engine guards jut straight out on either side, curling slightly forward, and then corner sharply down, sloping back and under the floorboard, cradling the motor, protecting the rider, and exquisitely accenting the distinctive lines of the fairing. Inside, each feature predrilled holes at two height levels, which allow accessory driving lights or highway pegs to be mounted in two separate spots. Or in both. Or in neither. In another instance where the form vs. function scale could’ve easily tipped in one direction or the other, kudos to the Victory design team for providing balance here.
Obviously designed by/for motorcyclists, the superfriendly rider interface is another reason the Cross Country is my new favorite long-haul tourer. Behind the fairing, the dashboard is black and well-shrouded, eliminating glare. In addition to an analog speedo, tach, fuel gauge, and battery meter, the legible digital readout features a gear indicator, clock, odometer, two trip meters, a ride timer (a particularly nice touch), and fuel economy info, all scrollable with a button on the left handgrip. The cruise is controlled with the right. And for a two-speaker, up-front system, the stereo sound pumps out some serious decibels; controls are a cinch with your left thumb.
Finally, the pointed shoulders of the Cross Country’s fairing are designed to direct wind and water outside the rider’s hands, and, frankly, when combined with the sharp, narrow engine guards, I think this bike’s muscular torso looks sturdier than the Street Glide’s smooth one. It’s got definition, like the body of a cut running back, rather than a bullish lineman.
Practicality, versatility, and style all in one package? The Cross Country scores.
No need to waste too much of your valuable time on a full exposé of the Cross Roads in this review, for this is effectively the exact same motorcycle as the Cross Country, only without the fairing unit. But there are a few points to be made.
Where the Cross Country is named and intended for exactly that kind of travel, the moniker of the Cross Roads is also apt, as it’s ideal for cruising the countryside on long weekend trips. With this bike you get none of the interstate-friendly bells and whistles that the Cross Country offers, such as stereo, cruise control, et al. In fact, you barely get any instrumentation at all; an analog speedometer atop the triple tree is the sole gauge. It’s got idiot lights for neutral indicator and low fuel, and a scrollable LCD that provides trip meters A and B, a clock, and a simple fuel gauge, but that’s about it. Minimalism is the watchword, as evidenced by the absence of those sculpted aluminum engine guards, replaced here by ordinary highway bars.
So what do you get with the Cross Roads? You get all the guts the Cross Country offers, including that killer suspension and powerful engine. You get those huge hardshell saddlebags, too, as well as the 18" floorboards (sorry, but your passenger gets footpegs here). You also get a fully clear and totally efficient Lexan windshield.
And even though I reported that the Cross Roads is only 20 pounds lighter than the Cross Country, I had to look that number up; after my initial ride, I would have guessed this bike weighed 40 or 50 pounds less than its brother. It seems that much lighter and handles accordingly. Now, that improved handling is obviously a result of the optical limitations and sense of girth that any fairing adds to any motorcycle, but the fact is the Cross Roads possesses an agility that the Cross Country does not, and provides the sensation of immediacy that seeing the pavement rush by under your front wheel delivers. If you’re intimidated by a large fairing, or simply don’t need all those creature comforts or a rock-solid shelter from the elements, then the Cross Roads is the right Victory hardbagger for you.
Wait, There’s More!
Both of these bikes offer a full line of accessories, so customizing either to fit your riding style is as easy as thumbing through the Victory catalog. There’s an optional touring saddle in addition to a low seat, and both driver and passenger backrests are available. And there’s a luggage rack that bolts onto the rear backrest. Chrome lid rails dress up the top of the hardshell bags, and rugged poly fabric liners or mesh organizers straighten up the inside. Chrome passenger handrails are options, as are wind deflectors for the forks, chrome fender rails, Big Mouth exhaust tips, and Rath billet wheels.
As far as accessories particular to each bike, a matching tachometer can bolt up next to the speedo on the bare-bones Cross Roads, and short or tall windshields are available to replace the standard one. For the Cross Country, dress it up even further with eye-popping chrome tops that wrap the highway guards, or switch out the shorty windscreen for a taller one.
So let the touring battle begin. With the Cross Country and Cross Roads Victory, the “New American Motorcycle,” has a championship touring team that can compete with anyone’s. RB