Motorcycle.com’s Evans Brasfield reviewed Kawasaki’s Vulcan S last week, and this week we get a different perspective of the versatile new cruiser from Team Green. -Ed.
What do women really want in a motorcycle? And what is it that new women riders seek when buying their first ride? The answer is straightforward – fit. For most, not being able to reach the ground or the controls easily results in a sense of not being in control, and that can be intimidating. Kawasaki takes us beyond those boundaries with the new 2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S and its 18 adjust-to-fit options. The aptly named Ergo-Fit Center tailors the Vulcan S to meet your personal ride adjustments before you ride away.
Here’s how it works: Prior to riding the Vulcan S, I met up with my assigned Kawasaki technician to go through my exclusive Ergo-Fit process. It felt personal, somewhat similar to when I’d been fitted for my new set of snow skis or my wedding dress. The step started with noting my height and weight followed by sitting sessions on each of the three Vulcan S base set ups:
- Reduced: 5’6” and under (167cm)
- Mid: 5’7” to 6 ft. (175-183cm)
- Extended: 6’1” and above (185cm – up)
From there, further fitting considerations included: one of the two handlebar reach options, three seat options and three adjustable footpeg positions. I found the entire experience wonderful! I’d never experienced a ride “fitting,” and I felt truly catered to.
After the fitting, we concluded that the “Mid” range setup was ideal for me. Once on the bike and ready to ride, we made one other small adjustment to the shifter. Its height was reduced slightly to better fit my toe and boot length.
TIP: It’s best to wear full riding gear while undergoing your Vulcan S fitting. This was the reason my reach to the shift pedal was too long, as I wasn’t wearing my riding boots during the initial measuring. This also applies to the extra space your riding pants (perhaps tailbone length back protector) may take up on the seat.
The Ergo-Fit Center is a component of the Vulcan S only provided by specially authorized Kawasaki dealers. This is very different from the usual costly “customizations” standard cruiser motorcycles need. The Kawasaki Ergo-Fit set up and component exchange are included with the Vulcan S at the time of purchase.
Cruiser Riding Position with Sportbike Feel and Performance
The “S” in the Vulcan name stands for “sport” and denotes the fact that is unlike any Vulcan produced in Kawasaki’s 30-year history of the model. Its finishes defy typical cruiser breed. Take, for example, the tucked-under-the-engine muffler. This was specifically chosen to be out of the way to allow for more lean into the corners. The forward-placed parallel-Twin engine (versus V-Twin) opens up the cockpit. A slim, long and low, sportbike-bred chassis gives the Vulcan S its lightweight feel (just 459 lbs/226 kg). This, too, overcomes the wider stance normally needed with many cruiser style motorcycles. It’s also worth noting that the Vulcan S design makes gripping the tank with your knees possible. On other typical cruiser models, this technique is generally not possible as there’s too much exposed engine and your sitting position is too far back.
The Vulcan S engine is based on the Ninja’s 649cc parallel-Twin engine which is digitally fuel injected, liquid-cooled, and specifically tuned to give it its smoothness. This is a big advantage for new riders still finessing the power transitions – either at high or low speeds. There’s also a positive neutral finder, making it easier to discover neutral when stopped. What also impressed me was this smooth power delivery through all gears, at all rpm. I’d frequently keep the bike in fifth gear at higher speeds, rather than sixth, and still had room to grow.
The Vulcan S didn’t feel like a cruiser to me at all – a fact I shared with lead engineer Yoshifumi Mano during my discussions with him. I explained that the Vulcan S cruised along in the city and highway but seemed to morph into that of a sportbike when I needed quick smooth cornering manoeuvres. Mano-san smiled, nodded and said “Thank you.” That was what he intended to achieve!
ABS: With the buffer provided by ABS, braking to stop quickly and safely boosts new riders’ confidence. There’s a single disc with twin-piston calipers for the front and single disc with a single-piston caliper for the rear. Braking is responsive, smooth and effortless. (Note: US Vulcan S offers optional ABS; in Canada it’s standard.)
Easily Adjustable Clutch and Brake Levers: Each lever is five-way adjustable to meet the reach of any size hand. Both levers are light and easy to operate.
Wide, Rubber-Mounted Handlebar: This offers a broad steering sweep which is ideal for tight turns within the small spaces of the inner city. Rubber mounting means reduced vibration to the rider, leaving you less tired on longer rides.
Compact Easy-To-Read Instrument Panel: The tachometer is simple and clear to view. You’re not missing any key data here with a display showing your speed, fuel level, fuel economy, plus warning lights. There are two trip meters for mileage tracking.
Lighting: The unique, berry-shaped headlamp adds special style to the front of the bike. LED lighting technology for tail lights is a big advantage for visibility. The clear turnsignal lenses bring a brighter communication to the road around.
Anti-Chrome: Blackened frame mirrors, exhaust and tank ignition cover further sets the Vulcan S apart from other cruisers, making it appear sportier.
Colors: There are three color choices: Flat Ebony, Candy Lime Green and Pearl Crystal White. A Metallic Royal Purple is available for Canada only.
The Vulcan S comes as a solo-seated ride. This makes perfect sense since new riders need practice before carrying the extra weight of cargo or a passenger. However, when they’re ready to carry cargo, they can choose either the solo fender mounted rack or a set of quick release saddlebags. For riding two-up, a passenger seat and foot pegset are available for purchase.
- Passenger backrest, or backrest with luggage rack
- Tank decals
- Clutch cover emblem along with clutch cover plate
- Front LED light bar for increased ‘blue’ illumination of the road (plug and play operation)
- Medium or large size windshield
- Gear-position indicator
- DC power outlet
- Helmet lock
- Plus a range of Vulcan S inspired technical riding jackets to complete your ride comfort.
Fits Your Budget
The Vulcan S has an affordable retail price at $6,999 without ABS; $7,399 with ABS.
In Canada, the Vulcan S comes standard with ABS at $7,999.
The Vulcan S is fun to ride! New riders will not have to “skill up” to its handling. Its tailored Ergo-Fit brings a sense of confidence from the first mile/kilometer ridden. Its cruiser-sportbike combo offers diversity for the female rider who wants the pleasure both ride styles offer. It’s ideal for long-distance holiday touring, urban commuting or tackling the curves through the Solvang wine region of north Santa Barbara.
My measured “Mid” range fit was ideal. After nearly seven hours in the saddle (with stops), I couldn’t sense any physical aches that are often the case for me on typical cruiser models – particularly in my legs as well as arms/elbows which often suffer from an overly extended reach. The seat was particularly comfy and gave a “stay put” feeling when I quickly needed to shift my weight to lean through switchback corners. I was thrilled at its easy handling and nimble maneuverability.
Go for the ABS option as it’s a huge advantage for any new or, for that fact, experienced rider. I also suggest opting for a windscreen if you’re planning on long distance rides. This will greatly reduce potential wind buffeting discomfort. There are two sizes from which to choose.
The “one size fits all” concept may work for some things, but the theory is far from being right for the beautifully unique female physique. Thanks to Kawasaki, the tables have turned with the Vulcan S – it really is the motorcycle that’ll grow to fit you!
MOTORESS director, Vicki Gray is a basic and advanced motorcycle instructor – certified for over 25 years. She is a motorcycle licensing examiner and has instructed, examined and licensed riders for European and North American road racing schools.