The rules of the cruiser world are pretty straight forward. Throw in chrome, add in a lot of bottom end torque, make lot of noise and look good while doing it. The Kawasaki Vulcan S then, right away is a non-conformist. It has no chrome, it does not make a lot of noise but is still a proper cruiser and we’ll tell you why.
The Vulcan S has the same Kawasaki 650cc engine and gearbox as seen on other bikes like the Ninja 650 and the Versys, but has been worked on for a better bottom end. To be exact, it has a revised intake, an updated ECU, different cam profiles and a heavier flywheel. What all this means is that even with the rather sporty engine DNA, the Vulcan S has enough bottom end to pull cleanly from as low as 2000 RPM and keep going without losing juice well past 6000 RPM.
The engine is very refined and the clutch is light and aids you even if you get stuck in the slow moving urban jungle. Another interesting positive is that, even in slow or crawling traffic there are no heating issues that are typical of a cruiser. Out on the highway, the 100 kmph cruise is just below the 5k RPM mark in 6th gear and top speeds are in excess of 150 easily. The 0 to 100 timings are just a shade below the 7 second mark. Wind protection up front is definitely recommended; otherwise anything above 120 requires you to really hold on.
This engine has always been known to be frugal and remains so. In city, mileage hovered around the 15 kmpl mark and out on the highway it returned 21 kmpl. Another key aspect of the Vulcan S lies in the fact that, this machine is actually easy to ride. The throttle response is not aggressive, the seat height is a low 705 mm and in case you find yourself uneasy on the seat, there are multiple things to adjust to make yourself comfortable. The pegs can be moved forward or backward to suit your needs, but you will need to buy the extensions separately.
Similarly there are options for the handlebars and the seat to custom fit to your needs. We found that in the stock setup things are pretty decent and is a good balance for most riders. Probably the seat could have been comfortable for both rider and pillion with better cushioning.
From a handling perspective, even with the 235 kgs of kerb weight, the Vulcan S is relatively easy to manoeuvre. Compared to other cruisers this Kawasaki like we said is not your typical cruiser. It is relatively nimble in tight situations and planted on the highways. Throw in a corner and this cruiser can hold a line and you do not need to fight it. The weight never really shows its presence and that probably is the biggest victory of this cruiser. The only thing that gets in the way every once in a while is the ground clearance of 130 mm.
Coming to the suspensions on the Vulcan S, the front has 41 mm telescopic ones that have 130 mm of travel. These are reasonably soft and do a good job. The rear though in typical cruiser style ensures you feel the road. The stock tyres on the Vulcan S are good in most situations and run mismatched sizes. The front tyre is an 18 incher while the rear is a 17 inch one.
Moving on to the braking, the front has a single 300 mm disc with a dual piston calliper and the rear has a 250 mm disc with a single piston and these really do a good job. Both ends have a gradual initial bite and progressive thereafter. A very welcome move is having ABS as standard.
So there you have it, while the typical cruiser parameters do not fit the Kawasaki Vulcan S. What you realise is, it does most things better. Another thing that is really good is the build quality. Maybe the only thing that is missing on the Vulcan S is the flare and flamboyance associated with a big macho cruiser. But then the Vulcan S was never meant for that, it is meant to be a friendly non intimidating machine and in that aspect it does very well.