Victory’s Gunner brings modern, V-twin performance and a fresh take on the classic Bobber look. Essentially unchanged between 2015 and 2017, the Gunner carries the Freedom 106/6 mill that pushes it into the power-cruiser category with 100-plus pounds of grunt and a top speed upwards of 130 mph. It needs every bit of that power to compete against the other big U.S. players; Harley-Davidson and Victory’s sister under the Polaris umbrella and longtime H-D foe, Indian Motorcycles. As the new kid on a very tough block, Victory bills itself as the American Performance brand, a brave moniker if you aren’t prepared to back it up. Let’s see what Victory has in store for us in its base-model cruiser, ya’ know, other than the monster V-twin.
The Gunner attempts to hail back to the custom Bobber/Gasser styles that saw everything non-essential removed, and everything that remained cut down to a minimum. Right off the bat we have a cut-down front fender that is made to look even more insignificant by the fat front tire and blackout fork sliders.
As usual with Victory products, there is a bit of a Ness-like swoop, but in the Gunner’s case it is limited to the fuel tank and isn’t nearly as apparent as on some of their other model families. The solo saddle comes with a generous butt-retaining lip to help the rider deal with the arm-stretching acceleration, and it terminates over a cut-down rear fender that looks more like a garage job than a factory one.
A tucked-away taillight falls below the fender, so the standoff turn signals are the only blemish on an otherwise clean-as-a-whistle ass end. On the subject of asses, the rider’s butt rides a mere 25-inches off the ground with 4.7 inches of ground clearance under the frame, so center-of-gravity is necessarily low and the bike is easy to manage with feet down even for my fellow shorties. Pullback handlebars and forward controls put the rider in the windsock position which is fine for around town but will be tiresome on longer trips, and I find it not very confidence inspiring with my less-than-lengthy inseam.
Tubular-steel members make up the double-downtube, double-cradle frame with a yoke-style swingarm to finish off the standing chassis. The steering head comes set up for 32 degrees of rake with 6.7 inches of trail and a stable ride, even at speed. Naturally this is a trade off that makes the Gunner less than eager in the corners.
A central-mount, gas-charged monoshock supports the rear end on three inches of travel with adjustable spring preload. Since the shock comes tucked away in the bowels of the machine well out of view, it doesn’t mar the squeaky-clean rear fender. Right-way-up forks support the front end on 5.1 inches of travel, but as usual with American-style cruisers, the front forks come with fixed values and are completely non-adjustable. While this isn’t surprising, I expect to see more cruisers jump on the bandwagon and start running adjustable gear in traditional, rwu formats, and so I’m a little disappointed that the progressively-minded Victory hasn’t taken that first step.
For me, the 24-spoke, 16-inch, cast-aluminum rims are the coolest looking feature on the entire bike. Dunlop provides the road rubber with its 491 E2-RWL tires, and the visual weight comes from the wide, 130/90 up front and even wider 140/90 in back. At 682 pounds wet, I’m a little surprised to see only a single disc on the front wheel, even if it is 300 mm in diameter with a four-pot, opposed-piston caliper to bind it. The rear wheel also sports a 300 mm disc with a twin-pot binder, but no linked brakes or ABS to complicate things. Much like the non-adjustable forks, I expect non-ABS bikes to be extinct within this decade except on the most budget-minded models.
Victory’s massive Freedom 106 mill is undeniably the showpiece of the Gunner, and the 50-degree layout keeps it looking right for the U.S. market. Although it carries a layout similar to that used by both Harley and Indian, Victory shuns the external pushrod tubes and doesn’t take any steps at all to channel any particular historical look, just honest V-twin inches.
Hydraulic lifters actuate the four-valve heads, and the 101 mm bore and 108 mm stroke gives us a 1,731 cc total displacement with a mild 9.4-to-1 compression ratio. Nothing ruins a cruiser destined for the U.S. market quicker than a radiator, but the ample cooling fins clearly mark this mill as an air-cooled design.
A 45 mm throttle body feeds the beast, and the result is a solid 110 pound-feet of torque that manages to be thrilling in spite of its great overall weight. A standard, non-slipper clutch couples engine power to a six-speed, constant-mesh, overdrive transmission, and a carbon-reinforced belt carries power to the rear wheel. One might note the lack of traction control or power-delivery options, but as with the suspension, bikes in this class usually don’t come with all the bells and whistles, so it’s another area with room for improvement.
Back in ’15, the Gunner could be had for $12,999, but the price jumped $500 up to $13,499 in ’16 and is holding there for the 2017 model year.
Since there aren’t but two other major U.S. manufacturers, and since one of them (Indian Motorcycles) is a sister company under the Polaris umbrella, I felt obligated to trot out a comparable bike from Harley. Almost immediately the Fat Bob presented itself as the obvious choice with cut-down fenders, fat tires and blackout touches that call to mind the custom Bobbers of old.
Rather than riding on a hidden monoshock, Harley ran its customary dual external shock setup and threw on blackout shrouds that blend in against the black surrounds. The stock Gunner comes with a solo saddle, but Harley adds a vestigial pillion pad that’s better than sitting on a wadded-up jacket, but just barely. Beyond that, the two are remarkably similar with touches of blackout here and there, though as usual Harley beats the pants off all comers in the paint department. The Victory colors, while not awful, are just a bit boring.
H-D runs its High Output Twin Cam 103 that cranks out 99.5 pounds of grunt. This is a full 10.5-pounds short of the Freedom 106, and the Fat Bob weighs even more at 706 pounds, so the H-D won’t feel quite as punchy as the Gunner.
Victory picks up a big win at the checkout; the current $13,499 pricetag falls well short of the $16,049 starting price on the Vivid Black Fat Bob, and the paint options can drive that on up to $16,999, so the king of paint also comes off as the king of price as well.
My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, “While I like what the factory did with the Octane, I’d say that this is my favorite big twin model from Victory’s current lineup. It’s simple, clean and doesn’t have too much of that Nessy swoop about it. Not exactly an entry-level bike, I expect it will make a solid first upgrade for someone wanting to move a step up from the trainer bikes.”
“When I look at this against the Vegas or the Hammer , I think the Gunner is more sporty and definitely more flickable. It leans like a dream, but because of the longer wheelbase, the pegs drag if you don’t adjust the angle at which you enter the corner. Swing wide and use the whole lane rather than keeping it tight — an adjustment in riding style that needs to be made if you’re switching from, say, a sport bike to this sporty cruiser. It’s not quiet, which I like; I want to be heard in traffic. I like the simplicity of the gauges — or should I say ’gauge’ as in singular. The sweep-hand speedometer is mounted high where it’s easy to see and easy to read at a glance.”
|ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN:|
|Engine Type:||Freedom 106/ 6 V-Twin|
|Displacement:||106 ci / 1731 cc|
|Bore x Stroke (mm):||101 X 108 mm|
|Valve Train:||4 Valves per Cylinder, Hydraulic Lifters & Cam Chain Adjusters|
|Battery:||YTX20HL-BS/12 Volt 18 Amp Hour 310 CCA|
|Charging System:||38 Amps Max Output|
|Cooling:||Air & Oil|
|Drive/Driven Clutch:||Wet Multi-Plate/Diaphragm Spring|
|Exhaust:||Dual-Staggered Slash-Cut with Common Volume|
|Fuel System:||Electronic Fuel Injection with dual 45mm throttle body|
|Transmission/Final Drive:||Carbon Fiber Reinforced Belt|
|Transmission/Primary Drive:||Gear Drive with Torque Compensator|
|Transmission Type:||6 Speed Overdrive/Constant Mesh|
|Front Suspension:||Telescopic Fork/ 5.1″ (130mm)|
|Rear Suspension:||Single Monotube Gas/Preload Adjustable/3.0″ (75mm)|
|Brake System Type:||Not Linked|
|Front Brakes:||Single 300 x 5mm/ Floating Rotor/ 4 Piston Caliper|
|Rear Brakes:||Single 300 x 5mm/ Floating Rotor/ 2 Piston Caliper|
|Front Tires:||Dunlop 491 E2-RWL 130/90 B16 67H|
|Front Wheel:||16 x 3.5 in|
|Rear Tires:||Dunlop 491 E2-RWL 140/90 B16 77H|
|Rear Wheel:||16 x 3.5 in|
|Fuel Capacity (Litres):||4.5 gal / 17.0 ltr|
|GVWR:||1151 lbs / 523 kg|
|Ground Clearance:||4.7 in / 120 mm|
|Rake/Trail:||32°/6.7 in (170.0 mm)|
|Seat Height:||25.0 in / 635 mm|
|Wheelbase:||64.8 in / 1647 mm|
|Overall Length (in./mm.):||93.4 in / 2372 mm|
|Dry Weight:||649 lb (294 kg)|
|Oil Capacity:||5.0 qts / 4.73 ltr|
|ABS/Cruise Control:||Not Equipped|
|Colors:||Suede Titanium Metallic with Black Tank Graphics, Suede Green Metallic with Black Tank Graphics|