Everyone seems to be riding the long term Victory Vegas
The last cruiser I rode was the gorgeous V-Rod, so the Vegas had a lot to live up to. It didn't let me down. The Vegas looks good from any angle and its beautifully crafted curves never fail to turn heads and raise eyebrows.
But the best view is when you're sitting on the bike, especially the one-piece sculpted tank and modern yet basic clocks in front. With its low seat, you feel like the King himself returning to Vegas from out of the desert.
I took the Victory to Bournemouth to stretch its wheels, drool over the array of classic bikes at Beaulieu Motorcycle World and lend my team-mates moral support on the TWO stand - hey, it's not like I was actually going to do any work!
The bike has an immense amount of torque that enables a quick build-up to motorway speeds. The five-speed gear box and 1507cc engine provides maximum comfort while cruising at speeds up to and around 100mph, while the standard exhaust produces an awesome roar, which brings shivers down my spine - and everyone else's within a two-block radius.
The bike gives you a sense of confidence and you're soon grinding away at the pegs. Like the gambling capital itself, the Vegas isn't all dreams though.
The heavens opened on the journey back to London and we got soaked. With monsoon rain bouncing a foot off the Tarmac, the Vegas' performance changed quicker than Britney Spears' onstage costumes.
I reached the first roundabout while it was raining and the 21-inch front wheel wobbled more times than Bertie's stomach during the 100m sprint. The brakes then decided to take me on a sliding spree and the rear persisted in giving me minor heart attacks each time it stepped out of line. I'm not sure whether that's down to the brakes themselves or my concrete size 12s, so I'll be checking on that the next time we get a decent downpour. I'll either be sliding into ditches, or sleeping with the fishes...
Ten miles from the dry dock of the driveway and the petrol light came on after 120 miles of kicked back cruising. So you'd naturally assume that with its cavernous - for a cruiser - fuel tank, the Vegas would be able to run for miles more on the reserve light. Most bikes seem to average at least 20 more miles like this, so I figured I'd make a break for home, park up overnight and fill up in the morning on the way to work when my hands weren't wrinkled like prunes. I only got eight miles further.
One sodden walk to a petrol station later, another petrol can to add to the collection and an important lesson learned about the Victory Vegas: fill up before you need to.
With its lashings of chrome and swoopy So-Cal styling, the Vegas is never going to be everyone's cup of tea. But I love it. And for all the wrong reasons. It's rubbish in town and generally an impractical way of getting around. But there's nothing else like it on the roads, and consequently you'll get stared at while riding it. Which is great. Elvis driving down Oxford Street in the Popemobile would probably attract less attention.
So the way the Vegas rides is largely unimportant. Unless you're trying to get home in London rush-hour traffic, of course. Its wide bars and ridiculously heavy clutch make it a nightmare in town, filtering being impossible. It's about as manoeuverable as a Sherman tank, and you can really feel every ounce of its lumbering weight at low speeds. Surprisingly though, it's proved itself as a competent motorway tool, being planted and comfortable at speed. That bulletproof V-twin has plenty of power to boot, pulling like Stan Collymore in a dimly-lit car park. Others in the office who've borrowed the keys assure me that the Victory goes like the clappers - not that I'd know as I generally like to keep proceedings below 50mph.
On closer inspection the finish and the quality of construction will be a shock to any Japanese cruiser owner. Only the cheap and nasty indicators are a let-down. Come on Victory, you've chromed everything else, so why leave these undesirable plasticky items on an otherwise droolsome piece of machinery? But minor criticisms aside, the Vegas still scrubs up box-fresh after a good buff and polish. And it doesn't have any nasty weather-induced rust spots - unlike some Harleys I've seen that have started disintegrating after a couple of days in the open-air. And do bear in mind that this bike has survived one winter already, left out in the elements and sadly neglected by its official custodian (and esteemed editor-in-chief) Grant Leonard.
After taking the Vegas up to Stratford-upon-Avon for the Bulldog Bash I was expecting some damage to the bike (and myself) - either due to my own inept riding skills or from the unwelcome attention of Hells Angels - but amazingly I returned intact to TWO towers with the Victory unsullied, apart from the troublesome addition of a nail in the rear tyre. So off to Victory importers Giffords of Ashford, where those lovely chaps Craig and Cal fitted the Vegas with a new set of hard-to-find Dunlops and gave the old girl a service and check-up. All that was needed was a new headlight bulb, filters oil and air, brake pads and plugs.
So all's well with our favourite posing tool. Just don't buy one unless you're an attention seeker who likes riding about 10 miles a week on sunny days only. I'll take two, please...
With TWO's longterm test fleet shrinking by the day as bikes are returned from whence they came, the remaining stalwarts are handed round to those who need, rather than just want, a bit of two-wheeled transport.
The Vegas has recently been in the hands of lurking editorial guru Steve Cropley. Deprived of the Triumph Thruxton by TWO editor Hearn, Croppers snaffled the Victory away for a New Year soirée. It may not have been his most inspiring ride, but he was slowly converted to its rumbling charms. His verdict?
"Not the perfect motorcycle - in fact, only suitable as a second bike for somebody who has a nice, reliable, refined, weather-protected, luggage-toting something else as well. But as a singular experience, I must say it turns me on to cruisers.
"It was surprisingly easy to ride, has good brakes, and is pretty quick in traffic. Just done 271 miles including a 250-mile triangular trip (town, A, B-roads, motorway). Tolerable cruising speed of 75 mph. Better still at 65. My arse can only stand 60-70 mile stretches before I have to stop. But I wouldn't call it uncomfortable. In fact, I was surprised by how much I liked the riding position, although the new backrest is a welcome addition. It supports your lower back, improves posture and gives a pillion something to hold on to.
"The bike looks great, though I'd rather have the wire wheels than the milled-from-solid jobbies, which just seem a bit much. The rear suspension unit is only adjustable by dismantling half the bike and pissing about with concentric threaded rings, race-car style. Shame, because it's far too hard.
"After a couple of early trips to the redline, I rarely revved the engine beyond 4000. No need, for a rider like me. Loved the Olympian flexibility and general stomp from low revs. Also thunderstorm exhaust note. Gearbox easy to manage, clutch bites strongly but seems fairly light at the bars. Only thing like it seems to be another big-bastard cruiser. Engine seems pretty smooth to me.
"One fuel check, 47.7 mpg. Another fuel check, 44.9 mpg. Tank range easily exceeds 150 miles. Surprised me, that.
"Victory sent down a set of panniers to try out, it was then 'simply' a case of strong-arming Shippey and Tim to fit them. At wallet-twatting £695 for the panniers and a further £116 for the fitting brackets they've got to be up there as some of the most over-priced add-ons around, but they look nice and do the job, I guess. The bags aren't the most spacious, but they are rather handy for trips to Threshers.
"I have been mightily impressed with the lack of deterioration from salt-laden January roads. Unlike some cruisers, the Vegas has quality parts that just don't appear to suffer from corrosion. No furring of bolt heads, the billet wheels are still shiny and there's not a spot of rust on the discs."
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