Kawasaki Vulcan S VS. Honda CTX700N

New-school cruiser showdown

The post-modern cruiser is an intriguing beast to say the least. Neither the Honda CTX700N or the Kawasaki Vulcan S have the look or feel of your traditional cruiser bike, but you would have a hard time putting it any other category. The low seats, low bars and forward controls scream cruiser, but the new aggressive engines, light weight frames, and more unconventional changes have traditional cruiser fans scratching their heads. We had two of our young editors hit the road on these new-fangled sporty cruisers to compare the two and see what they thought.

Morgan's Riding Impressions:

I rode the Kawasaki Vulcan S first, and was excited to try it out. To me it was a first step in a great direction for cruisers: putting a high performance engine out of one of their sport bikes into a cruiser frame. The Vulcan S houses a 650cc twin-cylinder engine with 8 valves per cylinder which pulled well through all six gears and didn't have any problem reaching triple digit speeds. With the single front disc brake, the Vulcan stopped well and the suspension was stable at speed on the highway and in the turns. It's low center of gravity was easy to whip around and unintimidating to beginner riders. Like most cruisers with forward controls, it was very easy to scrape them in the corners, but it never felt like it was hindering my riding experience. Kawi's Ergo-Fit really didn't make a huge difference for me, as the controls were still a little small for me at 6'4". I think changing up the bars and seat on your bike are a big part of making it your own, and while offering those options from factory are nice, I don't think it's as much of a deal-clencher as they say it is.

I hopped onto the Honda CTX700N second, and was instantly both pleasantly surprised and confused by the engine. The CTX is equipped with a 670cc engine with a higher compression ratio than the Vulcan's 650, which makes the naked cruiser launch off the line like a rocket. That thrill lasts for all of about two seconds until you hit the rev-limiter at 6500 RPMs and the throttle gets cut off abruptly. After getting used to the short legs of the Honda, and the constant shifting that it takes to keep it in it's comfort zone, this was an incredibly fun bike to throw around. I smoked more than a couple Sportsters and other cruisers off the line while testing it out and had a bit of fun hitting the canyons, as the bike handles very well and has a much higher scrape point than most cruisers, including the Vulcan S. The big screaming negative on this bike, however, was sixth gear. At 99MPH on a slight incline, I shifted up to 6th gear with a well opened throttle and was backed down to 98MPH. Someone is playing jokes and wanted to pretend that the CTX700N had a sixth gear. Good one, Honda.

While neither of these bikes are likely to win over a traditional cruiser fan based on their looks alone, I do prefer the styling of the Honda. It's modern sport-touring lines seem to flow more easily than the exposed trellis frame and excessive panelling on the Vulcan S. The seat on the Vulcan was much more comfortable than the Honda, as it seemed to hold me in a more comfortable position as well as provide better support against sliding back (the Honda had a strange angle that I felt like I might slide off of). I found the brakes on the Vulcan S more responsive and while the engine was not quite as peppy around town, It definitely set itself apart with a much higher top speed and a sixth gear that actually does things. If I had to advise a new rider on a post-modern cruiser, I would most likely point to the Vulcan, but if the Honda didn't have that rev-limiter it might be a different story.

Jon's Riding Impressions:

I started the opposite of Morgan. I got on the Honda first. I had just started working for the company and Morgan was in the midst of pitting these two bikes against each other and wanted my input as well. Morgan and I see eye to eye on a good amount of things. As he states the Honda CTX700N is not shy off the line. It put a smile on my face, which was immediately erased when I had to shift a second later due to the red line being so low. The forward controls on the Honda were not comfortable to me. I am no 6’ 4”, just 6’ but I was not fully happy. For me the peg and brake pedal were not spaced enough, which put my hip into an awkward uncomfortable position. I too had issue with the seat on the Honda. For me the padding lasted all of 15 minutes before my rear went numb.

After commuting on the Honda for about a week I swapped over to the Kawasaki. I had been excited to get on this bike and was happy to get away from that pesky 6500 RPM rev-limiter. The Vulcan S just doesn’t compare to off the line starts like the Honda does. But what it lacks in that aspect is well made up for once you get up into the RPMS. Red line starts at 9500 RPM on the Vulcan S. Holding each gear for what seemed like a lifetime longer than the CTX700N made it a much more enjoyable ride for me. I preferred the Kawasaki instrument cluster over the Honda as well. It is hard for me to pick the better styled of the two. The CTX700N has a much cleaner feel to it. It seems to have everything unpleasant to look at hidden better than the Vulcan S. The Kawasaki on the other hand has some color involved. Green, white, or Black are your choices for the Vulcan S. The CTX700N is held to only Silver for 2015. All in all I agree with Morgan on this one, Kawasaki Vulcan S is my recommendation.

So there it is: the Honda is quicker off the line, has a better turn angle, and might be more fun if it didn't have that low rev-limiter and a make believe sixth gear. The Kawasaki had much longer legs, more comfortable seat and better brakes, which made it a much easier ride especially for beginner riders.