If it aint good to look at then it aint worth having.
2001 Kawasaki Nomad
All of us like to get a bit of attention; we all like to turn a head or two. The most extrovert amongst us will take this to the extreme, wearing loud clothes and sporting red hair. There's another way to create a stir ride a motorcycle. And the ultimate way to draw attention to yourself is to ride a big, flashy Cruiser. A big V-Twin with high handlebars, leather tassels and drippings of chrome. Once upon a time that bike would have to have been American, but no more, now the Japanese are in on the act, and they just keep getting better and better at making 'real' cruisers.
Over the years, the Japanese motorcycle industry has brushed up in all departments, their sport bikes now handle and stop as well as anything from Italy and their tourers can munch miles with the same aplomb expected from a big BMW. They've also brought their Cruisers up to spec over the years and the Vulcan is a good example of the high standard they have now attained.
One of the most important details on any Cruiser is its engine. Fashion dictates that if it isn't a V-Twin then it had better have a bloody good excuse (like a flat six for instance, as fitted to Honda's Valkyrie!). The V-Twin configuration produces just the right sort of power for a Cruiser, especially if it displaces more cubes than the average compact car and most do. A Cruiser doesn't need to be outrageously fast but it has to produce plenty of effortless grunt low down pulling power of the sort that makes a John Deer tractor feel puny. The Nomad has the right vital statistics for the job, its fuel injected V-Twin displaces a massive 1,470cc's. That's enough to produce a stomping 83.3 ft-lbs of torque at only 2,800rpm. On the road that translates to plenty of pull regardless of which of the five gears you've selected.
Big Cruisers don't normally respond to hard revving and the Nomad is no exception. It's capable of spinning fast although it reveals its rougher edges when revved hard. But with the maximum torque produced so low down, and its peak power of 65 bhp produced at 4,700 rpm, there's really no point in trying to bounce it off the rev-limiter. The Nomad is no lightweight, it tips the scales at a hefty 739 lbs. That's plenty of motorcycle to paddle around the parking lot! Fortunately the weight is low down and the low seat height means that all but the most vertically challenged can get two feet flat on the ground at the stop lights. The low speed handling is a little heavy, as you might expect given the size of the front forks and that fat front wheel. But the payoff is impressive stability at normal road speeds. Even through country bends the big Kawasaki remains unruffled. The bike will start to wallow and shimmy if you are really rocking and rolling, but at normal cruiser speeds it's a rock steady ride. The real limiting factor in the bike's bend swinging ability is ground clearance, or lack of it the big chrome footboards clang down and create an impressive shower of sparks if you push it over too hard. I took this audible warning as a message to kick back and relax, like the Nomad was telling me to take it easy!
A Cruiser riding position tends to put the rider at the mercy of the windblast as you roll up the highway â€“ turning you into a human sail. The adjustable screen, or windshield, is just the right tool for deflecting this blast over the rider's head.
All this talk of high-speed handling is irrelevant with a Cruiser. The Cruisers prime duty is to create waves. "If it aint good to look at then it aint worth having", could be the Cruiser's motto. Again the Nomad delivers the goods. The paintwork on the test bike was rich and deep, while the liberal display of chrome shone like a collection of small stars. The general layout of the bike is more 'highway Cruiser' than 'chopper', with big fat tyres, a sumptuous saddle and wide, but not too high, handlebars. This is all in keeping with the Nomad's interstate image. This isn't a bike restricted to tooling up and down the main street it's a bike for riding clean across the US of A! The excellent panniers will help with the mile-eating duties. They can hold plenty of spare pairs of Levi's and the removable inner bags mean that, once you've arrived at that road-side motel, you can simply pull out the inner bags full of all your kit and check into your room. The screen will also help the miles roll by.
A Cruiser riding position tends to put the rider at the mercy of the windblast as you roll up the highway turning you into a human sail. The adjustable screen, or windshield, is just the right tool for deflecting this blast over the rider's head. With the help of the screen, the riding position is just about perfect, even for taller riders who might usually find themselves cramped on many modern bikes. The seat is firm but supportive, and even after 250 miles in the saddle my butt had no complaints.
- Beautiful Styling
- Gobs Of Torque
- Low Seat Height Makes for better comfort
- Weighs close to 800 lbs.
- Little to No Ground Clearance
- Torque and Power Produced Down Low...Real Low
Cruiser owners like to personalise their bikes. Again, Harley has known this for years and produces a dizzying range of after-market accessories, everything from chrome handlebar grips to go-faster engine parts. Kawasaki is among the more clued up Japanese manufacturers when it comes to Cruiser accessories. They produce their own range called 'Fire and Steel' exclusively manufactured for the Kawasaki Cruiser model range. If you can't find the chrome widget you want in the 'Fire and Steel' catalogue you'll probably find it from the vast range of aftermarket accessories manufactured for Japanese Cruisers.
I enjoyed my time 'showing off' with the Kawasaki Nomad. I used it everyday, rain or shine, and tried hard to find an excuse not to return it at the end of my two-week tenure. Many of you might say that it's not the 'real thing' because it doesn't have Harley-Davidson painted on the tank, but it won't stop plenty of people from buying the Nomad because even without a Harley tank badge it's a damn fine motorcycle.