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2012 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob vs. 2013 Victory Judge Review

These big-inch power cruisers blend performance with varying degrees of comfort.

These big-inch power cruisers blend performance with varying degrees of comfort.

Photo Credit: Kevin Wing

Bill Stermer
June 1, 2012
Filed under Cruiser + Touring Motorcycle Reviews, Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on Harley Motorcycles, Road Tests, Victory Motorcycle Reviews

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(This Retro Cruiser Shootout was published in the June 2012 issue of Rider Magazine.)

Aggressive, big-inch, V-twin cruisers with style and muscle have always been a favorite on the American road, and two of the latest are the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob (updated for 2012), and the Victory Judge (just released as a 2013 model). One is notable for its sharp focus and aggressive approach, while the other is softer and smoother, more generalized and refined. You may regard them as different approaches in pursuit of a similar goal, and which you prefer may have everything to do with your attitude toward riding.

Here Comes the Judge
For those old enough to recall the old Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham song Here Comes the Judge from 1968, and the Pontiac GTO Judge model that soon followed, in automotive folklore terms the Judge was meant to convey the concept of a model by which all others would be measured, the standard of the industry—yet it didn’t take itself too seriously. And that’s likely what the folks at Victory Motorcycles hoped to convey with their new Judge model.­

The Judge joins the Cross Country Tour and Hardball as the latest in Victory’s line, into which they intend to introduce a new model every six months. And the Judge is the first of the 2013 models from this Medina, Minnesota, company that is a division of Polaris Industries which also offers snowmobiles and ATVs.

Here Comes the Fat Bob
Harley-Davidson’s Fat Bob model has been around for several years, and The Motor Company bills the 2012 version on its website as, “An oversized ride, this beast tears up the road with big power and unmistakable attitude.” As for its name, the “fat” refers to the wide stance presented by its fork tubes and beefy tires, while the “bob” indicates its bobbed—or shortened—fenders.

Power to the Ground

Distance travel is more comfortable on the Harley; Victory excels in handling and power.

Distance travel is more comfortable on the Harley; Victory excels in handling and power.

The Judge is powered by the standard air/oil-cooled Victory 50-degree V-twin motor with a bore and stroke of 101 x 108mm, and a displacement of 1,731cc—or 106 cubic inches. The motor is tall because it features single overhead cams—these interact with four valves per cylinder. The motor breathes through dual 45mm throttle body injectors, compression ratio is 9.4:1, and it’s counterbalanced for smoothness. Power is routed through its 6-speed transmission, and reaches the rear wheel through a carbon fiber reinforced belt.

Victory states that this new model is intended for a younger demographic, a rider in his 20s to 50s coming off a sportbike or smaller V-twin cruiser who is seeking minimalism, style, confidence-inspiring handling and a lower price. The Judge features a steel fuel tank with new steel fenders, and its composite bodywork includes sidecovers whose oval faces resemble number plates; they can be customized with paint or graphics. Blacked-out components include the frame, dual exhausts, engine cases, heads and triple trees. New styling items include the drag bars and bodywork, the crisply-styled headlight along with the taillight, fender struts, gorgeous five-spoke cast wheels and the EFI covers between the cylinders. The Judge offers an aluminum frame and swingarm, and rides on 16-inch Dunlop Elite II tires with raised white letters.

Victory has sharper handling but the Harley excels in comfort.

Victory has sharper handling but the Harley excels in comfort.

The H-D Fat Bob largely carries over from the 2011 model year, but last year’s model was powered by the Twin Cam 96-inch motor. For 2012, the bore on the air-cooled, 45-degree V-Twin has been increased from 95.3 to 98.4mm while the stroke remains at 111.3mm, resulting in a displacement of 103 cubic inches (1,690cc). Its two valves per cylinder are operated by pushrods, and the entire motor is rubber mounted for smoothness. It is also equipped with a 6-speed transmission and belt final drive.

As part of the Dyna family, the Fat Bob comes with a steel backbone frame and dual exposed shocks—the latter are encased in chromed covers. Its primary styling elements, in addition to dual headlights in their chromed buckets, are those blacked-out fork sliders and 2-1-2 over/under pipes. Check out how the fin edges of the black, powdercoated motor have been machined for added sparkle, and the wiring has been hidden inside that 1.25-inch-diameter handlebar. Its slotted aluminum disc wheel rims are protected by a set of specialty Harley-Davidson series tires by Dunlop.

The Victory Judge is meant to set a standard and appeal to a younger rider.

The Victory Judge is meant to set a standard and appeal to a younger rider.

Freeways and Backroads
The Victory’s foot controls are located in a mid position, lifting the rider’s knees high and placing much of the weight on the gluteus. Seat height is a low 25.9 inches, and it’s a long reach to the low drag handlebar which induces a far forward lean. The rear portion of the dished seat provides some back support. The suspension feels focused, sharp, but over freeway irregularities, the rear suspension offers very little compliance and beats the rider over sharp-edged bumps. Combine this with the cramped feel to the legs and the stretch to the bars, and let’s just say that long-distance comfort is not the Judge’s strong point.

In boarding the Fat Bob, seat height is a very reasonable 27 inches, but the Harley rider has to hunt for the foot controls which are located far forward. With the bars a bit rearward the rider sits more upright, but the legs cannot provide support for the back. The rider is hung out there like a spinnaker, and after some miles of freeway running the Fat Bob rider’s arms become tired from holding him or her upright into the wind. We suggest a windscreen for touring, or just allow Bob to squire you around town. On the plus side, the suspension provides a plush, almost luxury ride over pavement irregularities despite the shocks having but 2.3 inches of travel.

Fat Bob’s name comes from its wide stance and bobbed fenders.

Fat Bob’s name comes from its wide stance and bobbed fenders.

The Fat Bob’s rubber-mounted motor has just the right amount of shudder and pulsing so that you know you’re aboard a real motorcycle, yet it provides no unpleasantness. The Victory, on the other hand, induces some vibration in the upper rpm ranges despite its counterbalancing. Each bike’s 6-speed transmission has a cable-operated clutch and shifts easily, the Harley in an especially r­­efined manner. The Victory’s tranny has a bit of a clank on downshifts; clutch pull is moderate on each.

We did roll-ons in second and third gear, riding side by side on the backroads then twisting the throttles. In each case the Victory would jump out strong by a couple bike lengths over the Harley, which then matched it in acceleration but could not gain on it. The Judge’s sharper power delivery gives the impression that the bike makes a lot more power, and this seat-of-the-pants observation is confirmed by the dyno. The Judge is already generating its maximum torque—102.7 lb-ft at just 2,900 rpm—while the Harley peaks at 90.4 lb-ft at 3,300. Because of gearing differences, the Victory jumps out earlier but it also signs off earlier; the Harley continues to pull when the Judge rider has to pause to shift.

The Victory is more focused while the Harley is generalized.

The Victory is more focused while the Harley is generalized.

The Victory has a bit sharper handling with its 64.8-inch wheelbase, and rake/trail figures of 31.7 degrees and 6.7 inches. The Harley, with its 63.7-inch wheelbase, 29-degree rake and 4.9 inches of trail has numbers that indicate it would be the quicker steerer, however it feels lazier and slower because of its seating position and leverage on the handlebar relative to the Victory. When I had become acclimated to the Victory’s feel, it became easy to drag the pegs in turns, which was a testament to the Judge’s fun factor. The limiting aspect is that the pegs touch down hard, with a harsh sound and nasty vibration, making pushing it beyond this point unpleasant. Push the Harley in turns, however, and what drags first will be your boot heels skimming along the pavement.

I appreciated the firm, well-controlled ride from the Victory’s cartridge-style fork, though its single shock rear suspension did become harsh over sharp bumps. Its fork offers much more precise control over small bumps, and absorbs larger bumps well. Its single 300mm semi-floating front disc brake with four-piston caliper also offers very good feedback and more precise modulation, as the rider can stuff it into a turn and very precisely feed pressure to the lever. It also dives less than the Harley’s fork under hard braking.

By contrast the Harley’s fork feels under-damped, it dives more and its dual front disc brakes with four-piston calipers present more of an on-off feel rather than the Victory’s precise modulation. On this particular test bike, the Harley’s rear brake offered very little bite. Neither bike’s rear suspension offers adjustments other than spring preload; their forks are non-adjustable.

Power and handling (left) vs. comfort and overall convenience (right)—the choice is yours.

Power and handling (left) vs. comfort and overall convenience (right)—the choice is yours.

Final Judgement
Color options on the Judge include Black ($13,999), Sunset Red and the Suede Nuclear Sunset shown, both of the latter for $14,399. The Harley, meanwhile, comes in Black for $15,349, or various optional colors for $15,734. In short, our Victory Judge here enjoys a $1,335 price advantage over its rival.

During our test the Victory consistently went further on each precious, expensive gallon of liquid dinosaur. When all was said and done, the Harley’s 39.3 mpg and 5.0-gallon tank would take it and its rider just about 200 miles—virtually the same distance as the Victory rider could run getting 44.5 mpg with that bike’s 4.5-gallon tank.

As for which bike “wins” the comparison test, that would really depend upon what you were seeking in a big cruiser. The Victory Judge excels in the narrowly focused world of greater power that comes on more quickly down low, sharper steering and more controlled fork action when getting down a mountain road. This advantage is tempered, however, by the fact that those footpegs begin to grind once the ride starts getting fun. Add to that the fact that the seat/pegs relationship is cramped while the handlebar is strung out, and the rough rear suspension, and the bike can be irritating on long rides.

The Harley, despite its feet-forward pegs and minimal rear suspension travel, excels in seating and ride comfort while not giving up too much in the way of power or handling. Among the three of us who put considerable miles on both bikes, the consensus was unanimous—we preferred the Harley Fat Bob for its comfort, while it gave up very little in terms of power or handling to the Judge. As for judging their very different styles—the Harley more of a classic and the Victory a hot rod—well, we’ll leave that decision in your capable hands.

2012 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob

2012 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob

2012 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob
Base Price: $15,349 (black)
Price as Tested: $15,734 (color option)
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
Website: harley-davidson.com

Engine
Type: Air-cooled, transverse
45-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1,690cc
Bore x Stroke: 98.4 x 111.3mm
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
Valve Train: OHV, 2 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: NA
Fuel Delivery: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 3.0-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt

Electrical
Ignition: Electronic
Charging Output: 540 watts max.
Battery: 12V 19AH

Chassis
Frame: Mild steel backbone w/ steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 63.7 in.
Rake/Trail: 29 degrees/4.9 in.
Seat Height: 27.0 in.
Suspension, Front: 49mm stanchions, no adj., 5.0-in. travel
Rear: Dual shocks, adj. for spring preload, 2.3-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual discs w/ opposed 4-piston calipers
Rear: Single disc w/ 2-piston pin-slide caliper
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.0 x 16 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.0 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 130/90-B16
Rear: 180/70-B16
Wet Weight: 698 lbs.
Load Capacity: 387 lbs.
GVWR: 1,085 lbs.

Performance
Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 PON min (high/avg/low) 43.1/39.3/33.3
Estimated Range: 197 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 2,200

2013 Victory Judge

2013 Victory Judge

2012 Victory Judge
Base Price: $13,999 (black)
Price as Tested: $14,399 (color option)
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
Website: victorymotorcycles.com

Engine
Type: Air/oil-cooled, transverse 50-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1,731cc
Bore x Stroke: 101.0 x 108.0mm
Compression Ratio: 9.4:1
Valve Train: SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: NA
Fuel Delivery: EFI w/ dual 45mm throttle bodies
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 5.0-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt

Electrical
Ignition: Electronic
Charging Output: 576 watts max.
Battery: 12V 18AH

Chassis
Frame: Two-piece, sand-cast, hollow aluminum w/ cast aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 64.8 in.
Rake/Trail: 31.7 degrees/6.7 in.
Seat Height: 25.9 in.
Suspension, Front: 43mm stanchions, no adj., 5.1-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for spring preload, 3.0-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single floating disc w/ opposed 4-piston caliper
Rear: Single disc w/ 2-piston pin-slide caliper
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 16 in.
Rear: Cast, 3.50 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 130/90-B16
Rear: 140/90-B16
Wet Weight: 689 lbs.
Load Capacity: 462 lbs.
GVWR: 1,151 lbs.

Performance
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 PON min (high/avg/low) 47.6/44.5/43.6
Estimated Range: 200 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 2,200

Victory’s single front disc works well on a stylish wheel.

Victory’s single front disc works well on a stylish wheel.

Fat Bob's wheels are impressive, but brakes lack modulation.

Fat Bob's wheels are impressive, but brakes lack modulation.

The air/oil-cooled Victory motor is tall because of its overhead cams.

The air/oil-cooled Victory motor is tall because of its overhead cams.

Harley motor has stylish old school appeal.

Harley motor has stylish old school appeal.

Victory’s single gauge also includes various LCD displays.

Victory’s single gauge also includes various LCD displays.

Classic gauges on the Fat Bob include informative LCD displays.

Classic gauges on the Fat Bob include informative LCD displays.

Comments

23 Responses to “2012 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob vs. 2013 Victory Judge Review”

  1. John T on June 1st, 2012 6:31 pm

    I would have thought a Harley Super Glide Custom would have been a better match to the Judge. Other than that, I thought they were spot on with the weak fork on the Fat Bob.

    [Reply]

  2. CNORRIS on June 18th, 2012 8:49 am

    So basically they victory was more fun to ride, got better gas mileage, has more power but the harley won the comparison……ok. there is no way you can twist what you said in the article where harley wins this comparison. Wish I had been wearing my rubber boots when I read the last part of the story

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    Those are your words…..not the guys doing the testing and riding impressions. Buy what you want cuz nobody else cares.

    I looked at and rode both. In many details, the Victory build quality isn’t even close, and looks like the bean-counters have been very busy whittling away the nickels and dimes. Motor sounds rough and has a cheap sound to it. Maybe with another 10-20 years of refinement they may have something.

    I can’t point at any one thing, but the whole bike leaves me with the feeling that it won’t hold up for the long run. The Harley feels like it’s carved out of a block of billet and will last forever. That’s where my money votes.

    [Reply]

  3. David on June 19th, 2012 4:55 pm

    Both great bikes.

    thanks

    [Reply]

  4. Dguy on June 24th, 2012 5:12 pm

    Hey CNORRIS did you miss the summary?

    “The Harley, despite its feet-forward pegs and minimal rear suspension travel, excels in seating and ride comfort while not giving up too much in the way of power or handling. Among the three of us who put considerable miles on both bikes, the consensus was unanimous—we preferred the Harley Fat Bob for its comfort, while it gave up very little in terms of power or handling to the Judge. ”

    Not 1, not 2 but 3 people felt the same way…..
    but I guess they don’t know as much as you.
    Simply put….If you like the Victory, go buy one. But the three people doing the test preferred the Harley…..

    [Reply]

  5. CavScout62 on July 2nd, 2012 10:44 pm

    It seems CNORRIS is one of those Harley Haters who just can’t bring himself to admit that he wants one. The “BOB” won hands down in the COMFORT segment and the power segment was even according to the 3 testers. I gues it’s the fact that the Motor-Company has been doing it for 110 years and shows no sign of slowing down, or that they sell more bikes in the Heavyweight catagory than any other Motorcycle company in the world! I know, it’s the fact that NOTHING says AMERICA IN YOUR FACE like H-D. That’s got to be it.
    Ride On.
    SBFP2012!

    [Reply]

  6. Kevin Fitler on July 10th, 2012 6:17 pm

    The first time i drug my heal in a turn is was an eye opening experience, Now every time I go into a corner i try to drag my heal and peg, it is a wonderful feeling knowing that I can take my Fat Bob into a heavy corner and the only thing I need to worry about is replacing my boots after a few big leaners. YEAH!!! I LOVE MY FAT BOB.

    [Reply]

  7. D. McQuaid on July 17th, 2012 6:24 am

    I’m curious to know wither forward controls on the Judge would change the outcome of the story. Riding style is a choose for each individual person. I prefer forward controls after a long time riding with mid controls. More power, better handling, better suspensions ????????

    [Reply]

  8. Marvin Herren on August 26th, 2012 1:32 pm

    The HARLEY DAVIDSON FATBOB is a more quality machine. After seeing the quality of the material usedin both bikes it is obvious why the HARLEY DAVIDSON has a higher resail.

    [Reply]

  9. ed moe on September 7th, 2012 10:19 pm

    why are they too cheap to but tachs on these bikes. i want to kpe the rpm’s.

    [Reply]

    allen Reply:

    the harley has a tach in the lcd display. it also displays the current gear.

    [Reply]

    jason Reply:

    The Victory also has a tach in the lcd & gear indicator.

    Test drove the Judge this past weekend and had fun. Plan on going to HD this weekend to compare.

    I’m coming off a Vmax so I’m sure both will feel like they’re lacking in the power department.

    Enjoyed the comparison.

    [Reply]

  10. Geordie Pete on October 6th, 2012 10:43 pm

    My son recently passed his test in the UK and is after a sportster now I want a fat bob! I looked at the Viictories and to be blunt they look horrible. Might have the best engine in the world but doesn’t have the class or heritage of a Harley or the club scene for that matter. And the dealers are thin on the ground in the UK and usually part of another dealership like KTM etc. Still when all is said and done you buy what you fancy and right now I really want a fat bob!

    [Reply]

  11. Taves on November 12th, 2012 1:23 am

    I have a Harley and a Victory. First, they are both American made. Second the Victory has a tach built into the speedometer with trip odometer and time that are changed using a toggle on the left handgrip. My Victory stock seat is first on the wish list so the Harley goes on the longer trips. It comes down to this, The Victory is a faster bike, the Harley is more comfortable and sounds better. Both are great bikes!

    [Reply]

    jason Reply:

    Man am I jealous, lol.

    [Reply]

  12. Nix on November 25th, 2012 3:45 pm

    Tested Both, bought the Fat Bob

    [Reply]

    Mile Reply:

    My 2013 Fat Bob does have a tach, 2 trip meters, and a gear indicator integrated with the speedometer. Only had it a few weeks but it has a very plush ride. I’ve had many bikes before but I can see myself keeping this one for a very long time.

    [Reply]

  13. Georgia_biker on December 3rd, 2012 8:25 pm

    I cannot believe all the “AMERICAN MADE ” capital letters in these rants…the HD’s are NOT “MADE IN AMERICA”..they are ASSEMBLED in America, (mostly). Until Gold Wing Assembly was relegated to Japan (again) they had more AMERICAN content than most HD’s. A friend of mine is currently waiting for an obscure electrical control unit for his HD< and it is on order from KOREA.

    [Reply]

  14. Rider Magazine's Top 10 Motorcycle Stories of 2012 | Rider Magazine on January 2nd, 2013 4:31 pm

    [...] 2012 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob vs. 2013 Victory Judge Review Our comparison of these aggressive, big-inch, V-twin cruisers drew more than 16,000 page views in [...]

  15. Who_ever on February 14th, 2013 5:08 pm

    Hi, everybody,

    tested many bikes because of 15 years of non-riding. Decision was H.-D. FXDF Fat Bob after trying about 5 or 6 H.-D. bikes and having a closer look on the details.
    One year of testing out the behaviour of “the beast” led me to the journey, you do “once in a lifetime”. I was heading the north cape in norway last summer with the H.-D,. Fat Bob. Three weeks, 8.500 km, no companionship, beautiful landscape, and H.-D. Fat Bob and me. That was real!
    The bike wasn’t built for a trip like this, but we managed it. Wonderful experience, beautiful pictures,— amazing!
    The H.-D. FXDF Fat Bob — easy to ride, beautiful to look on and technical superb! She never left me!

    Greetz

    Mike from G

    [Reply]

  16. Rob Roth on February 19th, 2013 2:56 pm

    Hey Flatlanders:
    I been riding a HD Electrolux for 12 happy years-when low and behold I
    jumped on 93 Softail. Wowee Mr. Wizard that Heritage handles at least
    50% better than the BatWinger. Who knew?? My gas monkey/wrench
    mongers all recommended E-Glide Standards back then but me and my
    Backseat Pilot won’t go back.We Don’t really miss the trunk-and certainly
    glad to get out from behind the “batwing”-except on 3-day rain smackers.
    Back to the Future!
    Rob47

    [Reply]

  17. Latest 2013 Victory Judge Looks Tango Tasty | PrincipalBikes on May 21st, 2013 5:43 pm

    [...] magazine testers found the Judge comfortable, even on a 500 mile riding day, whilst Rider magazine found that back-to-back against the H-D Fat Bob, the Judge pulled away a few bike lengths [...]

  18. Mike on October 28th, 2013 5:52 pm

    I test rode two brand new 2013 Victory Las Vegas 8 ball motorcycle’s with less then 25 miles on each from the same dealer in Kingman, Az. and found that there was a clinking sound coming from the tranmission on both bikes every time I moved the throttle forward or backwards swiftly let along the noise that came out of the transmission when I shifted, I was told by the store that this was a standard sound. I was considering the Victory but choose the 2013 Fat Bob instead what a difference, I now have two Harley’s in my garage an 06 Road King Custom and the new Fat Bob. I know I made the right choice, night and day.

    [Reply]

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