In the country that invented "super-sized" servings, the Kawasaki Vulcan is King and boldly going where no Kawasaki has gone before - over 2,000cc. Computer controlled and fuel-injected, this mega-cruiser puts out 116 horses and a mind-blowing 141 ft/lbs of torque. Simply stated, this is the world's biggest, most powerful production V-twin cruiser, and on a bright sunny day in Santa Barbara, California, I was among the world's first to ride the beast.
Concept & Transformation
With Japanese cruisers playing bridesmaid to Harley-Davidson over the past few years, Kawasaki has taken a vigorous leap forward in creating their own genre of power cruiser. Honda started the catch-up game with its potent VTX 1800, and Yamaha rolled out the Road Star Warrior and the new Road Star; but at 2053cc the new 2004 Vulcan 2000 has just rewritten the rulebook. Not only is everything about the new Kawasaki large, but a great amount of effort has also gone into the styling. Check out that signature chrome Nacelle headlight cover! Dripping with high luster chrome, it contains a unique four-bulb projector beam headlight, which endows the Vulcan with its own totally unique calling card as it first comes into view.
Deep V-twin vibes flow from the barrel-chested motor as it thumps away on its single-pin crankshaft. Blip the throttle, listen to the throaty intake roar, and shift the transmission to first with a resounding clunk. Everything about this bike is big, loud and aggressive. Dropping the clutch and letting loose the 116 horses, you could be forgiven for thinking you were piloting a high-end sport bike, the way it launches forward with such authority. Roll on anywhere in the top two gears and you are rewarded with immediate arm stretching acceleration. Throttling back from high rpm sends the aural senses into mechanical bliss. Twist on it again and the intake roar coming from under the tank will have you repeating the experience at every opportunity just to hear the incredible sound.
Engine & Transmission
So what's all the shouting about? How about four-inch, flat top pistons that make one of the Vulcan's cylinders displace more cubic capacity than Kawasaki's own ZX-10 sport bike. With a 123.2 mm stroke and a 103mm bore, the Vulcan also has the biggest pistons of any production motorcycle to date. Keeping these gargantuan lumps of forged metal balanced are dual 220mm flywheels attached to the single-pin crank. This arrangement is what gives the Vulcan its signature rumble on idle, helped out by the deep exhaust note from the twin slash-cut pipes.
Departing from the standard practice of overhead cams, the new Vulcan utilizes push rods for its valve actuation in an attempt to the keep engine height to a minimum. Running in attractive chrome pushrod tubes, they set off the finned air-cooled cylinders for a very classic look. The engine is actually not totally air-cooled, as the top quarter of the engine enjoys the benefit of water-cooling. Look closely and you will see the black radiator nicely hidden in between the front frame rails.
Inside the heads, there are two inlet and two outlet valves to let fuel in and burnt gases out. Making such high horsepower figures, it is no surprise to learn the Kawasaki uses electronic fuel injection and 46mm throttle bodies to force large amounts of fuel and air into the cylinders. This mix is then ignited by a centrally located iridium spark plug. Utilizing fine atomizing injectors, it plays a big part in the bikes seamless power delivery from idle to redline.
Once the pistons are in motion, power is transferred from the crankshaft to the five-speed gearbox by a Hyvo primary drive chain. No surprises in the clutch department, with a multi-plate wet unit used to take power to the rear wheel. Here, for the first time, Kawasaki has employed belt drive in place of the shaft drive normally found on the Vulcan range (Vulcan 500 excluded). Inside the gearbox, a gear position sensor sends signals to the engines ECU to further control the fuel injection and aid power delivery.
Chassis & Brakes
Noting the healthy dose of brute horsepower and the truckload of torque produced, I am happy to report the new Kawasaki Vulcan 2000's chassis and brakes are more than capable of keeping everything under control. Wearing girder-thick, non-adjustable 49mm forks (the Vulcan 1600's are 43mm), the bike provides incomparable ride quality with a front end that soaks up the bumps without exhibiting too much dive under heavy braking. Using a hard tail-style swing arm, the rear shock is out of sight under the bike; and unlike the forks, it is adjustable for spring pre-load and rebound damping. I had no need to fiddle, as it carried my 180 pounds with ease.
Scrubbing off the easily attainable speeds, a pair of matching 300mm rotors graces the cast aluminum 16-inch wheel. Both equipped with four-piston calipers, they are more than capable of hauling the bike's 750lbs (this is the dry weight quoted by Kawasaki) to a very quick halt when needed. Two-finger braking is possible and there is a comfortable amount of travel before the pistons really begin to bite down. Modulating the brakes around town is a breeze. Rear stopping duties are taken care of by a large 320mm rotor and a smaller two-piston caliper. With the Vulcan using forward controls, the back brake requires lifting the foot a little. I quickly got used to this and noticed there is a good amount of travel before the rear wheel locks. On the other side of the bike, a heel/toe shifter is employed that makes for very easy shifting.
Immediately grabbing my attention before we leapt in the saddle for our first ride was the rear tire. Vital statistics reading 200/60R-16, the Vulcan has entered custom cruiser territory with this one. I was concerned that the bike would steer like a tank, and be impossible to lean into corners. A few hours later, after scything through the California hills to the accompaniment of grinding floorboard metal, it was time to think again. This thing turns and steers so well, it completely blew my pre-conceived notions into the weeds. It actually has more clearance than any of the current crop of cruisers I have ridden, but caution is still needed when the pace picks up, as it is fairly easy to find the limit.
Accessories and Arrangements
Over the two days of the press launch, I spent my time riding a totally standard model and found the seating arrangements to be first class. Traveling just 27.2 inches from the floor, the Kawasaki sits very low for more control. Things did get a little windy out on the highway, but a windshield is available for the big Vulcan. One of my fellow journalists rode the "accessorized" version for a while, and I examined its extras: throw-over saddlebags, a nice chrome rack with passenger backrest, and the windshield. Within a few months of the bike's release the aftermarket will certainly have its usual plethora of custom parts available also.
I did have one problem with the bike and that concerns the width of the handlebars. They are reasonably comfortable once on the move, but make for a fair bit of work maneuvering the bike around the parking lot. A lot of this has to do with the bike's weight, especially when lifting up off the side stand. Though not a major problem, one should still be a little cautious: Don't get the bars over at full lock if you are on anything other than level ground.
Cruiser your style? Power your thing? Well, Kawasaki's got you covered. As one of the most stylish cruisers on the market, and without doubt the most powerful - Triumph Rocket 111 excluded - the new 2004 Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 is going to exceed expectations in every department. Top quality chrome and paint, especially the massive gas tank, get full marks for their finish and add a good deal of swagger to the bike's distinctive looks.
Big, bad and beautiful. Kawasaki has re-invented the power cruiser.
Retail Price $ 14,499
Warranty 12 Month/unlimited mileage. Up to 48 months extended warranty available.
Maintenance Schedule 600/4,000/7,500/12,000/15,000/20,000/24,000 miles (1,000/6,000/ every 6,000km)
Importer/Distributor Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA
Type four-stroke V-twin
Cooling liquid, plus cooling fins
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cylinder, pushrods and dual cams
Bore & Stroke 103x 123mm
Compression Ratio 9.5:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection with dual 46mm throttle bodies
Exhaust Emission Control no
Clutch multi-plate wet
Final Drive belt drive
Frame steel, double-cradle with box-section single-tube backbone
Wheelbase 1,735mm (68.3in.)
Trail 183mm (7.2in.)
Front Suspension telescopic fork
Stanchion Diameter 49mm (1.9in.)
Travel 150mm (5.9in.)
Rear Suspension single shock
Adjustments spring pre-load, 8 way rebound damping
Travel 99mm (3.9in.)
Wheels & Tires
Type cast aluminum
Front Tire 150/80R 16
Rear Tire 200/60R 16
Front Brake dual disc
Diameter 300mm (11.8in.)
Rear Brake single disc
Diameter 320mm (12.6in.)
Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 690mm (27.2in.)
Dry-Weight 341kg (750lb.)
Fuel Capacity 21l (5.5gal.)
Claimed Horsepower (measured at crank) 116hp at 5,000rpm
Torque 18.4mkp (180Nm, 136ft.lbs.) at 3,000rpm
Top Speed 203km/h (125mph)
Fuel Consumption NA
Fuel Range NA
No tachometer. Conventional speedometer with digital odometer and trip counter.Warning lights inside speedo face. Ignition switch and lock in the front nacelle.
RoadRUNNER Test Diagram
Luggage w/accessories 4/5
Bike for the buck 5/5