MD Comparo: 2011 H-D Road Glide Ultra vs. 2011 Victory Cross Country …

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Victory Cross Country

MD Comparo: 2011 H-D Road Ultra vs. 2011 Victory Country

What is it about anyway?

If you ride a Harley, you need to answer this any more than you need to ask it. You get it. A brand could poop crumbcake and leak single-malt on your driveway and you still want it. There are a startling of American buyers—around half the streetbike market—for whom the process begins and ends in dealerships and only Harley-Davidson

And while I want these folk to read my little I wrote it for the rest of us. Does a motorcycle in Milwaukee (or Kansas or Pennsylvania) imbue it with kind of magic a bike say, Minnesota (not too far Wee-scon-sin, for Pete’s sake!) can possess?

I got thinking about while riding Victory’s model lineup in Colorado a few ago. With time on the Victory products, it was easy to convinced they were the game in town, with handling and ground clearance, tourquey powerplants, and seamless And you can’t beat the pricing.

But no way to compare a bike, so I requested a Victory Cross Country I didn’t get to ride much at the event) and a new-for-2011 Harley-Davidson Glide Ultra Classic for the MD Dirck, new intern Jonathan and me—to test.

Cruiser-spotters in the may have noticed that the Ultra is a dresser, not a bagger the Victory. With its frame-mounted big windscreen and standard Tour-Pack it’s more fully than the Vic—and at $22,499, than the $17,999 Cross That’s not exactly comparing to appletinis, is it?

Well, tough. We to take two high-profile models and not do a nuts-and-bolts comparo, but rather try to see if we get to the essence of each brand, its ka, as the Egyptians might say. Or we just wanted some time on a $23,000 motorcycle.

Because we can.

Whatever our the Ultra is a cool bike to at and ride. That Road fairing dates back to the model year, and while may find it oddball with twin headlamps and blocky it’s a favorite starting for customizers and even H-D’s Vehicle Operations (CVO) A frame-mounted fairing says yet it’s been a long since the Road Glide came from the factory the Tour-Pak.

So for 2011, H-D gave us the Road Glide Ultra complete with not just the trunk, but an integrated 80-watt system, wind-cheating fairing 4-piston Brembo brake (with ABS), an extra-comfy seat, and as icing on the cake, the 103 cubic inch (1690cc) motor the Electra Glide Limited got for 2010. It offers 10 more torque than the inch engine the Road had last year, thanks to 7 cubic inches and a small in compression.

Said motor is in the new-for-2008 touring chassis, a improvement over the older With a heavier, stiffer and swingarm, carrying capacity is up, and the squashy, wallowing feel (including myself) noticed in the bikes diminished.

Victory’s isn’t quite a full-fledged machine—but it’s darn We first told you about the last year, but I didn’t get a to ride one until I rode the Victory line-up in Colorado a of months back. I was impressed by Touring bikes, with sand-cast aluminum monocoque smooth 106-cubic-inch, six-speed impressive cornering clearance and stable handling.

Such products showed Victory’s by extension, parent company commitment to staying in the cruiser despite H-D out-selling them by like 40 or 50 to one. Along the full-dress Vision (which would have been a comparison with the Road and the more simply equipped Roads, the Cross Country—with a fork-mounted fairing, 25-gallon locking hard bags and sound system—is an able companion, even though it the massive capacity of a King equipped H-D.

So to even things out, we had our Country test unit with Victory’s new accessory At $1745, the trunk’s pricetag is (and also brings the MSRP up to $19,744, much to the H-D), but you get a lot. It has a big capacity at gallons and is pre-wired with a 12v socket and speakers for the rear stereo system.

It’s designed to mount easily in a or two—no tools required—to the Cross Roads or Cross without requiring a special kit, and dealers can set up the locks so you need one key for the entire bike.

Our would take us on a near-600-mile from the deserts north of Pendelton to the chilly Central coast—plenty of time on fast-moving, freeways to test these where they’re designed to These are land barges – heavy machines that can mass quantities of riders and (the Cross Country can around 530 pounds, the H-D 472—for my Ford Focus is rated at 750) in comfort all day long. But does it better?

Is the Harley its prime? Does the Victory the soul Harley riders from their machines?

If a has to be styled right, it has to feel and that feel is going to come from the engine. bikes have lots of making it a tough choice. The 103 is a great powerplant. It starts runs without a hitch when it’s cold, and the rider enough power to things interesting; passing in overdriven sixth gear at speeds, even with a is no trouble at all.

The transmission is as and easy-shifting as this kind of can be, and points go to the Harley for having a shifter, a must with the big parts inside that case.

The Victory’s motor has the for its intended mission. The revvier, nature of the four-valve, sohc V is immediately noticeable as soon as you let out the (interestingly, both bikes jerky clutch behavior on engagement, making smooth challenging—probably a simple issue to and it’s a tribute to how good the redesigned-for-2011 transmission is that felt as good as the H-D (if a little notchy) even without the heel-toe shift kit installed.

The bike’s weight means even though there is torque—around 90 foot-pounds at the back according to the online dyno I’ve seen—it doesn’t leap out of corners, but it does a little more peppy and than the Harley. And of course, the Harley, shifting is optional, usable power from to the 5500-rpm (ish) rev limit. But the engine transmits a buzzier to the rider than the rubber-mounted making the bike feel less refined and more than the Milwaukee unit.

As far as goes, the difference is clear: if you to drag your floorboards, the gets the nod. The Cross is 88 pounds lighter, and that’s not because of the lack of similar luggage. The Victory uses aluminum all though the chassis, not tubes and castings.

The resulting stiffer frame components as as more sophisticated suspension like the inverted fork and (you’ll need to carry a bicycle pump with linkage-equipped monoshock help the Vic a lot the roads start to twist and The radial tires grip and there’s enough cornering for even mildly insane to enjoy themselves without the floorboard feelers. And at low speeds, the is noticeably easier to handle, a lower seat, lower of gravity and a more compact (although oddly, the Victory has a wheelbase).

What’s surprising is how the Harley holds its own. It has ample corner clearance, the bike moves around a bit on its steel chassis and suspension. You can feel the bar flexing on its rubber but the bike is stable in high-speed and can be pushed much farther you’d think prudent.

But you never forget you’re a half-ton of union-labeled iron, not a sportbike. Riding it fast is of Bluto driving that parade float in the final of “Animal House,” except much less likely to get

Speaking of arresting, the brakes on of these bikes—both the four-piston on the Victory and the swanky Brembo on the H-D—work similarly well. You worry about doing two-finger stoppies, and you do need to ahead, as these are 800-pound machines, but both systems good feel and surprising Just be prepared to use more and leave more following than usual.

That’s how do as sportbikes, but what these are really for is gobbling up miles on the and it’s tough to argue not well-suited for that. In this the Ultra has the clear advantage of the Victory’s stylish shorty It looks good, but the result is windblast that dribbles head like a basketball 65 mph. All the testers noted it, and even thought it’d be with no windscreen at all.

screen makes some but this is really bad for a touring and it surprised me, as I rode a Cross the month before and hadn’t Turns out I was riding a bike with accessories from the catalog, including a taller ($350) at the press event, and the for me at least (I’m 5’7”), was far noticeable. An even taller windscreen ($190) is also

I should note that our road trip we installed the taller screen on the Victory the photo) and the buffeting issue all but

Aside from wind these bikes have the features you’d expect. The H-D is the loaded, as it’s a flagship The 80-watt, four-speaker Harmon-Kardon system gets the nod—it’s audible at high speeds a full-face helmet and earplugs and is a easier to use.

It also has intercom jacks headsets are included) and CB capability. Nav and compatibility are optional. The PowerPak—shorthand for a combo of the factory-installed 103 big-bore keyless security system and ABS also standard on the Ultra, as is control.

The seat is redesigned for with a narrower front (helping short-legged riders me feel more secure at and improved bolstering for more support. All three of us noted the seat, and it’s a fine to spend a day, but the Victory’s with firmer foam, may be on the long haul. Passenger especially on the H-D, is very bike is heavy enough so the won’t really notice the is there until he complains having to listen to an endless of “This American Life”

The under-$20,000-Victory is nicely equipped, The sound system works the optional trunk’s speakers and the tall windscreen it’s to the H-D system’s volume and clarity—although it points because the handlebar are a little harder to use (that for the cruise-control buttons as well). But the are hard to fault: manageable for riders, roomy for taller like Jonathan, who liked the big

Luggage capacity is outstanding, a little more room in the saddlebags (make sure latched before you take and room for everything else in big trunk (including two helmets). My real complaint about trunk emerged after I how practical the H-D tour-Pak’s side-opening is; if there’s something (or somebody) on the passenger seat, you can’t the trunk lid.

At the end of the day, you’ll notice most whichever bike you’re is how far you’ve traveled on it. Fuel is good, with six-ish tanks and fuel economy in theory at least in the 40s; we in 30-ish mpg numbers, but we were in a Cruise at a 65-mph pace and you can put over 200 miles between stops.

And you’ll be wishing you had a bigger as the smooth motors, comfy and decent sound systems riding on one of these better riding in a car, even on the you knew that already.

And this is the part of the test we try to figure out which bike is But what does “better” It’s clear the Victory is better, with its modern and engineering. But does that your touring experience be better? That’s not so clear.

a nicely planned, engineered, and built product that exactly what it’s to do. It need make no excuses for handling, comfort, reliability or an American motorcyclist can proudly say from his country. Is that to beat the Harley at its own game?

No. The wins this comparo, but not by It’s not a new design styled and to feel like grandpa’s is grandpa’s bike, except been refined and souped up to do with all the drawbacks a Harley have had in the past. It rumbles an H-D, sounds like an and looks like an H-D.

If you like Harleys, that’s a If you do, the Road Glide Ultra comfort, refinement and useful features there’s no reason (other missing out on a whole universe of motorcycles) to look at anything

The manufacturers provided Motorcycle with these motorcycles for of evaluation.

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