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.