A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from the Kawasaki Good Times Street Demo team inviting me to go test ride any of their 2012 bikes. I jumped at the chance and rode down to Homestead Speedway on a Saturday morning.
The event is a national tour designed to increase brand awareness and let riders take a prospective bike out for a 30-minute street course with a variety of twists, turns, stops and cruising. I estimate that half of the participants rode in on sport bikes, mainly Kawasakis, but a few Yamahas and Triumphs. The other half thundered in on big, loud cruisers and touring bikes.
I chose a 2012 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom in Candy Sparkling Orange. The “DEMO” model came with MSRP (“$8,999″) printed directly on the headlight. This is an aggressive naked bike with rubber foot pegs and a nearly straight handlebar. The seating position is quite comfortable compared to my Kawasaki ZX-6R. The bars extend too far from the mounting tubes, decreasing feedback during steering. I imagine the feedback is more precise than a full touring bike, but significantly less direct than a sportbike.
A single gauge mounted in gas tank displays your speed and fuel level. The indicators are bright and easily visible even in bright sunlight. The lack of a tachometer combined with a relatively low redline bothered me at first —I often bounced the engine instead of shifting.
Onto the ride! I strapped on my GoPro HD using the Chesty mount and clicked into gear to follow the leader. My initial impression was FUN! The low growl of the exhaust completes a “tough cruiser” image. However, the first turn which received some lean angle the heel of my boot dragged against the ground. I tried to limit my leaning, but by the end of the 30 minutes, my heels were toast!
The bike handled well and asked for hard cornering. The shifting was smooth, but still limited by a low redline and a lack of grunt at the top end. The braking was firm and confidence inspiring, but the cruising is where the bike shines. This bike was made for relaxed rides to the beach with your favorite girl on back. Above 60, the engine speed is low and unobtrusive with steady rake to keep the bike straight and narrow.
Ultimately, this is a great iteration of the naked cruiser image. A tuned exhaust, comfortable ergonomics and a reasonable entry price make this bike an all-around winner.
Here’s some footage of me riding the Vulcan 900: