2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS - First Ride

One size seldom fits all.

2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS action shot

Kawasaki market research has determined that a primary concern for motorcycle buyers—first timers and experienced riders—is finding a motorcycle that physically fits. Picking a new bike is not unlike trying on a new pair of shoes, and it is here that the all-new Kawasaki Vulcan S Ergo-Fit concept provides a fresh approach.

Most Kawasaki dealers have signed on as Ergo-Fit Centers, which allows prospective buyers to mix and match dealer-installed seat, footpeg, and handlebar options at time of purchase for no additional cost. The Vulcan’s forward-mounted pegs offer a trio of mounting points spanning a three-inch range, an alteration that requires an appropriate length shift rod ($5.95). Likewise, three sculpted seats (249.95) are available, in reduced-, mid-, or extended-reach form. Additionally, the pullback-style handlebar ($79.95) comes in two flavors, a mid-reach design and a reduced-reach bar that places the grips 1.4 inches closer to the rider.

Kawasaki’s Ergo-Fit guidelines state that Reduced Reach is intended for riders 5-foot-6 and shorter, while Extended Reach parts are for those 6-foot or taller. As I’m 5-foot-10 with a 32-inch inseam, I selected a Mid Reach configuration for the one-day press ride in Santa Barbara, California.

The Vulcan S is powered by a liquid-cooled 649cc parallel twin derived from the Ninja 650. It's a fuel-injected DOHC eight-valve motor with revised cam profiles, plus a modified intake tract, exhaust, and ECU. These changes, along with a 28 percent increase in flywheel mass, have resulted in improved low- and mid-range response and smoother overall operation. Riding through town on our way to some scenic coastal back roads, I could sense an impressive fluidity to the machine as I pulled away from stops and clicked up through the light-shifting six-speed gearbox.

Power delivery is very linear. The usable range is from 2,000 rpm to the 9,900 rev limit. Even at upper revs, the crankshaft-driven counter-balancer maintains a degree of comfort and smoothness, as evidenced by the clear view in the bar-mount mirrors. Steady cruise at 4500 rpm in top gear registers an indicated 60 mph, and there’s plenty of passing-performance headroom without need for a downshift.

2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS engine close-up

The sporty character of the Vulcan S engine is supported by a nimble chassis with superbly neutral steering. It’s a chassis that defies its long and low stature. The Diamond tubular frame utilizes a single laydown KYB shock offering 3.2 inches of wheel travel, while the well damped 41mm conventional fork is kicked out at 31 degrees of rake and offers 4.7 inches of stability-bolstering trail. The Dunlop Sportmax radials fitted to the 18 x 3.5 front and 17 x 4.5 rear five-spoke cast wheels provided excellent cornering grip at peg-dragging lean angles not typical of a cruiser. I found the ride a bit taut on some of the bumpier stretches of our route, but came away thoroughly impressed with my ABS-equipped Vulcan’s braking ability. The single 300mm rotor/twin-piston Nissin front combo is forgiving, having subtle initial bite but plenty of power when a handful is applied. The front tire tracked well when braking hard over rough surfaces, with surprisingly little ABS interaction. The rear anti-lock cycled quite readily, doing an excellent job of keeping the rear in line even when stomping the pedal mid-turn.

The new Kawasaki Vulcan S has hit the mark in offering ease of use at an affordable price, together with an engine and chassis that will keep owners entertained for miles. But what about Ergo Fit?

I had an issue with the inside of my knees uncomfortably contacting the protruding plastic frame covers located beneath the fuel tank. My hosts swapped the seat for the Extended version, thus repositioning me an inch rearward. This, along with locating the pegs to the Reduced position, aligned my knees perfectly with the smooth surface of the tank.

One comfy customer.

2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS with accessories static side view

GREENBACKS TO BURN

Tailoring the Vulcan S ergonomics is just the beginning, as Kawasaki has developed a line of Genuine Accessories to further personalize your new Vulcan. As delivered, the Vulcan S model is a solo mount, but there’s a 2-Up kit that includes passenger seat ($124.95), footrests ($239.95) and backrest/bracket ($634.90). For those looking to make an extended trip, a touring-type windshield with mounting brackets ($556.85) is available, as well as quick- release saddlebags/supports ($954.85). There’s also an LED light bar kit ($495.95), a gear-position indicator ($259.95), a DC power outlet ($34.95), and a helmet lock ($114.95) should you have budget remaining.

Specifications

2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS
PRICE $6999 (Vulcan S)/$7399 (Vulcan S ABS)
ENGINE Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, parallel twin
DISPLACEMENT 649cc
BORE x STROKE 83.0 x 60.0mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 10.8:1
MAXIMUM TORQUE N/A
FUEL DELIVERY EFI, two 38mm throttle bodies
IGNITION TCBI with digital advance
TRANSMISSION Six-speed, positive neutral finder
FINAL DRIVE Sealed chain
FRAME High-tensile steel double-pipe perimeter frame
FRONT SUSPENSION/WHEEL TRAVEL 41mm fork/5.1 in.
REAR SUSPENSION/WHEEL TRAVEL Lay-down offset shock with adjustable preload/3.2 inc.
FRONT TIRE 120/70R-18
REAR TIRE 160/60R-17
FRONT BRAKE Single 300mm disc with twin-piston caliper, ABS
REAR BRAKE Single 250mm disc with single-piston caliper, ABS
OVERALL LENGTH 91.0 in.
OVERALL WIDTH 34.7 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT 43.3 in.
GROUND CLEARANCE 5.1 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 27.8 in.
WHEELBASE 62 in.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 498 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 3.7 gal.
COLORS Candy Lime Green, Pearl Crystal White or Flat Ebony
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