2010 Victory Cross Country

We packed the motorcycles and set about testing in tight Trabuco Canyon twisties and jaunts up and down Ortega Hwy. Throw in plenty of stop and goes, highway runs to Santa Monica, and beach cruises and you’ve got the Cross Country showing a decisive advantage in fuel efficiency. The aerodynamic fairing of the Cross Country helped the bike punch throw the wind at an impressive 40.63 mpg, while the big sail of a front windscreen on the Stratoliner S helped keep numbers in the 36.47 mpg range. Besides being less thirsty, the Cross Country required less frequent trips to the gas station. Looking at the bikes, you’d think that the Stratoliner S has a bigger tank, but its limited 4.5 gallon capacity and high-powered engine gobble up gas quickly while the Cross Country’s tank is deceptively 5.8 gallons large.

Speaking of engines, the Cross Country is powered by Victory’s 106 cubic-inch Freedom V-Twin with single overhead camshafts while the Stratoliner S utilizes a pushrod-driven, 113 cubic-inch powerplant. The Cross Country has a one mm larger bore (101 to 100mm) but the Stratoliner S has a 10mm longer stroke (118 to 110). Hooking the big mills up to the Mickey Cohen Motorsports dyno yielded the horsepower and torque advantage we anticipated from the 123cc-larger Star mill, but it also corroborated our riding impressions about the Cross Country’s engine.

A quick look at the hard numbers reveals one of the Stratoliner’s strengths, its powerful engine. The 1854cc

Stratoliner S lump puts up a respectable 108 lb-ft of torque at 2800 rpm and 80.7 hp at 5000 rpm. The Victory Cross Country posts comparable horsepower numbers, with 78 ponies available at 4800 rpm, but falls behind in torque output, registering 90.4 lb-ft at 4300 rpm.

At the throttle, the Star Stratoliner S gives you plenty of punch from the git-go. It has a five-speed gearbox so its geared wide and when you twist the throttle, the hit is strong and smooth. Get it up to speed and twin counterbalancers do an admirable job of keeping engine vibes in check. Its twin-bore electronic fuel injection provides even, reliable delivery to the four pushrod-activated valves. Best part is, the power is available early, with 104 ft-lb of torque pumping at only 2200 rpm. And just about the time the torque starts to wane, the horsepower picks up, so the power is constant throughout the powerband.

With the Cross Country’s Freedom 106, Victory wanted a broad, flat torque curve with good midrange. And midrange is not a problem for the 1731cc engine. Its torque curve is flat and horsepower is climbing, so its midrange is solid. But in lower gears, the engine didn’t give much below 3000 rpm, which surprised us seeing how this lack of power down low hadn’t materialized in other versions of the Freedom 106 we’ve tested. The 2008 Victory Vision Tour we dynoed yielded results of 84.4 hp at 5300 rpm and 94.9 lb-ft of torque at 3100 rpm, with over 80 lb-ft available at 2000 rpm. The Cross Country’s Freedom 106 is in the mid-60s at 2000 rpm and doesn’t reach 78 lb-ft of torque until 2400 rpm. Team this with fuel delivery that is a little choppy and it takes a moment to build up power at lower rpm before it reaches usable torque. While testing, the single overhead camshafts and self-adjusting cam chains of the solid-mounted engine produce more mechanical noise than the pushrod-driven engine of the Stratoliner S. The Freedom 106 is well-balanced at cruising speed, though, with no noticeable vibes from the solid-mounted engine while cruising down the freeway at 70 mph. We were also impressed with sixth gear which provides decent roll-on for an overdrive gear.

The engine of the classically styled Stratoliner S sits cradled in the rails of a traditional frame, shined up with extra chrome engine covers it received as part of its ‘S’ model upgrades. The Victory Cross Country’s 50-degree V is tucked in neat and tidily beneath the wide, scalloped tank. The Cross Country’s engine serves as a stressed member of the two-piece, sand-cast aluminum frame that doubles as an airbox. If this set-up sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a variation of the CORE technology introduced in the Victory Vision.

Heading out of Cook’s Corner to a few winding canyon roads we frequent, the merits of this CORE technology began to shine. The Victory Cross Country, like the Vision, handles surprisingly easy for a big touring bike. Its fork-mounted fairing is lightweight plastic so it doesn’t affect steering and the feel at the bars is light. It’s not a load to navigate at parking lot speeds thanks to a low 26.5 in. seat height and a wheelbase that is 1.8-in. tighter (67.5 to 65.7 in.) than the Stratoliner S. The chassis is very stable while exploring the bagger’s lean angles. An inverted 43mm fork keeps the front end planted. Once it’s leaned over, it doesn’t waver until you’re ready to stand it up and accelerate out of a turn. The Cross Country’s back end is stabilized by an air shock and coil spring that can be adjusted for loads using a small hand-held air shock pump which connects to the bike’s right side.

The Stratoliner S doesn’t come with the cool CORE technology, opting to run a standard aluminum frame, a traditional 46mm telescopic fork and Star’s controlled-fill swingarm instead. As far as ride quality, the two both perform admirably and seldom did road conditions compress the springs fully. The forks on each bike provide a generous 5.1 in. of travel while the Cross Country has a little more travel on the rear. Riders do sit higher on the Stratoliner S with its 27.8 in. seat height, but you almost need to sit up higher to grab hold of the big bike’s wide bars which are about the widest I’ve come across on a stock cruiser. The bars make it feel heavy in parking lots and the bike requires more effort than the Cross Country at low speeds. In corners, the bars make it a slow turner that requires a much wider berth. Its chassis is well sorted and it will hold a line at speed, but it handles like a classic cruiser and floorboards that scrape easily and limit lean angles don’t help.

With big bikes that can push upward of 1200 pounds with a rider, passenger, and full saddlebags, powerful brakes are mandatory. The set-up on the 2009 Stratoliner S is up to the task. The 298mm dual hydraulic discs on the front with monoblock calipers have a strong initial bite and progressive feel, and the big 320mm hydraulic disc grabs tight and doesn’t lock up unnecessarily. The 2010 Victory Cross Country sources Victory’s proprietary brakes, with dual 300mm floating rotors and 4-piston calipers on the front and another 300mm floating rotor, 2-caliper arrangement on the back. Unlike the Victory Vision, the brakes aren’t linked, nor is there an ABS option immediately available. Which is a shame, because we like the brakes on the Vision, but the arrangement on the Cross Country doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence under heavy braking. The back brake locks up easily and it takes a hard squeeze on the front brake lever to get it to bite.

“The brakes have feel, but no power whatsoever,” said guest tester, Justin Dawes, recent reviewer of the 2010 Star VMax.