Whether young, old, or somewhere in between, at some point in life it is everyone's dream to purchase his or her own motorcycle. Sure, we'd all love to spend $30,000 and buy the biggest, baddest bike on the market, but for most of us working stiffs, money seems to always be the one major decision factor. Instead of focusing on the decked-out top-of-the-line bikes, setting one's sights more toward the middle-pack models quickly opens up a wide variety of choices. The Victory Judge and the Harley-Davidson Slim are both newer models that fall somewhere smack in the middle of the price range for new bikes. Both offer sleek contemporary styling, motors packed with a punch, and are made for those looking for minimalist accessories to get in the way of the wind in their hair on a sport cruiser.
With the new muscle car wars taking place in the last decade, the Judge too takes many of its styling cues directly from the late '60s/early '70s when cars were cars and men with moustaches were cool. Five-spoke wheels with raised white letters appear to be influenced from the Magnum 500s found on many of the cars from that era. The flat satin orange finish of the paint looks amazing on the Judge and received more than one thumbs-up from passersby when riding down the road or posted up in a parking lot. It's nice to see Victory take a different approach to the typical flat black that is commonly found everywhere these days. Sweptback drag bars give a commander's view of the road ahead, yet lack the ability to be adjusted backward for those with a shorter reach. Once moving, the view from the cockpit is unobstructed with only a single gauge standing between you and the view ahead.
The Slim styling is a mixture of old and new. Short, chopped fenders and a narrow rear tire are made to mimic the styling of bobbers from years past. The Hollywood-style bars give a video-game–like view of the world with just a hint of headlight in the lower peripheral vision. A downward glance at the single gauge allows you to quickly retrieve any vital data. The combination of chrome and black accents on the frame, motor, and frontend are the biggest assets to the Slim and offer a nice transition for those who are tired of the all-black look, but haven't yet fully found their way back to full chrome. Black steel laced wheels with fat front and rear tires again give an old look on a new machine, but would be the first things replaced if left up to me. Paint choices are available in red, blue, and two versions of black for 2013 and would probably be the second thing I'd change to give my own personal touch.
With 106ci of V-twin fun, the Judge has no problem scootin' and a-tootin' on its way up to speed. The powerplant may be the Victory's biggest assets with a claimed 110 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed transmission offers a broad range of gearing to pick up from a standstill, or to put it in kick-back mode while cruising the open road in sixth. Shifting did feel a bit blocky with a definitely "clunk" felt between each gear. Slowing the nearly 660-pound beast is another story. I'm a front-brake–biased rider, and despite having a four-piston 300mm single-disc up front, I found it necessary to use both brakes in unison to come to a quick and effective stop.
The Twin Cam 103 that powers the Slim is an awesome powerplant that has been proven for years and is adequate for the 671-pound machine. With a claimed 98.7 lb-ft of torque, it falls slightly short of the Judge in terms of out-the-box get up and go. What the Twin Cam does have in its favor is a vast array of aftermarket potential to turn the motor into an all-out street brawler. The six-speed feels a little smoother than its Victory rival and has the same wide range of gearing for all riding situations. Braking advantage would also have to be given to the Slim, but that in part is due to the optional ABS brakes that were equipped on our test bike. Front-only or rear-only routine stops are possible, but the true power of the system comes under panic situations where the ABS helps slow the beast with greater control. It does come at an optional $1,195 price as part of the security package.
The Victory's mid-controls are a definite advantage when it comes to handling. Tucked slightly up without sacrificing comfort, the position of the pegs makes for a sporty-feeling ride. Combined with the power of the motor, zipping through traffic is a breeze and the single mono tube gas shock combined with conventional 43mm telescopic forks makes muscling the Judge around more of a pleasure than a chore.
Unfortunately, sometimes low and slow go together. The Slim is a low bike, which being on the West Coast with our pothole-free roads is a good thing. The combination of its super-low stance with half-moon floorboards looks great, but also acts as quick reminders should the cornering brave-o-meter approach maximum. Scraping the floorboards is controlled and comes with a warning to maybe not take the next corner so fast. Neither bike is meant to set lap records anyway. I love slammed bikes and would probably lower the rear fender even more, sacrificing looks over function.
The Victory is a hell of a lot of bike with an MSRP just under $14K. It has a great contrast of styling with the flat orange and black finishes. If you're the type of person to buy a bike and rock it stock, the Judge is a great choice. Cruising to your local meeting spot, the Judge will be a definite center of conversation from motorcycle enthusiasts to normal Joes. Good power combined with good handling also makes for a solid package. But it's that combination of everything good that lacks something great to put me over the top.
This Slim has almost everything I want in a motorcycle with nothing extra. It's one of the least expensive of the Softail models at just under $15,700 (not including the optional ABS, day-maker headlight, and swingarm bag on our test bike) and makes for a great ride in all areas. The styling is hit or miss in stock form with the bobbed fenders, but the bike offers a great starting base for customization. Shorter riders will rejoice at the low seat height but it comes at a cost to cornering clearance. Overall, the Slim is a solid choice for someone looking to enter the Softail side of the market.
It's hard to compete with the 110 years of history and support that brought the Slim to existence. The Slim is a solid bike at a good price with endless options to make it your own. If you're the type of rider who can't leave well enough alone, there are seemingly endless amounts of H-D and aftermarket accessories to choose from. The Judge is a good bike for the buyer with less cash to burn, but still wanting something unique. The retro muscle car–inspired styling stands out in a crowd and the overall package is a solid performer. Both bikes are solid choices and I wouldn't mind putting down some serious miles on either.
The way the Judge rode was stellar for an off-the-shelf bike. The acceleration and braking were ample, the frontend was solid, and the hidden shock out back was supple, yet didn't squirm as much as many OE bikes.
The Slim, which comes from Harley's factory pretty low suspension-wise, immediately felt good and I only dragged the floorboards occasionally. The Softail design on the Harley is not a performance platform by any means, but we are not reviewing a GSX-R, now are we. All in all the Judge felt a bit sportier to me, but the Slim still had gobs of that predictable Harley feel about it.
In the styling department, the H-D Slim hearkens back to an earlier era whereas the Victory Judge has a Nouveau muscle car theme going on with it. Though both of them have great fit and finish, the Slim looks like a classic bike for the ages and the Judge looks like it's back from the future.
Overall, I liked how both bikes handled and looked, but not as much as say my now-totaled 2010 Dyna. Like most box-stock bikes in this here cruiser class, they both need a bit of help in stiffening up their soggy chassis and uncorking their exhausts to get them up to snuff.
The best points of the Slim are its looks, ergonomics, and drivetrain, while the Judge gets its high marks from the sheer power of its powerplant and its lust for sticking out in a crowd.
Although I like where Victory is going with its bike designs (or maybe I am just getting used to it), the levers and a few other items looked and felt very "metric" to me. If you are an American V-twin purist, then this may be not be the bike for you.
Whereas the Slim has a good fit for most adults big and small, the front center of the Judge was pretty long, which wasn't bad for my 5-foot-10-inch frame, but anybody with a smaller stature than me may have an issue with it.
Here are my two cents regarding buying either the Slim or the Judge: If I owned a bike that I was not going to modify at all, I would go with the Victory, but if I was going buy a motorcycle to customize, I would for sure buy the Slim. This is due to Victory currently having diminutive aftermarket support versus the vast amount of aftermarket parts available for H-Ds. Both are good, solid bikes that are worth their asking prices and a ton of fun to ride.
This sleekly styled model from Victory sure catches attention. Borrowing a race- and sport-inspired theme, the bike has mostly blacked-out parts, floating brake rotors, vintage magnesium-inspired wheels, and a number plate motif body panel below the molded seat covering the oil tank. The single heads-up instrument gauge mounted at the center of the handlebars has the best of both worlds with analog speedo and digital readouts for what gear you're in and information messages such as "low oil." The riding position is not aggressive, but not timid either. It has a slight street-fighter sporty feel and performance is nimble with plenty of smooth power. I would consider changing to more narrow handlebars as they were a little too wide and cruiser-style for the sport sensation I was channeling while riding the bike.
The "Slim" moniker seems out of place, for this does not hearken to anything skinny. That doesn't detract from the sex appeal that this bike exudes though. The details and off-the-showroom-floor styling are well thought out. Little touches such as the crossbar handlebar, leather swingarm bag, and tuck-and-roll solo seat only add to the sweet blend of spoke wheels with black rims and perfect mix of black and chrome. This bike has a comfortable riding position that I would classify as classic H-D cruiser. The 103 motor provides the perfect power, the ride feels sure-footed, and the rider can feel a bit more sure-minded with the optional anti-lock brakes. If I owned this bike, I might add passenger pegs and a passenger seat to bring some more honey to this sweet machine.
2013 Victory Judge
Engine 106ci Freedom V-twin
Trans Six-speed overdrive
Wheels 16x3.5-inch America Cruiser style
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gallons
Colors Gloss Black, Gloss Sunset Red, Suede Nuclear Sunset (shown)
2013 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim
MSRP $15,699 ($17,582 as shown)
Engine 103ci Twin Cam
Trans Six-speed cruise drive
Wheels Black Laces Steel wheels
Fuel Capacity 5 gallons
Colors Vivid Black (base), Ember Red Sunglo (shown), Big Blue Pearl, Denim Black