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 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.