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#275 Looking for the winner

Even minor details such as the 2012 Cross Country’s new venting system take on a whole new importance as the contest between Victory and Harley-Davidson heats up.

Victory Motorcycles makes no bones about its intent to challenge mighty Harley-Davidson on The Motor Company’s home turf, the open road. More easily said than done, especially when the open road is prowled by the likes of the Ultra Classic, which is still the Gold Standard in the touring class. And yes, I have heard of the Gold Wing. Sorry, the results are in, the people have voted with their wallets. Be at peace with that.
But getting back to Victory Motorcycles, the Minnesota-based manufacturer (“The Other Americans”) needs every edge it can get going toe-to-toe with the boys from Milwaukee. One of those edges now belongs to the 2012 Cross Country, which takes the adjustable fairing-mounted air deflectors and vented removable lower fairings of the Ultra Classic—its chief rival—to the next level.

The way the Cross Country is set up allows a rider to control airflow reaching the seating area, thereby controlling comfort levels in all riding conditions. The new system is composed of upper air controls mounted at the base of the fairing that pivot to provide airflow where the rider wants to direct it or block air from reaching the upper body. The lower air controls allow a rider to control the volume of airflow to the legs. The hard lowers also feature storage compartments (much like the Glide) with a cord that connects an iPod with the bike’s integrated audio system; and an integrated 12V power outlet for electrical devices such as GPS or chargers. The lowers are mounted on chromed tubular highway bars that provide tip-over protection, and the whole business is complemented by a new tall windshield, a trademark-protected 17.7-gallon Lock & Ride trunk that boasts a padded backrest for the passenger. All very high-end kit of course. It better be, considering what the competition brings to the table.

To keep things in perspective, the new venting system is rather minor detail that grows in direct proportion to the severity of the weather, hot or cold. The big context is that there are lengthy features lists for both bikes as the contest between Victory Motorcycles and Harley-Davidson heats up.

Last year, Victory installed the 106-incher/-six-speed combo right across its product line. This year, Harley has done much the same by making the 103 its go-to motor for the Big Twins and most Dynas. Don’t think Milwaukee is unaffected or somehow blissfully unaware of Victory’s main motive, to replace H-D in the enthusiast’s heart. Listen to what Harley says in its Ultra Classic promotional material under the heading of Key Features: “Though many imitators sought to duplicate it, the Ultra Classic Electra Glide still stands tall as a benchmark for touring enthusiasts.”
Stand tall is precisely what the big Harley does, there’s no doubting that. But it can’t afford to stand “still”… not for very long at any rate, because the Cross Country is hard on its heels.

Where the Harley offers increasing levels of rider and passenger comfort, so does the Victory. A show quality chrome package, air-adjustable suspension, adjustable floorboards, high-tech audio system, voluminous storage, ABS, heated grips and seats, powerful lighting, class-leading powertrain, richly luxurious paint schemes, and an accessories package that leaves nothing to the imagination. Which bike does all the above describe, the Cross Country or the Ultra Classic? Really difficult to say without the program in front of you, isn’t it? That’s the whole point.

So, who will be the eventual winner in this breath-taking race to the finish line between two great Americans?
Why, you of course.


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