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New Kawasaki Mean Streak: Style, Power and Handling in a Cruiser

Joining the “power cruiser” melee, Kawasaki has announced the 2002 Vulcan 1500 Mean Streak. Remembering that Kawasaki starts out with one of the more advanced big-bore V-twins in the cruiser segment (i.e., a 1470cc, liquid-cooled, single overhead cam, eight-valve design with fuel injection), Kawasaki claims a conservative ten percent increase in engine performance for the Mean Streak over the “regular” fuel-injected Vulcan 1500.



The Mean Streak features substantial changes from the traditional Vulcan models, including both engine performance enhancements and chassis enhancements for improved handling and braking. Beginning with the engine, Kawasaki increased the size of the intake and exhaust valves, redesigned the cylinder head, cam shaft and pistons, and increased the diameter of the fuel injection throttle bodies.

The chassis changes include completely re-worked frame geometry (with longer wheel base for increased stability coupled with relatively nimble handling). Note the steering head angle appears to be steeper than all of the other power cruisers (with the possible exception of the Yamaha Road Star Warrior). The 17 inch, cast aluminum wheels hold sport bike rubber and include sport bike-grade brakes (the six piston calipers in front are directly from the ZX-9R) and are held by enhanced suspension (including a new, inverted fork and rear, air-assisted shocks with four-way adjustable rebound damping).

Kawasaki has done an excellent job with the styling of the Mean Streak. Less radical than most of the other power cruiser designs, the Mean Streak nevertheless is a careful departure from the traditional Vulcan design. The unique fenders, lights, gas tank indicators, and the beautiful, completely seamless gas tank are aggressive, but somehow elegant at the same time. Featuring convenient touches like self-canceling turn signals, five-position adjustable clutch and brake levers, low fuel indicator, and modern reflector beam headlight, the Mean Streak also comes with full-size, separate tachometer and speedometer. These added controls and instruments indicate Kawasaki’s desire that the Mean Streak appeal to “cross-over” riders coming from sport bikes and standards. With an MSRP of $10,999, expect to see the Mean Streak at your local dealer sometime next month (although Kawasaki informs us that the exact date has not yet been set).