“Oh, I like that one,” my wife said when I showed her a picture of the Victory Gunner. “I actually like it better than the Thunderf*ck.”
“Thunderf*ck” is my wife’s nickname for the Triumph Thruxton –– up to that point my wife’s favourite motorcycle. When Jenn was a little girl, she collected stickers of motorcycles and Triumphs were always her favourites. So, I want you to just think for a second of how stunned I was to hear her place the Victory Gunner above them.
In Europe, the Gunner comes equipped with anti-lock brakes. If you live in the United States, you should be writing to Victory customer service and asking why they love Not-America more than you. Because somehow adding an anti-lock braking system results in better overall braking.
You read my reviews I did last year of the Victory Judge and Victory Jackpot, their sub-par standard brakes were my biggest complaint. As I wrote of the Judge: “there is just not enough “whoa.” The single-disc front brake is spongy, demands a full-handed grab to be deployed and is overall not as effective as you need it to be when you’re sitting astride a 700-lb. motorcycle.“
Front braking on the Gunner is still shouldered by a single disc (I would prefer two), but you get a lot more out of it. I was able to scrub speed with a simple two-fingered grab, as I am used to doing on my V-Strom. Hard stops require a decent amount of physical involvement but by and large, the difference between this Victory’s brakes and those I experienced last year are night and day.
It should be noted that in Europe the Judge is also now being offered with anti-lock brakes, so my previous criticism may no longer be valid. The Judge is no longer sold in the United States because Americans can’t have nice things.
Speaking of nice, riding at speed is surprisingly comfortable on the Gunner. There is no wind protection but even at autobahn speeds (I wasn’t in Germany but may have been riding that way) I didn’t find the experience to be too awful. For long-distance hauls I’d keep to roads that allowed more relaxed speeds.
I’d probably also invest in some new shocks. Suspension on the Gunner is certainly better than I’ve experienced on some other bikes (looking at you, Harley-Davidson Sportster), but by the end of my time with the motorcycle my back was starting to tighten up just a little bit. Life with a Gunner would, I think, demand stretching stops every 40-70 miles, depending on your stamina.
In a recent interview with Cycle World, Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich told the story of discovering as part of Project Rushmore that only one person on the whole of Harley-Davidson’s product development team had ever ridden as a passenger. Looking at the sloping maxi pad that Victory offers as a passenger seat for the Gunner makes me think the same issue may affect Victory’s product development teams.
Or maybe not. I suppose that to complain about such things is to ignore my own caveat from above. The Gunner isn’t supposed to be a tourer. It’s not really supposed to be used to ride to Marrakesh (although, it’s engine is solid enough that you could). If you want an awesome long-distance machine get a Victory Cross Country. The Gunner, though, is a cruiser. It’s primarily designed for perfect summer afternoons, for (well-paved) back-country roads and relaxed trundling through small towns. And in that function it performs incredibly well. To date, I have only ever ridden one cruiser that’s out-of-the-box better: the Indian Chief Classic.
Incidentally, on the same day I rode the Gunner I also got a chance to ride the Indian Scout for the first time. The two bikes are somewhat evenly matched in terms of horsepower and torque, and in the United Kingdom, at least, they are somewhat similar in price (the Gunner costs £400 less). I’ll have a review of the Scout up soon, but for my money the Gunner is the better choice. I wouldn’t have guessed that beforehand.
If you’ve got the moola, the garage space, and the right climate, the Victory Gunner really is hard to beat.
So, with all that said, let’s get to the three questions I ask of every motorcycle I test ride: