2018 Kawasaki Vulcan S India Review, First Ride [Video Included]

Enchanting –

  • Practical, Stylish and Futuristic looking
  • Value for money
  • Based on the reliable and trusted Ninja 650
  • Fun to ride, engine is an all rounder

Unsatisfying –

  • Less powerful than its competitors.
  • Low ground clearance
  • Small fuel tank capacity of 14 litres

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When we say ‘Sport-cruisers’ the image that comes to your mind is that of the futuristic and masculine looking motorcycle, the Ducati Diavel. The Diavel is a one-of-a-kind sportsbike that merged the two segments – Naked and Cruiser. Since its inception, the Diavel has been a fan favourite, so much so that we Indians made our very own version of the same, albeit much smaller and more practical. Oh yes! We’re talking about the Bajaj Dominar. So what if you want something that fits midway between these two segments, price points and engine capacities? Look no further as the 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan S could be the answer, well almost.

Design and Equipment –

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The Vulcan is Kawasaki’s answer to the middleweight cruiser segment. It shuns the traditional chrome embellished cruiser look for a more mature and stealth looking exterior. In the matte black shade that our test unit came with, the cruiser stood out. It is long and low and its curvy design is an attention grabber. The headlamp looks neat and gels with the overall sporty theme. The lovely, machined head and block casings contrast very well with the blacked out engine parts and the frame. The tank is swoopy and is quite large, offering good support once on the saddle.

Drag yourself to the rear and the neatly positioned, sleek looking tail lamp grabs your eyeballs. This portion also highlights the ungainly part of the bike, the saree guard and the grab-rails. Both of them spoil the overall appearance of the rear. They also lack good finish quality which again is a bit of a letdown.

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No worries, however, because they’re easy to remove and can also double up as a barbecue should you ever find the need! Also an eyesore is the underbelly exhaust, which looks industrial and doesn’t quite go well with the design of the bike. Oh! Did we mention those cool looking webbed alloy wheels, which really complement the overall silhouette of the bike? To sum it up, the Vulcan S is a good looking motorcycle that exudes premiumness and quality.

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The switchgear is typical Kawasaki, it feels nice to touch and is robust. The dash however could have been better. It is a part-analog part-digital unit and although it shows a fair share of information, it looks basic and old-school. We did regret the omission of a fuel-economy meter though. The handlebar is angled and raked towards the rider which possibly could divide opinions. On the ergonomic front, the Vulcan offers the signature ‘Ergo-Fit’ system which allows adjustment for the handlebar and footpeg, gearlever position. The seat though is non-adjustable.

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Talking of equipment, the bike features a single 300mm disc upfront and a 250mm disc at the rear. ABS is offered as standard which is of great relief, especially for newer riders. The bike gets fat non-adjustable 41mm telescopic forks which offer 130mm of travel. The rear gets an offset monoshock which offers a considerable 80mm of travel. The shock is adjustable for preload only.

The Engine –

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The engine is carried over from the old Ninja 650. This trusted unit is de-tuned to do duty in the Vulcan. It now puts down 61 PS of power and 63 Nm of torque. This engine as Kawasaki says has been made more rideable by letting the torque kick in earlier at 6000 rpm. It is paired with the same six-speed gearbox as the one on the previous Ninja, it now however features revised gear-ratios to again, aid the cruiser character.

How is it to ride?
Easy is the word that I would use to describe how it rides. The seat height is low and approachable for even the tiniest of riders. Get yourself astride and thumb the starter, you’re welcomed with a rather mellow exhaust note. We would’ve liked a bassier note as the Vulcan’s exhaust sound is soft to complement the rad theme. Let go of the clutch and get going, you’ll be surprised by how smooth it feels. It is quick to breach the 60 kmph mark. Keep on shifting and 150 kmph will be achieved in a short span.

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The spread of torque is amazing and the mid-range is where you’ll be spending most of your time. The sweet spot is between 5000-8000 rpm. In this part of the rev-band, overtaking is effortless and cruising is as easy as sipping your favourite cappuccino. Above 8000 rpm though, the progress is slow and the engine can get buzzy. Expect cruising speeds of around 140 kmph and this motor does that with ease. At those speeds however your only enemy is windblast. The lack of windshield is felt instantly. Interestingly refinement levels on the Vulcan aren’t as good as the Ninja’s. There was a slight amount of buzz through the handlebar and the seat, but that disappeared once we stayed in the sweet part of the rev-range.

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Another thing that we found out was the fueling during low revs. The throttle transitions can get a bit jerky at low speeds. Also the Vulcan doesn’t like staying in high gears at low rpms. In third gear, anything lower than 30 kmph is enough to cause it to stutter. This is also why you’ll find yourself shifting more often than you will on any other cruiser.

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Let’s be honest, most people who buy this bike would never complain of the engine falling short on power, as this wasn’t designed to cut down lap-times and slay quarter mile records. Nonetheless, it is a strong engine, capable of doing most things you throw at it. The gearbox felt slick and offered precise shifts be it up or down. It was also well weighted so as to offer comfort during long rides. Talking of long rides, the seat felt well cushioned and padded, though heavier riders will find it a bit too soft. The saddle could’ve had more room to move around though.

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The brakes on the Vulcan left us a bit wanting. While the Nissin master cylinder and calliper combination offered good initial bite, overall stopping power could’ve been more confidence inspiring. We suspect the single disc upfront to be the reason as it is not enough to bring this 235 kg motorcycle to a halt. Due the rubber brake lines, the brakes were incapable of offering good feel through the lever.

So why on earth did we compare it to the mighty Diavel?
Give the Vulcan a nice winding stretch of tarmac and it will show its true colours. Although it hasn’t got groundbreaking torque numbers to boast of, it is the chassis that works like charm. Get the bike turned in a corner and it skilfully masks its 235 kgs of kerb weight. We rode it through the ghats and God, did it ever broke a sweat.

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The Dunlop tires offer good amounts of grip and although they lack the feedback, they make it up by easing through potholes and undulations like they own them. The weight, however, is apparent during quick side to side transitions and you have to give the suspension time to settle. This is the bike that won’t feel out of place even if you decide to do some canyon carving. All these traits make the motorcycle a brilliant all-rounder and a bike you can have enough fun on.

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What plays spoilsport, is the suspension on the Vulcan. It does smooth out the undulations at high speeds, at low speeds, however, things are a bit different. At low speeds, the suspension could’ve been better on broken patches, on potholes and on bumps. It is set up slightly stiff which aids in handling but at the cost of comfort. With that being said the shock is adjustable, which does provide some relief.

2018 Kawasaki Vulcan S India Review, Verdict

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The Kawasaki Vulcan S is a great motorcycle for riders looking for options that won’t intimidate them. The Vulcan sits in the same spot where previously the Hyosung Aquila GV650 Pro used to be. At an on-road price tag of around 6.6 lacs (Pune), the bike strikes good value. Although it hasn’t got the raw American character of the Harley Davidson Street Rod, the bike still is premium and grabs eyeballs wherever it goes. Now it’s up to the marketing department at Kawasaki India to do some magic and draw good numbers for the Vulcan S.

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