These two similar-looking machines are the latest tourers from Harley Davidson and Victory. Fresh in from the States, the 2012 £13,400 Harley Davidson Switchback and £14,995 Victory Cross Roads Tour have been crafted to transport you from A to B in laid-back, V-twin comfort.
These are two similar takes on the ‘bagger’ – cool customs with hard panniers or ‘bags’. Although similar-looking and painted in an almost identical shade of metallic red, there are plenty of differences. The Victory is physically bigger, so much so, it actually makes the Harley look dainty by comparison – which is some trick. The Cross Roads Tour’s magnificent, swooping rear end and faired-in panniers give a huge road presence looking like a cross between a ’70s Cadillac and a fairground ride. In fact its back-end is so big it makes even the largest of derrieres look small sitting on it, so the Victory is a bike to make you look thin.
What do you get for your buck?
Both have big, air-cooled, fuel-injected, 1700cc, V-twin engines, comfy seats, tall screens, good-sized panniers, footboards, fuss-free belt drive and ABS. The Victory goes one-step further by giving you cruise control as standard.
But the Harley has a party trick: Its screen is fitted with a quick-release system, so with the panniers removed too, you can turn your Switchback from long-distance tourer to sleek, less clumsy, low-speed cruiser in less than a minute.
Hard to handle?
At low speed, yes. These are big beasts. Harley claims a wet, ready-to-ride weight of 330kg for the Switchback, but the Victory is heavier still, weighing 338kg dry – or around the same as TWO Suzuki GSX-R600s.
As a result, they’re not easy to paddle around at walking pace, especially backwards, but the lighter Harley is marginally easier.
As you reach normal road speeds the Harley and Victory are far easier to handle. The Harley’s new cartridge-style forks and twin rear shocks give the Switchback decent poise in the corners, far better than Harleys of old. Remove the Harley’s screen and it feels even sportier and more nimble.
The Victory is similarly capable on normal roads. It’s a little more agile, sporty and the brakes are a fraction better, too, but it has to bow down to the Harley on A and B roads as it’s bigger and heavier. On the motorways it’s a different story…
When you’re touring, the Victory’s extra weight helps flatten out the bumps and its size keeps you more cossetted than the Harley. Add in the Cross Roads Tour’s smooth six-speed gearbox and engine and you’ve got a supremely relaxing ride. It’s fine all the way until you creep past 70mph and then the tall, barn-door screen creates an extreme amount of buffeting. Not such a problem in America where you get shot for doing over 55mph, but not so good keeping up with fast lane traffic here.
Although the Harley isn’t quite as accomplished on the motorways, there’s not much in it - you have to jump from bike to bike and back again to really figure out the difference.
There’s really not a lot to choose between these two bikes and they ride as similar as they look. They’re both smooth at motorway speeds and have punchy acceleration. They enjoy the safety of ABS, have decent luggage-carrying capacity, but suffer buffeting from their tall screens at motorway screens and aren’t brilliantly-equipped.
The Victory is definitely the smoother, most modern-looking and the one to pick if you’re going to spend lots of time touring.
But it’s the Harley that just snatches the win here. It’s lighter and easier to handle at parking speeds and on the twisty roads. It’s comfortable, smooth and the quick-release screen is a nice touch, letting you enjoy a less cumbersome feeling Harley around town and to let the wind in your hair in warm weather.
Best of all, the Harley is £1496 cheaper, and that clinches the deal.
The full test was in the 28 December issue of MCN. Don't miss out, subscribe to MCN from just £1 per issue.