Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic And Triumph Rocket III Touring

Long-Term Bikes Part 2

Kawasaki vulcan 900 Classic
MSRP: $7349
Caretaker: Kay
Measurements: 5'4"/162 lb/ 29" Inseam
Odometer: 2863
Miles since last issue: 1316

I'm continuing to enjoy the little Vulcan. The combined city and highway average mileage so far is a commuter-friendly 44 mpg, especially worth noting in this time of $4.50-plus-per-gallon gas. Pressed into touring mode, the Vulcan runs like a top, but the seat gives up after 30 minutes of continuous riding. I'll see about adding an aftermarket saddle that combines comfort with better support in Part 3. For the larger owners of the 900 out there, well-I pity your posteriors.

The Vulcan makes sufficient power for freeway riding, but here at Cruiser we don't do "sufficient." With help from Test Fleet Manager Candreia I installed a Baron Custom Accessories Big Air Kit for some improved breathing ($300), Vance & Hines Slash-Cut Staggereds full exhaust system for exhaling ($430) and a Cobra Fi2000R Metric digital fuel processor to keep it all properly fed ($225). I'm happy to report that everything bolted together with no problems. In stock form, our dynamometer had the 900 putting out 44.8 hp at 5750 rpm. Post-surgery, we got 48.6 hp at 5250 rpm, an 8 percent gain. The increased power is noticeable, but it still won't be burning up any dragstrips. There is also a small dip in the torque curve, but seat-of-the-pants measuring yields a fairly linear throttle response. Finally, below 3/8 throttle the V&H; exhaust is a sweetheart, nearly silent at idle. And with more throttle? Nasty, snarling, growling and barking. Remember to be nice to your neighbors. -Evan Kay

Triumph Rocket III Touring
MSRP: $17,299
Caretaker: Zimmerman
Measurements: 5'10"/220 LB/ 32" Inseam
Odometer: 1971
Miles since last issue: 390

It's only been a few weeks and a few hundred miles since the last update, so you'll have to excuse the low mileage tally; I promise to do better before the next issue. Now that I've finally been able to put some miles on this beastie, a few things have come to the surface, and not all of them favorable. Foremost is the weight. This is one heavy bike, and it never lets you forget it. Of course I knew that going in, but I thought that after living with the R3 on a daily basis I'd become more acclimated to it. What I haven't learned to deal with is the heat coming off the exhaust. This thing gets hot enough to melt the balls out of the bearings, and it blows right up in your face. On cool days it's tolerable, but riding it on a hot day will charbroil your right leg and goes a long way toward explaining why the inline engine lost favor. Last, the Triumph has developed a cylinder-head gasket leak. (According to those who know me, my head gasket has been leaking for quite some time.) It's not a gusher, but it is enough to leave a drop or two wherever the bike's parked. Hopefully we'll have that resolved before the next report.

Nevertheless it's not all doom and gloom. The power is impressive, and so is the ride and handling. Despite its porkiness the bike actually handles pretty dang good, and I've been extremely (and pleasantly) surprised to find that it works way better than anticipated in the rain. Oddly enough I haven't thought of a single modification that would make this a better bike, so all in all I'm very happy with it, despite my whining. -Mark Zimmerman