Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Kawasaki Vulcan 750

Fri, March 5th, 2010

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1985 Kawasaki VN700, 1986–2006 VN750 Vulcan
It is hard to believe this was Kawasaki's first V-twin, because they got the motor right and it remained in production for 22 years. Power is nothing that would inspire fear or awe, but not bad for a 750 cruiser. Torquey, but with a nice spread of power from down low all the way to upper revs. Overhead cams and 4 valves per cylinder are somewhat unusual for a large V-twin cruiser. Tariff-busting '85 700cc version gives up just a tiny bit in performance.
Not great, but no worse than average by cruiser standards. Ground clearance is the major complaint.
The engine is happily free of fakery. Crankcase side covers are plain and flat. The overhead cam configuration is plainly evident. No beauty covers or faux cooling fins have been added to make it look like something is isn't. Viewed out of the bike, it would look equally at home in a sport bike. I really like that. The rest of the bike, however, is busy and confused. The exhaust has too many changes in diameter, looks like a cobbled together homemade set of pipes. Tank has more rearward slope than anything this side of a Swede-style chopper. The odd oval air intakes are placed too far forward.
They are under-stressed and have just about every maintenance-reducing feature you can think of—hydraulic valves, shaft drive, electronic ignition, liquid cooling. You can't bust 'em. Like most bikes, cam chain adjusters wear out after 50-60K miles, and electrical/charging gremlins eventually show up, but examples from late in the model run should still have plenty of life left in them.
The ergonomics are poor even by cruiser standards. A windshield is absolutely required for any sort of distance travel. Your lower back will still hurt after a while, but that's okay because the teardrop tank limits range between fuel stops. Twisty roads need to be taken at a sedate pace. But for boulevard riding/commuting, many cruiser riders would be happier overall on the VN750 than their more stylin' current bike.
Its four-point engine gets dragged down by a one-point chassis.
A great engine in search of a bike. Pity they never put this engine in standard/sport-touring chassis, which would have been much more to my liking.