Kawasaki Releases Five 2004 Cruiser Models

The big news is the motorcycles that haven't been shown yet -- the Mean Streak, the Drifters, and the 800 Classic. And what about the Nomad? ** By Art Friedman.**

Fill in the blanks left by Kawasaki's early-release 2004 models to glimpse what the big announcements will be at September's dealer show. This first round of announcements usually just involves "minor-change" models, also known as BNG (Bold New Graphics) models. Essentially they are bikes that are just carried over from the previous year with no significant changes. In this case even prices remain the same. They are usually bikes that are in low supply after the prime spring new-bike buying season. The epitome of the genre is the Vulcan 750, which is approaching its 20th year with no significant changes. It is one of five carry-over cruiser motorcycles that Kawasaki has released.

Much more interesting are the bikes that are not included in this round of announcements. They are left out now either because the existing stock has not been sold or because announcement of a replacement motorcycle has to wait until Kawasaki's dealer meeting, which will be held in September.

Conspicuous in its absence is the Mean Streak, and it is logical to assume that the hot-rod Vulcan will get the 1552cc engine that debuted in the Vulcan 1600 Classic this spring. Also missing among these early-release models is either Drifter model. We hear that the genus has been discontinued. But if Kawasaki has discontinued all the other 1500s, except the carbureted Classic model that is presumably being kept to provide an economy big-twin model, why is there a Nomad 1500 here? We can think of two reasons. It might remain in the line for the same reason there is a carbureted 1500 Classic, to provide a less pricey ($12,999) counterpart to a new 1600 Nomad. Or maybe a 1600 bagger isn't coming right away, and Kawasaki wants to have something to provide to this market in the meantime.

More intriguing is the absence of the 800 Classic. There has been speculation for a few years that Kawasaki would build a bigger displacement middleweight (like a 900) and upgrade to a shaft or, more likely, belt final drive. That could happen in '04. In that case the base-model 800A ($5999), included in this announcement, might remain in the line to provide an economical alternative to a new bike in this price-sensitive class. Or perhaps Kawasaki still has a solid supply of those bikes on hand and isn't ready to show a replacement model yet.

Also included in this announcement cycle are two old standbys, the Vulcan 750 ($6099) and the vertical twin Vulcan 500 LTD ($4699).