Johannesburg - When testing cars and bikes, one has some degree of anticipation; in the case of a big-engined vehicle with humungous horsepower it is the anticipation of an imminent thrill, sometimes even a shiver or the hair on the back of your neck standing up if you like.
Sometimes it’s the opposite – a cheapie with a small engine and few features.
My friends will shoot me for admitting that cruisers are one of my favourite modes of motorcycle, but that’s the truth. Nothing beats a high-end cruiser with a big torquey V-twin, oodles of comfort and a plush suspension.
Being a member of the established “Old Farts” club, my knees and joints and rear end will let me know within a few kilometres if the bike being tested is up to snuff.
My heart yearns for the horizon; reality is a different matter!
Mounting the Kawasaki Vulcan S for the first time, one is aware how low it is. With a seat height of 705mm, that is 245mm lower than the seat on my Honda XR650. Almost 9 inches in Imperial-speak! To most sane folk, lower is better.
LOVES TO REV
As I pulled out into traffic, my first impression was that it didn’t have much go. WRONG!
This water-cooled 650 twin loves to be revved and it has a frenetic buzz while doing so. In the bottom half of the rev range the Vulcan can be very civilised. But give it some carrots and, man, does it bring a smile to one’s dial. The motor pushes out 46kW but the way it does it, it feels more like 55kW.
I often found that I had forgotten I was riding a cruiser - a wolf in sheep’s clothing for sure.
My friend Pamela has a 1500cc Harley-Davidson; I said to her and her husbabd Geoff that I thought the Vulcan would give it a good run for its money. After he rode it, he came back smiling…
Being a parallel twin it looks different to the usual V-twin cruiser, but it shares the long and low look of other cruisers.
The seat is thickly padded and kept said nether regions content. The foot forward controls greatly improved comfort as well. Handling is light and the single disc brakes front and back provided ample stopping power, giving one a confident feeling while aboard.
I also liked the satin-like finish on the metal plates adorning various components as well as the instrument panel with its easy-to-read rev counter, speedometer, fuel gauge, trip meter, clock and idiot lights.
Kawasaki VN650 Vulcan S
Engine: 649cc liquid-cooled parallel twin.
Bore x stroke: 83 x 60mm.
Compression ratio: 10.8:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 46kW at 7500rpm.
Torque: 63Nm at 6600rpm.
Induction: Digital electronic fuel-injection with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies and sub-throttle butterfly valves.
Ignition: TCBI with electronic advance.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 41mm conventional cartridge forks.
Rear Suspension: Lay-down offset hydraulic shock-absorber with linkage and adjustable preload.
Front brakes: 300mm disc with single-piston floating calliper and ABS.
Rear brake: 250mm disc with single-piston floating calliper and ABS.