Two Liters! Kawasaki's 2053cc V-Twin Motorcycle

Kawasaki's 2053cc Vulcan just redefined the term "big twin motorcycle." ** By _ Art Friedman.**

The Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 has erupted onto the cruiser stage, instantly rewriting the standards and expectations for the rest of the players in the cruiser motorcycle drama.

I have seen, sat on, and heard the motorcycle, and I am impressed by it for much more than its considerable displacement. It sounds good, looks better, and, if Kawasaki's representatives are only exaggerating a lot, it will rip the lungs out of all the other big twins on the market. It has clearly been designed from the ground up to satisfy the requirements of American cruiser enthusiasts. And the price will be just $14,499.

The 52-degree engine uses four valves per cylinder with pushrod operation and semi-dry-sump lubrication to keep the engine height to a minimum (just a tenth-inch taller than the 1600). Each valve has its own hydraulic adjuster. Induction is via fuel injection with a pair of 46mm throttle bores serving the engine, which claims the widest cylinder bores (103mm with a 123.2mm stroke) with in motorcycling. The top portion of the cylinders are liquid-cooled, but the bottom is air-cooled, which gives the cylinders a tapered shape. Each cylinder has two pushrod tubes on the right, and large external chromed oil lines provide a similar visual elementon the left. Dual counterbalancers keep it smooth.

Final drive is by a wide belt on the left, which requires a third shaft behind the gearbox to drive it. This also serves to make the engine longer and fill some of the space between the axles, listed at 68.3 inches as delivered.. The primary drive is via a chain on the left with a geared secondary drive on the right. Kawasaki lists the seat height at 26.8 inches. Dry weight is given as 750 pounds.

Visually, the bike is stunning, with great detailing and flowing lines. The big four-beam headlight is sure to be controversial, but it instantly grew on me. In fact, it was one of my favorite things about the motorcycle when I saw it in the flesh, the feature that visually sets the bike apart from the crowd. In profile, the top line of the headlight nacelle/fork cover flows into the line of the tank-top speedometer housing. The tank holds 5.5 gallons. A single-damper preload-adjustable shock with eight-step rebound damping is offset to the right side of the frame under the seat to make room for the battery and offers 3.9 inches of travel. The steering head is angled at 32 degrees, and front wheel tral is 7.2 inches. Stout 49mm legs are used in the fork to provide 5.9 inches of travel. Cast wheels are used at both ends. The front is stopped by dual discs and four-piston calipers, and the rear carries a fat 200/60R16 tire. The front is a 150/80R16, and both are radials. Though the Vulcan 2000 does not carry the "Classic" name, it is styled in that vein, with low, wide lines, floorboards, fat fork legs, etc.

They should appear in dealers this spring.

Obviously this will be the first of a series of motorcycles to use this engine design, and we expect one of them to be a touring-oriented machine, with trunk and a fork-mounted fairing. It will be interesting to see how Kawasaki's competitors react to the Vulcan 2000. Those bikes in the 1500cc range suddenly seem like middleweights. Yamaha's Road Star will probably be the hardest hit, but even Harley will have to think about the displacement of its "big" twins.

The December issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine, on newsstands in early November, will have additional details and information about Kawasaki's new maximum twin.

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Photography by Jim Brown
The four-beam headlight will put some folks off, but we really liked it when we saw the bike in person.
The engine, five-speed transmission, and the rest of the power train are entirely new, and the detailing is superb.
Like the rest of the bike, the instruments are new.