Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 Motorcycle Tech Briefing

Kawasaki breaks the two-liter barrier with an entirely new motorcycle. Read on for a look at its innards. By Art Friedman.

We have been riding Kawasaki's all-new Vulcan 2000 for the full road test coming up in our February 2004 issue, which is due out at the beginning of January 2004.

Overall, we are impressed. Kawasaki has done an impressive job of providing the kind of bike that readers have been telling us they want from the biggest V-twin in the world. It is a big, heavy (over 800 pounds full of fuel) motorcycle, and will be best suited to experience riders who can handle its heft and who appreciate what is essentially the ultimate big V-twin. We will let you wait for the complete road test in the magazine to fill you in onh all the details, however,

A few things have changed since it was first shown a few months ago. First, Kawasaki has lowered the seat height by almost half an inch, from 27.2 inches to 26.8 inches. It has also announced the wheelbase specification: 68.3 inches. Finally, we were not surprised to hear that Kawasaki has raised the retail price by $1000 from its early projected price. MSRP will be $14,499.

Tech Talk

While you are waiting for the full test, here are some of the technical details.

The Vulcan 2000 engine uses the 52-degree V angle of other Kawasaki Vulcan motorcycle models and has four valves per cylinder. Otherwise, it has little else in common with the rest of the family. It has chain primary drive on the left, and there is a third shaft in the transmission to get the power turned around to drive the rear wheel the right way.

The chassis is fairly conventional, though it is long, with a 68.3-inch wheelbase. The two engine cradles unbolt to ease engine access and removal. It has huge 49mm fork stanchion tubes under those chrome covers. The monster 200/60-16 tubeless radial tire on the cast rear wheel is matched by a 150/80-16 up front. The four-beam reflector-type headlight in the nacelle that wraps around the fork legs and then back over their caps is sure to be a controversial item, but it does help immediately let you know that you are looking at The Biggest V-Twin.

For basic specifications and more photos of the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000's exterior, click here for our preview.

For more breaking motorcycle news, visit the home page of www.MotorcycleCruiser.com.

Additional motorcycle road tests and comparison tests are available at the Road Tests section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.

If you have questions or comments about this article, email the author at Art.Friedman@primedia.com or at ArtoftheMotorcycle@hotmail.com.

Action photography by Kevin Wing.
At 2053cc, the VN2000 is currently the world's largest proprietary motorcycle motor, at least until Triumph's 2294cc Rocket III triple arrives this spring. Then it will have to settle for the "Largest V-Twin" title. It breathes through airboxes on both side of the engine. Oil level is checked via the dipstick, which must be screwed in with the bike upright.
The left side of the engine, with its chromed external oil lines, mimics the right side's pushrod tubes. Primary drive is via a big, quiet chain on the left side.
The cylinders use durable nickel-silicon liners. The heads and the top 25 percent of the cylinders are liquid cooled. The lower cylinders are air-cooled.
The rods are placed side-by-side on a single crankpin, which gives the classic exhaust cadence of a big V-twin. The exhaust note is deep and full.
The huge crankshaft has massive 220mm flywheels to give plenty of engine inertia (flywheel effect). There is no back-torque limiter, but we don't miss it.
The case for crankshaft and gearbox are one unit. The crankcase is dry sump, with the oil stored on the rear section of the case and fed under pressure.
The right case with bearings for (L to R) front balancer, crank, rear balancer, and three transmission shafts. Cams are on the other side of this case.
Pushrods operate the 40mm intake and 30mm exhuast valves. Pushrod actuation was chosen to keep engine height down to just 2mm taller than Kawasaki's 1600.
The four pushrods are actuated by two cams. Each pushrod operates that cylinder's pair of intake or exhaust valves through these rocker shafts.
Each rocker shaft contains a pair of small hydraulic lash adjusters, one for each valve the shaft's rockers operate, so no valve lash adjustment is ever needed.
Though they were used to help reduce engine height and center of mass, pushrods have a styling attraction and work well with a low-rpm engine like this one.
The 103mm-wide forged piston's slipper design helps to reduce friction. The top is flat except for the four valve pockets. Compression ratio is a stout 9.5:1.
Lightweight steel rods help reduce vibration. The stroke is a long 123.2mm. The undersquare bore/stroke meshes well with the torquey intent.
The EFI uses fine-atomizing injectors, which create a finer (70 microns versus 120 microns) fuel mist, and sub-throttles to attenuate throttle changes.
The two huge 46mm thottle bodies are backed up by sub-throttles, which are controlled by the ECU to maintain intake velocity at an acceptable speed.
During starting, the engine control unit (ECU) activates this solenoid, which lifts the exhaust valves slightly to make the big twin easier to crank over rapidly.
To get the sound of a single-crankpin V-twin without shaking you to bits, Kawasaki uses counterbalancers plus rubber mounts for the front of the engine.
Instead of using gear drive, the 2000 turns its balancers with an automatically tensioned Hyvo chain. The bearings above the crank carry the two camshafts.
The 4.9-quart semi-dry-sump lubrication system carries oil back with thetransmission and scavenges it away from the crankcase to reduce power losses.
Three pumps manage the oil. The unit at top right scavenges the crankcase. The middle on scavenges the transmission, and the lower left one pressure feeds oil.
The Hyvo primary-drive chain is quieter than gears. That damper assembly on the end of the crankshaft smoothes out the power pulses of the big twin.
Kawasaki pioneed toothed-belt drive on its 305 and 440cc bikes back in the '70s. It is light, quiet, low-maintenance, and cheaper than shaft drive.
Responsive steering, good brakes and reasonable clearance made the VN2000 more fun than we expected on twisty roads.
Forged sections at the steering head and swingarm pivot areas, the strong triangulated swingarm, and 49mm inner fork tubes give the chassis a rigidity you can feel on the road. Steering-head angle is 32 degrees. A small steering offset keeps steering light.
To adjust the single damper's rebound or preload, you must unlock the right side panel, pull a lanyard to release the passenger-pillion latch, and 2 bolts for the main seat. Offsetting the shock gives room for the battery and other components on the left.
The three small reflector beams in the top of the big 7.3-inch-wide headlight are on at all times and function as the low beam. Switching to high beam adds the beam in the bottom of the headlight unit to the mix. High or low, the headlight is better than most.