Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom: Looks aren’t everything

Farm Forum

“Looks aren’t everything” is certainly true when it comes to Kawasaki’s latest Vulcan 900 series. Let’s not get off on the wrong foot here; we’re not talking about the kind of “Looks” remark in the context of trying to set up a friend on a blind date. The Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom looks really good, but it goes well beyond visual appeal. It’s a bike that delivers high performance, along with being easy to ride, and proven dependability over the long haul.

The 2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom falls into the currently popular retro “Bobber” trend. It’s not really an all-out Bobber in the traditional sense, but its sparing use of chrome goodies, with blacked-out components, short rear fender, drag style bars and large, narrow front wheel and tire, certainly attest to the Bobber influence.

My 2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom test bike came with a base price of $9,199, but expect to add an average of another $200 for dealer prep and handling. My bike was finished predominantly in Pearl Flat Stardust White fenders, and the top half of the 5.3-gallon fuel tank (which is the largest in its class) and a contrasting Flat Ebony finish.

Riding the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom results in a pleasant and fun experience. The rigid, large diameter box section backbone of the frame provides a lightweight handling feel at lower speeds, while the fork offset and frame geometry combine with the long wheelbase for a stable ride at highway speeds. The 33-degree rake and 7.2-inch trail yield outstanding straight-line tracking and nice overall balance.

Clutch operation is smooth and easy, acceleration is responsive across a broad torque range and the shift lever is a standard toe-operated unit rather than a heel-toe affair.

I found the riding position to be ideal with the drag-style chrome handlebars curving back from the upper triple clamp and set just right for me. The forward foot controls and long seat heightened my level of riding comfort. The speedometer and rider info were legible and easy to read, and encased in a stylish chrome housing atop the tank.

Power for the Vulcan 900 stable comes from a 903cc four-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 8-valve V-Twin motor with Direct Fuel Injection and dual 34 mm Keihin throttle bodies along with TCBI ignition with digital advance. Motive force is delivered to the rear wheel through a five-speed sequential manual transmission with a positive Neutral finder, via a final drive belt. The exhaust exits on the right side through staggered, slash-cut dual pipes.

Suspension componentry consists of reversed 41 mm hydraulic forks with 5.9 inches of travel up front and a Uni-Trak swingarm with 7-way adjustable spring preload and 4.1 inches of travel in the rear. The Vulcan 900 rolls on Dunlop tires — 80/90×21 mounted on a 9-double-spoke cast alloy wheel forward with an 180/70×15 wrapping around a solid, slotted disc aft.

Brakes are hydraulic with a single 300 mm disc up front and a 270 mm disc in the rear, and they are effective in bringing the bike to a halt.

The wheelbase of the Vulcan 900 Custom measures 64.8 inches, while the overall length is 94.7 inches. The 900 Custom tips the scale at 610.8 pounds dry (before operational fluids are added) and the 27-inch seat height allows short riders to touch down with ease. The one-piece, gunfighter-style seat is deep set and narrowed at the front, with an extension that serves as a passenger pillion. The foot controls and rider pegs are mounted forward, which is great for long-legged riders, but may be a stretch for more diminutive types. Folding foot pegs are provided for the occasional two-up scenario.

The 2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom is an affordable, mildly retro-styled bike that is destined to deliver riding enjoyment to both the novice and accomplished rider. It also easily lends itself to customization.