Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic And Triumph Rocket III Touring

Long-Term Bikes

Kawasaki vulcan 900 Classic
MSRP: $7349
Caretaker: Kay
Measurements: 5'4"/164 lb/ 29" Inseam
Odometer: 3684
Miles Since Last Issue: 821

Saddlemen {{{Explorer}}} Seat $400
National Cycle--
Paladin Back Rest and Pad $145
Paladin Luggage Rack ${{{100}}}
Paladin QuickSet Mounting Hardware ${{{300}}}

I reported last issue on hopping-up the Vulcan with a Baron Custom Accessories Big Air Kit, Vance & Hines Slash-Cut Staggereds full exhaust system, and a Cobra Fi2000R Metric digital fuel processor. Now that I've got some miles on the 900 with the installed accessories, I have been able to get a good picture of the mileage. The good news is that I'm seeing a return of 39mpg. Unfortunately, that's a 12% drop from the all-stock mileage of 44mpg. Food for thought.

For this issue, I tested an aftermarket seat and a quick-release backrest with rack.

The seat I chose is a Saddlemen Explorer. Comfort is provided by a combination of progressive density foam and SaddleGel. The rider's portion has an eight-inch tall lumbar support, creating a bucket seat, with the lumbar section having separate padding "so they compress independently, reducing tailbone and hipbone pressure." While the seat is an improvement over stock, it's harder and puts the rider closer to the tank, leaving no room to move fore and aft. Also, the front portion of the saddle pushes up uncomfortably, like many saddles on road bicycles. Conversely, the passenger portion is a vast improvement over stock, measuring 13 inches across and 14 inches from front to rear. Lastly, there was an odd gap between the passenger seat and fender, big enough for daylight to shine through.

The backrest and rack are the Paladin models from National Cycle. Installation should take the average Joe or Jane about 30 to 60 minutes and requires only a few hand tools. The quality of the fit and finish of the parts is very high and the rack and backrest detach from the mounts in just a couple seconds. There's also a lock to keep any miscreants from walking off with them. We give it a big "thumbs up." However, the Paladin parts don't work with the Saddlemen seat due to its extra width. So as always when buying motorcycle accessories, make sure you can return them to the seller! -Evan Kay

Triumph Rocket III Touring
MSRP: $17,299
Caretaker: Zimmerman
Measurements: 5'10"/220 LB/ 32" Inseam
Odometer: 3500
Miles since last issue: 1529

By the time you read this the R3 will probably be back in the hot little hands of its maker. Oddly enough I'm going to miss her. When the R3 came to me I wasn't sure if it was a match made in heaven. As a rule I'm not a big fan of really big and heavy bikes and when I think of the R3 those are first adjectives that come to mind. There is also the exhaust heat issue, and a few maintenance quibbles, the most serious being a small oil leak-really more of a weep-that developed at the rear of the cylinder head. But like nearly every motorcycle I've ever ridden I soon developed a fair amount of affection for the beast. The weep was cured with a shot of brake cleaner and a good tug on the head bolts. It didn't feel loose, but the leak never returned. The size of the bike and the heat issues were beyond my control, but I adapted, and in fact came to welcome the heat on some of those cool late summer/early autumn mornings and nights. I'm sure that if I'd ridden the thing through the winter I'd have grown to welcome it.

At the risk of repeating myself, the R3 Touring is a positively hell-for-strong touring bike and would certainly be on my short list were I looking for something to cover long distances at a single bound. It's also easy to service and maintain, at least as far as the routine stuff goes which is all I've done, and it doesn't work to badly as a commuter/errand runner once you've muscled it out of the garage.

I've got one more overnight trip planned, an early October run up to Vermont, before the bike goes back. It's a run I've made before and includes lot of hills and some chilly weather. I figure the R3 will be perfect. -Mark Zimmerman