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Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 is an ideal cruiser

September 09, 2005|by ARV VOSS/Motor Matters

There are always those who will argue that "size doesn't matter," or that "bigger is better." It's really all a matter of individual perspective.

In the case of Kawasaki's Vulcan 1600 Nomad metric cruiser - it's bigger than the old 1500 Nomad and delivers more power and torque, but it's smaller than the gargantuan Vulcan 2000, which for those whose inseams are challenged, can be a chore just to get off the side stand. Could it be then, that the 1600 Nomad, in the midsize range, might be "just right," as in the "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" classic children's tale?

We happen to think so. The Vulcan 2000 is a superb freeway cruiser, but lacks some maneuverability in slow, tight twisties. The 1500 Nomad, on the other hand, could occasionally use a little more strength when you twist the throttle.

The Vulcan 1600 Nomad displays more than a little retrospective in its styling. Let's call it Kawasaki's answer to Harley's Road King Classic for the sake of positioning. The 1600 Nomad weighs in dry at 772 pounds (62 pounds more than the Road King). Both have windshields, saddle bags (the Nomad features hard clamshell bags), floorboards (boards replace passenger pegs), rocker shifter, plush seat and passenger pillion with the Nomad providing a standard backrest, split side dual exhaust, plus chrome crash guards fore and aft.

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Power for the 1600 Nomad comes from a liquid-cooled, 1552cc (up from 1470cc), four-stroke, SOHC, 8-valve V-twin, connected to a sequential five-speed transmission. The motor is fed by a Mitsubishi digital fuel injection system that features dual 36mm throttle bodies for smoother operation. There are larger engine mounts and a gear-driven counter-balancer that aids in reducing handlebar and floorboard vibration. The motor's driving force reaches the rear wheel via a drive shaft. In addition to the increase in power, the Nomad 1600 also sports more chrome than the old 1500 version, along with greater passenger comfort amenities.

The offset of the large hydraulic front forks has been reduced from 20 to 15mm, lightening the big cruiser's steering feel, especially at lower speed maneuvering. The low-slung bike has a pleasing neutral feel, but due to its overall mass, still requires a heightened level of concentration when executing tight, slow speed switchbacks with severe elevation changes. Dual discs handle braking up front and a single disc in the rear, and the rear suspension smooths out the ride quality via air adjustable twin shocks with four-way rebound damping. Tires are 16-inchers mounted on slotted disc alloy wheels.

My test Vulcan 1600 Nomad was finished in a two-tone custom paint scheme - dark blue and silver metallic with gold and red separation stripes except for the saddlebags, which, if added, would contribute to overall continuity. The base price was set at $12,999 while extras and dealer prep would bump the final out-the-door total to roughly $13,500, depending upon purchase location.

SUMMARY: The Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Nomad cruiser provides the look and flavor of a past era, but with the peace of mind offered by modern technology and improved reliability. Roll on the throttle, and the big bike accelerates quickly and smoothly, delivering a pleasing, but not offensive V-twin rumble.

The ride quality is compliant without being too soft, though I did experience a noticeable front-end dive when braking. My test bike's rear brake pedal was set too high for optimum application, (but that's adjustable). The clutch is hydraulic for easy, non-tiring operation. Convenience items include self-canceling turn signals (which some other metric cruisers lack), a 5.3-gallon fuel tank offering an elongated, tapered, custom look, topped by a stylish chrome instrument binnacle housing an electronic speedometer and LED odometer with a separate LED trip meter display.

The locking clamshell hard bags are hinged at the bottom, opening from the top, and were it not for the inner liners, contents would be prone to spill out - my personal preference is top opening bags, but hey, if that's all there is to complain about, that's a good thing. The windshield is height adjustable using just a screwdriver - another plus.

Bottom line, the Vulcan 1600 Nomad is an ideal long-range cruiser for one or two.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Kawasaki 1600 Nomad Cruiser

Base Price: $12,999.

Price as Tested: $13,500.

Engine Type and Size: Liquid-cooled 1,552cc four-stroke, SOHC, 8-valve V-twin with dual throttle body, digital fuel injection.

Transmission: Five-speed manual.

Drive Train: Final drive - Shaft

Suspension: Front - Dual 43mm hydraulic forks. Rear - Dual hydraulic air adjustable twin shocks with 4-way rebound damping.

Brakes: Front - Dual hydraulic discs / Rear - large single disc.

Tires: Bridgestone Exedora 150/80x16 front / 170/70x16 rear mounted on slotted disc alloy wheels.

Wheelbase: 66.5 inches.

Length Overall: 99 inches.

Steering angle: 32 degrees

Curb Weight dry: 772 lbs.

Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gallons.

Seat height: 28.4 inches.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2005

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