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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

  • September 4, 2015
  • Dirck Edge
  • Kimberly Edge

2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S: MD Second Ride


Gabe came away impressed when he tested the all-new 2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S at the press launch, so I had to give the bike a try myself. This is a unique motorcycle, in many respects, with adjustable ergonomics, a 649cc parallel twin engine, and cruiser styling priced at a reasonable $6,999.

All of the technical details for this bike are covered in Gabe’s earlier article. If you need to read those, check it out. This article will focus on my riding impressions.

For perspective, I picked up the Vulcan S from Kawasaki’s Southern California headquarters when I dropped off the Versys 1000 LT, a very powerful and quick motorcycle. After years of riding various motorcycles, I can re-calibrate my brain pretty quickly, but a bike swap like this, nevertheless, can make me feel like the new machine is slow … broken, even. That is, until I ride it for a while and clear my adrenals.



The Vulcan S felt peppy pulling out of Kawasaki’s parking lot, and even had good acceleration as I merged on the freeway for my trip back to Temecula. This bike has an excellent engine, just as Gabe reported.

The fuel injection is well calibrated to provide smooth throttle roll-on, and the Vulcan S has a broad spread of power from the Ninja 650-derived engine. Decent low-end, followed by a progressive surge of power as the tach sweeps right. This doesn’t feel anything like your typical, slow-revving cruiser engine.

Physically, the Vulcan S is a small machine that will invite even the shortest riders aboard. This is where the adjustable ergonomics come in. Stock, the foot pegs have a range of 2″ (1″ forward and 1″ back from the mid mounting point), but you will need special “Ergo-Fit” shift rods from Kawasaki to move them. Kawasaki also offers an optional handlebar which brings the grips 1″ closer to the rider. We tested the bike with everything in the stock position.

The cruiser seating position is rarely the best for longer rides, because too much weight is placed on the rider’s tailbone area. The Vulcan S is no exception, although the stock seat offers a rear lip that provides some lower back support, and we were generally comfortable for rides less than 2 hours in length. The rest of the ergonomics work quite well for this class of motorcycle with a reasonable reach to the bars and the pegs for a 5’11” test rider.

Just as unexpected as the engine performance was the handling. There is something about this chassis that begs the rider to push this bike harder than your typical cruiser. The sprightly engine is part of that no doubt, but the chassis really lends some confidence in the corners.


Ground clearance is quite good – excellent, in fact, for this category of bike – and many riders will be comfortable using most, if not all, of it. The stock tire sizes are not that different from those found on a  sport bike, with a 160/60-17 rear and a 120/70-18 front. The slightly larger diameter of the front wheel (18″ versus 17″) did not have the normal negative impact on front tire purchase while leaned over in corners. The 120 section front is wider than the 110 section found on many cruisers.

There are compromises you would expect in a bike built to this price point, such as non-adjustable suspension (aside from preload on the rear shock), together with a 300mm single front disc brake gripped by a relatively pedestrian twin-piston caliper. There is an ABS model priced at $7,399.

Kawasaki has done an excellent job tuning both the suspension and brake performance, however. Rear suspension travel is pretty short at 3.2″ (longer than some cruisers), but we did not have a problem with the rear shock bottoming, and the suspension as a whole did its job well. Damping and stiction are not up to the standards of the more expensive models with fully adjustable fork and shock, but we really had no complaints.

The brakes are also up to snuff, with good power and feel that surpasses some of the similarly priced, budget cruisers we have tested in the past.

The bottom line is that the Kawasaki Vulcan S is a very well-sorted motorcycle that can put a grin on the face of riders of all skill levels. I took a couple of test units out with a very experienced, older rider and put him on the Vulcan S. He owns a large displacement, adventure tourer, but got off the Vulcan S and told me: “I’m not sure I need more bike than this … it’s got plenty of motor, and it’s fun to ride.” Our sentiments, as well.

The Kawasaki Vulcan S is available in three different colors, including Candy Lime Green, Pearl Crystal White and Flat Ebony. Take a look at Kawasaki’s web site for additional details and specifications.



  1. JACK 101 says:


  2. Butch says:

    While it’s not for me, I think Kawasaki made a good move producing this bike.
    It should appeal to new riders as well as the ladies who may have been a little intimidated by larger, heavier cruisers.
    This should give Harley a run for it’s money on it’s 750.
    Shootout anyone ?

    • JACK 101 says:


  3. Provologna says:

    Gawd I have no affection for cruisers. Something about having to pull oneself up from the grips to adjust body weight seems like the antithesis of proper ergonomics for handling prowess. One never knows when proper handling characteristics might come in handy, to, for instance, escape from a zombie apocalypse, impending drone attack from religious extremist, an angry girlfriend in a powerful SUV, etc, etc.

    That Indian Scout looks darn nice, and has a handsome and proper motor, but still doubt that’s enough to make me get over the strange cruiser ergonomics and stretch-limo wheelbase, i.e. lack of ground clearance, etc…

  4. Artem says:

    Like it very much.
    W800 is so expensive

  5. Skif says:

    I give Kawasaki credit for taking a step in the right direction with the ergofit system, but it’s a small step. Local dealer had a three bike display with the three configurations. Two inches of difference in the bars can be noticed somewhat. The extended reach seat is a different seat and is quite different. I could hardly notice any difference in the foot control positions. Apparently having two inches of difference “down there” doesn’t matter after all.

    • Tank says:

      I think Kawasaki should do what Harley does and offer two different models. One with feet forward controls for taller riders and one with mid mount controls. They could call the mid mount model an Eliminator.

  6. Frank says:

    Not ugly, but I can’t call it good looking either. Doesn’t appeal to the cruiser aesthetic. Reconfigure it into more of a standard and then maybe.

    Neither this bike or the Hyosung compare to the defunct Honda Magna 750 V four. Bring that back with better suspension and brakes Honda…(and a bigger fuel tank).

    • Kent says:

      I think that “reconfigure it into more of a standard” is what they did when the made the Ninja 650 into the Versys.

      Same basic engine in a sporty bike, cruisery bike and adventurey bike.

  7. Tank says:

    Why does everybody but Harley find it so difficult to make a cruiser with mid mount foot controls.

  8. Hyosung? what you done?

  9. Gham says:

    The 650cc cruiser market has got to be pretty small,do they sell well anywhere?I never see one out in public.Not even the Yamaha (that looks pretty decent) seems to be anything close to a sales success.

    • mickey says:

      They sell an absolute ton of those Yamaha V Star 650s around here. I would have ventured to guess it was Yamahas number 1 selling model.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        A lot of those here as well. A lot of them everywhere I’ve lived come to think of it.

        • Gham says:

          Had to ask,I travel around quite a bit, my kids and wife marvel that I can name most every bike on the road.It must be this area that’s not well represented.

          • mickey says:

            I wish mfgs would just be forthright and give us the info on how many of which models are made and sold.

          • JACK 101 says:


    • TURBOMAN says:

      Its has to do with the failure of the sales persons skills..The V star is a bored out Virago 535 gutless toad and most dealerships can employ only misfits who have never ridden before but is trying to sell motorcycles..

    • Scottie says:

      There are dozens of vstar 650s and Honda Shawdows in my neighborhood on the upper east side.

  10. ABQ says:

    I like this style of middle weight cruiser. I’m going back and forth between the
    Vulcan-S and the Honda 700. I would like a comparison between the two.
    The only issue I have with the bikes is the small gas tanks. If a bike is really good, I want to really ride it. I asked several dealers about the gas tank size and most of the respond with a dull glaze in their eye and tell me that I could go 150 miles before refilling. Another Honda dealer told me that they made the gas tank small to cut down on the weight. That’s right, to cut back on weight they took out the gas tank. INSANE! And another dealer told me that if I rode too long I could risk going into a mental zone, therefore it’s best to stop and get gas more often. I never thought of that. I thought that the whole point of riding a motorcycle was to be in the zone. Because, YES IT IS a good thing to be in the zone.
    Please give us larger gas tanks. I don’t mind if having gasoline adds more weight. That provides the fuel to get me where I want to be: In The Zone…beyond 150 miles.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Rule number one … don’t be surprised when a sales guy says something stupid.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I think the small tanks are a direct result with our obsession with low weight. Since wet weights (tank full) are what get cited, that is an easy way for a manufacturer to cut 10 lbs out of the wet weight.

      I amazes me what salespeople will say some time.

      • Martin B says:

        Reducing weight on a 500 to 600 pound motorcycle should not be done by limiting riding range. In design, always start with the essentials, and decent range is one of them. That said, the Honda CTX700 is a great design with an economical engine if ridden gently (and why would you want to ride it any other way, that is its raison d’être). It is long term comfortable and sufficiently powerful, without corrupting in any way.

        If only it didn’t look and sound like an appliance.

    • todd says:

      Small tanks are also a result of cruiser riders wanting a teardrop or “peanut” tank. It also keeps you from spending too much time sitting on your tail bone. Those little occasional gas break stretches give the illusion that cruisers are comfortable.

      • Brian says:

        I’ve only ridden/owned one cruiser (a Harley Fat Bob). I always assumed I’d find the feet-forward seating position uncomfortable…but after a little time getting used to it, it really grew on me. I’ve owned quite a few bikes, and that HD remains the only one I’ve been able to ride a full day (on the stock seat) without getting a sore rear-end.

  11. Paul Warrick says:

    What percentage of folks would find this bike aesthetically pleasing? I’d be shocked if one person said it was a good looking motorcycle, so all the other details don’t really matter. I agree with Tommy D; it’s butt ugly.

    • Larry K says:

      Some people thought the BMW 1200 C was good looking. (not me) No accounting for taste. I find this odd looking but I think it would grow on you. Sorta.

    • Brian says:

      I think it looks pretty good, personally. The only detail I really don’t like is the headlight…makes me think of a heart.

  12. xLaYN says:

    I wonder what iron heads/air cooled twins/thump thump lovers think about this “execution” of a cruiser by Japan.

  13. Tommy D says:

    Here on the island of misfit toys is this motorcycle. Candidate for most unloved motorcycle of the year award. With a face like that I bet she can cook!

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I actually think it is a good looking bike! I think it looks way better than most cruisers.

      • KenHoward says:

        I like it, too (though better in black), and think it’s about time a manufacturer (besides Harley) decided to offer easily-swapped pegs, seat, and bars to accommodate differently-sized riders.

      • Martin B says:

        Looks good in purple (available in most of the world but not the USA…)

  14. TURBOMAN says:

    The HYOSUNG GV 650 PRO will walk all over this 650 and their 900..Lets check the hp..72 for the GV..Where are the adjustable pegs??Only a single disc in the front and Hyosung has the dual..I see toothpicks for front suspension ..Ill take the inverted forks on the GV..No rear seat..Kawasaki cutting corners I see..What this slug will do top speed the GV will do in the 1/4 mile..I see a chain drive vs a belt..Only a 1 yr warranty?Why?You never have to adjust the GV belt except during tire changes ..How about this Vulcan?Dual cam set up only and nothing sweeter than reving up a 4 cam engine and say see ya ..The GV 650 is even quicker than the Kawasaki Mean Steak 1500 they use to make..Why is every magazine scared to test a Japanese cruiser against the GV 650 Pro..??Dirck Edge im calling you out.

    • Selecter says:

      Do you ever get tired of shilling for Hyosung? Do they at least pay you well?

      • TURBOMAN says:

        This isn’t about me..Lets keep the debate on this Kawasaki.Hyosung GV 650 PRO will destroy this Kawasaki and if the editor wants to do a comparison bring it on..

        • xLaYN says:

          “This isn’t about me!!Lets keep the debate on those oil burning and recalls Honda 1000s and racebikes that cant even have a throttle work properly..”

          comment on:

          Formula for any response:
          “This isn’t about me..Lets keep the debate on”

          • xLaYN says:

            I really like Honda but for some reason I end up with two Suz… I’m seriously thinking about becoming TurboXlayn, to any post same response…

            “bla bla bla bla yeah but the bandit is better and has more torque and has more cylinders bla bla bla bla bla 16 cams and 400zillions valves, it will TOTTAAAALLLY OWN AND DESTROY DOWN to the ATOMS this thing..!!..!!..(because after . goes another . and then next phrase…. fck writing rules)blablabla looks at this times done by this turbo bandit bla bla bla”IwiillcombineNoSpaceWITHCAPSlower bla bla bla TOTTTTTALLY DESTROY…

          • TURBOMAN says:

            Different debate..This is a cruiser vs cruiser..You seemed confused..BUT since you said Honda lets compare ..VTX 1300 VS GV 650 PRO..12.97 spanks that 13.50 1300cc HONDA ..HYOSUNG wins again..Japanese fails!!

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Haha. Good one xLaYN.

        • Selecter says:

          I could sit and argue with you (I actually have an entire, long retort for all of your stupid assertions), but that would just be giving you what you want.

          Your Hyosung-cheerleading, anti-Japanese posts that never have anything to do with the actual subject matter of articles are childish and tiresome. Your spec-sheet-reasoning is as worthless as your usage of the space bar.

          Go back to Korider whence you came.

      • KenHoward says:

        I get tired of having to scroll endlessly past his incessant silliness.

      • TURBOMAN says:

        Cant beat the Hyosung..So you might want to join them lol..

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “Where are the adjustable pegs??”

      This is probably the most adjustable bike on the market right now.

      “Dual cam set up only”

      An inline engine only needs two cams. A one-cylinder KTM 390 Duke has two cams, this 2-cylinder Kawasaki has two cams, a 4-cylinder R1 has two cams, a six-cylinder K1600GTL has two cams. The V configuration of the Hyosung engine requires 4 cams to accomplish the same thing as the two cams in the Kawasaki. Nothing more.

      “Lets check the hp..72 for the GV”

      The standard Kawasaki 650 engine makes about that. Kawasaki intentionally re-tuned this engine to suit cruiser riders because the bike is a cruiser.

      “What this slug will do top speed the GV will do in the 1/4 mile”

      Considering how often I get stuck behind cruiser riders on back roads around here, I am led to believe they get pretty scared around the 55 mph mark. I have no doubt the GV is faster, but I doubt buyers of this bike will care.

      All that said, I think the GV650 deserves a spot in a pint-size cruiser comparison alongside this bike and others.

      • TURBOMAN says:

        THE GV 650 Pro runs 12.97 @ 101.93 in the 1/4 mile and depending on the test 116-121 mph..So lets see your figures on this 650 toad Kawasaki…58 hp vs 72.HYOSUNG !!The Kawasaki 1500 V twin wont run with this lil 650 ..Motorcycle Consumer News has the 1500 Mean streak @ 13.29.M90 from Slowzuki @ 13.11 M50 @ 13.99 ..Hyosung 650 has both of them covered ..Yamaha V Star 1100 13.68 another slug..Those are the facts and no Japanese 1300cc V twin Japanese cruiser and below will touch a Hyosung with only 650cc..Thats why the editor hasn’t tested the GV 650 Pro..Put the GV 650 Pro against any Jap V twin if they want a spanking..

    • Kagato says:

      someone locally has a GV 650–must be a pretty reliable scoot–he commutes on it on a regular basis. It is so hard to get a foothold established now though. too many other choices.

      • mickey says:

        All you have to do is google ” issues with Hyosung motorcycles” to get a feel for how reliable and well built they are. In this age of internet, anybody that builds a shoddy product should understand that the word will be spread as soon as common issues start showing up.

        This goes for any model of any brand of motorcycle. Just google ” common issues with xxx” and have fun reading.

    • Kent says:

      So, you bought a Hysong, and are now trying to convince everybody it’s a cool bike?

      Secondly, when you bring up top speed and acceleration in a cruiser article, everybody laughs. Really?
      All the cruiser guys spend all their time defending the crappy performance, because “it’s all about soul” or some other crap. Yet here you are, telling us all how fast your Hysong is – and nobody cares how fast a cruiser is, because they spend all their time blocking traffic.

      • TURBOMAN says:

        That would be that slug Kawasaki and all the other 1300cc V twin slugs and below..The GV 650 Pro will walk them all..Enjoy your opinions but this GV isn’t slow like those Japanese V twin slugs..Maybe 1700cc and above are a tad faster but this Kawasaki is a bucket..

        • Dave says:

          Turboman, if you’re truly a fan of Hysong, you’ll stop posting about them. You’re not helping anyone become a fan of the brand, you’re repelling them.

        • Kent says:

          So, it’s a copy of a SV-650 engine, with extra weight and fantastically ugly styling. Yeah, it’s probably faster than some cruisers. But why buys a cruiser for power and speed?

          RIde whatever you want to ride, and enjoy it. But let’s not pretend that a bike that drags parts in fast corners is *ever* going to be purchased for speed. It’s good to see than not every buyer and every manufacturer can only think “more displacement”.

          Now, imagine that engine in a bike that allows you to take advantage of “all that power”.

          • JACK 101 says:

            Actually Mr.Kent I think they have a sportbike with that engine but im sure TURBOMANM can correct me if im wrong!!

          • xLaYN says:

            TROLOLOLOLOL, now I’m laughing …
            JACK 101, TEAM 250, TURBOMAN, KING KENNY, it’s like you are not taking your pills for something hahahaha I mean, one of your alter egos on the top put money against the bike that you are dying (and killing) to promote and defend….
            It’s like several Jekyll & Hydes all living on your mind share the keyboard, the same keyboard with an alien intelligence that always fill spaces between one phrase and the other with !!, a keyboard that maybe; heck maybe Japanese people designed and reveals who you actually are by putting your name in always upper case… one that forces you to post incessantly quarter mile times….
            And here one of this voices… the one that respects Turboman, ask… and concedes can correct you implore to say you are right….
            In the shadows, another alter ego, switches back and forth between caps on…. caps off.. caps on… caps off…
            I can almost see you writing on the wall, “no Hyosung and no Turbo makes Turboman a dull boy…” while on the back quarter mile bikes run all day.

            Jeremy here
            also address this issue
            “Team 250 +.. aka King Kenny.. aka Turboman … you are just going to end up having a conversation with your various alter-egos and no one else eventually”

            I promise I’ll go tomorrow to my country Hyosung dealer… (if still exists…) to purge my sins…

        • Selecter says:

          If you hadn’t been paying attention, Japanese companies tried, and yes, *built* fast cruisers. Very fast cruisers. Like, sub 11-second 1/4 mile cruisers. Cruisers faster than any bike Hyosung has built yet, and probably ever will build.

          Look up the Kawasaki Eliminator, Honda Magna, Yamaha Fazer 750/700… heck, the Suzuki Madura 700 would have blown past your cute little Hyosung cruiser like it’s tied to a tree. The “little” versions of these bikes were mid-11 to low 12-second bikes. Minimal work would boost output on these a LOT. The big versions were genuine, fire-breathing sub-11 second monsters sometimes. Sometimes the day’s sportbikes couldn’t outrun them in a straight line!

          These bikes were built over 30 years ago now.

          Guess what?

          The Japanese actually learned from this that cruiser riders simply don’t demand fast acceleration. They want torquey low-rpm power delivery, and rarely wind the engines out to redline… which is exactly how you make a bike fast. These riders (like myself) gravitated towards the sportbike and standard range of things. The cruiser riders gravitated towards the lopey, Harley-Davidson/oversized v-twin side of things.

          Which is exactly why you can count the GV as a failure, rather than the Japanese bikes. I’d seen them bring their bikes to the IMS shows here for several years in the late 2000s. Since then? Nothing. I’ve still never seen a single one on the road. I’ve seen far more of the aforementioned Japanese “cruisers”, despite time thinning the herds.

          Bragging about a fast cruiser is pretty much like bragging about having the fastest dump truck. It’s faster than other dump trucks, but it’s still a dump truck!

          • xLaYN says:

            I fear logic will not work in this case, Jeremy makes a perfect case for the “Only dual cam” above, he got the standard “I don’t care reply here are more numbers”.
            I have seen his comments for a while and take the “stay out of demolition area” approach; which I miserably fail above.
            He represents a brand that most of the time is overlooked, and that is great, but the typical “out of my mind” fanatic approach, e.g.
            -“Now add a turbo and methanol injection and then you have a motorcycle”
            -calling the ZZR 1200 a slug (really?)
            -gutless toad and most dealerships can employ only misfits who have never ridden before but is trying to sell motorcycles
            -“the Guru”
            -slap, fear, destroy, japanese fail… etc.
            makes his post look more like spam than a constructive critique or comment.
            Last but not least(1), I agree ” They want torquey low-rpm power delivery, and rarely wind the engines out to redline…”; it would look ridiculous to be 10% faster than a group of cruisers while your engine sounds like it’s disintegrating.
            It would be interesting to see what happens if MD has a couple posts about bikes that can be compared to anything he decides and this trend continues.
            Last but not least(2), I’m not against you Turboman but it’s my opinion your post should take another tone.

          • TEAM 250 says:

            So a Yamaha V Max is a slow bike?Ducati Diavel? The Max runs 10.16 1/4 which is faster than many sportbikes right on line with the EBR 1190RX and Ducati 1199..Now the Hyosung isn’t fast when you compare it to these 4 cylinders cruisers but a V twin its no slouch!

          • JACK 101 says:


    • Austin ZZR1200 says:

      I’m sold, TURBOMAN

      Selling my bikes tomorrow to by a HYOSUNG. I dont know what I would do without your wisdom.

      • TURBOMAN says:

        You should sell that slug.. ..Now add a turbo and methanol injection and then you have a motorcycle..This comparison is on that weak Kawasaki and Hyosung has it covered..

    • Motorhead says:

      I say we award Hyosung GV 650 Pro Bike of the Year for 2015, 2016, and 2017. Anybody object? OK then, done. Bike. Of. The. Year. Hyosung!!!

  15. Kagato says:

    That is a green Mochine–you know, the only advantage I’ve ever seen to the gyno-style position is when you have to hit the brakes hard–you can take the pressure on your feet instead of it trying to lift you over the front. I guess they have to put the pegs out there to get the seat height low.

  16. Paul says:

    Kawasaki should put this motor in a standard type frame. With a bench seat and another inch of rear suspension travel it would make a great all rounder type UJM bike. Sort of like the FZ07 but with better pillion seating, for people who don’t care to wheelie.

    • Selecter says:

      See : Ninja 650. It’s far more UJM than sportbike. If you’re hung up on the fairings, find an older ER-6n, which I think is still sold in Europe, but was only a 1 or 2 model year bike in the US.

      • Paul says:

        Good point. I would take the newer faired one (ABS) over the older non-abs naked. Still, not sure about the pillion seat, looks kind of sloped.

        • Honyock says:

          Yes, the pillion seat is canted forward enough to make it uncomfortable for all but the lightest passenger. But with the right handlebars the Ninja650 is good for 500 mile days, even for older, not-so-flexible riders.

    • Mr.Mike says:

      See “Versys 650”

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