kawasaki vulcan s, early thoughts …

Readers of this Blog will know that my wife and I recently bought another bike, the 2016 Kawasaki Vulcan S, which I wrote about here. I also posted some words and pictures following a recent ride and they are posted here

Having had the bike for a few weeks I thought I’d write a ‘an early impressions’ post that  factors in some comments from a pillions perspective – these words don’t set out to be any definitive performance type review – there’s plenty of that available on the web if that’s what you want to read, its simply some words based on the first few weeks of ownership after picking up the bike from Robinsons

I’ve never owned, let alone ridden a cruiser style bike before, so it would be pointless me trying to make any comparisons to the cruiser style of bike.

You’ll know if you read my new wheels post, that when we opted to buy this bike, features such as speed, most amazing performance, loudest exhaust etc were not part of the criteria of what we were looking for in the new bike. What we wanted was a bike that was suitable for us to do some miles on together and to have a bit of fun on – and just as importantly that my wife felt safe and secure on – all at the same time as not spending an arm and a leg.

The Vulcan S seemed to tick those boxes.

These early first impressions are just that rather than a direct comparison to other bikes I have ridden and that I currently own. We didn’t buy it as a replacement to the the Z1000SX or the Moto Guzzi V7 Cafe.

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The bike itself runs the 649cc parallel twin engine used in the Versys 650 and ER6 range and if the figures are correct puts out 61bhp and develops a little over 46ft.lb of torque.

The engine rev’s freely, has an incredibly super light clutch and seems to make its power smoothly and  easily – there’s an absence of fancy gadgets, so no engine maps to choose from, no traction control and no gear indicator – so if that’s what your looking for then this isn’t the bike.

It does handle well, and although the front end is loaded with just a single disc to compliment the rear, so far it seems more than up to the job. I cant say I  have noticed any issues when cornering, although of course ground clearance is less than on many bikes, and I’ve not yet had the need to test the ABS, which comes as standard across the range

Suspension feels like its more towards the basic rather than plush end of the market with pretty standard (non upside down forks) and a fairly soft rear shock – which does mean you should aim to avoid the dodgy looking pot holes in the road.

Wheels are 18 and 17 inch at the front and back respectively and are shod with Bridgestone D220s (Sportsmax) and they seem fine. Given the nature of the bike I’d expect very decent mileage from these and of course its way to early to comment on what sort of tyres might be a better replacement in due course than these.

The riding position is the biggest difference for me – I’ve never ridden a bike with a feet forward stance – but so far I’m really enjoying the relaxed riding feel that it gives. Maximum single trip mileage has been just over 170 miles and I haven’t had any comfort issues so far – but I reckon you wouldn’t want to do much more than a couple of hours without a leg stretch. The low seat height makes it easy to push the bike around when parking up and of course makes for easy stability when your pillion is getting on and off.

Corwen ride 150816 (10)

Oddly enough (to me) is that the bike actually feels pretty good in corners, somehow I’d expected it to feel less willing to get round, but the whole thing seems to work well, and with the easy to ride set up and its lively performance it makes it actually far more inviting that you might think – and its incredibly tempting to reach for the keys for this rather than my other bikes for a bit of lazy/sunny day riding.

I’d said in an earlier post that we were looking for something that was reasonably comfortable and to add some context (which can sometimes be missing from reviews), I’m 5’7″ and about 150lbs and my wife is 5’5″ and about 127lbs – again early impressions are that it is indeed pretty comfortable, although perhaps not too surprisingly the pillion seat has room for improvement if looking for something towards all day comfort. We think we have remedied that and I’ll be writing separately about that soon.

The fuel economy is worth commenting on as the dash indicates that its been doing just over 67 miles per gallon and a quick pen and paper calculation after filling up confirms that this is accurate – so if that remains the same its going to be a pretty cheap bike to run – but you should note that we are still in the ‘running in’ period with the bike.

It’s worth mentioning Kawasaki’s Ergo Fit options which is a neat idea for having the bike fitted for different sized riders with extended reach,  mid reach  and reduced reach seat, bars and foot controls. A simple idea that is sure to be taken up by other manufacturers. In our case we left it at the standard (mid reach) settings as I fall in to that sized category so other than to say its a simple and great idea I can’t comment from a practical hands on perspective.

HE SAYS/SHE SAYS

Corwen ride 150816 (24)

By way of  balance this next section has comments from both of us on a couple of points:

What do you like about the bike.

He says: Ticks the boxes that we wanted it to, easy to ride, very manageable for both of us. Nice to have something different in the garage and a nice contrast to the Z1000 and the Guzzi Cafe. Plus love the fact that we will be doing some of our biking together.

She says: I like the look of it and I like the fact that the pillion seat isn’t too high like it is on some of your other bikes, I don’t want to find myself sitting way too high above the rider. I liked it from as soon as I saw it in the dealers and it looked like a bike I was happy to get on – I suppose I like the all round look of it.

What about the colour

He says: I love the colour – we opted for the flat/matte black (or is it grey) and I think the fact that the tank and side panels are the same as the frame and mudguards add to the overall look of the bike.

She says: I really like it, but I would have been happy with the white one as well, I wasn’t taken at all by the ‘special edition’ with the green stripe on the petrol tank or the green tape on the wheels.

What about comfort

He says: Its pretty good actually and I’m actually really enjoying the feet forward style/relaxed style – I think there’s a possibility of ache in the lower back as the riding position sort of puts more pressure on that, but its not been an issue yet and can probably be managed by sensible stops for a stretch

She says: It’s sort of OK, but the pillion seat is a bit narrow and hard, I could really feel it  after 174 miles. I’ve really enjoyed riding on it and I expect it to be much better when we have had the seat done. I also feel pretty secure and safe and I think that’s mainly to do with the seat height and not feeling perched on a tiny seat, with my knees at a silly angle.

What about the sound

He says: Well its pretty quiet really and don’t buy this expecting an aural treat, but having said that its inline with my expectations and we wont be bothering with any exhaust upgrades or modifications.

She says: Well its not at all noisy and I’m quite happy with it

Anything you don’t like

He says: No nothing so far, although the price of the Kawasaki accessories is eye watering and really makes me wonder about the pricing and how many owners will be tempted by cheaper third party options rather than the genuine OEM route. Frankly unless Kawasaki UK want to supply me with after market accessories to review then I’m afraid they are out of my price range wont be featuring on my Blog

She says: Nothing really, Ive already mentioned the seat and I’m expecting this to be resolved next time I’m on it – I agree with Tony about the price of Kawasaki accessories, I’m sure they are really good but they seem a bit overpriced.

What overall score (0 to 10) would you give it

He says: Well I suppose an 8, as it easily meets my expectations and seems to be just right for what we wanted it for

She says: I think at the moment I’d give it a 7/10 but I expect this to be an 8/10 once we have the seat sorted.

What next

We have had the pillion seat done and expect to give that a try this week, the next run out should also takes us to the first service interval and I’ll write more at a later date to give some comments on what its like to own and run over the longer term. Were also waiting for a rear rest and rack to be delivered and we think that will up the comfort stakes as well as provide an initial luggage option for overnight breaks.

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