It’s an interesting concept from Kawasaki, making a bike that is more about fitting the rider, increasing said rider’s confidence and doing it all in the cruiser style. But does it work?
So this is the Vulcan S, on paper it’s familiar fare and should at least be enough of a motorcycle to tempt plenty of riders in. In fact, pigeon-holing this particular bike into ‘just’ the cruiser way of things is to miss the point of what this bike can actually deliver. Up to a point.
Packed into the steel frame is a retuned version of the Versys 650 and ER6 649cc liquid-cooled, four-stroke parallel-twin motor. At 61bhp at 7500rpm and 46.5lb-ft at 6600rpm there’s plenty of poke on tap when you need it. Easy-going, not intimidating for the rider who definitely isn’t in the market for the latest 220bhp superbike.
Purposefully tuned to suit new riders, lower end rpm performance came under the Kawasaki spotlight for a tweak. Tuning the camshaft profiles and intake funnels helped make things smooth but still retained enough grunt when needed.
In fact, there’s a really nice touch to the engine work done. Several times on the launch ride I deliberately went into junctions and roundabouts in too high a gear to see just how ‘friendly’ the ‘friendly’ tuning had made the motor – and it really works. Even deliberately trying to stall the bike like this couldn’t fault the motor. Even in fourth gear going round a small roundabout, the Vulcan S just chugged around and recovered as soon as I opened the throttle. Aww… it takes care of the ham-fisted newbie too. How very sweet.
There’s a lot of refinement in this little motor. Pulling away from a standstill is smooth and largely effortless – the particularly light clutch is nicely married to the motor’s character. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that the Vulcan S lacks a bit of punch. There’s ample power when you wind it on – enough to put a grin on the faces of more experienced riders.
In comparison to the Versys and the ER6, torque is down by 0.5lb-ft, however, it comes in 400rpm earlier in the rev range. Power comes in 1000rpm earlier than its sibling bikes and the Vulcan S is actually putting out 8bhp less than the Versys and 11bhp less than the ER6.
Kawasaki claims that fuel efficiency has been improved by 5% on the previous ER6/Versys engine and I managed to get a return of 56mpg while riding on the launch in Spain.
It’s worth noting that the route we rode was the usual up and down stuff but also took in motorway roads, plenty of starting and stopping and a variety of road conditions so that 56mpg figure could easily be improved on.
The Vulcan S has a new perimeter, high-tensile steel frame. The chassis has purposefully been kept slim so that riders can easily get their feet down when needed. A new dual wall exhaust system has been developed too with an under engine muffler to help keep the slim shape.
The UK will be getting the version fitted with the Bosch 9.1M ABS unit. Braking is provided by a single 300mm diameter disc up front, gripped by a dual piston caliper and a single 250mm diameter disc on the rear with single piston caliper. They’re progressive and confidence inspiring instead of snappy – again, a purposeful decision by Kawasaki is used here so as to not shock new riders.
The telescopic fork on the front and the offset laydown single-shock linkage – equipped with seven-way adjustable preload – on the rear, offers great suspension and easily dealt with the differing road conditions on the launch.
It’s specifically new on the wheel front, too. Five-spoke cast wheels have been developed for the Vulcan S
– there’s an 18in on the front and a 17in on the rear.
Kawasaki says that it decided to make the Vulcan S chain driven rather than shaft or belt driven to limit the amount of ‘mechanical loss’ – making the most from the 649cc engine – plus it’s lighter than a belt drive so that helps keeps the kerb weight down to a manageable 225kg.
I could easily reach the feet forward controls and the floor thanks to the 705mm seat height. One of the key points of this bike is the customisation available – the brake and clutch levers have five different settings and the footpegs can be adjusted into three different positions – either keep them standard or move them forwards or backwards by 25mm.
And that’s not where the personalisation stops – Kawasaki is calling it ‘ERGOFIT’. There are three choices of setup: reduced reach, mid- reach – which is the standard machine as bought in a dealership – and extended reach to suit short, medium and tall riders respectively.
Those needing reduced or extended reach have the option to change the handlebars and the seat from the accessory range which changes the dimensions of the bike – priced around £230.