Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 Custom - Off Idle

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You know that feeling when you're fantasizing about just how great your bike could be if you went all the way? You're innocently enjoying the thrill of new ownership, adding the little creature comforts...that neat billet cover...those hot-sounding pipes. Then suddenly, in mid-baby step, it occurs to you that if you really wanted to, you could take that bike and make it cooler than any other cruiser in town. It's a plateau in new-bike ownership that almost all of us encounter. The majority see the unrealistic peril that customizing can be. A few of us succumb to the full calamity, however, and dive right into the daydream, embracing the frustration and financial hits while keeping our eyes fixed on the proverbial carrot as it bobs and swings and beckons us toward that elusive reward of owning an absolutely original custom.

I've been down that road. And it looks like I'm headed there again.

We've been invited by Kawasaki Motors Corp. to customize a Vulcan 2000. Many of you know we didn't rate the latest version-despite the huge, sexy engine-as highly as we have Vulcans in the past. True, we had high expectations for the bike, and that made it harder to bear when it wasn't quite up to snuff in the performance department. We think that the engine and drivetrain could be unstoppable in a lighter, more minimalistic package. Well, Kawasaki called us to the mat in an unprecedented put-out-or-shut-up move. It offered us a chance to reinvent the Vulcan we'd hoped for.

Not only is this a huge honor, of course, but it's also a heavy responsibility. I've spent weeks now conjuring up different bikes in my head and on paper. Do we go light? Keep it simple? Or do we call in the big boys for some fabrication and framework? And paint jobs? Insomnia! Wheels, pipes, bars, lighting. My head is spinning. I've dog-eared all the catalogs I can get my hands on, and more than ever, I'm ogling every custom bike I see on the street to measure my likes and dislikes.

After all, it's been a long time since the customizing bug has bitten me big, and I need to prepare. These projects take a lot out of you, and if you're like me, by the end you're thinking, "Well, I'll never do that again." I guess it's kind of like giving birth, or having knee surgery, or doing Form 6198 with your taxes. The result can be rewarding, but the process can be so agonizing it may require a period of time to forget just how bad it was.

When all is said and done and pondered and obsessed over, I think the custom project Motorcycle Cruiser should build from Kawasaki's Vulcan 2000 should offer a real-world result. You know, it should be a bike that other owners could, without too much money or hired talent, replicate. I think it should be a bike that's completely usable-maybe even more usable than the original. Denny Berg's extraordinary Mad Kaw chopper version of the big Vulcan is certainly an inspiration to me, but I don't think I'd want to take it that far. Would you?

This is a magazine project, and since you are the driving force behind the magazine, I think it's only appropriate that we ask you for input on our little Vulcan endeavor. What would you like to see the bike become? Show king or street savvy? Chopped or naked classic? Certainly we need to make it lighter and more lithe, since that is the core basis of the project. But beyond that: What would you do? Opine right away via e-mail at jamie.elvidge@primedia.com, or send a note to the magazine address listed on page 6.

Let's get this baby rolling.-Jamie Elvidge