There are few things that make a motoring writer feel anxious when picking up a new test vehicle. While minor scrapes may be unwelcome news, the worst thing to hear is that the vehicle in question already has an owner eagerly waiting to pick up their new, pristine vehicle.
Usually this means your time for testing is limited. But when that new owner is one of New Zealand's top boxers, then it's tempting to forgo the test altogether in case you even dirty the vehicle.
When I picked up the Victory Judge from Cyclespot USA from the Auckland dealership, I was told the motorbike was owned by Victory brand ambassador and former New Zealand heavyweight champion Shane Cameron.
To say that my spirits dropped at the idea that if even a scratch appeared on the brand new Judge, I would be answering to the man himself is an understatement. I was terrified! Much like its owner, the Victory Judge is a muscle machine. Taking inspiration from the American muscle car era for the styling of the Judge, Victory achieved a great balance between American cruiser and Muscle car.
Victory Judge.Photo / Mathieu Day
The wheels are the biggest example of the muscle car influence.
The forged 16-inch wheels resemble those found on American muscle cars of the 60s and 70s.
The footpegs are mid set, unique to the Judge and the Gunner in the Victory range, and make for a reasonably simple reach to the brake and gear selector. There is also the added benefit of increasing the rider's ability to lean the bike over that extra little bit over its siblings, which adds to the Judge's fun factor.
Unlike the pegs, however, the drag-style handlebars are a decent reach away from the rider, which will mean somebody of lower than average height will probably need to invest in handlebar rises that give more reach towards the rider.
The reach to the bars was slightly too much for Mathieu Day. Photo / Mathieu Day
After riding the Judge for a week I found that even at 5 feet 9 (1.79m), I wanted the bars to be just an inch or two closer to me so that I wasn't working out my shoulders and lower back in a forward lean to reach them.
I have to admit, though, I felt pretty cool each time I adopted the forward-leaning position the Judge's ergonomics put you in.
Priced from $21,995, the Judge is powered by Victory's 1731cc (106 cubic inch) Freedom V-Twin mated to a six-speed transmission. It was quite surprising how smooth the big 6-speed transmission shifted considering the bike had only delivery kilometres when I picked it up. Within a couple of trips back and forth between the office and home the transmission started to deliver consistently smooth shifting.
The clock on the Victory Judge has all the information you need in one easy to use unit. Photo / Mathieu Day
While Victory likes to call the 6th gear an overdrive, I found during my time with the Judge that I would use it more like any other gearbox, shifting in and out as needed, with plenty of power from the big V-Twin on hand (that being 72kW and 153Nm respectively) available in 6th to make shifting down for overtaking mostly unnecessary.
Cruising along the motorway, the Judge rumbles along with 2250 rpm displayed on the digital tachometer, well below the redline of 5250 rpm.
With optional X-bow exhaust and high-flow air filter on the test bike, it definitely had the sound to match its macho looks, pumping out the sweet and unmistakable sound of an American V-Twin.
Polaris has cost-proofed the accessory pipes and air filter kit by preventing the need for a retune on an expensive dynomometer by giving Victory dealers the ability to reflash the ECU to suit the changes, which nets more than 10kW of extra power for your money.
The Judge has the V-Twin sound that fits with its macho looks. Pictures / Mathieu Day
While riding around the twisty roads and long straights found near Auckland's eastern beaches, I did start to wish that I had ABS helping to control the 300mm disk and four-piston combo up front, and 300mm disk and two-piston caliper combo at the rear. It seems that was also on a lot of riders' wish-lists as for the 2015 model year ABS will become a solid feature in the Judge's arsenal.
If anything, the best feature of the Judge is its paint. With a name like Nuclear Sunset, the flat orange with metallic hints was a talking point for anyone who came in contact with the bike.
Talking about the colour to the team at Cyclespot in Takapuna when I returned the Judge, they confided that the Nuclear Sunset was the top-selling colour for the machine, with Havana Red and Black lagging.
Seeing it in person, you can't blame buyers for going for the gorgeous and eye-catching colour.
The brilliant Nuclear Sunset paint option won't be continued into the 2015 model year. Photo / Mathieu Day
Sadly, though, the new model set to arrive this year will be missing the Nuclear Sunset paint.
The more internationally friendly Havasu Red and Blue Fire, with Rally Stripes, will be the only colours you'll be able to get the Judge in by the end of the year when the existing stock finally runs out.
Better get in quick, then, to have a fighting chance of nabbing the Judge in its most eye-catching colour.