Big Twin Rumble: Kawasaki Vulcan 1500

A closer look at the Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 from the Big Twin Rumble

Kawasaki Vulcan 1500Kevin Wing

Since 1987, the Vulcan 1500 has been the biggest V-twin available without a prescription. The bragging rights and no-excuses torque it delivers has been the big Vulcan's primary appeal ever since. Just last year, the Vulcan 1500 was joined in the lineup by the extensively reengineered Classic. The L version is essentially a $100 trim upgrade for the basic Vulcan 1500 that nets you 48-spoke wheels and a flatter, drag-style handlebar.

The Vulcan's aluminum-finished mll is an SOHC design with liquid-cooling and a 50-degree V-angle.Kevin Wing

The Vulcan's aluminum-finished mill is an SOHC design with liquid-cooling and a 50-degree V-angle. The four valves in each cylinder head are adjusted automatically. A pair of 36mm Keihin carburetors (one mounted in the engine's V and another behind the rear cylinder head) keep the Vulcan well fed. With combustion chambers the size of the Super Dome, the Vulcan uses dual spark plugs to light the fire. Both cylinders share a common crankpin, so the Vulcan is inherently a shaker, but a gear-driven balancer and rubber mounts take the wallop out of the meaty power pulses. The four-speed gearbox has Kawasaki's convenient neutral-finder feature that makes it impossible to miss getting the green neutral light first time, every time when the bike is at a stop. The aluminum shaft final-drive housing is polished to a high sheen, and typical of the breed, the guts within it are just about maintenance-free. The '96 model we rode had shorter gearing (in second, third, and fourth) than the Vulcan Classic; in '97, all 1500 Vulcans will have the Classic's excellent gearbox ratios.

Full of gas, the 1500 scales in at 620 pounds, about a hundred pounds more than the comparatively flyweight Intruder. Conventional frame geometry and a reasonably low 28.3-inch seat height keeps the Kawasaki’s bulk manageable, however. Forward-set foot controls and a relatively flat drag-style handlebar make for a user-friendly riding position. Instrumentation is typical minimalist cruiser fare, with a speedometer perched atop the headlight, and fuel gauge mounted in the chrome fuel filler housing on top of the 4.2-gallon tank.

This article was originally published in the February 1997 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

Kawasaki Vulcan 1500Kawasaki
Designation: VN1500-A11 (1997)
Suggested Base Price: $8,699 (1997)
Standard Colors: Ebony/Candy Persimmon Red (1997)
Extra-cost Colors: N/A
Standard Warranty: 12 mo., unlimited miles
Recommended Service Interval: 6000 miles
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Liquid-cooled 50-degree tandem V-twin
Valve Arrangement: SOHC, 2 intake, 2 exhaust valves, operated by hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1470cc, 102mm x 90mm
Compression Ratio: 9.0:1
Carburetion: 2, 36mm Keihin CV
Lubrication: Wet sump, 3.7 qt
Transmission: Wet, multiplate clutch; 4 speeds
Final Drive: Shaft, 2.619:1
Wheels: Cast aluminum, 19 x 2.15 front, 15 x 3.00 rear
Front Tire: 100/90-19 Dunlop Gold Seal F11 tubeless
Rear Tire: 150/90-15 Dunlop X425A tubeless
Front Brake: Single-action single-piston caliper, 11.0-in. disc
Rear Brake: Single-action caliper, 9.7-in. disc
Front Suspension: 41mm stanchions, 5.9 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Dual dampers, 3.5 in. travel, adjustable for preload
Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gal. (1.1. gal. reserve)
Handlebar width: 33.5 in.
Electrical & Instrumentation
Charging Output: 350 watts
Battery: 12v, 14AH
Forward Lighting: 55/60-watt 6.7-in. headlight, position lights
Taillight: Dual bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, odometer, tripmeter, fuel gauge; warning lights for high beam, turn signals, neutral, coolant temperature, oil pressure
Fuel Mileage: 32 to 40 mpg, 36.7 mpg average
Average Range: 154 miles
RPM at 60mph, top gear: 2500
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 82.0 mph
Quater-mile Acceleration: 13.85 sec. @ 93.8 mph