Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Review


Kawasaki Vulcan 900

It can be difficult to write a review on a bike you have researched and finally committed to purchasing. Seems the review is bound to have a bit of bias in it. So with no apologies, here is my view and comments on the Vulcan 900.

I could never have been called a cruiser fan, I like simple bikes, fast bikes, and I like soft core trail riding. Cruisers were just not in my sights. Then one day my Dad bought a cruiser and rode it out to the farm to show it off. I wondered what had ever made him decide to buy a cruiser. I had (still have) a Kawasaki Concours and didn't see the attraction of the cruiser. I think he saw that in my eyes, because he just smiled and offered me his bike. It was sooo nice and sooo easy. (He did that to me with scooters too. Thanks Dad for opening my eyes to so many things)

That nice and easy stayed in my head long after that ride and several years later, with the encouragement of my best friend, riding buddy, and wife we purchased the Vulcan. Now after riding it for 12,000 plus miles, I have to say I like it better with each mile I ride it. Just as no bike is the perfect bike, this one gives and takes in different areas, so read on and we'll talk about the good and the bad of this very nice machine. Is there any bad after 12,000 miles? Not really, but there are things we can talk about so you are better informed if you should be in the market for a cruiser.

When reading magazine reports on the Vulcan 900, you hear them call this bike a middleweight or sometimes even a light cruiser. Let me tell you that a 660 pound 900cc bike is not light. It may be middle weight, but only because middle weight is a relative term. Just the same the weight is very low and because of this, the bike is easy to move around the garage and it is almost laughably easy to maneuver at walking speeds. It gets moved around less in the wind than my Connie and TU 250 and those wide handlebars make it super easy to roll into and out of the curves.

The fit and finish is quite good, the paint is flawless and the chrome is very pretty. I like plastic and am happy the bike has plastic fenders - no rust - but chrome plastic engine parts strike me as odd. Just the same, Kawasaki has pulled this off very well and the chrome is very nice. It has a belt drive and, again, I was not sure I'd like that feature, but I have become a convert. There is nothing to worry about with a street bike and belt drive, and it never needs oiling and seldom (none so far) needs adjusting. The final little thing that I'd change if I were King, or wealthy enough to buy aftermarket, is the spoke wheels. Not the spokes really as they are pretty and they compliment this type bike. They do run tube type tires though. I prefer the ease of patching a tubeless tire to a tube type.

There is no other bad for me and all these minor things are just that, minor. The windshield does a great job of splitting the wind, in fact it is the best bike I have owned for weather protection. The engine has fantastic torque and chugs up and down the road as easy two up as solo. It makes easy work of the eastern US mountains. This bike is at it's absolute best cruising through the countryside showing off the sights and smells of our rural areas. It is like riding a big old lawn chair. The seating position encourages you to look around and enjoy the world we so often just blast through when we are trying to "get somewhere". The Vulcan is happy at 45 mph and it is happy at highway speeds. I think the big windshield starts to drag a little as speeds climb above 70-75 mph. The bike can travel at these speeds and higher without any problem, but you do see the gas mileage begin to suffer.  The mileage on the open highway is 45 MPG but on last summers' ride to Tennessee and North Carolina the mileage ranged from 48 to 54+ MPG.  The bike has a 5.3 gallon fuel tank.  I run about 190 miles between fillups when riding back and forth to work (mostly turnpike travel)and will usually go 215+ when I get to ride it on the back roads I enjoy most.  When the fuel warning light illuminates, there is still a gallon of fuel in the tank. 

An interesting thing I have noticed with the Vulcan as well as the Concours is that they just keep getting better.  It is as if it takes them 30,000 miles or so to fully break in.  They get smoother and quicker with miles.  With the Vulcan, the mileage has continued to improve with age and even though I have always felt the engine was smooth, it also seems to keep running freer and smoother.  There is very little vibration from the Vulcan. The floorboards and handlebars remain steady all the way up to 70-75 MPH.

My father in-law and I rode to Tennessee and North Carolina last summer and we had intended to trade bikes now and then to give us sore spots in different place than we'd get if we stayed on just one bike. Turned out my father in-law enjoyed the Connie so much and I enjoyed the Vulcan so much that we did not trade at all. After a full week of steady riding neither of us was sore or tired.

It'll never be confused for a dual sport bike, but we have taken the Vulcan down a number of gravel roads as well as paved roads. I think the combination of wide tires and steering geometry make this an easy ride. There is no need to worry as it remains stable in both hard pack dirt and gravel.

I think the Vulcan 900 will be in Kawasaki's lineup for a long time. It doesn't try to be macho, it doesn't try to be a hotrod, it doesn't try to be anything other than a very pleasant to live with bike. The Vulcan will stay in my stable for a long time, it is just sooo easy and sooo nice!

Video Links you might enjoy:
Klausenpass - Teil 1
Klausenpass - Teil 2
Klausenpass - Teil 3



  1. Really enjoyed this review....your second paragraph could have been something I'd written, though I got hooked on scooters rather than cruisers but I could have just as easily done what you've done.

  2. I am visiting your blog at first time and I am much inspired by your blog. You have provided a good platform through your blog.

  3. I am find your review very thought out and agree with all you said. I just bought a 2012 hold over from last year and the first thing I just had to do was change the pipes.... Sounded good stock but I'm partial to the a little more sound.. Went with vance an Hines twin staggered slash cut.. Sound amazing for the price.. I love how smooth the bike feels and the effortless maneuvering on the street... With only 500 miles on it.. I see it staying in the family a very long time..

    1. Thanks for the comment and for reading. I think you'll find the Vulcan an excellent choice. It just keeps getting better as you pile on the miles. Enjoy the Back Roads!

  4. I am currently looking at this model. I've owned dirt bikes and small Hondas like the 350 twin. The largest bike I've owned was a Honda 750 and I rode it all over the Western Mountains. I'm older now, and looked forward to your comments concerning the comfort. I am not a very big guy, so thank you for the encouraging words about the handling. I'll return to your site next year and give you my honest opinion. Thank you for your effort critiquing the bike.

  5. It is very nice to read your comments and I am happy the article could be of so help to you as you chose your bike. The Vulcan now has nearly 16,000 miles. I changed the tires at 13,000 and had not needed to adjust the belt the entire 13,000 miles. I recently returned from a 2,000 mile ride over 7 days and still, I find the bike very comfortable and easy to ride for many miles without becoming seat sore.

    Truly look forward top your comments on the bike as well, please keep us all posted on your views and your rides.

  6. Yup....yesterday trying this bike...very nice and good machine. My friend very happy drive this bike about 300KM per day....easy and he look younger from their old...I will also keen to used this bike soon and drive our town at night..Kuala Lumpur..wait me !! : )

  7. Enjoy the Vucan, it is a very good motorcycle. I really like mine. Please write to us about your adventures with your motorcycle.

  8. Hi I live in the UK, I have just bought a 2012 vn900 classic I was going to sell it because of its lack of power when I eventually get to 75 mph it sounds like its screening its head off and a lot of vibration,it doesn't feel like it could do long distance touring, but after reading this I might keep it longer see if it gets better or if it grows on me.

  9. Nice to hear from a friend in the UK. The Vulcan is a very good bike and it suits my ride preferences very well. I think a cruiser is something riders either like or don't like. I like them, although I like most bikes so maybe you shouldn't take stock in my opinions. You will be the best judge of what fits your needs and desires.
    What ever you ride, ride it often and enjoy it!

  10. Great Write Up! Would love to see more pictures... I have been eyeing this bike since they were first introduced and have to admit, your review is the best that I have happened upon thus far! The price tag really hits a home run though as these seem to be had for cheap if your willing to buy new old stock. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

  11. Thanks Mario. I'll post a few more photos with the Vulcan as a center piece. The bike keeps getting better as the miles roll by. This is one of my all time favorite bikes.

  12. Hello. Nice write-up. I love cruisers and had to sell my beloved Victory Vegas. I was looking for something less expensive to purchase and your article helped me decide to buy a nice Vulcan 900.

    It does a good job of everything, but is not outstanding at anything. And it is not bad at anything. It was amazingly affordable. I did not expect it to be as smooth and gut-wrenchingly fast and cool as my Victory, and it isn't. It can still ride with the big boys, though it gets a bit buzzy at speeds much over 70-75. An all around good bike, in my opinion. Especially for the price.

  13. you are totally correct about the vulcan, it gets quicker and smoother with miles. My friend's vn 900 classic could smoke my bigger cc fat boy anytime right on the face. I used to nail him really bad when he first bought it new. his bike is pretty much stock though!..the higher the mileage the faster it goes...the smoother it rides...

  14. Those of you that say the bike is buzzy around highway speeds - Do you have aftermarket free flowing exhaust with fuel programmers and free flowing air intakes? I would imagine this would limber the bike up a bit and not all that pricy.

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  16. That was a great review, you are spot on with everything really. I bought my Classic a year ago and after riding to see my daughter a few hundred miles away I had to change the seat as I found it really uncomfortable. I opted for the Mustang from America. Purchase and import tax was £500 but it was really worth it.
    I then had a look at youtube to make the pipes a little louder.Some owners cut bits off the exhaust but I drilled the plates off the exhausts and drilled 2 holes in the baffles and re riveted the end caps on, looks stock but sounds much better. I then cut 3 inches off each side of the handlebars and now I find it much easier to manoeuvre at low speed.
    I have done 2500 miles on it this years and it`s a great looking reliable bike. I am after a cafe racer for a bit of fun around the lanes of England but I don`t think I will ever sell my VN900. It is everything I like in a cruiser and it`s not trying to be anything special, it is just a lovely thing to ride and really good value for money. Thanks mate, stay safe.

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