Hollywood gets a lot of stick for being out of touch with reality. Pistols with an endless supply of bullets. Bikers that can get on a cruiser and just ride for days without so much as clean pair of underpants and still look fresh at the end of a week’s ride. Maybe it has to do with the laid back design of a cruiser. Americans dominate this area, but the Japanese can provide you with a very viable alternative.
Kawasaki has three distinct models in their 650 lineup that share the same parts bin for the majority of their parts. The upright Versys, the naked ER-6f and the cruiser styled Vulcan S. The exposed rear shock is still the center of attention, but the Vulcan is almost 14cm lower than the Versys. To achieve that look, Kawasaki extended the wheelbase by 16cm by giving the bike a steeper rake up front and reworking the rear swing arm. It even sports a larger diameter front wheel. Another hint that this bike is not for tearing up the road is that it foregoes the Versys’ dual front disks and only has a single 300mm disc up front. Don’t be fooled though, the Vulcan is very quick off the mark, as the engine mapping has been changed to provide torque a little bit lower in the rev-range.
Looking at the Vulcan, you feel that you can be a Steve McQueen and just go forever. You won’t get very far though, as the fuel tank is very small. All of 14L. With this bike, you will have plenty of time to stop and admire the scenery. Not that that is a bad thing. Far from it. With this style of bike you should not be in hurry. My kind of bike. Stop often and engage with the locals, while you are heading to where you run out of road.
As you sit on it, your feet are placed way forward as a cruiser should be. The riding position is very comfortable. The exhaust note from the parallel twin is throaty, but not anywhere near what a V-motor from its bigger namesake can produce. On the up-side, this bike is a lot smoother than its V-twin counterparts. On the move the bike felt nimble and small and someone with a lot more talent than me even managed to scrape the foot pegs. At higher speed you are quite aware of the wind. An aftermarket screen may help, but that may detract from the look. Above the limit, you are just clinging onto the swept handlebars for dear life, and quickly reminded that this bike is not about speed but about presence.
After my initial impressions I let my wife loose on the Vulcan and the response was very positive. So maybe this is the market the Vulcan is aiming for. Either way, it looks every bit like a cruiser should. And if Hollywood is to be believed, you can leave today on your cross-country trip on the Vulcan. You don’t need anything else.