SLAMMIN' JUNIOR CRUISER
Kawasaki Vulcan S
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.