By Michael Dapper
Victory Buzz Staff Writer
Let’s start with the conclusion: The Victory Judge is an incredibly fun, sporty, nimble and powerful bike. Its ergonomics – determined in part by its relatively straight drag handlebars – are not
uncomfortable, contrary to some observers’ initial beliefs.
Many riders sit on the Judge and immediately conclude “those bars make me lean forward. That won’t be comfortable. I wish the controls were 2” closer to me.”
I originally shared that opinion. I was convinced the bike would be uncomfortable. But riding is believing, and after riding the Judge 500 miles in one day – with a backpack strapped on my back – I can report I was left with no aches, pain, or discomfort. It was a tremendously fun day in the saddle, and despite bucking a wicked plains headwind for 105 miles near the end of the ride, I was ready for more.
Could a rider complete a 1,000-mile Iron Butt ride on a Judge? Yes, without a doubt.
I count myself among the Victory Riders who are more accustomed to Victory Touring models and Baggers, which have handlebars that extend toward the rider and put the handgrips and upper controls comfortably within reach. On those bikes, your arms are in a relaxed, bent position.
The Judge handlebars require you to reach forward for the controls – but not uncomfortably. I am 5’, 10” tall with a 33.5” sleeve length, about average for U.S. males. I’m also older and creakier than the Judge’s target customer demographic, yet I loved riding the bike all day.
Before starting, I predicted I would get off the bike at day’s end with stiff legs, an aching back and shoulders left sore from both the reach to the bars and the backpack straps. None of that discomfort developed.
None at all. The Judge was a blast to ride. It was what motorcycling should be: Pure fun.
Compared to Victory Touring models and Baggers, the Judge will likely remind you of your earliest motorcycles and their traditional riding positions. Riding it for 500 miles in Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, I enjoyed the ergonomics, and was so comfortable that all afternoon I wasn’t even aware of having a backpack on.
If you would prefer pullback bars that position the controls closer to you when you ride, 2” Pullback Handlebars are among the many Victory accessories available for the Judge. Visit your Victory dealer for details.
I would welcome greater cornering clearance on this bike, but if that is the Judge’s biggest shortcoming (and to me, it is), then I have to conclude this is a fun, fantastic bike with very few flaws.
The Judge I rode was stock and naked – no windshield. I added a tank bag and strapped a small bag carrying rain gear onto the passenger seat. I wore a full-face helmet and a few layers of clothing to fend off the early morning chill of a beautiful October 1.
Here’s an assessment of the Judge, from front to back:
The handling is outstanding – smooth, sporty and easy. The combination of nimble handling and tremendous acceleration lets you dart through traffic with ease. If you’ve spent much time on Touring/Bagger models, you’ll definitely take note of the Judge’s comparatively light weight. (Its 660-pound dry weight is 100 pounds less than that of the Cross Country.)
The single-gauge instrumentation is positioned front and center so it’s easy to monitor your speed, RPMs, miles ridden, and gear selection. There’s no fuel gauge, but I never stretched the fuel in the 4.7-gallon tank to the point of triggering the low-fuel light. The upper controls are standard Victory controls, well-positioned and easy to operate.
Before the ride, I expected the mid-mount footpeg positions would leave my legs aching by day’s end, but I remained comfortable all day and walked away pain-free. The lower controls are standard Victory controls, and shifting and braking was easily executed.
Wow! With the Freedom®
106/6 V-Twin cranking out 110 ft-lb of torque, this bike instills a rider with confidence and with great enthusiasm for the ride. About 35% of my day’s ride was on rural 2-lane roads, where passing among farm vehicles during the busy harvest season is always a calculated risk. The Judge had the acceleration to execute quick, sure passes on demand, and it had ample power to gobble up miles on the interstates.
The braking was sure and reliable in all situations. I didn’t have any emergency quick stops, but got on the binders hard a few times in city traffic and they always performed impressively. The Judge has a single disc up front and nothing I experienced made me wish the bike had dual front disc brakes.
The bike I rode had a stock exhaust and I loved the exhaust note – an appealing, throaty rumble. If you want an even richer exhaust note, Victory offers several styles of Stage 1 exhausts for the Judge in black or chrome finishes.
The stock seat was comfortable all day. Its cushioning is more firm than plush, and that works well. No aches or complaints, during the ride or afterward. (A Touring Seat is available for the Judge that is even more
comfortable, and really spoils the passenger with its larger seat surface.)
The Judge suspension reminds me of the Hammer’s. It’s stiff and sporty, not soft or squishy. You feel the bumps more than you do on Touring/Baggers with their rear air shocks, but the sporty feel is in synch with the Judge’s makeup and personality. Plus, when you get on the gas, there’s virtually no flex or rear-end squat. The chassis remains taut and the bike shoots through traffic like a bullet.
The Verdict on the Judge:
It’s outstanding. Quick, sporty, and really fun to ride. More cornering clearance would be welcome, but the available clearance doesn’t hinder performance or enjoyment. And contrary to my pre-ride expectations, the Judge delivered a completely comfortable ride during a great day on the road.
Here’s the Judge parked at Hawkeye Point, the highest elevation in all of Iowa (1,670 ft. elevation).
Here’s the Judge taking a break just outside Spirit Lake, Iowa, where it was built at the Victory final assembly facility.
The Judge handlebars (left) don’t extend as far back toward the rider as do those of a bike like the Cross Country Tour (right).
The relatively straight Judge handlebars (bottom) don’t extend as far back toward the rider as do those of a bike like the Cross Country Tour (top).