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The Judge Ride to the Smoke Out

The New Victory Fits into the Old School Mix

By Bandit, with photos from Prince Najar, Gary Mraz, and Michael Lichter

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Bikernet goes all out to bring you uncompromised road tests. Hell, I flew from Los Angeles to Ashville, North Carolina to climb aboard a Victory High-Ball, and then rode it to the Smoke Out 13 via Tennessee. Last year, I rode the Long Road, a 1000-mile run from New Orleans to Rockingstool, North Carolina for Smoke Out 12. I straddled my first High-Ball Victory with adjustable highbars, which fit my 6”5’ stature perfectly. Whatta ride, on a very sharp, flat black, cool steed!

This year, I straddled another version of the same model, but Rollin Karoll, from Spectro Oils, jumped on the new Judge, so we decided to focus on the muscle car and dragster inspired Victory design by Greg Brew’s Polaris concept team. “From the raised tire lettering, to the taillight, the radical seat, and number plate panels, this bike screams aggressive,” Greg said.

We took off from the historic town of Ashville and meandered into the lush green hills surrounding Maggie Valley, the home of the Wheels Through Time Museum, a major chunk of motorcycle heaven on earth. As we pulled up in the gravel driveway surrounding Dale’s motorcycle nirvana on earth, Dale approached us quickly. “I want to ride a Victory!” he exclaimed.

Me and Dale Walksler. He calls himself the Curator, but the Extreme Motorcycle Master would be more appropriate--amazing!
Me and Dale Walksler. He calls himself the Curator, but the Extreme Motorcycle Master would be more appropriate--amazing!

Rollin was immediately impressed with the traditional Victory chassis ergonomics, and balanced center of gravity. “I wish the mid-controls were 1-inch lower, and the bars came back toward me just another inch.” He was just getting used to the aggressive riding stance.

“This bike looks fast,” Rollin said of the muscle car design. “It’s stunning and has just the right amount of black and chrome.”

The Victory design team experimented with the number plate. “Riders can incorporate crossed checkered flags, or their favorite number,” said Greg, the Director of Industrial Design for Polaris Industries. “One of our guys created a Victory Speed Shop decal.”

Rollin tried to kick off a Victory Judge details conversation with Dale Walksler as we rolled out of the Wheels Through Time parking area and Dale lead the way on a first kick 1917 four-cylinder Henderson he rebuilt, restored, and rode across the country.
"My dad, Dale Walksler, found it, restored it, and then rode it from L.A. to N.Y. in 6 days and 4 hours," Matt said, "re-breaking the 1917 Transcontinental Record that was set by Alan Beddell on a similar machine."
"My dad, Dale Walksler, found it, restored it, and then rode it from L.A. to N.Y. in 6 days and 4 hours," Matt said, "re-breaking the 1917 Transcontinental Record that was set by Alan Beddell on a similar machine."

We were on a mission to reach Shady Valley and the Long Road final Pig Roast stop before the last 240-mile run to Rockingchair for the sought-after Smoke Out.

Comfortable on the High-Ball. They couldn't go wrong with that name.
Comfortable on the High-Ball. They couldn't go wrong with that name.

Last year’s event included my first High-Ball Ride, my first east coast ride, and my first Long Road adventure. This year I had the enviable opportunity to enter the painted lady contest. I couldn’t wait. We cut a dusty trail out of Maggie Valley and headed deeper into the Appalachian Mountains, in Tennessee. Actually riding northeast away from Rockingchair, I didn’t have the slightest notion of our whereabouts, but didn’t care. The roads were smooth and well-kept, surrounded with lush greens everywhere.

We follow a myriad of road styles, from interstates like the 40 to two-lane roaming highways, such as the 34, to narrow winding 321, 67, and when we hit Shady Valley, the twisting road was consumed with thick over-growth and we hit some mild rain. The roads narrowed, and I thought about what Rolling said at the last gas stop. “This is the most comfortable factory seat I’ve every experienced. The engine provided more torque than I could ever use, yet I felt no vibration in the seat, the pegs or the handlebars.”

He tried to tell me about the details, but we needed to peel out, and our world became more desolate, twisting and damp as we roamed deeper into the hills. Just another adventure along unknown roads deep into the back woods surrounding the hillsides of the Holston Mountains. We rumbled along following the small pack including Easyriders photographer Michael Lichter, to the top of a small open, grassy knoll scattered with tents, for the Long Road Smoke Out crew. This year the Long Road Tennessee Whiskey Tour was organized by a devoted Long Road rider from Canada, Brian "Uncle Ben" Sauer. A massive cylindrical smoker stood proudly on a flatbed trailer puffing away, while the hungry crew, lead by Ash Payne, bustled around preparing tables and platters of corn bread, and coleslaw.

Cherries soaked in White Lightening--hang on!
Cherries soaked in White Lightening--hang on!

As we rumbled off the gravel driveway through the thick wet grass we prayed to find a safe spot to park before going down in the dewy shrubs. It’s always a roll of the dice, but the Victories handled it effortlessly. “I love this 6-speed transmission,” Rollin said, kicking out his spring-loaded kickstand. “It didn’t matter what gear I was in, or at what speed. If I twisted the throttle the bike pulled me along. I never needed to down-shift.”

As we stood in the chow line and greeted the Long Road riders, Rollin attempted to discuss the Judge details, but was constantly interrupted. “I can’t believe it,” he said, “After a long twisting 250 miles I feel great. That seat is amazing.”

Greg, the lead designer also commented about the seat in an interview. “The flat configuration allows the rider to slip up and back,” he said.

Finally, as we sat on a tilting picnic bench and chowed down, Rollin had the opportunity between mouthfuls of pulled pork to discuss Judge details. He chewed and muttered about the more traditional headlight, the contrasting stitching on the seat, the rear fender grab rails, the flowing sheet metal styling, and the locking gas cap.

The next morning, when I rolled out of the sack, Rollin and the Judge were gone. “I’ve always had the fear of being run over while lying quietly in a tent,” Rollin told me later. In the night, another group of riders jammed onto the scene, pipes blaring, hooting and hollering. He awoke and sensed engine heat and the crunching of damp foliage near his tent. He scrambled out of the sack, loaded his shit and cut a dusty trial toward the Smoke Out.

Editor's Note: In order to give you a balanced report on this Victory, we recruited another experienced Judge rider, Gary Mraz, the esteemed supreme editor of Bikernet Trikes. He experienced the Judge on Southern California roads and highways.

“Aptly named after the 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge this American motorcycle delivers on its promise,” Gary reported. “I couldn’t pop a wheelie but at least burned some rubber. The Judge has lots of torque and power via the Freedom 106 cubic inch engine. The company claims 113 ft-lb. of torque from the Freedom 106 (1731cc) Twin, unchanged from the 2011 engines. A 140mm tire brings up the rear and a fat 130/90 tire up front anchors the front end of the bike. This big tire and its 16-inch five-spoke wheel is even more pronounced because of a single braking rotor.

“The foot controls aren’t really center nor are they forward, so I shall christen them
‘midward controls.’ I was primarily riding the mountain twisties and ground protruding components. It seems I took a some paint off the pipes too.

"The seat is sculpted to keep riders secured while knocking the throttle and is comfortable. All well and good, but my concern is because of its unusual shape, how will aftermarket seat manufacturers (or Victory for that matter) deal with other options and choices? I’ve spent a lot of time on motorcycles with ABS brakes lately and was locking up the Judges 300mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper rear brakes easily. Finally, I would like to know how much actually gas is left in the tank when the fuel warning light comes on. It seemed I only traveled 15/18 miles after the warning light before I ran out of gas. Yes, I did burnouts and you do want to hammer the throttle of this muscle bike, but all my other Victorys give me a solid gallon at the warning light.

"I may sound like judge and jury, but in fact, the Judge does what it’s designed for very well. Retro ‘60s look, and lots of America muscle. You be the Judge.”

Check out the NessCafe, a cool Zach Ness Judge build

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