Vulcan 2000 - Review
December 9th, 2003 - By, Neale Bayly
yourself somewhere comfortable for a couple of days and put your
feet up,” was the doc’s advise after examining my bruised and
battered carcass early one Monday morning back in November. Having
had a minor incident sliding down a racetrack on my backside at
100mph, before coming to a halt on my head two days earlier, I
wanted to get the all-clear to fly and ride. I didn’t actually ask
if he thought riding would be a good idea, but what he said sounded
remarkably like cruising to me. So, off to sunny Santa Barbara,
California I went for the press introduction of the new 2004
Kawasaki Vulcan 2000.
As the world’s largest production V-twin cruiser, there was no disagreeing with Kawasaki’s Tom Orbe when he told the assembled scribes he felt the new Vulcan was “something special, a torque monster and taking cruisers to a new level.”
Big was a well-used word, as we learned the impressive tech specs of the new bike. Massive forged pistons thunder 123.2mm up and down inside their individual 103mm bores, the largest yet seen on a production motorcycle. In good old-fashioned measurements, that makes the flat top piston 4 inches wide, giving just one of the Vulcan’s cylinders more capacity than Kawasaki’s own ZX-10 sport bike. Valves are suitably super-sized, with a pair of 40mm intakes and 36mm exhausts. For comparison, the intake valves on Kawasaki’s own Mean Streak 1600 are a mere 36mm.
Responsible for the intoxicating intake roar on full throttle, a pair of 46mm throttle bodies hurl fuel and air into the cavernous cylinders, before centrally located iridium spark plugs detonates the mix. The fuel injection system itself uses sub-throttle valves and fine atomizing injectors, which bring almost faultless response from the big twin. I say “almost,” as it is possible to catch the injection out if you are a little quick off and then on the throttle at higher rpms, but I am being very picky here, as the system is near perfect in the vast majority of riding situations.
The factory spec sheet also cites “greater combustion efficiency, increased power and optimum fuel economy,” and I see no reason to argue. So what does all his add up to? Well, in a country where good is bad, and bad is even better, the 2004 Kawasaki 2000 Vulcan’s power output can only be described as “bad.” Making 116 horses at 5,000 rpm, and a mind blowing 196 Newton Metres of torque (145 ft/lb) at just 3,000 rpm, the Vulcan is not only the largest production V-twin cruiser; it is the most powerful.
Visually, the motor is just as stunning, taking up a large amount of real estate in between the massive steel frame rails. And, the first thing that strikes the eye, after the huge attractive air cleaner cover, is the chrome pushrod tubes that actually contain pushrods. “To allow for a lower engine height” is the official reason, in an effort to maintain a lower centre of gravity and a lower seat height. Makes sense, but I couldn’t help wondering how much of the decision was style-driven based on a certain other popular V-twin’s method of valve actuation. The valves themselves are adjusted hydraulically on the new engine, which not only makes them quieter but also requiring less maintenance. Underneath the huge pistons and alloy connecting rods, a single pin crank balanced by 220mm flywheels gives the Vulcan a very distinctive big V-twin rumble.
Looking at the engine again, you could be forgiven for taking the new Vulcan engine for an air-cooled unit, with the polished cylinder fins standing out against the matte black cylinders. In reality, only the bottom half of the cylinders are cooled by air, the top of the engine receiving water-cooling. A closer look reveals the radiator tucked between the front down tubes. Finished in black, it blends with the frame so as not to give away the Vulcan’s secret.
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