A few days ago I visited the local Kawasaki dealer where we installed the Smart Turn System and the Smart Brake Module on the 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan S. Being their showcase cruiser motorcycle for our products as well, I couldn’t help myself to take the opportunity for a test ride. I was sure that many riders would soon book the Kawasaki’s most popular cruiser for months ahead. I was so curious that I called my boss and told him I would be late 😉
Read on to get all information on my first impressions, handling, brake performance and a special test of the brakes and engine braking forces. I will give you my thoughts on the engine performance and suspension, and if I would recommend this motorcycle to experienced and beginner riders.
After two hours of riding, I came back to the Kawasaki dealer where another surprise waited for me. My colleague at the dealership told me that I could keep the Vulcan for two more days over the weekend if I were willing to share my experience with a journalist, who is also a local acquaintance of mine. Who could say no to such an offer?
OK, here we go. A beautiful sunny Saturday morning – check! All ready and geared up – check! Full of positive energy and excitement – check! It’s is time to take this beauty on the road.
I was always more an adventure rider, and I used a »naked« bike for my daily commuting around the town. I didn’t know at first what to expect about the 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan S, since it is basically a typical mid-range urban cruiser. If you want to know more about cruiser motorcycles, take a look at our recent blog on Cruiser motorcycles – the Ultimate choice for real bikers.
Will I be able to handle the Kawasaki Vulcan S? Would it feel like a big cumbersome couch on two wheels? Will the relatively small 650cc engine be able to put out enough power to move it from the spot? Well my friends, prepare to be amazed.
To be fully honest, my expectations about the handling of the 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan didn’t do it any justice. Quite contrary. Even at a standstill, the handlebars felt very »light.« and easy to turn. Also during the ride, it handles amazingly well, unlike anything I expected.
It must be due to the clever weight distribution of the motorcycle. The handlebars feel very light and offer you excellent control of the motorcycle in corners as well. I was impressed how good can you take the Kawasaki Vulcan through tight turns on twisty roads.
Are you concerned if you will be able to handle it if you are a taller or a smaller rider? You can choose from three different handlebars »Ergo fit« configurations. Extended reach for riders 6’1” and taller, Mid reach for riders between 5’7” and 6’0”, and Reduced reach for riders under 5’6”. Regardless of your height, you will feel very comfortable.
One thing that I would point out, and this is only nitpicking on my part, is the long turn radius which makes a simple U-turn not so simple.
The Kawasaki Vulkan S has the same engine than the Versys 650 and the Ninja 650. It is optimised to perform better at lower RPM and offers more torque throughout the whole RPM range. It reaches it’s maximum at 6600 RPM 63Nm. The pulling power will surprise you for sure, and the force on the motorcycle tyre much more “violent” then you would expect. I can honestly tell you that I didn’t expect it at all from the 61HP engine. Good work Kawasaki 😉
The parallel-twin liquid-cooled engine produces very little vibration for a twin-engine, so it is very comfortable on longer rides. The sheer power offers a lot of fun while cornering around and still has enough reserve to overtake another vehicle safely. You have a lot of instant power from the lower RPM range up, but above 5000 RPM, it becomes a rocket. It much more resembles a sportbike than a cruiser which I find simply astonishing.
The Kawasaki Vulcan comes with the brake system that will give you a lot of confidence. The front brake is a single 300mm disc with twin-piston calliper with ABS and the rear brake a Single 250mm disc with a single-piston calliper, ABS. Even though the 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan isn’t the lightest among motorcycles, the brakes offer a very good and controlled stopping power.
The high engine torque increases the stopping power with significant engine braking as well. I could get used to the strong engine braking very quickly, and since we are producing a brake module that indicates deceleration of your motorcycle on the existing brake light when you don’t apply the brakes at the same time, I decided to make a small test.
I pulled out our specially developed device that measures motorcycle telemetric data and decided to measure the stopping power of engine braking at highway speeds. First I measured the maximum braking force with both brakes applied to their maximum. At the exact point when the ABS kicked in, I could measure 1,12 »g-force« of deceleration.
The second test was to speed up to 130 km/h and to release the throttle. You will not believe how much stopping power you get from engine braking and air resistance (drag). Our device measured 0,52 »g-force« on deceleration, which makes just a little less than a half of the maximum braking force. And all this without even touching the brakes and no indication on the brake light.
This is exactly why we developed the SMART BRAKE MODULE. It makes it a brilliant addition for any motorcycle out there, not just the Kawasaki Vulcan S. It is an add-on device that you can’t get directly from Kawasaki, but it will add to your visibility when engine braking and it will increase your safety.
The 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan looks astonishing. If you are into cruisers, it just might be one of your favourite cruiser designs. During the weekend I could feel heads turning, and I know it wasn’t my flashy helmet 😉
There is a lot of unique details that compliment the quality built motorcycle. If you look at the motorcycle more closely, you will see that every detail on the motorcycle is carefully designed.
The seat is very comfortable, and since the Kawasaki Vulcan has a very low seating position. Even smaller riders will have no trouble reaching the ground with both feet. The seating position feels very natural. The handlebars are easy to reach, footpegs are positioned low and not too much forward, so you don’t have to extend your legs too much to reach them.
While we are at the footpegs, this is the only place where you can feel quite a strong vibration from the engine. After a good hour of riding, I felt it in my legs, but I guess I could get used to this eventually.
Even though the seat feels very comfortable, the suspension doesn’t help your »behind« feel well on longer rides, especially if you hit some bumpy roads. The rear suspension offers seven different settings, and while I had it set to the softest setting, I could still feel every little bump on the road. This is something I was used to when riding sports bikes, so this was a bit surprising to me.
Another thing that will surprise you is that you can easily scrape your footpegs on the asphalt. If you don’t expect it, it can scare you a bit. This is due to low ground clearance of the Kawasaki Vulcan and low positioned footpegs. But to be clear, the Kawasaki Vulcan is a cruiser. Its purpose is not to bring your knee down in the corners.
Overall, especially considering the very affordable price, you get a lot of motorcycle for the price. The performance is easily comparable to any other mid-range cruiser. The stock headlight, tail light and directional indicators are average and could be better. The wind protection is quite good, even at higher speeds but you have to take into account, that this is a cruiser and this type of motorcycles are not meant for speeding.
Wide handlebars will make filtering through dense city traffic a bit harder than with any other type of motorcycle, but the easy handling will still make it manageable. The one thing I would definitely change immediately on the 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan is the mirrors. Take it as my personal opinion, but the mirrors are simply ugly.
The whole motorcycle is very well designed, and it is simply beautiful, I can’t argue with that. But to me, it seems that the story with the mirrors went something like: »So, here is the design of the new Vulcan!!!« Everyone was impressed, but then someone asked: »Hey guys, where are the mirrors?«. It seems like someone has forgotten them and had no interest in designing them. In the end, the mirrors do their job, but to me, it seems they simply don’t compliment the whole design.
Don’t get me wrong. Overall, the Kawasaki Vulcan 2018 impressed me very positively. It is such a fun bike. Over the three days of riding it, I could see how I could fall in love with it. Not a single motorcycle out there is perfect. But, I would definitely count the Vulcan as the one with the least imperfections. It is quality built, very well designed, one of the most reliable motorcycles out there. And the best thing is, it is very affordable, and it brings the cruiser segment much closer to a wider range of riders, who can’t afford Harley’s that can cost twice as much or even more.
If I were buying a cruiser, this would be definitely one of the first choices I would consider. Even if I would be buying my first beginner motorcycle, I think this would arguably be a good choice. What about you? Did the Kawasaki Vulcan convince you?
Share your thoughts with us, share the blog with your friends to give them a few of my personal insights about the Kawasaki’s most successful cruiser and share with me your experience with this amazing motorcycle.