News and Stories from the Road
Is This Heaven? ....No, it's Iowa and I'm Riding a Vision
A Rider's Perspective of the Vision
by Jeff Martini
I got the opportunity to ride a Vision at the American Victory Rally in Spirit Lake, Iowa this past week. Demo ride leader and part-time MSF Instructor Mark Junkersfeld led me to a beautiful black & silver Vision Tourer equipped with the premium package which includes the power windshield, heated seat & handgrips along with a bevy of chrome goodies.
Before we took off down a maze of corn-lined straightaways-remember, this is Iowa, I was able to quickly learn most of the dashboard and handgrip controls. The cruise control is straight forward and similar to what you'd find in your car. The radio sounds adequate and it's automatic volume control is a really useful feature. Once enabled, the volume will increase as the ambient noise (ie, wind) increases.I did find myself wishing for better bass response and wondered where those clever Victory engineers could stash a subwoofer. That would make a killer system!
It may feel like 60, but it's really 90+ mph!
Once on the road, the Vision began to disclose its treasures, and its idiosyncrasies. With such a full-coverage faring, one has to expect a level of engine noise not before experienced from a Victory engine. This 106 cubic inch v-twin lived up to that expectation. I've ridden all of the Victory models and own probably the noisiest model (a 2000 v92c) but was surprised by the amount of lash & whir coming from this Vision. In fairness, the bike had only 4000 miles on it-short mileage considering these overbuilt and reliable powerplants, and felt stifled with its seemingly silent stock pipes. Given this, I can't raise too much concern to engine noise when it's the only noisemaker in the room, but I was surprised by it just the same.
Slipping the Vision into gear reminds me of my old v92c - before the tranny upgrade. CLUNK! Once in the gears, the bike accelerates smoothly. So smoothly in fact, that one wonders if it's really a v-twin and not a 4 or 6 cylinder plant. Speed is reached quickly and stealthily. The bike's superb handling & ride quality translate into misleading seat-of-the-pants speed reading. It may feel like 60, but it's really 90+ mph! The bike easily reaches 100mph and is ready to give more. Then you realize you are still in 5th and there's another gear left to go!
On deceleration, the tranny takes on a notable whining tone, particularly in 4th & 6th gears, possibly they use the same shaft in the tranny. The brakes work reasonably well bringing the 800lb bike to a stop. The rear brake pedal also activates the center piston of the front caliper giving the bike a balanced braking feel and further enhancing its slow speed braking maneuverability & control.
"The word "solid" can be accurately applied to most aspects of this bike."The power windshield is worth the added expense of the Comfort package option (or the Premium package on the Street model). I found myself moving it for different riding styles and for differing amounts of air circulation. Moving it while you ride allowed you to dynamically find exactly the right position for your comfort at that moment. At all positions, the windshield was solid and did not move, shake, or vibrate, even at triple-digit speeds. In fact, the word "solid" can be accurately applied to most aspects of this bike. Build quality, performance, handling, hardware - all solid.
Is this a perfect bike? Not quite. It took only a short demo ride to identify what many riders considered a serious issue - heat. My skinny chicken legs became the "new white meat" after only a short 15 miles. The engine gives off enough heat outward to cook a riders legs and moisten his/her own "undercarriage" very quickly. Possibly, in Victory's efforts to harness and deflect wind around the bike with a full faring and effective "winglets", they've limited the path of heat dissipation to the direction of the rider's leg & thigh area. By the 15 mile mark, I was uncomfortable enough to consider a long ride not an enviable proposition. It wasn't an extremely hot day (well, not to me - 85º). And I wasn't sitting in traffic, I was riding at highway speeds. Later, my findings were corroborated by other riders. I was told that Victory is aware of this and is working on a solution. Evidence of this was seen on one of the other Visions in which movable louvers were mounted to the lower part of the faring just in front of a rider's legs, presumably to redirect cooling air across the shins. I did not have the opportunity to test that bike.
Do you use your mirrors to see directly behind you? I do, which disclosed a unique issue with the Vision. The mirrors, sleekly built into the faring that protects your hands, are located at the same height as the handgrips. Their proximity to the grips results in a rider's hands blocking the direct rearward view of the mirrors. Stated differently, you can't see directly behind you because your hands are in the mirrors. Views of the rear-left and rear-right are only slightly hindered so one can safely see cars in adjacent lanes at, say, 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock. It's the cars on your butt that are the problem. On a typical handlebar mount, the mirror is above the grip and can then be angled to work over the hands.
Luckily not all of Iowa's roads are straight and corn cluttered. I did get to lean the bike in turns and tight intersections and was delighted at its slow speed handling as well as its great lean angle. I found myself coming to a complete stop at an intersection, balancing the bike upright with no foot-touch to the pavement. Then applying gas and leaning the bike into the turn to effortlessly take off in another direction. What fun! If only I could be so steady on my feet! In fact the most awkward part of the Vision is walking the bike around while in the saddle. More than once my size-10 feet got caught under the rear anti-tip guard as I was walking the bike while seated. This could potentially lead to a stumble and if the bike goes over, your foot could be pinched between the ground and the anti-tip guard. Ouch! Once I was aware of this I made a point to not let my feet drift to the rear of the bike. Lesson learned.
In summary, the Vision's positives far outweigh its negatives. The heat issue could be solved in many ways. Currently the bike runs lean on acceleration. By richening up the fuel/air ratio, the engine temp could conceivably be lowered by as much as 20º. The proven reliability and performance of the Victory V-Twin are as much a selling point as is the well thought out design and ergonomics (the mirror issue not withstanding). Fuel economy, as indicated by the on-board computer, was in the 49mpg range which I have heard is optimistic. Scuttlebutt around the engineers is that the calculation is not accurate, but given the bike's lean fuel mixture, I'm not making any bets. I did not have the chance to fill the tank and get an accurate reading. But, give me the chance and I'll take it for another ride, this time until the low fuel light forces me to stop!