The Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom delivers big cruiser looks, but in a more manageable middleweight package. In recent years Team Green has paired down its cruiser lineup to two engine platforms - the 1700 and 900 - with the Vulcan 900 now Kawasaki's go-to entry-level cruiser.
A 903cc liquid-cooled V-Twin powers the Vulcan, which pumped out the most torque of any bike in this shootout. And the Kawi can use the extra power, as it pushes the most weight. Not the quickest off the line, the Vulcan 900 feels like another gear was needed on top, especially on the freeway.
Throttle response is super smooth, but slower on the Vulcan. “I found myself revving up before letting the clutch out to get it to really move off the line,” says Sarah.
Comments about how the Vulcan’s engine feels and sounds vary as much as the riders’ who rode it. I heard statements like “much improved from older models” to “more mechanical sounding” to “totally enjoyed the mild rumble and deep sound” to “higher pitched mechanical sound.”
The Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom's liquid-cooled V-Twin produced the most torque (52 lb-ft) of the comparison.
The Vulcan clutch seems a bit of a strain for smaller paws. Some riders say the clutch feels stiffer than the others, while others find the clutch easy and smooth.
“Kawasaki has done a nice job improving this bike overall, but especially with regard to the drivetrain,’ says Vickie. “There was no lurching in any gear. Riding this bike makes me want to trade in my Vulcan Classic for a newer model.”
The Vulcan feels heavier than the other bikes, a riding impression which is confirmed on the scales. At 609 pounds the Vulcan weighs in 65 pounds heavier than the lightest bike in the group (Honda Shadow). I think the added weight helps at higher speeds, when you pass a large vehicle or on windy days. The down side is that for smaller framed individuals, it takes a considerable amount of effort to move the bike around in tight circles at parking lot speeds. From my extensive miles on this bike, I can tell you that like anything else, it does get easier with seat time and practice.
The suspension on the Kawasaki is appreciated across the board. “I was expecting to be jolted when I rode over a rough patch of road, based on my past Vulcan experience, but I was pleasantly surprised by the suspension on this newer Kawasaki,” says Vickie.
The Vulcan 900 Custom's suspension was highly rated by our testers, the units delivering a smooth and stable ride.
Our smaller-bodied testers had found they slid a bit in the Vulcan 900 stock seat, with the wide perch also inhibiting some rider's ability to reach to the ground.
The taller riders agree that the brakes on the Kawasaki were responsive and easy to apply, but the shorter riders have trouble reaching the forward foot-controlled rear brake.
The Vulcan’s seating position, with the stock seat, makes it more challenging for smaller bodies to keep from sliding backwards while accelerating or once at speed. “It is just too far of a stretch for my legs and arms to reach the controls and be comfortable on a long ride,” explains Tania.
I have tried other seats and can tell you it makes a world of difference. If you find yourself “scooching” forward to reach the controls, you may want to consider an aftermarket seat that is designed to keep your bottom “in the pocket.”
Test riders think the padding is mostly sufficient for longer rides and much improved over older Vulcan models. A couple riders note the width of the seat and how it affects their ability to get more foot on the ground.
The dash on the Vulcan Custom is a hit, earning the top spot in the instrumentation and features category. The dash offers the right information and everything is easy to locate. The gas gauge is a favored feature, and appreciated by all.
The Vulcan takes top honors as well in the appearance category. “The Vulcan is a bad-ass looking bike,” shares Jody.
“Straight-out, the Kawasaki beat the entire group hands-down! The matte black paint, combined with the overall set-up and dimensions of the bike made it a clear winner. Simply the toughest, bitchinest looking bike! Can I say that?” adds Vickie.
Our test riders found the blacked out Vulcan 900 Custom one of the best looking bikes in the shootout.
“The black engine and pipes make the bike look custom right off the showroom floor,” agrees Tania.
Sarah says it this way, “The Vulcan was definitely the most wicked looking of the line-up. The matte black paint and black/chrome engine was just barely highlighted by a devilish deep red stripe. It was also the most extreme seating with the drag-style handlebars and way-forward foot pegs.”
You can’t help but cop an attitude on this bike. I especially love how the non-metric riders always wave to me when I am on this bike. That says it all!
I have always thought the Vulcan 900 line was a winner because you get a smaller displacement bike in what looks like a big bike package. You’ll fit right in at your local bike night and unless your group ride is primarily freeways, you’ll have a great time keeping up, too.