By Justin Dawes, Digital Media Producer

Checks all the boxes for a great American cruiser

Victory Motorcycles is making changes. It began with an all-new logo for the American cruiser brand that is simple, focused and signifies its push toward an ever-larger presence in the two-wheeled arena. The next change is the phasing out of the classic Kingpin cruiser for 2013, leaving a hole at the lower end of Victory’s lineup. This slot will be filled by a brand spanking new model called the Boardwalk. We recently a spent couple of days sampling the 2013 Victory Boardwalk while soaking up the scenery in California’s Santa Barbara County. After just a few minutes aboard it, we forgot all about the now defunct Kingpin.

The Boardwalk ranks near the bottom of the ladder in terms of price ($15,499-15,899) and is lean on features, but that doesn’t decrease its desirability. Personally I believe less is more when it comes to cruisers, where it’s the details that matter. The Boardwalk has those details. With its blend of classic and modern styling, this new Victory is a looker. Long swooping fenders wrap around 16-inch wire wheels shod with whitewall Metzeler ME880 tires, giving a nod to lowriders and lead-sleds of bygone days. The new 4.7-gallon tank makes the Boardwalk unmistakable as a Victory even without seeing the blocky badging. Meeting the requirements of a classic cruiser, there is plenty of chrome, from the pipes to the headlight to the massive beach bars. It’s 21st century classic.

Swing a leg over the Boardwalk and riders are greeted with a comfortable seat with an easy reach to the pavement for just about any size. The very low 25.9-inch seat height drops the rider deep in the chassis, but you still feel on top of the bike rather than in it. Grab onto the widest bars of any Victory cruiser for a relaxed and laid-back seating position while your feet rest comfortably on the large floorboards. The passenger pillion is large and cushy and when removed leaves no marks or holes in the rear fender.

Hit the starter button and the Boardwalk chugs to life without hesitation, quickly settling into a familiar lope from its Freedom 106-cubic inch V-Twin. The air and oil-cooled engine has just the right amount of jiggle at idle and smooths out as the rpm rises. A slightly tinny exhaust note emanates from the chromed slash-cut pipes but still has character that lets the world know this V-Twin has some muscle lurking inside.

Click the toe-shifter into first and listen for a solid clunk into gear that can be heard by your riding buddies, but there is no mistake that the cogs have meshed. Rowing through the gears is hassle free, no missed shifts or hang-ups during testing. Clutch lever effort is not light by any means but not overly stiff, with positive engagement and excellent feel.

The Boardwalk is propelled with more than enough power thanks to the 50-degree Freedom 106 V-Twin. This bike may be targeted at the "taking it easy and rolling through the countryside" or "meandering down to the beach crowd," but it’s always nice to know that you can slingshot away from a stoplight when the mood strikes. Throttle response is crisp and sorted perfectly no matter the situation, so much so that you don’t even really think about it. It just goes. Gearing is spaced for a relaxed ride, and in sixth gear at 60 mph, the revs of the big V-Twin settle into a silky smooth cadence.

It’s clear the Boardwalk is more at home on well-maintained roadways. On the bumpy back roads of Santa Barbara County, the suspension has a tough go of it. To soak up the undulating pavement and chunky asphalt, the 700-pound American-built bike blows through the three inches of travel on the rear easily. On normal stretches, the ride is comfortable and smooth as can be.

When the road gets curvy, the Boardwalk is more than competent despite the softer suspension and relaxed riding position. When cruising at a laid back pace the wide handlebars impart a large amount of leverage on the front end, making the steering effort very light. Dipping the Victory into a corner is almost effortless. Once in a turn, holding a line is cake — unless the road is rough, then things can get a little squirmy but never out of control. As usual the unofficial Journalist GP usually breaks out during the end of a ride, and at truly silly speeds the Boardwalk still handles well and clearly communicates where the edge of its capabilities are. The floorboards can touch down but not as early as expected, impressing us with the corning clearance for a low-slung classic cruiser.

Comfort is paramount on a cruiser, and without hesitation I can say the Boardwalk has it. Even after a full day in the saddle my overly sensitive tailbone showed no signs of discomfort. Lots of highway miles could be tiring with the wide bars and lack of wind protection, but that is not what this bike was meant for. It’s most comfortable on the side roads lumping along in style.

In the stopping department, squeeze the front brake lever and you are rewarded with solid feel and excellent stopping power for a single front disc. In the past I have been a critic of Victory’s braking prowess, but I have zero complaints from the front binder on the Boardwalk. Out back the rear brake has decent power but the feel is a bit muted. Locking the rear does take some effort despite the lack of feel, which is a good thing.

Victory has a potential hit on its hands with the Boardwalk. The motorcycle melds modern style with classic lines for one of the best-looking Victory Cruisers to date. The Freedom 106/6 drivetrain is an excellent fit for this machine's intended purpose and will give riders the performance they seek when the itch for a short blast down the boulevard strikes. It’s comfortable for a low-slung, wide-barred V-Twin and checks the appropriate boxes to make it a desirable American-made cruiser.