There likely won’t be any arguments if I said the 2002 Kawasaki Vulcan 800 Classic won’t win any beauty contests. However, it’s also hard to deny that the little Vulcan is an agreeable, comfortable cruiser to ride. In this week’s Church feature, we take a look back at the ol Vulc 800, through the eyes of none other than our own John Burns. Here, he makes arguments about why the Vulc is a good motorcycle, if you can stomach the fact that riding one also means you have to be seen on it.
Mar. 18, 2002
Torrance, California, July 23, 2002 — Listen, you may have to lead me out behind the shed and shoot me soon. Last week I was puttering down the road in some heavyish traffic on our 900SS Ducati, and the thought occurred to me I’d rather be riding the Kawasaki Vulcan 800 Classic I’d been putting miles on lately. No. Really. The Ducati’s a little tough on the wrists at subsonic speeds, and you have to shift gears now and then when your speed increases or decreases.
Now that my butt had been molded into the flat, old-man pancake shape by the Vulcan, and its nerves deadened by the constant pounding, it was a little painful when the Ducati began trying to re-form my hindquarters into two distinct cheeks again; like frostbite thawing out.
Also, now that my fist-clenching cruiser muscles have developed to a point where even self-service can no longer be thought of as safe sex, I’m able to cruise at my usual 80-90 mph gait just as easily on the unfaired Vulcan as on the Ducati.
The Ducati is the kind of modern, uncomfortable furniture gay couples and New Yorkers have. The Vulcan’s your dad’s Barcalounger. Why not be comfortable then?
Fashion, that’s why. The number one way you know you’re over the hill is when you no longer care how you look, because when you don’t care how you look you don’t care how other people think you look–women, that is–and then it’s worse than being married–the Death of Hope. When you find yourself mall-walking in Rockports and double-knit shorts held up by a white belt and fanny pack, with more white ear hairs sprouting than Peter Rabbit, you know your days are numbered, friend.
On the other hand, all the bettys in the cars who used to check you out on a nice bike, and vice versa, are now all on the phone anyway, paying you no mind even on an MV Agusta. Why bother?
Where was I? All that aside, the Vulcan 800 is a really nice motorcycle, with a better, snappier engine than the Suzuki Volusia we tested a couple of weeks ago, better suspension, and better ergoes for 5’7″ persons such as myself (or, maybe since I didn’t start riding the Vulcan until after the Triumph America and the Volusia, more credit should go to them for developing my cruiser musculature beforehand?)My vanity, luckily, is exceeded only by my cheapness.
At $6,799 this Vulcan retails for a lot less than what you’d shell out for an SS Ducati–and its 805cc sports liquid-cooled, four-valve heads.
Really oversquare for a cruiser, at 88 x 66.2mm, it’s actually a free-revving, enjoyable engine to play with, coupled to an agreeable, wide-ratio five-speed box and a nice, light clutch. Throw it in fourth or top gear (fifth), and it’s easy enough to burble along from 30 to over 100 mph with very little fuss. A lone, 36mm Mikuni carburetor with an accelerator pump, no less, responds to the whip nicely once past the typical off-idle glitch (which one small washer shoved under the needle would probably fix).
This one’s a 55-degree, single-crankpin twin, but with a counterbalancer and rubber mounts. It runs plenty smooth, vibration is not a problem, and in truth the ride’s not at all bad. There’s a linkage-mounted shock hiding underneath the hard-tail looking swingarm, with four inches of travel,and an also nicely damped 41mm fork. Along with the fat tires and a thick, nicely supportive seat, the Vulcan gives up a surprisingly suave ride. Get aggressive going round corners, though, and the Vulcan’s pegs start dragging a bit early even by cruiser standards.
Maybe it’s not even the individual parts as much as the disharmonious way they all fit together? This is one ugly motorcycle, but one which, in its defense, looks good in family photos next to sister 800 Drifter and cousin 750 Vulcan.
But hey, that’s just my opinion. My boy won’t be seen in shorts if they don’t extend past his knees. Tattoos and piercings and shaving your head are “in.” I always liked Camaros and still do. I’m afraid of Julia Roberts’ lips. Rap is a waste of oxygen. I’m hopelessly out of touch. If you like the Vulcan, you should get one; functionally it’s a great personal transportation unit.
Type: 805cc liquid-cooled 55° V twin, SOHC 4v/cyl.; dual anti-vibration countershafts
Bore & Stroke: 88 x 66.2mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Fuel: 36mm Keihin CVK
Ignition: electronic, digital
Valve-adjust intervals: 7,500 miles
Transmission: 5-speed, wet, multiplate clutch
Frame: steel backbone
Front suspension: 41mm fork, 5.9 in. travel
Rear suspension: one coil-over shock absorber, link type; 3.9 in. travel, adjustable for spring preload
Front Brake: 300mm disc
Rear Brake: drum
Wheels: 3 x 16 in.; 3 x 16 in. spoke
Tires: 130/90-16 , 140/90-16 Bridgestone Exedra
Wheelbase: 63 inches (1600mm)
Rake/trail: 32 degrees/ 4.8 inch (122mm)
Seat height: 27.5 in.
Measured weight, full fuel tank: 575 lb.
Fuel capacity: 4 gallons
Fuel mileage: 45 mpg
Colors: red, purpley like
Suggested price: $6,799 (US Dollars)