Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic

Long-Term Bikes

Okay, last issue Evan Kay gave you his final wrap of the Midsized Vulc, but between having trouble collecting out next year's bikes amid cost-cutting at the manufacturers and just not planning ahead, we don't have the new bikes yet. So, with Evan's departure, I spent some time in the saddle, just in case you wanted a larger rider's take on the bike.

The 900 is a very manageably-sized machine, and not cramped for a larger frame. Power (with its intake and exhaust upgrades: Baron Big Air Kit, Vance and Hines Slash Cut Staggereds, and Cobra Fi2000R Metric fuel processor) is satisfying, but totally not threatening; it would hard to imagine a rider that would be over his head on this bike. This is helped by the solid, but very light, feel of the bike.

The Paladin backrest and luggage rack does a fabulous job of making the bike way more useful by providing a ton of mounting points for luggage: Over and under the rear rack and on the rear seat (when not carting a passenger around). With a passenger, the sissybar was welcome as well. Overall fit and finish of the Paladin kit is somewhat lacking, with replacement outer fender struts that don't quite match up to the factory stuff, following a different curve and not covering the ugly inner fender strut very effectively.

The bike does very well with a decent-sized (5'5" - 5'9", 150-200lbs) passenger on relatively short hauls (which is all we tested). It doesn't feel cramped at all, and only bottoms on good-sized dips. The preload is not easy to adjust, but mostly doesn't need it if riding conservatively. Clearance is reduced a bit with a passenger (with pipes dragging before the floorboards, instead of the other way around when riding solo), but not to any great degree.

My one beef with this bike (as set up) are the pipes. Most good performance pipes are loud under load, and quiet when just putting, these are not. Maybe it's just the way this bike works, whatever, but I was always embarrassed when rolling through my neighborhood chugging in third or wailing in second. I'm far from the only guy with a bike and obnoxious pipes in my 'hood, but I didn't want to one one of "those people."

We've got a big apology to Saddlemen about the seat Evan tried a couple issues ago. It was actually meant for the Vulcan 900 Custom, so naturally, it didn't fit.

So now, for real, we bid farewell to the Vulc9. It's been a great bike for the around town and short excursion riding we mostly do around here when not on big trips.-BB

What's Next?
We're just as bad at predicting the future as crazy Jamaican Psychics, but if all goes as planned we've got our next flotilla of bikes all lined up for next year.

Mark Zimmerman should be receiving his 2009 Honda VTX1300T any day now, flogging the carbureted machine in the late winter Connecticut flurries as he keeps up his year-round rider personae. He'll be doing all of the little things to get the middleweight to be the perfect weekender, and make the most of its power, maximize comfort, and test all the widgets he's so fond of.

Andy Cherney is getting sucked back into longtermville with a Suzuki. We're not sure what exactly he's getting, but it'll either be a C109 or possibly the new TU250 (depending on how cruel we (and the folks at Suzuki) are feeling. As he makes the trek from his new digs in Portland down to our LA base regularly, we don't need to tell you which might be better...

Billy Bartels is practically salivating at the possibility of doing all sorts of naughty things to his spanking new Road Star, which he should have in his garage by the time you read this. We can't do anything to the bike that can't be put back to stock, but bolt-on stuff like wheels, bars, sheetmetal, etc are all fair game. Trust us, it'll be wicked.

Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic
MSRP: $7349
Caretaker: Bartels
Measurements: 6'0"/190 lbs/34" Inseam
Odometer: 4904
Miles Since Last Issue: 555
'09 Honda VTX1300T
'09 Suzuki TU250
'09 Star Road Star S