Staff bikes: Victory Cross Country - Victory on a roll
After six months with the Cross Country, I finally get to stretch its legs on a 1300-mile tour of Spain and Portugal. It turned out to be an eventful trip with plenty of ups and downs.
The ups start on our first full day in northern Spain, heading for the mountains on the N621, a fabulous twist of Tarmac that combines a serpentine ascent with great visibility and an excellent surface. Getting into the rhythm of the road takes a while - the Victory's panniers and huge optional topbox are loaded, and combined with my substantial bulk we're talking nearly half a tonne being hauled through endless corner-to-corner action. It takes 50 miles to get tuned into meandering all this weight around, but by then the Victory's aluminium-backboned chassis has started to inspire confidence once more.
This great beast's ability to swoop through the bends never ceases to amaze me. The footboards give more clearance than most, but by the time we reach to town of Riano at the summit of the ascent, I'm grazing them regularly on the Tarmac with no drama. We turn north on the N625 towards Canga de Onis and I take the lead from my two travelling companions. And then it happens...
Heading into a 180 degree downhill hairpin, braking down to 20-25mph, I'm tipped in and committed to the corner when the back end breaks away. The bottom edge of the right pannier grounds out, the bike flips over to its left-hand side and I'm spat on to the Tarmac.
Miraculously, nothing's broken - on me or the bike. The massive front crash bars take the brunt of the impact, along with the fairing corner, topbox and left pannier, but they're just scuffed - all the levers are intact and even the bar ends are still virgin. Not a drop of fluids are spilt and all I suffer is a bruised shoulder.
An examination of the crash scene reveals a bloody great pothole, obscured by shade, to be the cause. It's not the Victory's fault - and I'm convinced that on most other bikes the crash would have ended the tour there and then, probably with me in hospital.
The bike starts eventually and seems to be running fine. Time to take it easy, enjoy the scenery and rebuild confidence. By the time we reach Canga de Onis, the nerves have stopped jangling. Then it's a highway thrash west to Santiago de Compostela for a night on the beer and tapas.
After a disappointing ride into Portugal the next day, spoiled by navigational errors and massive roadworks, I split from my companions for our last day of riding. They want to do more mountain roads. I've had enough of them, and check out some classic road racing in Santander before heading over to Bilbao for our 8.45pm ferry.
Victory Cross Country, £15,995
Power (claimed): 89bhp
Dry weight: 345kg
Overall test mpg: 50.4 mpg