You think you know all about the cruiser, throw it out the window. The Kawasaki Vulcan lineup includes basic models (with or without ABS), mid-range ABS SE and top-of-the-year ABS cafe, which offers many cruiser rules and has a lot of fun.
First, claiming weight reduction from 498 pounds, these are cruiser lightweight. Combining the low, 27.8-inch single seat, you have three system machines. Each Vulcan dating model also includes the Kawasaki Ergo-Fit system, which allows riders (free of charge through their dealers) to choose different seat shapes and customize footpeg and handle positions to best suit their height and arm length. Kawasaki offers three “recommended” configurations. To achieve a reduction, it is recommended for those 5 feet, inches and below, the handlebars and footpegs to move an inch, while the seat is stepped forward to reach you easily. The extended range, on the other hand, will be footpegs and handlebar levers forward-most position, and the seat swings the hips to support an inch, Knight 6 feet 1 inch and higher. I am in the middle of 5 feet in the fall, 9 inches, so I found the factory-standard mid-reach configuration.
The lightweight, easy-to-ride Vulcan S Café will carry you—and your stuff— from café to canyon in style.
Beating at the heart of each Vulcan S is a rev-happy, 649cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin lifted directly from the Ninja 650 sportbike, encased within a high-tensile steel double-pipe perimeter frame. Instead of traditional dual rear shocks, each Vulcan S rides on a single offset lay-down shock, adjustable for preload and offering 3.1 inches of travel. Thanks to the perimeter frame (rather than the cradle type used on most cruisers) and the relatively high forward-mount footpegs, cornering clearance is surprisingly ample. It’s a cruiser with the soul of a sportbike.
The Ergo-Fit systems allows the footpegs to be mounted in one of three positions. They are in the “Mid Reach” position in this photo.
Or a café racer, if you prefer…as we did when we opted to test the Vulcan S ABS Café. In fact, you might call this Vulcan S a “café cruiser,” with its solo seat, lack of passenger footpegs, flyscreen and racy look. Since we commute and travel on our bikes (even the racy ones), we also mounted up a set of Kawasaki’s KQR Soft Saddlebags—which is a bit of a misnomer since they are actually quite rigid. The bags are small, at only 11 liters each, but they provide some storage and a wide platform for strapping a large duffle across the back if you fancy a road trip. Or, you can do as we did and use Kawasaki’s Soft Top Case, which attaches to the rear fender using a bolt-on mounting bracket and D-ring straps. All three bags are easy to mount and remove, and incorporate handles to simplify carrying them around.
We mentioned the Vulcan S Café has the heart of a sportbike, right? Thanks to generous ground clearance due to its perimeter frame design and tall footpegs, setting a sporting pace through the twisties is a breeze. The stock Dunlop Sportmax tires offer stability and grip, and steering is light and responsive.
Its beauty and sporting essence, the Vulcan Cafe proved to be ideal for riding around the bombing of the city, or even touching the canyon, where the stock Dunlop a tire and decent turn gap allows you to set a fairly brisk pace. The classic feet-forward cruiser riding position is comfortable for up to an hour, but it turns out that the rear suspension is severe and cracked on uneven roads. Day riding along the coast is a pleasure, however, the cafe’s flyscreen transfer windblast is enough to make the highway speed also decent.
The easy-to-read dash includes an analog tach and LCD display showing speed, time, range and fuel level.
Despite its silhouette, the Vulcan S Café is more sportbike than cruiser. Thumbing the starter results in a low purr and almost unnoticeable vibration. Crack open the throttle, and instead of an instant hit of raw torque you get smooth, steady power—that just keeps coming. As on the Ninja 650 from which the engine is derived, the Vulcan S Café is happiest spinning at higher engine speeds above 5,000 rpm. It’s a blast to run through its six gears, and the cable-actuated clutch has an easy pull that aids in all of that shifting. If you’ve been dreaming of a sportbike with the comfort of a cruiser, the Vulcan S Café might be your ride.
ABS is standard on the Vulcan S Café.
Hauling this lightweight to a stop is a single 300mm, two-piston caliper disc brake up front, and a 250mm, single-piston caliper disc brake in the back. Front and rear ABS is standard on the S Café. Brake performance and feel are quite good, especially for a cruiser in this price range.
While it’s certainly fun to flog the Vulcan S Café through its gears, a bit of throttle restraint is rewarded with excellent gas mileage. We achieved a high of almost 61 mpg on one tank, so even with its smaller 3.7-gallon tank, that’s a lot of cruising to your local coffee shop or highway commuting before needing to stop for a fill-up.
Our test bike was equipped with Kawasaki’s KQR Soft Top Case and Saddlebags. The Top Case mounts on a hook-and-loop bracket bolted to the fender, with quick-release D-ring straps attaching to the side brackets. The Saddlebags mount with three quick-release fasteners.
Loaded with luggage for a weekend getaway, the S Café returns good fuel economy, and thanks to its smooth, counterbalanced engine and large handlebar end weights, vibration is kept to a minimum. I noticed some buzzing in the footpegs, but it wasn’t enough to annoy me. Longer rides and/or taking on some serious weather would be easier with more protection from the elements, but otherwise the Vulcan S is a capable traveling companion.
There’s no denying the Vulcan S Café is a head-turner, with its unorthodox design and neon green accents. Throw in the Ergo-Fit customization and a spunky soul, and you have a fun, unique and surprisingly versatile ride.
Helmet: Arai Defiant
Jacket: Black Brand Brazilian Waxed
Pants: AGV Sport Onyx
Boots: Fly Street Mile Post Air