Back in 1969, the American can company, Pontiac stripped down their GTO model to make a low cost muscle car and called it the Judge. Fast forward 45 years and Victory Motorcycles are taking a page out of the books of history with their new ‘muscle motorcycle’, the Victory Judge.
Design and Ergonomics
The Judge is a no-frills, full sized cruiser, and despite being built to a budget, it maintains a high level of quality worthy of the Victory name. There’s not a lot of plastic here, nor dull or rusted fittings, while the ride just feels solid, without any rattles or vibration beyond what you’d expect from the big V-twin.
Mid mounted controls and drag bars define the riding position on this bike, pitching the rider forward into an aggressive stance, which not only makes for a more comfortable ride but encourages harder cornering too. The only limiting factor is the low cornering clearance and the foldable pegs are soon in contact with the ground, giving the rider plenty of warning to not push things too much further. For those wanting a little more ground clearance, Victory also stocks a longer rear shock that raises the back of the bike up an additional 22mm as part of their extensive aftermarket catalogue.
The judge stays true to its 4-wheel namesake styling, with 5 spoke, 16” mag wheels to keep things rolling along smoothly, while the black headlight nacelle, single gauge speedometer (which hides a surprising amount of information), clean angles of the 17L fuel tank, blacked out engine features, aluminium air filter cover, alloy runners along the rear fender, LED indicators and integrated tail light all add up to give the Judge a very clean and purposeful look. For those looking to add a bit more of a personal touch, the race inspired side panels located just below the seat are itching for some customisation, whether just simple race numbers or something a little more risqué.
Engine and Components
At the heart of the Judge beats the Freedom 106/6 V-Twin; a 1731cc, 50° V-twin engine that, while lacking the punch of a sportier race bred engine, still puts out just a little under 150Nm that will steadily get things moving along very quickly. It doesn’t take long to understand the significance of the lip at the back of the seat that keeps you in place when winding the long gears out along the highway. Passengers should also be given warning to hold on tight, as the long continuous power curve and slight vibration is enough to make sliding off the passenger seat a real possibility.
Throttle control is crisp and immediate, while the engineers at Victory have done a superb job of providing a clutch that releases the bikes torque to the rear wheel in a smooth and predictable fashion. Gear changes need to be made with some sense of purpose but each time clunks satisfyingly into place and I never missed a gear, while the helical cut gears ensures a quiet and reliable ride throughout all 6 gears. The wide band of useable power and long gear ratios means less gear changes on winding roads and a 6th gear that provides a pleasant combination of true overdrive while maintaining good overtaking power.
The built-to-a-budget mindset of the Judge is somewhat apparent in the brakes and suspension. While the 300mm single disc front and rear may seem inadequate, the 4 piston front calliper, stainless steel brake lines and long wheelbase make for a brake setup that has good feel, and once you get used to relying on the rear brake a little more than on some other bikes, it also performs a reasonable job of slowing the 300kg cruiser down. The conventional, cartridge style forks and adjustable rear suspension is basic but capable, soaking up the worst potholes without transferring any sharp jolts through the riders spine while maintaining a composed stance through the corners.
Manoeuvring around town at slow speed is surprisingly easy with the Judges shortish 1647mm wheelbase (the shortest of any victory motorcycles) and very low 658mm seat height, making light work of heavy traffic and tight turns. The seat also happens to be nice and wide, keeping things comfortable out on long stretches of highway while a low level of vibration from the engine keeps the mirrors from vibrating into oblivion.
The only thing that was a little concerning about the Victory Judge was the potential for serious rear end lockups on downshifts. Despite the hard compound 140 section stock rear wheel handling corners with ease and providing good wear characteristics, the large displacement of the engine provides a little too much braking force for it. We quickly learned that a quick blip of the throttle on downshifts eliminated this trait immediately, but is still something to be aware of.
All in all, the Judge delivers exactly what it sets out to – solid performance and comfort in an appealing and affordable package while still providing about 13% more power than its nearest rival. With a mellow exhaust note loud enough to turn heads without being offensive and looks to match, the Judge is cut from a different cloth than other bikes, and it’s these differences that may be the ace up its sleeve in welcoming new followers.