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I arrived in Daytona in time to pick up and ride Victory's latest production model, the 2013 Victory Judge, a result of their departure in development focus from touring bikes back to cruisers, specifically this extremely agile muscle cruiser. I'd categorize it as muscle car meets sport bike. It’s been  14 years since Victory first introduced their first cruiser and they have not stood still in styling or technology. This is no v92c or v92sc! The Victory boys wanted to be sure I said that. There. It’s said! Now let me be the , err Judge of that.....You gotta wonder if Victory chooses model names based on the number of puns they can generate.

Well, the fact is they are spot on. It’s far superior in all aspects of fit & finish, handling and performance. This is in part thanks to Victory's continuing refinement of their motor & transmission resulting in decreased noise, giving engineers more headroom to let the pipes sing that song of freedom….the Freedom 106cu in. powerplant, that is. In fact, three of the accessory cruiser exhaust pipes offered by Victory  conform to the SAE J2825 recommended sound level/measurement standard as well as EPA and CARB emission limits. When I first heard that claim by the marketing boys I figured , “Sure, they’re probably as loud as a snoring kitten.” Well after riding the Judge for a day with one of the pipes, specifically their Straight Pipes with fluted ends, I’m convinced that you don’t have to go ear-bleeding decibels to have the low growl & attitude these put out.They sound great! Not quiet, not crazy loud. Incidentally, the other 2 compliant stage 1 pipes are the Stage-1 Tri-Pro System and the Stage-1 X-Bow System. I’ve heard the Tri-Pro pipes on a Kingpin I  threw through the canyons near Grand Junction, Co and they too sound awesome. All these pipes fit across much of the Victory cruiser (Vegas/Kingpin/Hammer/Jackpot/High Ball/Judge) line so step up and take them for a spin. Ok, enough with pipe envy, there’s way more to this bike than what you can hear.

Comparing the original, and very capable, hammer motor (circa 1999-2002) to Victory's latest and greatest, is apples to machine guns. The Judge uses the same powerplant as the Kingpin/Vegas/Hammer models, incorporating the “cruiser” cam/timing to produce 113ftlbs at the crank. To this cruiser rider, the upright seating and mid-controls make the bike seem even faster and more agile. While I did find the riding position tiring after several hours, I still enjoyed laying into the throttle at green lights and reaching all but 6th gear before reigning it back in for the next traffic light. Afterall, I was riding the bike in Daytona.

Taking the Victory Judge on Florida roads means to get to see how well it tracks…in a straight line. And how well it goes from 0 to 50mph to 0. Repeatedly! Stop signs and traffic lights surrounded by 1/4mile straights is Florida's raison d'être. The state seal should be a light tree, drag strip and stop sign because that's how it felt driving around. Others on the road took each green light as a race to the next light. Of course, when in Rome, err, Florida…  After repeated stops, the single front 300mm floating rotor with 4-piston caliper of the Judge showed some fading. I could have used dual rotors but that would impair the beauty of those  muscle-car styled 16 x 3.5 in 5-spoke wheels and raised white letter Elite IIs. Afterall, this bike is also meant to be seen. I got the many side-glances at stop lights from intrigued cagers and riders alike.

I did find some curves and took them at considerable speed, but since they were generally off-ramps, they inevitably included a stop sign which meant rolling on the throttle at the curve's exit was not in the cards. On-ramps were another story. The typical "S" curved on ramp gave me ample times to lean the Judge over and accelerate at the same time.

Aside from the signature Victory 1st gear "clunk", shifting the Judge was noticeably smoother than earlier models. Enough so that I had to ask Victory what refinements were done for 2013. Their response: None! The 2012 transmission stays the same for 2013 with much of its refinement happening in 2011. Victory’s big 2012 step was increasing the oil change interval from 2500 to 5000 miles and calling it a 100,000 miles transmission. Those of us with earlier models already knew this. Many Victory owners are approaching or have reached the 100k mark and have proven the reliability of Victory equipment.

I found very little to complain about on the Judge. It just a blast to ride!  There were just a couple noodling issues worth mentioning. For us riders who are not orangutans, a set of bars that came back another 2” would alleviate the should fatigue I experienced after a day of riding. Remember, I’m a cruiser rider so you sport bike riders are probably fine. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the front brakes could use a 2nd  rotor up front. A bike this quick needs to stop quick as well.

Victory has priced the Judge as one of its most affordable models ($13,999 in black, $14399 for red or sunset orange suede). It’s also probably the fastest bike in their stable as well. If you’re in the market for American-made fun, Judge for yourself ..(I couldn’t help it!)

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