SLAM­MIN' JU­NIOR CRUISER

Kawasaki Vul­can S

NZ Autocar - - Contents -

Want to learn to ride a bike or re­turn to mo­tor­cy­cling on some­thing that looks wild and goes half­way rea­son­ably? The Vul­can S might fit the bill per­fectly.

Wow, I mean gen­uinely wow. A good look­ing cruiser that goes, han­dles and stops well and doesn’t cost the earth. Per­haps the weird­est as­pect of all is that it’s also LAMS le­gal. And most of the above is due to the fact that the Kawasaki Vul­can S is one of the light­est cruis­ers on the mar­ket, weigh­ing 225kg brimmed and ready to ride.

LAMS, or learner ap­proved mo­tor­cy­cles, have en­gines of up to 660cc. Big­ger folk don’t sit so well on 250cc ma­chin­ery, so the abil­ity to learn on a bike as big as 660cc is a boon for such peo­ple. More­over, hob­bit-sized folk may also ride bikes such as the one you see here. That’s be­cause cruis­ers like this have a seat height of just 705mm, mean­ing ver­ti­cally-chal­lenged rid­ers aren’t au­to­mat­i­cally ruled out. How do taller folk fare? Kawasaki has that cov­ered as well, be­cause the foot­pegs are mov­able to one of three po­si­tions. Av­er­age height folk will be happy with the de­fault mid­dle set­ting, and at 183cm so was I, but if you’re shorter the pegs can be sited an inch rear­ward, and the op­po­site ap­plies for the ec­to­morphs of this world.

So why might you buy a cruiser? Per­haps be­cause you like the look of them, or the im­age, the two be­ing re­lated. The Vul­can S ticks a lot of the right boxes; it’s long and lean, there’s heaps of black high­light­ing, it has an ex­posed steel frame, a stubby black un­der­slung ex­haust and a head­light that re­minds of a VRod’s. There’s also the sin­gle seat and this bike has a soft tail ap­pear­ance, with an ex­posed rear fender. A pil­lion seat and foot­pegs are avail­able, as fit­ted to the cheaper non-LAMS vari­ant. The Vul­can S also has asym­met­ric wheels, an 18-incher up front, 17 out the back. That’s a style thing, but may help a bit with ground clear­ance. About the only thing that doesn’t re­ally quite gel for this type of ma­chine is its par­al­lel twin en­gine; most have V-twins. Still, when you’re on the bike, it’s how it goes, isn’t it? Okay, and how it sounds which is like a par­al­lel twin; not quite the grav­i­tas of a V-twin but that’s for­giv­able at the $12,995 ask­ing price.

The en­gine is based on Kawasaki’s pleas­ing ER6 unit which makes 53kW and 64Nm, the lat­ter at 7000rpm. Vul­can S with ECU re­stric­tion gets 35kW and 53Nm to meet the LAMs power:weight for­mula. Whereas most cruiser en­gines don’t rev that high, this has been tuned to gen­er­ate op­ti­mum grunt at 5600rpm. Peak power chimes in 1000rpm later, still ef­fort­less for an en­gine that can rev out to nearly 9500rpm. So this you could con­sider low stressed, as a cruiser is meant to be, ide­o­log­i­cally.

You’d imag­ine that 35kW is not a whole lot, given wet weight of 225kg but it’s surely suf­fi­cient. The bike will cruise mer­rily at 120km/h, and feels ef­fort­less at an in­di­cated 100, en­gine revs around the 4600 mark. At 5000rpm the speedo reads 110km/h pre­cisely, in re­al­ity 104km/h.

Ex­pe­ri­enced rid­ers might scoff at LAMS bikes but I’m amazed at just how de­cent some of them are nowa­days. Not only that, but they hold their price well too. Some are ask­ing how they can turn their reg­u­lar ER6s into LAMs bikes be­cause they fetch bet­ter prices sec­ond hand. Sim­ple an­swer, don’t, it’s il­le­gal.

How’s it go? Kick it in the guts and you’d likely agree the stubby pipe looks bet­ter than it sounds. How­ever, it’s a friendly donk, with de­cent midrange and a zippy top end, to a point; above 8000rpm per­for­mance goes back­wards. Still, it has a wee kick once it hits around 4000rpm, and another at 6000rpm. Prior to that it of­fers rea­son­able grunt, from down as low as 2000rpm and build­ing from 3000rpm on­wards, mean­ing it can be rid­den in town in higher gears.

ds Wor tos Pho n isso Lou er nier Pet Gas Tom

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