Kawasaki's Vulcan 900 Classic Reviewed... great value in the cruiser segment, with looks to match... Test and images by Kris Hodgson
There are some bike’s which just remind me of the enjoyment of motorcycling, they don’t need to be dripping with technology or high performance parts, they are just fun to ride. The Vulcan 900 Classic is one such bike and is punching above it’s weight.
Sitting in the 900cc category it’s relatively small for a cruiser, and while running an eye over the bike reveals a well finished and stylish motorcycle, to my eye at least, the specifications are relatively basic. A single 300mm front rotor with two-piston caliper, 41mm forks, no ABS, no traction control, no rider modes. Power from the 903cc V-Twin is a claimed 50hp and torque 78Nm which is available from 3700rpm and the engine is fantastic.
3700rpm? Where that is I don’t really know, as there’s no tacho (not unusual for a cruiser), it’s just a matter of upshifting when it feels right and the Vulcan starts to run out of puff. It’s all about the seat of the pants experience. If I want go I roll the throttle on, if I want to go fast I roll it on hard, if I want to slow down I’ll knock the Vulcan down through the gears and let the brakes do the rest.
As someone who doesn’t ride a cruiser every day the bike does feel a little ungainly at feet down speeds, especially with the ‘bars low enough to feel very close to my chest at full lock, although that may help prevent drops. There’s also no issue with getting your feet down and banging your shins or ankles against floorboards, which are gripes I’ve experienced on other cruisers.
Of course for a cruiser it’s easily manageable on the move, even at low feet-up speeds, and the floorboards with forward controls are comfortable and not too wide. Shifting through the gears is easy and natural both up and down, and the clutch action was light enough not to draw any attention.
Brakes require a very firm action to get full effect, but lacking ABS I’d be hesitant to ask for anything more, especially when it came to riding in the wet, keeping in mind 281kg is a relatively hefty weight, if not for this particular category.
Suspension was a stand-out, for just offering a great smooth ride across the varied surfaces we tested on. Out testing an MT-09 at the same time it was easy to see where a big unavoidable pothole or divet in the road had just effected Jeff in front of me. On the Vulcan in comparison it’d just glide over pretty much all these road inconsistencies.
The Vulcan 900 Classic certainly lives up to its category name, it’s an ideal cruiser, with plentiful torque, easy manoeuvrability, and carries its 280kg wet weight with a low centre of gravity. Whether it’s puttering along in traffic, on the highway or enjoying a set of twisties the Vulcan is more than capable.
I certainly wasn’t setting the world on fire with my pace, but the Vulcan feels fast at an enjoyable speed and will really hook through the corners. The perfect example of a machine that you can have real fun on, without necessarily being well over the speed limit to get a thrill.
The Vulcan is plenty of fun through the twisties, with clearance on my mind but not an issue in my time on the bike, and that’s coming from someone who normally rides sports and nakedbikes.
Styling and finish are both exemplary as noted, but I’ll again admit, I don’t own a cruiser and what people look for in a motorcycle can vary greatly.
The paintwork is downstated but eye-catching, with good vision through the mirrors and simple switchblocks that don’t need relearning. The thicker grips offer ideal comfort, especially for relaxed rides, or if you’re really rolling along, to hold onto.
The tank mounted dash did cause some reflections up into my eyes at just the wrong time of day and the analogue speedo provides somewhat of a rough speed estimate at a glance, but that’s really looking for something to criticise.
The passenger back rest and panniers also stand out as great features, but these are optional accessories, while choosing to add the Windshield Kit would be an obvious choice if you were doing the big kilometres.
Overall the Kawsaki Vulcan 900 Classic is fun, refined, well finished and provides enough torque to keep things interesting. Add a $12,499 RRP plus on roads asking price and you’ve got great value no matter how you look at it.
Specifications: Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic
Price: $12,499+ ORC
Warranty: Two-year, unlimited kilometre
Colours:Metallic Matte Carbon Gray, Pearl Flat Crystal White
Claimed power: 37kW@5700rpm
Claimed torque: 78Nm@3700rpm
Wet weight: 281kg
Fuel capacity: 20L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 903cc four-stroke V-Twin, SOHC, four valves per cylinder, 88 x 74.2mm bore x stroke, 9.5:1 compression, dual 34mm throttle-bodies
Gearbox: Five-speed, return; Belt final drive
Clutch: Wet, multidisc
Chassis: Rake: 32°, Trail: 160mm
Suspension: 41mm forks, 150mm travel, Unitrack shock, seven-way preload adjustable, 103mm travel
Brakes: Single front 300mm rotor, dual-piston caliper, 270mm rear rotor, dual-piston caliper
Wheels & Tyres: Wire spoke wheels, whitewall tyres, 130/90-16M/C 67H, 180/70-15M/C 76H
Seat height: 680mm
Overall height: 1065mm
Overall width: 1005mm
Instruments: Analogue speedometer, multi-function display