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Big is the word for the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000

December 31, 2004|by ARV VOSS/Motor Matters

Kawasaki, in describing its Vulcan 2000, claims that "size isn't everything: it's the only thing." That of course, depends upon your perspective. There is absolutely no questioning, however, that the Vulcan 2000 is one really big bike.

It is powered down the road by a 2,053cc (125 cubic inches) liquid-cooled V-Twin - the world's largest production V-Twin cruising motor in the history of motorcycling. The cylinder bore measures more than 4 inches, with the forged-pistons powering through a stroke that is close to 5 inches long. The big (and beautiful) motor cranks out 141 lbs.-ft. of torque to the 200mm x 16-inch wide rear tire, which is belt driven.

The Vulcan 2000 borders on intimidating at first glance, due to its seemingly immense mass. I actually put off riding it until last at a full line Kawasaki introduction held at Infineon Raceway in conjunction with the AMA Superbike race because of its gargantuan presence. Please don't misunderstand. The Vulcan 2000 is a gorgeous and beautifully proportioned cruiser, executed along traditional lines. It is well balanced, particularly at freeway cruising speeds and higher. Slow speed maneuvers, on the other hand, require the rider's undivided attention and focus. If you have to put a foot down (assuming you can reach the ground), there's a lot of weight to steady. Actually, getting the bike up off the unusually short side stand can be a genuine chore for those who happen to border on vertically challenged. Once upright and moving, however, the more than 750-pound machine is surprisingly easy to control, despite its nearly 27-inch seat height.

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On a group ride for motoring journalists, I rode a Nomad 1500 from Sonoma to Point Reyes, Calif., where we met an associate who had ridden a Z1000 home the night before. There were other ride participants who wanted to try the Z1000 on for size, leaving only the Vulcan 2000 for my friend to ride. He is not particularly tall, and had never ridden a cruiser before. That not withstanding, he was unable to get the Vulcan beast off of its side stand by himself, and even when the bike was upright, his toes barely reached terra firma. Not being at all comfortable with the situation, he humbly asked if I would consider trading for the return leg of the trip. Having ridden it the day before, I graciously agreed, and cruising through the redwoods was exhilarating at the very least.

Back to the bike's looks. It is appealing from virtually any angle, particularly from a three quarter, right side frontal view, where the unique combination headlamp with its conventional bulb, as well as a triple-projector beam cluster, the over and under, staggered shotgun-style side pipes and the impressive motor are all visible at once. It provides a clean appearance in its stock form with just the right amount of chrome, while the sleek, flangeless 5.6-gallon fuel tank design offers a custom flavor.

My test Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 was painted in a monotone Pearl Glacial Blue, and was base priced at $14,499. The only option was the Kawasaki Fire & Steel accessory windshield which brought the sticker up to $14,879. There are a host of other Fire & Steel accessories available to individualize or customize one's Vulcan 2000, including custom paint packages.

SUMMARY: The Vulcan 2000 cruiser has more than enough power for instant bursts of speed in any of the five sequential gears provided by the smooth transmission. The cross-drilled dual-disc front brakes and single-disc out back allows for reining the big steed in, either gradually or in an emergency scenario. The ride quality is comfortable, soaking up bumps

without being overly compliant. The exhaust note is pleasing without being overly raucous (if there is such a thing). If there is a downside at all, aside from the short side stand, it is that the bike tends to pull forward even with the clutch disengaged when it's cold, so making sure it's in neutral is advised.

The Vulcan 2000, though displaying a hardtail look with a huge adjustable rear shock concealed behind the engine and beneath the seat, is equipped with several modern conveniences, not the least of which are: The ability to remove the ignition key from the on-position; self-canceling turn signals; a dipstick that enables one to check the oil level while astride the bike; and ideally positioned handlebars for optimum control. If big is your bag, the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 certainly won't disappoint.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Kawasaki Vulcan 2000

Base Price: $14,499.

Price as Tested: $14,879.

Engine Type and Size: 2053 cc 4-Stroke, liquid-cooled OHV, 4-valve cylinder head, 52 degree fuel injected V-Twin.

Torque: 141 lbs.-ft.

Transmission: Five-speed sequential manual.

Drive Train: Belt final drive

Suspension: Front: 40 mm hydraulic telescopic forks.

Rear: Single shock, 8-way rebound damping.

Brakes: Front: dual drilled discs with 4-piston calipers

Rear: Single disc with 2-piston caliper.

Tires: Bridgestone Battlax BT020 150/80 R16 MC71V front /200/60 R16 MC79V rear mounted on 7-spoke alloy wheels.

Wheelbase: 68.3 inches

Curb Weight dry: 750 lbs. (dry)

Fuel Capacity: 5.6 gallons

Seat height: 26.8 inches

Copyright Motor Matters, 2004

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