Maybe the ancient Mayans got it right when they predicted that the world would experience a major change at the end of 2012. If so, then Victory Motorcycles is one step ahead of the curve because after nearly 15 years in the business, that growing, Midwest-based company recently announced a shift in how it’s going to market its products in the coming years. In the vanguard of that change is a new model, the Boardwalk, billed by Victory as a custom cruiser.
To better understand the Boardwalk, you first need to have a clearer picture about how Victory intends to reinvent itself, and that tale began with the acquisition of the Indian motorcycle brand less than two years ago. When Victory’s parent company, Polaris Industries, acquired Indian (ironically, the original Indian Motocycle Company ceased doing business in 1953, only a year before Polaris Industries was formed), speculation ran high that some of the existing Victory models would simply undergo a rebadging, and life would go on.
Hardly so, suggests Vice President Steve Menneto of Polaris’ motorcycle division. Instead, he promises that a “relaunch is on schedule” for next summer, possibly in August; it will be a proprietary Indian based on design features spearheaded by Polaris engineers and stylists.
Menneto pointed out, too, that the new Indian line would constitute the “classic brand” of what Polaris markets, allowing Victory to produce more mainstream bikes that take into account three aspects of its inclusive customer market. In the process, Victory marketers pinpoint their customers as three types of riders — those who ride cruisers, baggers, or tourers — and that those buyers want their bikes to exhibit a certain level of what one company spokesman termed “edginess.” Expect words like bold and aggressive to find their way into Victory advertising and promotional material as time goes by.
In a nutshell, the touring category includes all Victory models that come equipped with travel trunks. Baggers are just that, models with saddlebags (windshields optional), while Victory’s cruiser group is composed of naked bikes that are built more for style and performance. And it’s among the cruisers that you’ll find the Boardwalk, a model based on the tried and tested (and discontinued) Kingpin, which first appeared in 2004 and was derived from the Vegas that came to market in 2002. As you can see, the Boardwalk’s bloodline goes back more than 10 years.
Because the Boardwalk was spawned from existing models, there wasn’t much in terms of chassis and drivetrain development necessary to get the basic platform up to speed. This allowed the design team to spend most of its resources on the bike’s style and comfort factor. Consequently, the Boardwalk checks in with all-new sheet metal, and it rides on 16″, 60-spoke wheels with whitewall tires (as opposed to the Kingpin’s 18″ hoops). Like all Victory models, at the heart of the Boardwalk beats the Victory Freedom 106″ engine, an overhead-cam, fuel-injected V-twin that develops a claimed 113 ft-lbs. of torque. Power is transmitted through a primary chain drive and six-speed overdrive transmission, and a composite belt drives the rear wheel. Single-disc brakes are found front and rear (four-piston caliper up front, two-piston caliper on the rear).
For the most part, the sheet metal is proprietary to the Boardwalk. The wraparound fenders are a first for Victory, and no other model shares the bulbous side covers that form-fit to the seat. Speaking of the seat, like the Judge, the Boardwalk’s two-up saddle is an unusual design, so the aftermarket will require dedicated seats for customers seeking an alternative. In the meantime, Boardwalkers can opt for Victory’s custom replacement saddle, plus the existing passenger pad is easily removable to create a more custom appearance. Boardwalk owners will also like the passenger seat’s mounting system: removing the chromed fender covers on each side exposes mounting bolts that secure the seat, actually suspending the seat frame slightly above the fender’s sheet metal. So when the passenger seat is removed, there’s no unsightly center bolthole or annoying scuff marks on the paint, giving the Boardwalk the look of a bike intended for a lone wolf. Nice.
Whether you’re riding solo or two-up, the 25.9″ high saddle offers good support, and it’s scooped to keep your keister in one place while riding. The passenger pad offers additional back support for the driver, although the seat’s padding is probably on the firm side for most people.
The Boardwalk’s floorboards are spacious, too, and with no heel shifter to hinder you, it’s easy to place your foot on the end of the left board while cruising. Ditto for the right side, so you’re never hard pressed to find a comfortable position for either foot while riding this bike.
By now you might be wondering: why the name Boardwalk? Not a bad question, and I can only surmise that the tie-in is found with the handlebar, in this case it’s a low, wide beach bar. Boardwalks are associated with the beach, and the Boardwalk has beach bars, so there you have it. In any case, exaggerated handlebars like this often present a love/hate relationship to the rider, and the Boardwalk’s are no exception. You’ll certainly feel like a cool, low-and-slow cruiser rider when you grasp the handgrips and snick the bike through the gears, but when riding fast into headwinds you’ll work extra hard to support your upper body. Low-speed turns in parking lots and such require dexterous movements because when the bars swing wide left or right, the outside handgrip becomes a little more difficult to reach.
The Boardwalk’s ride itself is pleasant and rewarding. The suspension’s spring and damping rates seem well matched, although the single rear shock absorber’s compression damping might be the weak link when road ruts become too severe or repetitious. Otherwise, when you snick the six-speed transmission through its gears, you’re rewarded with a rather pleasant baritone exhaust note from the otherwise ungainly stacked mufflers (thank you, EPA). Victory offers EPA-and CARB-compliant replacement mufflers that produce a slightly deeper tone, and the X-Box exhaust (available from dealers for $999.99, including a remap kit that’s a must) simply looks cleaner and cooler than the stock cans.
Cornering clearance is sometimes compromised by the outrigger floorboards and the 675-pound bike’s low stance. You can figure on more than 150 miles between stops to fill the 4.7-gallon gas tank. Speaking of which, the tank logos represent part of Victory’s new look — eventually all Victory models will wear this label, but for now, only the Boardwalk has it. A Boardwalk can be yours for $15,499 black; $15,899, pearl white. AIM
NEW BIKE REVIEW By Dain Gingerelli
Story as printed in the October Issue of American Iron Magazine.