2012 Victory Cross Country Tour - First Ride

Putting the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide on notice: There’s a new touring cruiser in town.

2012 Victory Cross Country Tour

2012 Victory Cross Country Tour

When you take a gamble on unusual styling, you also risk obscuring a machine’s goodness with its presentation. Entered into evidence is the Victory Vision Tour, a fine motorcycle with a polarizing appearance. Are there touring riders who never gave it a chance because of its over-the-top bodywork? Almost certainly.

Having learned from that exercise, Victory put the Cross Country into the lineup. It’s a more conventional big-inch American touring rig, though the Vision’s sense of sweep and the artful eye of Arlen Ness are everywhere you look. Added to Victory’s 2012 offerings is the new Cross Country Tour, which Victory officials expect will become the brand’s top-selling touring rig in, oh, about the next five minutes.

Their expectations will not be dashed. I know this because I have just completed a big loop of the west, starting from the bike’s press launch in Park City, Utah, eastward in the general direction of Sturgis, then turning northwest toward Boise then and finally back to Los Angeles. That’s just under 2000 miles in four days of riding. In that time, including a straight shot of 847 miles from Idaho to California, the Cross Country Tour proved astoundingly good.

To make long days in the saddle enjoyable, Victory’s engineers fitted the Tour with a combination of off-the-shelf accessories optional on the base Cross Country along with some new features. That pointy tail trunk combines with the removable, outward-opening saddlebags to provide 41.1 gallons of capacity. More than a Honda Gold Wing. Way more than a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide tourer. You know how you sometimes have to think hard about what to take on tour? Forget it. If you think you’ll need it, pack it; the Cross Country Tour will probably have the room.

New for the Cross Country Tour are plastic lowers hugging a tubular crash bar in place of the Cross Country’s stylish open castings. Not only do you get generously sized storage compartments—the left with an iPod/iPhone connection to the integrated audio system plus a 12-volt outlet—but Victory’s clever air-management system. Swinging doors allow you to close off the flow to the area behind the lowers or admit either some or a lot of air for cooling. Somewhat counterintuitively, the wide-open setting actually makes you hotter because the flow picks up hot air off the engine. Your shins are cool but the backs of your thighs bake. I found that just cracking the vents was best for hot days. Closing them puts your legs in almost still air. Amazing.

Working in concert with the new lowers are additions to the upper fairing, which is otherwise the same as on the base Cross Country. Two hinged, translucent panels beneath the fairing help route air either away from the rider or directly at him. By tweaking the vanes’ angles, you can aim a stream of air anywhere from your elbows to your chin. Victory says that this system, along with an 8-inch-taller windscreen, dramatically reduces turbulence for the rider. I can attest to that. Although I prefer to look over a windshield rather than through it, the CCT’s setup provided a nearly buffet-free comfort zone, with just a trickle of air reaching the shoulders, top of the helmet and elbows. Good thing the screen’s optics are first rate.

Superior protection doesn’t mean much if you’re squirming in the saddle before the first fuel stop. Here, Victory absolutely nailed it. The chrome tiller-style bar places the grips further forward than you’d find on an Electra Glide, and the smooth (and heated!) seat offers more than one, locked-down position for your cheeks. The smooth saddle seems a tad soft at first, but proved to be all-day comfortable. What’s more, the swoopy floorboards are crazy long (18.6 in. to be more precise), giving you the option of the full-cruiser slouch or almost dead upright, plus everything in between. The Cross Country Tour’s riding position is more cruiserish than the Gold Wing’s or BMW K1600GTL’s but much more open than the Harley’s.

Victory has trumped Harley another way: engine sophistication. The 106-cubic-inch, air-cooled, 50-degree V-Twin is quieter than the 103-inch Harley motor, and just as smooth to the rider despite being solidly bolted to the Cross Country Tour’s frame. Softer off the bottom than the Harley’s mill, the CCT’s powerplant has a pleasant midrange surge, a smooth six-speed gearbox, and just enough mechanical presence to be interesting, not intrusive. Victory claims 109 foot-pounds of torque; Harley says 97 ft.-lb. for the 103-inch TC103. Despite tall gearing—you’ll really want fifth gear for passing—the Cross Country Tour managed just 40 mpg on this trip. In its defense, that new fairing set is pushing a lot of frontal area through the atmosphere...

Maintaining a 26.25-in. seat height came from the saddle’s shape and location on the chassis, not from eliminating suspension travel—the right choice for a touring machine. The CCT’s inverted cartridge fork and single, air-adjustable rear shock (with 4.7 in. of travel) smother small bumps yet keep the hefty chassis—Victory claims 845 pounds dry for the Tour—on an even keel. I tried a variety of settings for the shock and settled on 40 psi as a good mixture of compliance, composure, chassis attitude and ensuring the floorboards touched before the rear crash bars. Cornering clearance is ample, and the CCT seems perfectly contented leaned over. For 2012, ABS is standard on the touring models, and is of the unlinked variety; the Vision Tour has linked brakes. The CCT’s binders are powerful enough for the mission, even if the front doesn’t provide a lot of feedback. Victory says that it has chosen a new sensor mechanism with more teeth than usual, which provides better ABS resolution and quicker response.

As superb as the new CCT proves on the open road, there are items on the wish list. First, the standard cruise control is less than smooth, particularly when riding in gusty winds. Next, the trip computer proved a bit optimistic on the bike’s range, in part because the fuel gauge is highly non-linear; it sits on Full for a long time then chews through the rest of the capacity quickly. If you’re really burning fuel at Boeing rates you’ll also notice the gentle high-speed weave that every CCT on the launch exhibited above 100 mph. (Admittedly an unlikely cruising speed for the expected Tour customer.) Lastly, the 5.8-gallon tank is just big enough. Several times, I stopped for fuel before I was ready for a break.

Small complaints, when you think about it, utterly overshadowed by the CCT’s on-the-road abilities, handsome styling and good value. Consider: At $21,999, the CCT undercuts the base Gold Wing (and is nearly $4000 cheaper when comparably equipped) plus it’s less expensive than any of Harley’s Electra Glide models with similar equipment. At the press launch, Victory brass said the company’s sales in the touring and cruiser categories are running 24 percent ahead of the industry. Products as good as the Cross Country Touring bear much of the responsibility.