So long, Victory! It’s been good to know you.
News that Polaris Industries is shutting down the manufacture of its Victory motorcycles is roiling the small but loyal group of Victory owners across the U.S. Yet, in a way, it comes as no surprise. It’s hard to find a Victory dealer when you’re out on the road. Polaris never really made owning a Victory a cult thing.
I have spent many hours in motorcycle dealerships, selling and signing my books. What impressed me most was the way Harley-Davidson not only enforces its brand, but encourages it. Walk into a Victory dealer, and you may encounter a jacket or two, some motor oil and some T-shirts. The motorcycles may share space with ATVs, snowmobiles or other motorcycle brands. Walk into a Harley dealer, and it’s all Harley. H-D clothing, motor oil, bar stools, drinkware — that Harley-Davidson shield is on everything! If there is a competing bike brand on the showroom floor, it’s probably been traded in for a Harley.
Two summers ago, we attended the national rally of the Victory Motorcycle Club in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Our Victory, a 2002 Deluxe Touring Cruiser, was easily the oldest of the thousands of bikes parked at the hotel. There was a distinct “underdog” camaraderie among the riders. We all knew Victory motorcycles were good. But, like car-rental firm Avis used to say in its advertising, there was also a feeling of “We Try Harder.” We all wondered what Polaris’ acquisition of the Indian brand would mean.
And now we know. Indian will once again go head-to-head with Polaris, and Victory will be no more. Indian will still have long way to go to take market share from H-D. Even if the Victory dealerships are replaced with Indian dealerships, they will still be too few and far between. Which is why we traded our Victory last summer for a Harley Road King. Harley dealers are much easier to find when you’re a long way from home.
It’s about the bike, stupid!
Last December, RoadRUNNER magazine published my article, “The Other Grand Canyon,” a story about a ride Ralph and I took through Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. The editor asked me if I had any photos of our motorcycle at the canyon, and I had to tell her no. Until that time, it had never dawned on me that to most readers of motorcycle publications, the trip is about the bike as much as it is the scenery. I am after all, just a tourist riding on the back. I tried to keep that in mind as I worked on my forthcoming book, Ride Minnesota, looking for exciting backgrounds for “heroic” shots of the bike.
Here are the details on our bike: It’s a 1508cc 2002 champagne-and-cream Victory Deluxe Touring Cruiser. Rlaph added true dual ceramic-coated pipes because, he says, he gets better performance and gas mileage. (It made the bike a lot noisier!)
We purchased the motorcycle secondhand from a guy who said it had been made for one of the executives at Polaris. It had just 3,000 miles on it. Since then, it’s been to the Grand Canyon and back and all over Minnesota, and the total is now several thousand miles north of 30,000.
One of the cool places we found was the Gold Mine Bridge near Redwood Falls. It’s one of the few wooden bridges left in Minnesota.