It’s all relative, isn’t it? The last 16-inch-wheeled Victory we rode was the apehanger-equipped High-Ball just over a year ago, and I am happy to categorically state that for all-around riding and general comfort, the Judge is a distinct improvement, largely due to the deletion of that 15-inch-high appendage. Instead of a handlebar that hangs you out to dry for the sake of style, the Judge has a normal, flattish one that makes the effort to meet you halfway. Its footpegs have also moved an inch or two rearward (Victory calls them “mid-mounts”), which is a step in the right direction. And where the High-Ball made do with a solo seat, the Judge provides passenger accommodations. Aside from those things, restyled bodywork and paint, and retro wheels and tires, the song remains the same.
Not that it’s a bad song: Victory’s 106-inch (1731cc) 50-degree V-Twin lays out over 80 foot-pounds of torque at just 2000 rpm (on the way to a peak of 96 at 2920) on the CW dyno, so there’s always plenty of lumpy bass. And one of the beauties, really, of Victory having but one powerplant to fool with is that its injection and road manners are spot-on; if anything, the eight-valve air-cooled engine may be too refined and quiet for some tastes (not mine).
Although the Judge’s six-speed overdrive gearbox is the same as those on last year’s bikes, it shifts with a tad less effort and noise than the High-Ball trans, which banged like rail cars coupling. We never missed a gear on the Judge and didn’t give its transmission much thought until right now.
The single 300mm disc, four-piston caliper up front isn’t particularly powerful, but the rear 300/two-piston combo provides lots of stopping power, making it easy to lay down tire-squealing darkies on this long and low 655-pound-dry machine.
There you go, then, rumbling along the freeway with the flow of traffic at about 75 mph and 2600 rpm, a light but non-annoying V-Twin rumble present in the rubber-mounted handlebar but not in the very good mirrors. My 5-foot-8 physique would like the grips to come back another inch or two, but other (Quasimodo-shaped) riders on staff think they’re fine as is.
The new seat is a bit broader and comfier, with a bolster that’s in just the right spot to counteract what’s left of the breeze after it pours over the big 4.5-gallon tank, headlight and speedo. The fat, 16-inch Dunlop K491s not only push the nostalgia button, their tall profile soaks up a lot of small chop, and with a reasonable amount of lean angle available, their big round profiles provide stable, linear cornering ’til your pegs are dragging.
Victory’s marketing apparatus bills this one as a sort of “no-frills” bike, which means there’s plenty of black where you might expect chrome, including the handlebars and clamps, triple-clamps, etc. On the other hand, the Sunset Red metallic paint on our bike is nice and deep, the lone gauge divulges more information than you’d expect when you toggle through its displays, the grab handles on the steel rear fender provide good places to attach things and you even get an adjustable brake lever—all yours for $14,399. Pay the bailiff on your way out.