With its round chrome airboxes, 50-degree V-twin engine, and classic American profile, the Vulcan Classic is the bike most likely to be called a Harley imitator. However, to its growing ranks of adherents, the 1500 Classic is more often regarded as an improvement on the original.
Though they breathe through a single carb and angle in a V almost as tight as Harley’s, those big finned cylinders are (mostly) liquid-cooled and displace 10 percent more than current Harleys. The radiator hangs unobtrusively between the down tubes with a small electric fan behind it. The valves get their orders from chains and overhead cams rather than pushrods, and there are twice as many of them—two intake and two exhaust—than used in Evolution Harleys.
Down in the bottom end, the shake of the single-pin crankshaft is stifled by a gear-driven counterbalancer, which also adds to the engine’s flywheel inertia. Finding neutral is simplified by a system that halts upshifts from first gear at the neutral detent when the bike is stopped. And, of course, the transmission—which now has five speeds—couples to the rear wheel via shaft drive.
Wide steel fenders wrap around wire-spoke, 16-inch wheels and tube-type tires, each stopped by a single disc with a twin-piston caliper. The speedometer, fuel gauge and warning lights sit atop the 4.2-gallon tank, and a wide two-piece saddle and forward-mounted floorboards speak of an easy ride. Suspension is unremarkable: chrome-covered 41mm legs up front and dual preload-adjustable damper-spring units in back. Helmet locks and bungee-cord hooks on the chrome rear fender rails help solve common predicaments.
Clean, mainstream looks, popular ergonomics, the draw of that big engine, excellent accessory support from Kawasaki and the aftermarket, and an attractive $10,699 price have made Kawasaki’s flagship cruiser its best-selling street bike.
Classic V-twin cadence without vibration
Wallows in fast corners
A Mustang saddle is even better than stock
Best floorboard arrangement
Dumb oil-level check arrangement
Suggested base price:
Red/red, red/ivory, black
Extra cost colors:
12 mo., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval:
Engine & Drivetrain
Liquid-cooled, 50-degree tandem V-twin
SOHC, 2 intake, 2 exhaust valves, operated by hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke:
1470cc, 102mm x 90mm
1, 40mm Keihin CV
Wet sump, 3.7 qt.
Minimum fuel grade:
Wet, multiplate clutch; 5 speeds
Wire-spoke, 16 x 3.00 front, 16 x 3.50 rear
130/90-16 Dunlop D404F, tube-type
150/80-16 Dunlop D404, tube-type
Single-action twin-piston caliper, 11.8-in. disc
Single-action caliper, 10.6-in. disc
41mm stanchions, 5.9 in. travel
2 dampers, 3.4 in. travel, adjustments for spring preload
4.2 gal (1.1. gal reserve)
33.0 in. wide, 1 in. diameter
Electrical & Instrumentation
6.7-in. headlight, position lights
Speedometer, odometer, tripmeter, fuel gauge; warning lights for high beam, turn signals, neutral, coolant temperature, oil pressure
34–48 mpg, 43.0 mpg avg.
RPM at 60 mph, top-gear:
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed:
14.67 sec., 89.0 mph
This article was originally published in the August 1998 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.