Photography by Rich Cox
Ask any group of long-distance riders what they want in a tourer, and chances are they’ll list all the amenities: A big engine with six-speed transmission, comfortable ride, wind protection, great luggage capacity, sound system, available cruise control and enough load capacity for two people and all their gear.
And, of course, the answer is that, sure, you can have it all—but expect to be squiring around a traditionally styled motorcycle that’s knocking on the door of 900 pounds and expect to pay well over $20,000 for it. And that additional weight not only makes the bike more of a handful at low speeds, but it also detracts from its load capacity so excess weight costs in two ways.
For those who want their bikes a little lighter and more stylish (but not necessarily less expensive), for 2010 the two major American bike manufacturers both offer cut-down V-twin touring cruisers with fairings, full-size saddlebags, and engines of 96 and 106 cubic inches. Each weighs just over 800 pounds and suggested retail prices start at about $18,000 and 19,000. Both come with a sound system, and cruise control is standard on one. In a sense you can think of them as light heavyweights for cross-country touring.
For 2010 Victory has introduced the Cross Roads and Cross Country, two new custom-look touring models with large, hard-shell saddlebags. The former is equipped with a windscreen and the latter with a fairing carrying a sound system and abbreviated ’screen. Both are powered bythe 106-cubic-inch Freedom V-twin engine with six-speed transmission, and they take dead aim by competing directly with two existing Harley-Davidson models. The Harley-Davidson Road King has been around since the early ’90s, a model based upon its touring platform with a set of hard-shell saddlebags and a windscreen; in more recent years The Motor Company has added the Street Glide built on the same platform, but with its bat-wing fairing; what sits atop it is so small it’s referred to as a wind deflector rather than a windscreen. These days both Harley models have the 96-cubic-inch motor with six-speed transmission.
To see how they compared, we loaded the saddlebags on the fairing-equipped model from each manufacturer—the Cross Country and Street Glide—and took them on the road for a couple of days. The message from each of these bikes is that while they may be baggers, they’re stripped, cool custom versions of baggers. Gone are the days when a “touring bike” had to be fat, stodgy and conservatively styled. From the edges of its wide, compact-looking fairing with abbreviated shield to its tall, narrow taillight the Victory Cross Country incorporates pointed, elongated turn signals, pointed tipover bars, pointed speakers and footboards; even where the tank meets the seat and right down to the chromed trim piece on each side between the cylinders stylistically the Victory Cross Country is all about points.
On the other hand, the Harley gets its slimmed-down, custom look by deleting the passing lamps that frame the bat-wing fairing of its other FL dressers, by that wind deflector and by integrating the mirrors. Its taillight is mounted into the lower edge of the tail-dragger fender just as if it came from a high-end custom shop. Its turn signals are red, and double as tail- and brakelights. That fender, 2-into-1 exhaust and 18-inch front wheel are all new for 2010.
In packing the bikes we noted that the Street Glide utilizes the same traditional-style hard saddlebags as the other Harley models, with a capacity of about 8.5 gallons. To remove the lid the rider lifts the latch on the side of either bag, pulls the lid outward and pivots it off sideways; it remains attached to the bag’s lower section by a metal hinge and a fabric section. The Victory’s bags, by contrast, open with the push of a button and their lids pivot outward. Simply pivot them closed and listen for the “click” as they latch. Be careful here, as without a positive closure they can and will pop open. Overall they’re much easier to access than the bags on the Harley, and at 10.5 gallons each are significantly more capacious. The bags on both bikes are lockable.
Before beginning our trip north from Rider’s palatial cubicle patch in Ventura, California, we topped up their tanks with the required 91-octane premium fuel and studied their particulars. To create the Cross Country, Victory started with its two-piece, sand-cast hollow aluminum frame that uses the engine as a stressed member, and an aluminum swingarm. It’s supported by a male-slider cartridge fork and single-shock rear air suspension, and stirred with the air/oil-cooled, 50-degree, 106-cubic-inch (1,731cc) Freedom V-twin motor that features a bore and stroke of 101 x 108mm, and a six-speed overdrive transmission. It includes four valves per cylinder and single overhead camshafts with self-adjusting cam chains and hydraulic lifters. It’s counterbalanced to eliminate the inherent vibration at its source, and is indeed smooth all the way through its rev range, other than a slight bit of rumble in the grips during acceleration. Dual 45mm electronic throttle body fuel injectors feed the fire, and top gear in the six-speed transmission is a true overdrive; final drive is by means of a carbon fiber-reinforced belt.
The Street Glide is based upon Harley-Davidson’s touring platform, a tube-steel frame and steel swingarm with a pair of air shocks and 41.3mm fork tubes. Power comes from its air-cooled, 96-cubic-inch (1,584cc), 45-degree V-twin with a bore and stroke of 95.25 x 111.25mm, a compression ratio of 9.2:1 and two valves per cylinder. Rather than damping the vibration at its source by counterbalancing the motor (as it does with its Softail models), Harley rubber-mounts the motor on its touring models.
Though the Street Glide is very smooth at speed, at idle the rider can see the motor shaking within its mounts and feel it thumping through the seat. Pound gets to the ground by means of a belt final drive.
With fuel injection neither bike requires any fiddling to start, and either can be ridden away without so much as a burp even when cold. On the Harley clutch pull is moderate, and the bike shifts cleanly without the “clunk” of bygone years. However, its cable-actuated mechanism was harder to modulate than the Victory’s, which made feathering the clutch for fine maneuvers such as turning around in tight places a little more ham-handed than we liked.
The motor on each bike begins to pull from as low as 2,000 rpm, but really comes alive above 2,500. On the Victory the story is all about torque, with 90 lb-ft or more available by 2,400 rpm and continuing to nearly 5,000 rpm, with a peak at 97.5 lb-ft at 3,800. As a result the Victory feels understressed as it just rushes you forward. The Harley, on the other hand, manages to stay above 70 lb-ft of torque from 2,100 to 5,000 rpm, peaking at 80.4 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm. Because of this, the Harley rider has to push the motor a bit to stay with the rider on the Victory. And if horsepower moves you, note that the Victory peaks at 87.5 at 4,900 rpm while the Harley generates 67.5 horses at 5,300 rpm.
Those low wind deflectors in place of windscreens may look cool, but out on the road they allow a great deal of annoying head buffeting and wind noise, more so on the Harley than the Victory. Neither deflector adjusts, and with no lowers the Harley rider has the impression that the wind wants to blow his or her legs off the rubber-mounted footboards, a situation that is at least mitigated by the fact the left boot can rest against the heel/toe shifter. The Harley rider sits fairly upright on a relatively firm seat that has been lowered to 27.3 inches on the 2010 model. It is set far forward and on long freeway rides we noted that we could not push back as far as we wished to stretch our legs.
The Cross Country has a wonderful seat, nicely padded and offering good support, with a height of 26.3 inches. The rider’s feet rest on long footboards on which not only is there plenty of room to spread out, but the brake and shift controls can be adjusted fore and aft by 3 inches. The optional Lower Wind Deflectors ($299.99) attached to the fork legs of our test bike routed most of the windblast away so the lower body could be more relaxed.
Both bikes are based upon touring platforms, yet we were impressed with their backroad manners. With a wheelbase of 63.5 inches and rake/trail figures of 26 degrees and 6.7 inches the Harley Street Glide proves a little more nimble and turns a bit more precisely in the tight stuff than the Victory, making it our favorite in the curves. Out on the highway, however, the Victory (with a 65.7-inch wheelbase, and rake/trail figures of 29 degrees/5.6 inches) has a more relaxed, stable feel which gives the rider the impression he or she can settle into that comfortable saddle for hours, yet the bike does not feel ungainly until it gets down to walking speeds. Both bikes surprised us with the amount of cornering clearance they offer, which of course is adjustable with the air suspension.
A side note on the Victory’s tipover bars—they work. During one of many turnarounds for our photo shoot I managed to squire the Cross Country into a mudhole and dumped it at about zero mph. It still took two of us to get it back upright, but at least the bars prevented it from going over farther or sustaining any cosmetic damage.
Both machines have triple disc brakes, the Harley with opposed four-piston calipers gripping dual front disc brakes and another four-piston on the rear. The Motor Company chose to equip our test unit with its neatly hidden anti-lock system, an $845 option. While the brakes are powerful and the ABS works as advertised, it’s not state-of-the-art such as systems used by BMW, Honda and some others. The rider feels pulsing as the brakes grab and release, some kickback at the controls and hears some clanking from the rear brake.
Victory has provided its Cross Country with a pair of four-piston front calipers and a two-piston rear, which like the Harley’s are powerful. They’re also easy to modulate and provide good feedback, but ABS is not available on the Cross Country.
Normally at this point in the test I would compare the quality of the sound systems, but am sorry to say that each bike allows so much helmet buffeting and wind noise that we could barely hear them. The Harley comes with an AM/FM radio and CD player, while the Victory offers AM/FM with MP3 capabilities. Therefore, your options if you want to cruise with the tunes are to either order up a set of headphones for your helmet, or perhaps install one of the taller optional windscreens. The Victory includes a cruise control, and our Street Glide was equipped with one as a $295 option; both worked well.
Each bike comes with an air-assisted rear suspension, the Harley with twin shocks and the Victory with a single. With a hand pump and gauge the rider can adjust the Harley’s air valve (it’s located up near the left saddlebag’s lid) or the Victory’s (which is on the right side by the passenger seat). If either suspension feels harsh, check the pressure and pump in the proper amount of psi. Properly set up, each gave a pleasant ride, though the Harley’s was harsh on the occasional nasty bump.
A note of caution: Before you go trooping down to your local dealer with a fistful of dollars, your tongue lolling in your head and your eyes bugged out, ask yourself how important these styling touches are to you. The reason is that H-D also offers the Electra Glide Classic, with the passing lamps and TourPak trunk the Street Glide is lacking, for that same $18,999 price. Likewise, Victory offers its Vision 8-Ball with a larger fairing than the Cross Country but no trunk for its same $17,999. It pays to compare.
Photo trip use is very hard on fuel mileage, as with every tank we did many passes in front of shooter Rich Cox’s lenses. With the bikes running in tandem on our trip of more than 500 miles the Harley took more fuel on each fill-up, averaging 37.6 mpg while the Victory managed to rumble an impressive 43 miles for every gallon of premium despite our hard use. Had we simply toured at legal speeds I expect that both would have gotten 3-5 mpg better. Considering that the Harley carries a 6.0-gallon fuel tank and the Victory a 5.8-gallon, range will be impressive.
In choosing between these two bikes you first have to consider what you want in a touring machine. If you’re looking to profile primarily, well, with its clean, custom look the Harley is certainly going to light your fire. And we also liked its nimble feel. However, when it comes to overall function on the road for touring duties the Victory Cross Country has a much more comfortable seat and seating position, less wind buffeting, significantly greater torque and horsepower teamed with better fuel economy and, of course, those huge saddlebags. Finally, consider its lower cost and, if the idea of a light-heavyweight cruiser-tourer appeals to you, we definitely have a winner here in the Victory Cross Country.
2010 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Specification Chart:
Base Price: $18,999
Price as Tested: $20,619 (silver paint, ABS, cruise control)
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
Type: Air-cooled, transverse, 45-degree V-twin
Bore x Stroke: 95.25 x 111.25mm
Compression Ratio: 9.2:1
Valve Train: OHV, 2 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: NA
Fuel Delivery: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection
Lubrication System: Dry sump, 4.0-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt
Charging Output: 650 watts max.
Battery: 12V 28AH
Frame: Mild-steel tubular double cradle w/ two-piece backbone, twin downtubes, bolt-on subframe & steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 63.5 in.
Rake/Trail: 26 degrees/6.7 in.
Seat Height: 27.3 in.
Suspension, Front: 41.3mm stanchions, no adj.
Rear: Dual shocks, adj. for air pressure, 3.0-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual discs w/opposed 4-piston calipers and ABS (as tested)
Rear: Single disc w/ opposed 4-piston caliper and ABS (as tested)
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 18 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.00 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 130/70B-18
Wet Weight: 802 lbs.
Load Capacity: 558 lbs.
GVWR: 1,360 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 6.0 gals., warning light on last 1.0 gal.
MPG: 91 octane min. (high/avg./low) 40.5/37.6/35.5
Estimated Range: 225 miles
Indicated rpm at 60 mph: 2,300
2010 Victory Cross Country Specification Chart:
Base Price: $17,999
Price as Tested: $18,899 (Solid Midnight Cherry, Lower Wind Deflectors)
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Type: Air/oil-cooled, transverse 50-degree V-twin
Bore x Stroke: 101.0 x 108.0mm
Compression Ratio: 9.4:1
Valve Train: SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: NA
Fuel Delivery: EFI w/ 45mm throttle bodies x 2
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 5.0-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt
Charging Output: 710 watts max.
Battery: 12V 18AH
Frame: Two-piece cast-aluminum backbone w/ cast-aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 65.7 in.
Rake/Trail: 29 degrees/5.6 in.
Seat Height: 26.3 in.
Suspension, Front: 43mm stanchions, no adj., 5.1-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for air pressure, 4.7-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual discs w/ opposed 4-piston calipers
Rear: Single disc w/ 2-piston caliper
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.0 x 18 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.0 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 130/70R18
Wet Weight: 807 lbs.
Load Capacity: 553 lbs.
GVWR: 1,360 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 5.8 gals.
MPG: 91 octane min. (high/avg./low) 44.8/43.0/39.5
Estimated Range: 249 miles
Indicated rpm at 60 mph: 2,300