This article was originally published in the December 1999 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.
When we compared the bikes in its category last April, even those who picked Kawasaki’s Nomad as their favorite wished for more power and range. Those were the only two significant shortcomings of a great touring cruiser.
The Nomad smoothly meshes the roles of traveler and troller. With great ergonomics, a counterbalancer-smoothed engine, a very comfortable saddle, an effective, adjustable windshield, and uniquely styled and capacious saddlebags, the Nomad proved to be a wonderful companion on the open road. Useful power, steady but responsive handling at all speeds, well-controlled suspension, strong and manageable brakes, and its much admired looks made it gratifying on the boulevard, as a daily commuter, or on winding roads. Mix in top-notch finish quality and the nicest price around, and you’ll understand why we have been so enthusiastic about the Nomad ever since we first rode one from coast to coast almost two years ago.
Of course, nothing is perfect. Our biggest complaint about the Nomad as a traveler was its shortish range. Riding it more than 120 miles without refueling increased the risk of having to push it to a gas station. We also wished for a bit more power when there was a truck to be passed on a long, uphill grade. When Kawasaki introduced the fuel-injected Drifter a year ago, the writing was on the wall. The Drifter, which also featured a stiffer compression ratio and juggled cam profiles, made better power than either of Kawasaki’s similar liquid-cooled, 1500cc Vulcan V-twins—the Classic and the Nomad. Kawasaki hinted broadly that the same engine would find its way into other members of the Vulcan clan but also promised fuel-injected models would be additions to, not replacements for, the carbureted 1500s.
And so it came to pass. For Y2K, Kawasaki created a new version of the Nomad which joins the original in the line.
The Nomad FI brings the Drifter’s beefy powertrain to the Nomad. Actually, the FI goes the Drifter one better, with the same internal mods but introducing Kawasaki’s second-generation electronic fuel-injection (EFI) system. The newer system uses a refined 16-bit processor with upgraded mapping created for the Nomad. This permits more precise plotting of the five parameters (throttle position, water temperature, barometric pressure, and the temperature and pressure of incoming air) the system measures to adjust mixture. It may simply be our imagination but the new Nomad seems to pull harder than the Drifter when you open the throttle. The actual difference between the two Nomads at the dragstrip is small. The FI is a bit more than a tenth of a second quicker and less than one mile per hour faster in both of our measurements of acceleration. However, it feels like a bigger improvement.
We also saw a small improvement in average fuel mileage, but the extra 3.9 miles per gallon only adds approximately 15 miles to the range available from the 4.2-gallon tank. Even though it’s likely your straight highway mileage will be slightly better than our best, a larger fuel tank would have completely filled our wish list for the bike. (The Nomad FI—which is being released late this year—doesn’t get the 5.5-gallon tank coming on the Y2K Classic FI, which will be released next spring.) Still, if you can consistently get 40 miles per gallon on the highway, you should be able to reach the next gas station even in remote areas. But the improved mileage won’t offset the added cost of premium (90-octane) fuel required with the additional compression. The carbureted Nomad is happy with regular fuel, so the FI model’s improvement in fuel mileage can’t be termed “fuel economy.”
EFI also offers instantaneous starting and automatic adjustment for altitude changes. It brings a new speedometer face with extra warning lights, including one that warns you that you are into your last gallon of gas. Because fuel-injection systems have problems when run dry, there is no reserve system and no petcock control.
A couple of additional changes appeared on the FI engine. First, all FIs have catalytic converters in the exhaust collector. Second, reduced piston-pin offset reduces top-end noise.
The Nomad FI brings external changes besides new paint and “Fuel Injection” decals on the saddlebags. The new headlight, which has a multiplane reflector behind its clear lens, gets the most attention and offers a subtle improvement in forward lighting at night. An 18-amp-hour battery betters the 14AH capacity of the ’99 Nomad’s battery. A new dual-piston caliper on the rear brake operates via a repositioned pedal. The pedal is lower and flatter, requiring a shorter movement to cover it if your foot is flat on the floor-board. Quieter brake pads with more initial bite are used up front. Finally, the fork now boasts cartridge-type internals, though none of our testers could detect a significant change in the way the fork worked.
Whether the injected Nomad—which will have a higher but as yet unannounced price than the standard model—is as fiscally attractive as its sibling, only you and your banker can determine. However, if you decide you can’t afford it, don’t ride the fuel-injected model. The difference isn’t visible and the carbureted machine seems just splendid unless you know what you’re missing.
|Kawasaki Nomad FL|
|Standard colors:||Black or red/silver|
|Engine type:||Liquid-cooled, tandem V-twin|
|Valve arrangement:||SOHC, 2 intake valves, 2 exhaust valves|
|Displacement, bore x stroke:||1470cc, 102 x 90mm|
|Carburetion:||EFI with two throats|
|Minimum fuel grade:||90 octane|
|Wheels:||Cast-alloy, 16.0 x 3.0 in. front, 16.0 x 3.5 in. rear|
|Front brake:||2, single-action, two-piston calipers, 11.0-in. discs|
|Rear brake:||Single-action, two-piston caliper, 12.5-in. disc|
|Fuel capacity:||4.2 gal|
|Wet weight:||791 lb|
|Seat height:||28.3 in.|
|Fuel mileage:||33 to 44 mpg, 39.1 mpg avg.|
|200-yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed:||66.7 mph|
|Quarter-mile acceleration:||14.98 sec., 84.5 mph|