This summer I test road a Victory Kingpin. On the same day I test road a new Triumph Thunderbird. So how did Victory's gangsta bike compare to Triumph's bad bird? Rather than spending time with specs, here's how the rides felt.
I road the Kingpin in the morning first. This was my first ride on a large V-Twin engine. The stock exhaust sound was nice. The dash lights and gauges are the easiest to see and use on any current cruiser bike. The throttle felt smooth. The engine responded just how I commanded it and I was unfamiliar with this bike.
The Kingpin chewed up the corners and curves with much more aggression and ease than my current bike. This bike was almost saying "give me more," "give me bigger challenges." The braking power was excellent. The Kingpin felt more planted to the ground than other motorcycles. Is this how all Victory's feel?
Triumph Thunderbird 1700
I climbed aboard Triumph's big Parallel Twin Thunderbird that same afternoon. This bike took some getting used to. It's exhaust sound is quiet. I noticed it didn't have immediate response in corners. That was probably due to the bigger front tire. You get used to it. Like a traditional cruiser, the dash lights and gauges are on the fuel tank. This causes you to break from the most talked about rule in basic motorcycle training. To view them you have to take your eyes slightly off the road.
The big parallel twin responded how I wanted from the very smooth throttle. The Thunderbird doesn't have the Kingpin's feel of aggression, but the bike rides so soft that you wonder if your up to speed. Don't get tricked by this bike. Briefly taking your eyes off the road to look at the speedometer, I saw I was almost at 80 m.p.h. in a 60 zone. The braking felt spectacular, and just in time.
An American versus a British take on the cruiser bike couldn't be more different. The one oddity is I ended up on bikes practically the same color. Now comes the hardest part. Which one did I like better? Well, I guess it depends. To say one bike took the other down wouldn't be correct. Unfamiliar with both bikes, I was able to take off on the Victory and shortly it felt like the bike was already an extension of me. With that, the easy viewing controls and being the easiest cornering cruiser I have ridden to date, says to me Polaris Victory has put a lot into its usability.
The Thunderbird took some getting used to, however I felt the Thunderbird's braking ability gave me a greater feeling of confidence. The clutch lever on the T-Bird felt easier. It's balance feels easy for being such a heavy bike. Heavy is probably what makes this bike such a smooth highway ride. This cruiser takes a pass on a gangsta look. I like that.
While I would use words like "power" and "aggressive" to describe the Kingpin, "art" and "finesse" come to mind for the Thunderbird. Where the Kingpin shines is in the corners. This is where I was pulled towards this bike. Where the Thunderbird shines is on a busy freeway and also in stop and go traffic. This is where the Thunderbird's finesse and breaking ability pull me towards this bike. Both are an easy speeding ticket.
Which one do I recommend? Both. I love them both.
Additional side points:
- Victory's cruiser luggage is better than Triumph's. There's no debate here.
- Triumph has more dealers (in the USA) to support you than Victory, but that may change soon.
- Need a Triumph part from the United Kingdom? Be prepared to wait.
- Need a Victory part from the United States? First, you have to find a dealer.