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: 4349
Miles Since Last Issue: 665

As 2008 draws to a close, it's time to relinquish the key to my long-termer. You might think that with access to the biggest and baddest motorcycles, a Cruiser staffer would turn up his nose at anything under 1500cc's. For instance, I've spent the last week riding around on a Victory Hammer S, with it's 1731cc engine and nearly 100 horsepower, all the better to shred the giant 250mm rear tire. Yet the Vulcan 900 Classic weighs 117 pounds less than the Hammer, is comparatively effortless to ride on windy roads, and fits my body better. Add in that it hasn't had any mechanical problems, gets good mileage (well, in stock condition!), and insurance costs are a darn sight less than the big-bucks Victory, and this writer is giving the Vulcan two big thumbs up.

Are there any complaints? Well, let's call them constructive criticisms. Cosmetically, the mirrors and air cleaner cover put a serious divot in the Vulcan's looks score. Are they really the best designs your stylists could come up with? Of course, my biggest complaint is the seat. As I've written before it's just fine for about 30 minutes, but after that the squirming commences, eventually turning into actual pain. My one attempt at an aftermarket seat failed to improve posterior pleasure, but I'm sure somebody makes a good seat for this motorcycle. Naturally, your derriere will differ. Lastly, the bars are w-i-d-e! Fortunately, it seems that Kawasaki has actually rectified this for '09 with some newer, narrower and more comfortable handlebars.

Nonetheless, there's nothing that the Vulcan does wrong and quite a few things that it does very well. Vulcan 900 Classic? Thanks for the good times.
-Evan Kay

Triumph Rocket III Touring
MSRP: $17,299
Caretaker: Zimmerman
Measurements: 5'10"/220 LB/ 32" Inseam
Odometer: 4503
Miles since last issue: 1003

The R3 Touring has left the building. In all honesty I can't say it was my favorite test bike of all time, that honor in fact going to another Triumph. But in its last go-round, a four hundred mile overnight trip to Vermont in early October, the Triumph did me proud. On the open road the bike was comfortable as all get out, and once the weather cooled, the amount of heat the R3 gave off-my biggest complaint-ceased to be a problem.

Overall I do like this bike, especially when it's configured in touring guise. It's smooth, fast, comfortable and able to cover vast distances (no, I don't consider four hundred miles a vast distance) in a single bound. It also handles and stops damn well for a bike that's at the top of the food chain size-wise.

When ridden gently the thing returned about forty miles per gallon and while it was in my care it didn't use a single drop of oil. In summary if I could only have one road bike in my garage it wouldn't be the R3 Touring - it's just too much bike for what I need on a day-to-day basis. But if I could have two motorcycles, especially if one was dedicated to touring, you just might find an R3 Touring in my stable.
-Mark Zimmerman