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The Vision: What They Left on the Drawing Board

The New York International Motorcycle Show drew thousands of people from surrounding states. I was lucky enough to attend, driving down from Boston in the early morning. I intended to follow my tradition of using the Victory Motorcycle booth as "home base" and venturing from there. As it ended up, I spent most of my time at the Victory booth talking with interested attendees as well as Victory Engineers on hand.

I also had the opportunity to talk with Mike Song, Victory's lead designer for the Vision and Cross-Country/Cross Roads motorcycles. We got into a discussion on the metamorphosis the Vision took from his concept drawings to the finished product. In the process, there are many design elements that never make it to the showroom models. Some are changed or deleted for reasons of price. Victory wanted to hit a particular price point and while they would have liked to include a certain feature; the numbers dictated a different approach. Another reason for a design change may likely come from actual manufacturing limitations. Mike mentioned several changes from concept to production due in part to the reasons above.

As Mike's eyes surveyed the Vision on display, you could see he was happy with the bike but occasionally his gaze would be riveted to a part of the bike and you could tell he'd had something different in mind. It was one of those telltale annoyances that I asked him to explain. He had envisioned the rear tip-over protectors to extend back another 10 inches or so which he said would have looked more streamlined. This then led to a large discussion on "what could have been."

Passenger Handrails.The passenger handrails were originally spec'd in steel instead of the structural plastic they are now. I was surprised to find out they were plastic. Albeit, very sturdy plastic.

The hard bags.Victory Vision hardbags In Mike's mind, the bags were a compromise between what he'd envisioned (with more storage) and what was possible to manufacture. In fact Mike laments that manufacturing techniques have improved in the 2 short years since the Vision's debut, hence the Cross bike's cavernous bags. The hardbags Mike had designed looked the same but did not have the small internal opening and none of the cross members that cut up the area into smaller cubbies. "It was a limitation of the manufacturer contracted to make the bags. Also, the hinges don't need to be that big." he said as he fiddled with the metal hinge. I asked if he thought in the future the Vision will adopt similar hardbags as the Cross bikes. He didn't expect a redesign of anything Vision bodywork for the foreseeable future.

All that plastic. Mike loves old school bobbers. In fact he's built one for his personal bike. And like old school thinking, he had wanted to cloth the Vision in a metal skin but understood the advantages of plastic: cost to produce, weight (and maneuverability), mold-ability, and the replacement cost for end-users.

Lighting.Victory Vision taillights Victory Motorcycles has had the reputation of building on new technology (i.e., fuel injection, CAD development, etc.) from it very first bike. The Vision design team knew they wanted to sport LEDs for their lighting on such a futuristic bike. But, LED technology and it's associated pricing at the time of design was too high to met the price point they were targeting for the bike. Mike Song said they really wanted the taillight especially, to be lit by LEDs but candescent bulbs ultimately won out in order to keep the price tag reasonable. Mike admits that since the mid-2000s, LED technology has greatly improved and now is used on all Victory's product line, except the Vision. He hopes that the Vision will eventually have LED's, at least in the taillight.

All in all, Mike said they learned much from manufacturing the Vision and that will many of those lessons are being applied to the Cross bikes as well as future models. I'm sure we'd all love to get a peek on what Victory designers thinking up for future models. Until then, I'm happy to ride their current "technology", it's still light years ahead of the old American motorcycle.

From the show floor,
Jeff Martini


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