Breaking Away With The 1999 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Nomad

The last bike of the Breaking Away comparison

The 1999 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Nomad
For '99, the Nomad's steering geometry has been rearranged through the use of a different triple clamp to give 7.4 inches of front-wheel trail compared with the Classic's 4.84 inches.Dean Groover

This article was originally published in the April 1999 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

Unlike Honda, which simply bolted a windshield and saddlebags on its flagship cruiser, Kawasaki made significant changes from the base model Vulcan 1500 Classic when it created the Nomad touring version.

The frame has been beefed up using larger-diameter tubing and lengthened, with an additional quarter-inch between the axles. Steering geometry has been rearranged through the use of a different triple clamp to give 7.4 inches of front-wheel trail compared with the Classic’s 4.84 inches. Cast wheels mounting tubeless tires (a wider one in front) offer greater rigidity and load capacity than the Classic’s wire wheels. The tubeless tires also offer some resistance to blowouts and may be easier to repair temporarily on the road. An additional disc and caliper on the front wheel supply added braking power to decelerate the additional load Nomads will presumably carry.

Air-assisted shocks with rebound damping adjustments at the rear offer a half-inch more travel than the Classic’s and raise the height of the deeper, fuller saddle about three-quarters of an inch.

The floorboards are moved slightly rearward, and the passenger also gets floorboards on the Nomad.

Those changes plus the addition of the adjustable windshield, side-opening saddlebags and saddlebag guard rails add about 80 pounds of wet weight to the Nomad compared with the Classic, even though they both still have the same 4.2-gallon gas tank with instruments atop it. The Nomad’s exhaust system, which splits to run down each side to clear the bags better than the Classic’s right-side staggered arrangement, may also add a few pounds.

Although the Nomad brought a few innovations to the engine bay (such as a relocated oil-level sight glass) when it was introduced, most of them have now been adapted to the Classic. However, the heavier No­mad gets slightly more flywheel mass. Essentially, it is the same liquid-cooled, single-carb, single-overhead-cam, eight-valve 50-degree V-twin that we first saw in the Vulcan 1500 Classic in 1996. That machine was derived from the Vulcan 1500 A model. Deep finning gives the Classic's engine a traditional air-cooled appearance, unlike the A model which looks liquid-cooled. A gear-driven counterbalancer takes the vibration out of the engine at highway speeds and reduces it to a gentle throb at low engine speeds. A large airbox runs through the V and uses round chrome covers on both sides of the engine. These days, all the bikes based on the Vulcan 1500 Classic—which for 1999 includes the ultra-retro Drifter—have five speeds. Shaft-drive sends power to the rear wheel.

Tank-top instrumentation includes a fuel gauge in addition to the standard speedometer and an array of warning lights.

The 1999 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Nomad
With the upgrades done to the Nomad, wet weight increased 80 pounds in comparison to the Classic.Dean Groover
Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Nomad Overview
High Points:
Great looks
Comfortable ride and position
Innovative, handy saddlebags
Good low-speed manners
Lowest price
Low Points:
Windshield buffets
Most limited cruising range
First Changes:
Passenger backrest to ride two-up
1999 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Nomad
Designation: VN1500G
Suggested base price: $11,999
Standard colors: Red/red, green/green
Extra cost colors: None
Standard warranty: 24 mos., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 6000 miles
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Liquid-cooled, 50-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: SOHC, 2 intake valves, 2 exhaust valves, hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1470cc, 102 x 90mm
Compression ratio: 8.6:1
Carburetion: 1, 40mm Keihin CV
Lubrication: Wet sump, 3.7 qt
Minimum fuel grade: 87 octane
Transmission: Wet, multiplate clutch; 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft, 2.619:1
Wheelbase: 65.6 in.
Overall length: 98.8 in.
Rake: 32 deg
Trail: 7.4 in.
Wheels: Cast alloy, 3.0 x 16 in. front, 3.5 x 16 in. rear
Front tire: 150/80-19 71H Bridgestone Excedra G703 tubeless radial
Rear tire: 150/80-19 71H Bridge­stone Excedra G702 tubeless radial
Front brake: 2 single-action, dual-piston calipers, 11.0-in. disc
Rear brake: Single -action caliper, 12.5-in. disc
Front suspension: 41mm stanchions, 5.9-in. travel
Rear suspension: 2 dampers, 3.9 in. travel, adjustable for air pressure, rebound damping
Fuel capacity: 4.2 gal (1.1 gal reserve)
Wet weight: 775 lb
GVWR: 1177 lb
Weight bias: 56.7 percent rear wheel
Handlebar width: 32.5 in.
Seat height: 28.3 in.
Inseam equivalent: 33.2 in.
Electrical & Instrumentation
Charging output: 588 watts
Battery: 12v, 14AH
Forward lighting: 7-in. 55/60-watt headlight, position lights
Taillight: Dual bulbs
Instruments: Speedometer, odometer, tripmeter, fuel gauge; warning lights for high beam, turn signals, neutral, coolant temperature, oil pressure
Fuel mileage: 27 to 38 mpg, 35.2 mpg average
Average range: 148 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top-gear: 2550
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 65.9 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 15.11 sec., 84.1 mph