Judging The New Victory Judge Model And Zach Ness Custom Version

The challenge. Not only to road test the 2013 Victory Judge model but also its first custom version. the NessCafe built by Zach Ness. Launched by Polaris with the slogan “The New American Muscle Bike” I wanted to know how much muscle the factory model really got and how much extra excitement  Zach’s custom version could bring to  me.

Meeting was set during Daytona Bike Week at the Victory Motorcycles display on International Speedway. There I got a full briefing on the Judge model from Victory executives Robert and Manny Pandya, then met with Lloyd Greer from Lloyds Motor Works, the motor guru who fully rebuilt the stock engine to turn NessCafe into a true Cafe Racer champion. The Judge is the first non-tourer model released by Polaris since 2006, a descendant of the Vegas, and an important step for Victory to impose its brand in the cruisers segment.

The Judge share several traits and parts with the Vegas, but a first glance it’s a much more compact bike ((64.8″ wheelbase) with strong sport-influenced styling. Although overall look is modern, in black (my choice), with very few chrome parts, racing side panels waiting to be customized with the number of your choice or whatever, 16″ five-spoke wheel (130 mm front, 140 mm rear) and Dunlop Elite II tires with raised white lettering, it will not scare away all those infatuated with the retro look. I smiled when I observed that on the Judge the headlight nacelle looks like belonging to the bike (wink at the Victory designers), and became very impatient to straddle the bike when it was mentioned to me that the low center of gravity and the 106″ 50-degree Freedom engine (1731 cc) serving 113 ft-lbs of torque would help me escape the Daytona traffic and find freedom of the road much faster that what I could expect…

With the promise from Zach Ness that we will switch bikes before returning to the Victory display, we both cranked our bikes for a few miles of cruising beyond Daytona city limits, then for many more miles of sport riding to test our bikes respective passing power… First impression on any model is riding comfort and position. Seat is low (just under 26″ to the ground) and very comfortable, Being 6 foot tall with long arms, bars position put me more in a cruising that in a sport position, but those shorter than me can expect a slightly forward and more sporty stance. Although the 2-into-1 exhaust styling from Cobra would not be my first choice, cruising is done with the music of a quite pleasant growl, something remarkable for an EPA sound emissions approved system. Clutch is firm but doesn’t require hand strength. Shifting clunk is somewhat loud (you will not miss a gear) but mid-mounted controls setup makes shifting the 6-speed transmission extremely easy, smooth and precise. While confronted with long traffic red lights and contrary to what I experience with many other factory bikes, I never failed to find neutral.

When it was time to test throttle response I found acceleration quite outstanding for a 660-pound bike. Playing catch up with Zach Ness racing NessCafe on the open road, I had to flex the Judge muscles and it was not too difficult to re-join him, up to the point where he was not exceeding a slow speed for him of 90 mph (beyond is another story, more later.) And when Zach stopped to find another open space direction I had the opportunity to test the Judge brakes. Separately or together, the Judge setup, a rear 300mm disk/2-piston rear caliper and a single 300 mm/4-piston front caliper handle their tasks correctly, without hesitation. And doing so, I applaud the fact that only a front left single disc necessary, it makes the Judge front end look much more appealing. That day, riding only on very smooth Florida roads I was unable to evaluate the bike behavior on uneven tracks.

Then came the time for an half an hour break for both bikes beauty shots. While our photographer was crawling on the ground to find the best possible shooting angles, I realized that even when placed side by side with an ultra custom as cool as Zach’s NessCafe, the factory Judge still looks very good. A compliment to Victory designer Mike Song. After admiring the fab job done by Zach, especially the task consisting in cutting the frame in half and in completely re-designing the rear section (in which the battery, ECU, power commander, and fuse box are located). I checked the one-off Ohlins fully adjustable TTX rear shock seth. Zach reminded me the motor mods done by Lloyd Motors. It includes crank weight reduced by 10 lbs, cams, raised compression, heads port and polishing, custom built ECU, power commander, Lloyds Torque Tube intake, and nickel plated rocker boxes.

It was time for me to handle the factory Judge keys to Zach and to borrow his NessCafe to see how it feels to go from an an American Muscle Bike to an ultra powered American Cafe Racer. Well, I found myself in exactly the same riding position Zach had when he rode his bike front of mine (we are the same size). Leaning low just above the bars, with a pure Ton-Up Boy attitude thanks to mid controls moved 5″ backward. Seat comfort is minimum but who cares. It’s all about speed and handling. Twisting the throttle is exhilarating and tucked against the gas tank I had in mind the vision I had 1 hour sooner while following Zach, a red dot getting smaller and smaller to those following me. In the wind, I smiled.

While adjusting our speed to ride back together to the Daytona Victory display, another thought crossed my mind: how many custom builders that I know will now want to use the Judge as the canvas of their next new Cafe Racer creation? Maybe 2013 will also be the year when the Daytona Rat’s Hole Bike Show will be forced to create a new competing “Custom Victory Class”. The Victory Judge lists at MSRP $13,999 in black (red and orange are an extra $400), and at this price, with such styling and performance, should attract many new followers to the brand. Victory Motorcycles. (thanks to Zach Ness, the Pandya Bros and Horst Roesler for his awesome photography)

Zipper's

30 Responses to “Judging The New Victory Judge Model And Zach Ness Custom Version”


  1. 1 Randy Mar 28th, 2012 at 8:19 am

    You both look cool. Will demo a Judge at next opportunity. Thanks.

  2. 2 Drake Mar 28th, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Cyril rides in Converse! Good article.

  3. 3 Kemper Mar 28th, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Hesitating between a Fat Boy and a Judge. Judge cheaper, but Harley is Harley.

  4. 4 Shifter Mar 28th, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Cyril. I want your job…

  5. 5 Rodent Mar 28th, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Victory Cafe needs rear sets. Looks stupid with present setup.

  6. 6 Matt Mar 28th, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Kemper: If you like you can just send me the difference ($3k) and I will mail you some Harley badges to put on the tank =).

  7. 7 viz Mar 28th, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Need more model evaluations like this. Very interesting to read

    With the similiarites of Nescafe and Nesscafe. I wonder if Nestle went after you guys yet?

  8. 8 Cory Hebert Mar 28th, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Great writeup, Cyril. I have to agree with you that both bikes look really good. And thank goodness Victory went with mid-controls on the Judge. Suits the bike perfectly.

  9. 9 Joseph Talbot Mar 28th, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Bike reviews are usually boring but this one is both informative and entertaining. Mixing factory and custom was a great idea.

  10. 10 Alan sharp Mar 28th, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I have had 12 harleys, 1 Victory, enough said…………….

  11. 11 dmj Mar 28th, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I always had this mental picture of Cyril sitting in front of a keyboard. Who’d a figured he had the time to ride too?

  12. 12 hoyt Mar 28th, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Moto Guzzi & Triumph are the only OEMs that get cafe racers because they are the only ones that have a production model available now. Ducati used to with their Sport Classics, but they’re discontinued (shame since the cafe scene rage$ on).

    Victory can have a cafe model, but it needs work to sell to the cafe rider. Rodent is right about the foot peg placement. It also does not have enough ground clearance and too much rake. Adjust those and that bike will handle more than the straight coastal FL roads.

  13. 13 Heavy Metal Mar 28th, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I think both bikes are really good looking. Zack is young and looks more comfy on the hot rod with low bars. Judge exhaust system is clunky but not that bad. I think Victory is going to be selling a lot of Judge’s. I rode a new Victory for the first time recently, I was impressed. They have been building bikes long enough now to work out the bugs and their styling for some models looks like they are listening to their customers. Thanks for the write up.

  14. 14 Oldude Mar 29th, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Almost there …Keep working on the design board.

  15. 15 Ray Sharp Mar 29th, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Getting positive ink from custom builders helps a lot. Victory. Now, they just need to improve their designs.

  16. 16 BlkBkr Mar 29th, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I have seen a lot of comments regarding Victory’s designs, I personally like the look but am wondering what other mean when they say the designs needs work I have 2 Victory’s myself and get no stop compliments whenever I ride them. Could someone elaborate, no being a smart ass just looking to better understand.

  17. 17 Olive oil Mar 29th, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    I thought both of you were a little wiser than to not be riding without protection on your heads. The head against the pavement or curb is a no contest deal.

  18. 18 VanityPrintz Mar 29th, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    “they just need to improve their designs”, “Keep working on the design board”, “They have been building bikes long enough now to work out the bugs and their styling”, “Looks stupid with present setup” ‘Hey victory why don’t you build your motorcycles the way we build ours. Lets not forget to use our badging……….. That way we can buy yours and not get ragged by our small minded little friends, who are still convienced that they support a superior product.” …….”but Harley is Harley.”

    Victory……….keep doing what you are doing. The world is taking notice and appriciating you.

  19. 19 sollis Mar 29th, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Its not hard to just a designe bike for a show or build concept bike , its much harder to designe with TUV and DOT roolz ,make a bike look good be comftable and goot @ handling at the same time

  20. 20 VanityPrintz Mar 29th, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    “They have been building bikes long enough now to work out the bugs and their styling”, “Keep working on the design board”, “they just need to improve their designs”, “Looks stupid with present setup”. The ‘Ditto Heads’ are responding. Hey Victory……….I got it! Why don’t you build your motorcycles just like we build ours. Don’t forget to use our Badging. That way a lot more of us can buy your product and not take ribbing from our tiny minded little buddies who are still convienced they support a superior product…..”but Harley is Harley.”

    Victory keep doing what you do well…. The world is taking notice and appriciating you! “enough said…………….”

  21. 21 Boyke Soerianata Mar 29th, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Cyril, this is a Nor-CaL Flavor…… *Zach just want to whop his old man [Cory].
    i loved, simple rocket !

  22. 22 Martin Twofeather Mar 30th, 2012 at 3:33 am

    Excellent Cyril……..

  23. 23 Brian Kaufmann Mar 30th, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    ive also had 7 harleys,but wont ever get rid of my classic cruiser ,absolutely the best bike i have ever owned,so keep up the good work Victory all the way.

  24. 24 Blackmax Mar 30th, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Damn !!!!
    Wish I could’ve been there to see this, in person
    W2G, Zach , Lookin’ Good Cyril !!!!!!

  25. 25 rumble Mar 30th, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Kemper says Harley is Harley… by that do you mean slow, unchanged, and no competition? I love Harley’s too, but lets get real- the slowest Victory will blow the doors off the fastest Harley. Pushrod motors can’t compete with overhead cams. The Victory’s have a lower center of gravity and handle WAY better too. -Oh yeah and there’s 20% MORE American components on a Vic than a Harley. So go buy your Fat Boy or whatever, but when you do, don’t race a Victory unless you’re prepared to get spanked AND lose your pink slip!

  26. 26 BobS Mar 30th, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    I dig Victory’s designs. If I wanted a Harley I’d buy a Harley.

  27. 27 ASAP Mar 31st, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Good report. Looks like Zach Ness built a custom just made for you!

  28. 28 Jim Apr 2nd, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Hey the real beauty is this… if you want to buy an American Motorcycle, you now have choices! Harley, Victory, and Indian.

    Trust me, Victory will push Harley to be better in ways that Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki can’t. Competition yields a better product for ALL!!

    Ride what you want, but ride it safe!

    Jim

  29. 29 Kevin Boyle Kustoms Apr 2nd, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Cyril you look at home on her!

  30. 30 ron Jul 5th, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Bought a Vegas but I think a judge is coming my way.what a beautiful bike. And with a little muscle…

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