Sep 23, 2022

A Look at the Kawasaki Vulcan Motorcycle

Ericka Ellis

The Vulcan motorcycle is part of the line of cruisers produced that first made their debut in 1985. These stylish, comfortable cruisers are quite the contrast to the sporty and recognizable Kawasaki Ninja motorcycles, but have been wildly popular nonetheless.

You can see the evidence of that with the history of Kawasaki. The cruisers feature several variants which range from 400 to 2,000 cc motors, most of which being V-twins.

The Kawasaki motorcycles hold steady in their heritage, though the evolution of their lines over the years has exhibited a keeping-with-the-times for which Kawasaki has been successful. Let’s take a look at the development of the Vulcan Motorcycle, and see how they’ve grown to be the bikes they are today.

Vulcan 750 series: 1984 - 2006

The Vulcan 750 debuted in 1984 as a 1985 model, and it was launched worldwide in the history of Kawasaki Motorcycles' first cruiser powered by a V-twin engine. The Vulcan 750 is known for its reliable shaft drive that was primarily found on large cruisers, which made it unique to its class. 

Initially, the first US model was limited to 699 ccs to avoid tariffs on engines larger than 700 ccs, but after the tax was lifted in 1986, the engine capacity was increased to 750 ccs. The liquid-cooled DOHC V-twin produced 66 hp and 47 ft-lbs of torque through most of its rpm range.

The Vulcan 750 remained mostly unchanged during its 22-year production, while only minor component adjustments and paint schemes were the only updates made to the classic-looking bike.

Vulcan 750 Specs

  • Engine Type: 749 cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 8 valves
  • Bore x Stroke: 3.3 inches x 2.6 inches
  • Compression Ratio: 10.3:1
  • Horsepower: 66/7500 KW(hp)/rpm
  • Fuel System: 2xKeihin CVK34 Carburetors

 Vulcan 400 series: 1986 - 2004

In 1986, the Vulcan 400 debuted as an entry-level cruiser that had a 398 cc liquid-cooled twin engine. It was fitted with a belt drive and six-speed transmission. This was later changed to a 399 cc liquid-cooled V-twin engine more akin to the Vulcan 750 for Series 2, and it was also fitted with a chain drive.

Kawasaki Vulcan 400 Specs

  • Engine Type: 399 cc, air-cooled, four-stroke, V-Twin, OHC
  • Bore x Stroke: 2.4 inches x2.6 inches
  • Compression Ratio: 9.8:1
  • Horsepower: 33/8500 KW(hp)/rpm
  • Torque: 24/4500 lb-ft/rpm
  • Fuel System: carburetor

Kawasaki Vulcan 500 Series: 1990 - 2009

Also called the EN500A, the Vulcan 500 was the successor of the Kawasaki 454 LTD in 1990. The Vulcan 500 EN500A had a parallel twin 498 cc engine, six-speed transmission, and belt final drive. The engine of the EN500A is very similar, some would say nearly identical, to the Kawasaki Ninja 500R. 

In 1996, the EN500A was replaced with the Vulcan 500 LTD, otherwise known as the EN500C. The 500 LTD was upgraded to have a final chain drive, better ergonomics, and new camshaft profiles and lower compression pistons that increased low-end torque.

Production of the Vulcan 500 LTD ran for nearly 20 years but was discontinued after the 2009 model.

Vulcan 500 Specs

  • Engine Type: 498 cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 8-valves
  • Bore x Stroke: 2.9 inches x 2.3 inches
  • Compression Ratio: 10.2:1
  • Horsepower: 46/8000 KW(hp)/rpm
  • Toque: 33/6000 lb-ft/rpm
  • Fuel System: 2xCVK32 Carburetors

Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Series: 1987 - 2008

The Vulcan 1500 is a V-twin that has been known for its delivery of power and torque since it debuted in 1987. The 1500 Classic has a 1,470 cc liquid-cooled SOHC V-twin, and the production of this big-bore metric cruiser ran until 1999.

The Kawasaki 1500 Drifter was a retro-styled motorcycle that had all the modern technology offered when it debuted in 1999. The Drifter was powered by a fuel-injected liquid-cooled 1470 cc V-twin. The bike had a five-speed transmission plus an automatic neutral finder, and later models featured chromed accessories and seat upgrades.

Fun fact: The Kawasaki Vulcan Super Chief was created in 1999 as the brainchild of Ken Boyko, Don Emde, son of Indian legend Floyd Emde and John Hoover of Kawasaki. The Drifter featured a Kawasaki engine but was designed with the classic 1940’s style lines of the Indian Chief. The Super Chief was shipped to Japan where it inspired the creation and launch of the Vulcan 1500 Drifter in 1999.

Here's a copy of the original sketch drawn by Don Emde when brainstorming the Super Chief in 1996:

The 1500 Mean Streak was the performance version of the Vulcan 1500 and, although it contained the same basic engine, had larger valves, new camshafts, larger fuel injection throttle bodies, a redesigned combustion chamber and high compression pistons. 

This increased the horsepower to 72 at 5500 rpm and at 3000 rpm. The 1500 Mean Streak was produced from 2002 - 2004 before it was taken over by the 1600 Mean Streak.

Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Classic Specs

  • Engine Type: 1470 cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 4-valve cylinder head, V-twin
  • Bore x Stroke: 4 inches x 3.5 inches
  • Compression Ratio: 9.0:1
  • Horsepower: 64/4700 KW(hp)/ rpm
  • Toque: 84.6/2800 lb-ft/rpm
  • Fuel System: Electronic injection

 Kawasaki Vulcan 800 Series: 1995 - 2006

The first Vulcan 800, also known as the VN800A, was introduced in 1995 and featured a Softail design with a bobbed rear fender and large front wheel.  It had an 805 cc liquid-cooled four valves per cylinder V-twin with a five-speed transmission with optional slap shift.

The later, retro-styled VN800B debuted a year later in 1996 and featured full fenders and 16” front and rear wheels. Both of these Vulcan 800 models were discontinued in 2006 after the VN900 was introduced.

Vulcan 800 Specs

  • Engine Type: 805 cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 4-valve per cylinder, V-twin
  • Bore x Stroke: 3.46 inches x 2.60 inches
  • Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
  • Horsepower: 56/7000 KW(hp)/ rpm
  • Toque: 47.2/3300 lb-ft/rpm
  • Fuel System: Keihin CVK36 Carburetor

Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 series: 2002 - 2009

The Vulcan 1600 series included three variations: the Nomad, the Mean Streak, and the Classic. All had a 1,552 cc SOHC liquid-cooled four valves per cylinder V-twin engine and five-speed transmission. The 1600 series was replaced in 2009 when Kawasaki upgraded once again to the 1700 series.

Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Specs

  • Engine Type: 1552 cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 4-valve cylinder head, V-twin
  • Bore x Stroke: 4 inches x 3.7 inches
  • Compression Ratio: 9:1
  • Torque: 93/2500 lb-ft/ rpm
  • Fuel System: Electronic injection

Vulcan 900 series: 2006 - Present

The Vulcan 900 series consists of the 900 Classic, Vulcan 900 Classic LT, and the Vulcan 900 Custom. These three all featured a 903 cc liquid-cooled V-twin SOHC engine with belt drive, a four-valve cylinder head, and tank-mounted speedometer with turn signal indicators and caution lamps. 

The Vulcan 900 Classic LT featured the same details as the Classic, plus the addition of the passenger backrest, studded accents, and saddlebags. While the Custom featured a 180mm rear tire, a thin 21 inch, cast front wheel, a more low-profile seat with a smaller pillion, and drag-style handlebars.

For the 900 Classic LT, the h 903cc V-twin can produce 50 hp and 78 Nm of torque.The engine of the Classic LT was tweaked by Kawasaki to improve the ability to carry long distances fast with a lot of luggage, as well as power delivery at low revs. The Classic LT also deliberately delivers for modern needs such as urban commuting for younger riders such as Millennials.

The series’ upgrades have been minimal to maintain the popular aspects of the original 900, and the model continues production to this day.

The VN900 Classic made in 2012 tuned down the engine of the 2006 model to refine the comfort while maintaining the visuals of the popular bobber-style. The retro fender accentuates chrome parts, while the engine can deliver the same horsepower and torque for dependable acceleration at any speed.

The Special Edition of the Classic (2012 - 2013) provides all the amenities of the Classic while providing more in the sense of eye-candy custom graphics with black and chrome parts.

The Kawasaki VN900 Custom is designed to look like a stock bike but offered such upgrades as aesthetic details, accessories, and customization. The 900 Vulcan Classic LT maintained the low price when compared to other big tourers, but came standard with touring amenities such as saddlebags, a backrest, and an adjustable windshield.

On the same hand, the Kawasaki VN900 Light Tourer (2011 - 2012) boasts a custom look while the performance maintains the touring needs and lifestyle such as a larger gas tank and 50 hp, 5-speed gearbox with final belt drive.

Vulcan 900 Specs

  • Engine Type:  903 cc ,4-stroke V-twin
  • Bore x Stroke: 3.5 inches x 2.9 inches
  • Compression Ratio: 9:5:1
  • Horsepower: 50/5700 KW(hp)/rpm
  • Torque: 58/3700 lb-ft/rpm
  • Fuel System: EFI, dual 34mm throttle bodies

Vulcan 1700 series: 2009 - Present

The Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 was released in 2009 to replace the recently discontinued Vulcan 1600. The 1700 boasted a larger displacement engine, a six-speed transmission, and a ride-by-wire throttle. For the time being, the 1700 comes in the Voyager and the Vaquero. Who knows what’s to come?

The Vulcan 1700 line (except for the Voyagers and Vaqueros) featured a 1,700 cc 52-degree SOHC liquid-cooled fuel-injected V-twin engine with a six-speed transmission. The tour motorcycles also came with a ride-by-wire throttle, hard saddlebags, and a windshield.

Vulcan 1700 Nomad Specs:

  • Engine Type: 1700 cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke V-Twin
  • Bore x Stroke: 4.0 inches x 4.1 inches
  • Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
  • Horsepower: 73/5000 KW(hp)/rpm
  • Torque: 100/2750 lb-ft/rpm
  • Fuel System: Injection. Digital fuel injection, dual 42mm throttle bodies

Vulcan 2000 series: 2006 - 2010

When the Vulcan 2000 got its start in 2006, l three series models are currently produced. Available in three models: the standard, Classic, and Classic LT models, the Vulcan 2000s are considered a perfect blend of power and style. The 2000 is the largest displacement engine in Kawasaki’s history, and all three models have a liquid-cooled, 2053 cc V-twin engine that produces a whopping 141 lb/ft of torque at 2,800 rpm of rumbling muscle.

Vulcan 2000 Specs

  • Engine Type: 2053cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, OHV, 4-valve cylinder head, V-twin
  • Bore x Stroke: 4.1inches  x 4.9 inches
  • Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
  • Horsepower: 103/4800 KW(hp)/ rpm
  • Torque: 141/3000 lb-ft/rpm
  • Fuel System: Electronic injection

Vulcan S series: 2015 - 2022

The Vulcan S cruiser is available in three models: Vulcan S, Vulcan S ABS, or the  Vulcan S ABS Café. All three share a Ninja-derived power with a liquid-cooled 650cc twin engine. The Vulcan S has a low total-weight and is comfortable and agile. It's ergo-fit design allows for the comfort of all riders with many adjustments available to the footpegs, handlebars, and seat.

Vulcan S Specs

  • Engine Type: 649cc, 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled
  • Bore x Stroke: 3.3 inches  x 2.4 inches
  • Compression Ratio:10.8:1
  • Horsepower:61.00 HP (44.5 kW) @ 7500 RPM
  • Torque:46.3 lb-ft @ 6600 rpm
  • Fuel System: DFI 38mm Throttle Bodies (2), with sub-throttle valves

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