It has been almost ten years to the day since I rode my first motorcycle. I will never forget the exhilaration I felt as I stepped over the seat and straddled the Kawasaki Ninja I had just bought. It was a year older than I was, but it was mine, and I had an open road in front of me. I didn’t get off that motorcycle for the next four hours. And because of that, my mother was ready to call the police fearing the worst. My dad was there thankfully, assuring her that I was perfectly fine, although he later confided to me that he was quite worried as well.
That motorcycle was my genesis. It was the start of my riding career, and a memory I’ll cherish forever. I loved that Kawasaki, and it’s a love that continues for the company to this day. That’s why it seemed almost like fate that my first press motorcycle would be another Kawasaki. This time though, the displacement was a bit higher, and I didn’t need to constantly fix the carbs or play with the choke.
The day I picked up the Kawasaki Vulcan S, I had butterflies in my stomach. It was like meeting a long lost friend. Someone you haven’t talked to in years and you’re not sure how the conversation will go. Would you both just pick up where you left off, or would it be awkward as hell? Thankfully, as the Kawasaki rep ushered me into the gates of the building, I saw the beautiful white and green paint of the Vulcan S and I knew we’d just pick back up where we had left off. The Vulcan S is Kawasaki’s entry-level cruiser, although the technology and the fit and finish of this motorcycle will definitely make you believe you are riding something much more expensive. Everything on the Vulcan S is finished with a precision that would make most German auto manufacturers go back to the drawing board and fire the entire company’s QA department. Honestly, you can’t find a flaw with this motorcycle's build quality, and it’s that level of precision that gives you the confidence to just hop onto this motorcycle and go for a long ride.
During the time I had the Vulcan S, I put almost 650 miles on it, which is a testament to how brilliant this motorcycle is. Although if I had one complaint, it would be that this particular Vulcan S didn’t have the optional front windscreen on it. Highway riding without it becomes a bit of an upper body workout as the wind pushes your chest further and further backwards. Its 650cc engine is shared with the sportier Ninja 650. Although, Kawasaki has tuned the motor so that the torque is lower in the rev range. This makes twisting the throttle just that much more enjoyable. The extra torque actually makes the Vulcan S much more manageable around town as well making it safer when you need to get out of a potentially bad situation as I found out when an Escalade turned out in front of me. Although this motorcycle was chiefly designed to be an around town bike, taking it into the canyons at sunset will make a believer out of anyone.
The Vulcan S isn’t an all out canyon carver like Kawasaki’s Ninjas, but because the Vulcan S inspires so much confidence you’ll forget what type of motorcycle you are riding. You won’t get the crazy superbike lean, but you’ll get enough to make most Miata owners think twice about trying to take you on. That said, where the Vulcan S shows its true colors is in just cruising along and twisty back road as the sun sets in behind you. I’ve had the privilege to drive and ride some of the most amazing cars and motorcycles on the planet. And through those instances, I’ve only been truly moved by a machine a handful of times. But as I rode through the canyons, with the sun setting behind me, and listening to "Welcome Home, Son" by Radical Face, everything just seemed to click and the world faded away. In addition, I think the best possible way to describe the Kawasaki Vulcan S is that it makes you feel at home. And honestly you can’t ask for anything else from a motorcycle.
Specs: Horsepower: Around 60 horsepower Engine: 649cc Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, parallel twin Price (as tested): $7,399
Positives: ABS works brilliantly Superbike looks An entry level price for what appears to be a considerably more expensive motorcycle
Negatives: If you do any highway riding, get the optional front windshield. It will make the experience better. Nothing else, go out and ride it.