Kawasaki Vulcan S [2018-2019] Review
According to Kawasaki, the Vulcan S isn't your average cruiser. And, if I were to quote the Japanese bike maker verbatim, 'It doesn't require the rider to conform to any herd mentality fashion or lifestyle.'
Pros: Low seat height, cool running, quality
Cons: Rear-end ride quality, boring clocks, switchgear
According to Kawasaki, the Vulcan S isn't your average cruiser. And, if I were to quote the Japanese bike maker verbatim, "It doesn't require the rider to conform to any herd mentality fashion or lifestyle."
Now, that's a proper dig at not one, but two cruiser makers, one American and the other Indian, but with British ancestry. And, it's fine to be cocky, but only if your product can follow up and deliver that crucial knockout punch.
In our book, the Vulcan S has a much easier job to do. It needs to be a hassle-free and easy to ride motorcycle for a crowd that's looking to upgrade from Enfields. And possibly even Avengers. And yes, it needs to be quick and comfortable. Also, because it comes with a steeper price tag, it must have good street creed.
Okay, so the job isn't all that easy, after all.
Well, if you are upgrading from Enfields or Avengers even, the quality on the Vulcan S will impress. It might not have any shiny bits whatsoever – even the chrome-like bits are finished in matte – but the quality of paint, the finish on gloss plastic, and even the welds and the concealment of wires etc is neat.
If at all, the look and feel of the switchgear could have been better. In fact, we would have liked to see different instrumentation as well, to go along with the overall upmarket feel of the Vulcan.
And since I am clearly in a grumpy mood, the rear grab handles – much like on the Ninja 300 – are there because they have to be. There’s no real aesthetic thought behind their design, which is a shame.
Kawasaki has, however, paid attention to comfort. So, on city roads or over mildly broken tarmac, and on beautifully paved four-lanned highways, the Vulcan just seems to glide over it all feeling effortless to ride.
Now, to complete the cruiser stance, the Vulcan runs a different chassis and suspension setup compared to the Z650 and the Ninja 650. So, the Vulcan is lower, heavier, and the rear suspension barely has any travel.
And that begins to show when the going gets bumpy. Over deeper and sharper potholes, and severely undulating roads, the Vulcan has the ability to both crush your spine and throw you off the seat like a drunken bull. Not surprisingly, the rear loves to bottoms out.
The seat itself though, is cushy and accommodating. And on shorter rides, it’s lovely to be in. But, spend over an hour in it and your tailbone will begin to hurt. Also, since you can´t really stand up courtesy the pulled-in handlebar and the forward set footpegs, there’s no other way to release that stress apart from stopping and taking a break.
The Vulcan S not only runs a lower chassis compared to its street bike cousin, the Z650, it also has a more raked out front suspension, a longer wheelbase, and a much longer handlebar. All of this should make the Vulcan lazy to steer, and therefore, a chore to commute on. Or to take on twisties with.
But, that’s not the case. Sure, it takes a little more effort at the handlebar to get the Vulcan to change directions. But, once it starts leaning, it feels light and natural and surprisingly willing. The tyres do a good job of holding onto both concrete and tarmac as well. So, it neither feels tedious or cumbersome in the city – barring maybe the slightly heavy clutch-pull. And, it doesn't feel too wallowy or vague around a winding road either. It’s quite unlike a long-legged cruiser in that sense.
Ditto with the brakes. These aren’t the sharpest units in the business, and it does require some effort at the lever to slow this 200kg plus motorcycle. But, the feel and progression are unlike a traditional cruiser, which allows you to ride the bike a lot quicker - knowing you can stop harder - than its stance conveys.
Then there’s the intake noise. Open the Vulcan’s throttle aggressively between 3,000-5,000rpm and it has this lovely baritone of an intake which makes you want to be in this zone all the time. And it’s not short of performance in this range either.
Sure, unlike a traditional, long-stroke, V-twin cruiser motor, the Vulcan’s 61bhp parallel twin doesn’t have the torque wave between 3-5k rpm that will have you grinning every time you open gas. It behaves more like a street motor, wherein the closer you rev it to its redline, the livelier it feels.
But, the performance feels perfectly acceptable – and enjoyable even – at these rpms. Plus, riding the mid-range fits better with this whole low-slung, foot-forward, cruiser appeal. I’d say you could cruise at 100kmph as effortlessly as daydreaming for as long as your backside allows.
The Vulcan S is quite basic when it comes to technology or features, especially for a motorcycle at this price point. The Vulcan S retails at over Rs 6.6 lakhs on the road in Mumbai.
It gets dual channel ABS, which can’t be turned off. It gets reach adjustable clutch and brake levers. There’s fuel injection and liquid cooling for the engine. The Vulcan also gets a slick shifting 6-speed gearbox. And, one can also alter the position of the footpegs by 25mm front and back. However, the linkage rods one will need in order to run the altered footpeg positions have to be bought separately, which, defeats the purpose of having thise feature, to an some extent. And lest we forget, it also gets radial tyres at both ends.
The Kawasaki Vulcan S returned a little over 22kmpl during our fuel run. That, and a 14-litre fuel tank translate into a range of around 300km. The figures aren’t bad on either count. Sure, riders upgrading from the Avenger might find the economy dreadful. But for those moving up from Enfields or other 250cc to 400cc motorcycles, will find the figures more than acceptable.
Fitness of purpose
Like we said at the start, the Vulcan S is for those looking to upgrade from Enfields, and possibly Avengers. And on that count, the Vulcan has its bases covered. It’s an easy to ride motorcycle whether you use it for commuting, Sunday rides or long road trips. Just remember to avoid really broken sections of road.
The only thing that may turn-off Avenger and Enfield owners is the price of the Vulcan. It is an expensive motorcycle, and quite a jump cost wise from REs. However, we did forget to mention that born-again bikers might also consider the Vulcan. And for that lot, this Kawasaki might not be such an expensive proposition.
But, for the latter variety, the slightly snatchy throttle response at low revs might be a cause for concern. As might be the motorcycle’s over 230kg kerb weight. Get past that and the Vulcan’s performance, handling, braking, and even tyre grip, is good enough to restore the confidence one needs to start and enjoy riding motorcycles again.
Our take is, the Vulcan will certainly find takers.
Photography by Kapil Angane
Full Review-Hide Review