2015 Victory Gunner First Ride Review

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When your tagline is “Ride One and You’ll Own One,” you’d better be producing a product that backs up those claims. While Victory has been working diligently to get people in the saddle of its motorcycles, its latest offering aims to both increase accessibility of the brand and to appeal to a broader scope of riders. To help achieve this goal, Victory trimmed the fat off its latest cruiser, the 2015 Gunner, lowering its seat height to a rider-friendly 25-inches and offering it at an attractive price point of $12,999.

The Gunner’s sporty disposition comes courtesy of blacked-out components, frame and engine, throaty pipes streaking down its right side, a small front fender covering chunky Dunlop 491 Elite II tires, and a low-slung solo seat, the entire package decked out in attractive Suede Titanium paint. For good measure Victory slapped on a new set of 24-spoke cast aluminum wheels.

During our recent trip to Daytona Beach Bike Week, we sought to find out if the 2015 Gunner has the performance to match its styling chops. We got one afternoon in its saddle to accomplish those goals, a combination of rural roads past the Cabbage Patch to De Leon Springs, intermixed with a few highway miles before bombing around a few turns by Daytona International Speedway. Climbing onto its saddle for the first time reveals that the Gunner is indeed low-slung, suitable for riders with shorter inseams but comfortable for me as well at six-feet-tall. Forward-mounted controls leave plenty of room to spread out while the reach to its bars places the riding position at a slightly forward lean. The Gunner is equipped with a solo seat, padded well enough for the first 50 or so miles before a little numbing creeps into the lower back.

One thing that quickly became evident is Victory’s 1731cc V-Twin really shines in this platform. The Freedom 106 engine put out a verified 93.68 lb-ft of torque at 3700 rpm on our dyno last year, albeit in the Judge. But the same engine powers the entire Victory lineup, and though mapping and cam timing of the powerplant is unchanged, it spools up hard and heavy on the Gunner. Smoky burnouts and laying down rubber are no problem on this bike as it chirps the tires in the first couple of gears.

Though the clutch pull is tight, it engages almost immediately upon release making for quick launches off the line. It also teaches judicious use of the throttle because its initial hit can be abrupt. The Gunner tips the scales 11 pounds lighter than Victory’s power cruising Judge and ranks up there with quickest bikes in the Victory fleet. The engine provides an abundance of immediately accessible torque on the low end, and has 81.83 horsepower to play with at 5300 rpm when it edges toward its top end.

Victory gave us a crack at riding its latest cruiser, the 2015 Gunner, at Daytona Beach Bike Week.

The 2015 Victory Gunner is a great bike to hit the open road on with one of your favorite riding buddies.

Transferring power to the rear is Victory’s tried-and-true 6-speed overdrive transmission. Like the engine, the same basic transmission is used in all Victory platforms. And like its predecessors, gear engagement is solid, loud, and a bit notchy. On the good side, the gearbox is consistent and reliable, hitting every shift, and finding neutral isn’t a chore. And while the Gunner hooks up when you drop the clutch, first gear taps out early, banging off the rev limiter just below 40 mph in first gear. Thankfully, second compensates for the limited range of first gear with a wide spread of power, the speedo approaching 70 mph before the engine screams for an upshift. At highway speeds, the engine hums along at an effortless 2350 rpm at 65 mph in overdrive sixth and vibrations from the solid-mounted V-Twin are almost non-existent. Drop the Gunner down a gear and a healthy dose of engine braking gives a big assist to the bike’s braking package.

The Victory Gunner steers predictably and holds its line well when leaned into a turn.

This package consists of a single 300mm disc on both front and back. A relatively light squeeze at the lever gets the 4-piston caliper to put a firm bite on the 300mm floating front rotor, while the twin pot arrangement on the rear is a bit more grabby and will lock up the back wheel with regularity. In keeping the Gunner’s price point down, ABS is not an option.

Though sweepers and switchbacks are a rarity in Florida, when we did get a chance to get a little lean angle, the Gunner’s low center of gravity and lighter unsprung weight courtesy of its new wheels makes for easy transitions and moderate leveraging at the bars. Its forward-mounted controls allow for decent lean before pegging out. With a 32-degree rake angle and 64.8-inch spread between wheels, it’s by no means a canyon carver but holds true to its line at lean. And while the 43mm fork with 5.1-inches of travel keeps the front end firmly planted at speed and in turns, the single mono-tube gas shock on the rear has only 3-inches of leeway before bottoming out, leaving the rear a bit firm. Maybe a few clicks on the preload adjustable spring would have helped, but it’s tucked into the bike and isn’t easily accessible for quick adjustments.

Instrumentation on the Gunner is fairly Spartan, an analog speedometer mounted low off the top triple clamp. A digital window can be toggled to digitally display rpm while a handful of lights in the speedo face provide basic diagnostics and includes turn signals, a neutral indicator, and low fuel light. The round mirrors provide a clear view of what’s going on behind the rider, even when a little buzz settles into the bars at higher rpm.

While the 2015 Gunner features plenty of familiar styling cues like its 4.5-gallon tank with a raised spine running down the middle, its price point has been set to encourage customization. During our test ride, Victory had a few units already decked out in plenty of its factory aftermarket goodies, from V Drag Bars to a Solo Luggage Rack to stylish Cam Tensioner Covers. We split our time between riding the stock and accessorized Gunners and quickly became fans of the Straight Stage 1 pipes for the meaner rumble and handful of extra ponies they provide. The V Drag Bars moves the rider’s triangle in a tad resulting in more forward lean while the Solo Mission Seat looks exceptionally sharp in red but has a slight lip that puts additional pressure on your lower back.

The Victory Gunner was a fun bike to explore Daytona Beach and the surrounding area on.

Though our tenure on the 2015 Gunner was limited, it made a positive first impression, though somewhere down the line we hope to spend more time in its saddle in a direct match-up against its competition. But after spending an afternoon hustling around central Florida on Victory’s latest cruiser, we did learn that it’s a cruiser that likes to be ridden fast and hard. It’s a tight package with big power, a low COG, in a bike that’s easy to manage. It rings in as the second most affordable Victory on the market, a grand less than the Judge and almost three K less than its targeted competitor, Harley’s Softail Slim. Granted, Harley does offer ABS on most of its models these days, even on the Sportster, but often it’s at an additional cost.

With a $12,999 MSRP, Victory has left leeway to further tailor the Gunner to a rider’s preference. But it’s a bona-fide blacked-out brawler straight off the showroom floor, a bike that rates high for sheer riding pleasure.




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