2009 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Cruisers First Ride

Though the 2009 Vulcan Voyager now represents the flagship touring motorcycle for Kawasaki, the 2009 Vulcan Nomad is a worthy touring mount in its own right. The Nomad comes fully outfitted with top-opening hard saddlebags that are weatherproofed and continue the round lines established by the tank. An adjustable windshield and lower fork-leg wind deflectors prevent the wind from putting the beat-down on you, but the gusting winds coming off the Pacific Ocean proved that the Voyager’s front fairing and windscreen do a better job. The black leather saddle is bucket-shaped, plushly padded, and ergonomically designed. The passenger seat does form a slight lip that applies more pressure on the lower back than the seat of the Classics. Spacious floorboards give riders a little leeway to slide their feet back when you hit the open road. Chrome engine guards in front and back come standard and offer another place to kick the feet up during long hauls.

This here is a one-horse town, hombre, and my steed just happens to be the 2009 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Classic.

The Nomad is more than prepped for a passenger to climb aboard, highlighted by a separate rear back seat that comes complete with a back rest, a bar to grip tight, and floorboards. Lockable, color-matched, top-opening saddlebags are standard (the same 10-gallon hard side-cases that are on the Voyager). The 1700cc engine has more than enough power to propel both passenger and rider. The engines in both the Nomad and Voyager are tuned to provide more torque at higher rpm, with the full 108 lb-ft delivered at 2750 rpm. At the throttle, you feel the motorcycle builds power a tad slower than the Classic or Classic LT, which are tuned so that peak torque comes on at 2250 rpm. Peak horsepower, a number Kawasaki did not release at the intro, is claimed to be at @ 5000 rpm. Differences in ECU mapping and pipes contribute to the differences in power delivery, with the Nomad’s dual slash cut exhaust tuned for touring.

The digital fuel injection system, which now uses one sensor in place of three, is also tuned to deliver peak

The speedo on the Nomad sits high on the 5.3-gallon tank and is easy to read at speed. The LED display just below the speedo’s big, round gauge is a little trickier to see.

torque and hp at higher rpm. It is the same fuel-injection system used in the Kawasaki Ninja 650R and Vulcan 900 motorcycles. The advantages of switching to one sensor include the system’s ability to automatically adjust for altitude changes and to improve fuel economy. During my tenure on the Nomad, fuel delivery was even and hiccup-free.

When questioned about the switch to belt drive, Kawasaki expounded on the merits of the carbon fiber belt drive. At only 28mm wide, it helps keep the width of the motorcycle down. The carbon fiber belt is claimed to offer 40% higher tensile strength than a Kevlar belt of the same width. It gives the Vulcan 1700s a final drive belt that is strong, light and thin, and hard downshifts and aggressive throttle stabs did nothing to deter it from performing without any backlash.

Stopping the 833-lb Nomad is the job of dual 300mm discs with dual twin-piston calipers on the front while a single 300mm disc with a single twin-piston caliper does duty out back. The front brakes are powerful and have a progressive feel, while the rear locks without mashing on the brake pedal too hard. Going directly from riding the Voyager to the Nomad demonstrated how well the Voyagers K-ACT system really works. Installing the system standard in all Vulcan 1700 models would be a good move.

The big windshield of the 2009 Vulcan Nomad provides plenty of protection against wind and debris, but after riding the Nomad and Voyager back-to-back, you’ll notice that the fixed fairing and windscreen on the Voyager does an even better job.

The Vulcan 1700 Nomad also features a water-cooled alternator with rare-earth magnets that produce 48.5 amps of electrical output, enough to easily power assorted electronic accessories. So if you’re looking to dig into the Kawasaki Genuine Accessories goodie bag and throw on the aftermarket light bar or billet mini-tachometer, providing juice to the new electronics isn’t an issue.

The Nomad is 2.4-inches shorter and 52-lbs lighter than the Voyager, but handling is comparable between the two. The 2009 Vulcan Nomad lists for a couple grand cheaper, with an MSRP of $14,399. That price will get you a Nomad in Metallic Diablo Black (with gold pinstripe) while for $300 more you can roll away with the Candy Diamond Red/ Pearl Luster Beige paint scheme.

With a day in the saddle of Kawasaki’s V-Twin touring motorcycles under my belt, it was time to turn my attention to the big, traditionally styled cruiser, the 2009 Vulcan 1700 Classic. It is safe to say that none of the four Vulcan 1700 Cruisers benefitted more from the 100cc bump in displacement than the 2009 Classic. With a curb weight 126-lbs

The 2009 Vulcan 1700 Classic has the big-boned styling chops of a classic cruiser and a healthy V-Twin engine doling out the power.

lighter than the Voyager, the liquid cooled 4-stroke engine sets the bike in motion with greater gusto. Kawasaki claims that the new mill puts out 15% more torque than the Vulcan 1600. With dual staggered mufflers and different ECU mapping, the power is much more noticeable lower in the rpm range than on the other two motorcycles and even feels livelier at the throttle.

The tweaks to the fit and finish of the 2009 Vulcan Classic give it more curb appeal. The motorcycle features steel fenders and are the first Kawasaki cruisers with a LED taillight. More chrome is sprinkled throughout the bike, including light stays, fork covers, rear fender stays, instrument nacelle, shock covers, exhaust and engine. The edges of the cooling fins have even received a special NC treatment to add to its luster. To make them stand out even more, the other engine parts that aren’t chrome have a matte black finish. The engine covers are some of the biggest around and conceal part of the engine’s machined heads.

The 28.3-inch-high seat of the 2009 Vulcan Classic suited me better than the Voyagers. It doesn’t put pressure in the same spot of my lower back as the bucket-style seat of the touring motorcycles. It also felt like my legs sat out a little more forward, but the reach to the handlebars is the same.

Floorboards and heel/toe shifters are functional and stylish.

The speedometer is mounted high on the tank and is easy to see while in motion. Control switches on the right handlebar let you flip through the trip meters, fuel gauge, clock, odometer, and average fuel consumption. But the feature I like most is the ‘remaining range’ indicator because I’ve run out of gas more than my share of times. The LEDs location below the round gauge of the speedo means getting a reading requires taking your eyes off the road momentarily.

I love bombing around on a brawny classic cruiser, arms tightening to hold on with every twist of the throttle. But the freedom of having an unobstructed view of the road comes with a price as wind blast smacks me about mid-chest on the Vulcan Classic as we circle Tomales Bay.

Bigger engine, tighter chassis, more gears, new final drive,

The 2009 Vulcan Classic LT features a big acrylic windshield, studded leather rider and passenger seats, and studded leather saddlebags.

and more chrome make the 2009 Vulcan 1700 Classic a viable competitor in the classic cruiser class. A MSRP of $12,299 and Metallic Diablo Black paint make the package that more appealing. There’s also a Classic LT version that is factory-equipped with a height-adjustable windshield, studded rider and passenger seats, passenger backrest, and leather saddlebags. Two-tone paint on the fenders and tank and a new 1700 Vulcan Classic LT tank badge also set it apart from the standard Classic. The 2009 Classic LT with its touring options lists for $13,799, but chew on this. If you wanted to do it all yourself and bought all of the accessories that come standard on the Classic LT individually, it’d cost you an extra $1260. Kawasaki throws in a 24-month warranty to boot, twice as much coverage as you’ll get on the Classic. The 2009 Vulcan 1700 Cruisers provide four different ways for riders to continue to “Let the good times roll.”