2002 Kawasaki Vulcan 800 Classic Review

Lighten. Twenty years ago, MO was a rickety start-up with no money and a part-time job for most of us. Which doesn’t explain the brief randomness of some of the old content, but may excuse some of it. Do the Japanese even Craft more cruisers? Some of them weren’t that bad, including this 2002 Kawasaki Vulcan 800. I apologize for being so rude (probably because I was secretly into it). Oh look, they still make a Vulcan 900; doesn’t look really bad.

Torrance, California, July 23, 2002 “Look, you might have to lead me behind the hangar and shoot me soon. Last week I was cruising down the road in heavy traffic on our Ducati 900SS, and the thought occurred to me that I’d rather ride the Kawasaki Vulcan 800 Classic that I’ve been putting the miles on lately. Not really. The Ducati is a little hard on the wrists at subsonic speeds, and you have to shift occasionally as your speed increases or decreases. nerves numb from the constant pounding, it was a little painful when the Ducati started trying to reform my rear end into two separate cheeks again; like frostbite melting away.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, what does a photo of a Vulcan 800 Classic taken through the driver’s side window of a 1995 Ford Mustang say? One thousand words, single spaced, 10 point font please. Due Thursday.

Plus, now that my cruiser muscles have developed to a point where even self-service can no longer be considered safe sex, I’m able to cruise my usual 80-90 mph gait just as easily on the unfair Vulcan like on the Ducati.

The Ducati is the kind of modern, uncomfortable furniture gay couples and New Yorkers have. The Vulcan is your father’s Barcalounger. Why not be comfortable then?

That’s what fashion is for. The first way to know you’re over the hill is when you don’t care how you look anymore, because when you don’t care how you look, you don’t care how the others think of you – women, that is – and then it’s worse than being married – the death of hope. When you find yourself walking through the malls of Rockports and wearing double-knit shorts held up by a white belt and a fanny pack, with more white ear hair growing than Peter Rabbit, you know your days are numbered, my friend.

The 800 Classic is one of the few cruisers where it was more appropriate for the bike to carry the chain rather than its rider.The 800 Classic is one of the few cruisers where it was more appropriate for the bike to carry the chain rather than its rider.

On the other hand, all the bettys in cars who used to check on you on a nice bike, and vice versa, are now all on the phone anyway, not caring even on an MV Agusta. Why bother?

Where was I? All that aside, the Vulcan 800 is a great looking bike, with a better and livelier engine than the Suzuki Volusia we tested a few weeks ago, better suspension and better ergos for people 5’7 ″ like me (or, maybe since I only started racing the Vulcan after the Triumph America and Volusia, I should give them more credit for developing my cruiser muscles beforehand?) My vanity, fortunately, only surpassed by my cheapness.

“If you like the Vulcan, you should buy one; functionally it is an excellent personal transport unit.

Johnnyb didn't like exhaust tips very much.Johnnyb didn’t like exhaust tips very much.

At $6,799, this Vulcan costs a lot less than what you’d shell out for an SS Ducati – and its 805cc liquid-cooled four-valve sport heads. Definitely too boxy for a cruiser, at 88 x 66.2mm it’s actually a freebie – a revving, fun-to-play engine mated to a pleasing wide-speed five-speed gearbox and a nice light clutch. Throw it in fourth or top gear (fifth), and it’s easy enough to go from 30 to over 100 mph with very little fuss. A single 36mm Mikuni carb with a throttle pump, no less, responds well to the whip once past the typical off-idle glitch (which a small washer pressed under the needle would likely fix).

This one is a 55 degree single crankpin twin, but with a counterweight and rubber mounts. It runs great, vibrations aren’t an issue and, truth be told, the ride isn’t bad at all. There’s a linkage-mounted shock hidden under the hardtail swingarm, with four inches of travel, and an equally well-damped 41mm fork. With the big tires and a thick, well-supported seat, the Vulcan delivers a surprisingly smooth ride. Be aggressive in the turns, however, and the Vulcan’s ankles start to drag a little early, even by cruiser standards.

Other than that, what’s not to like? Aee, well, we realize beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but almost everyone who sees that beauty walks away wishing they hadn’t. It’s a Toon Town Harley. Those “twin shotgun exhausts” might be cool if it weren’t for the black stuff on the ends that so obviously reveals the true diameter of your exhaust ducts; the motorcycle equivalent of getting caught stuffing socks in your pants. The front fender is a mule tire.

Maybe it’s not even so much the individual parts as the disharmonious way they all fit together? It’s an ugly bike, but one that, in its defense, looks great in family photos next to its 800 Drifter sister and 750 Vulcan cousin.

But hey, that’s just my opinion. My boy won’t be seen in shorts if he’s below his knees. Tattoos, piercings and head shaving are “in”. I’ve always loved Camaros and I still do. I’m afraid of Julia Roberts’ lips. Rap is a waste of oxygen. I’m hopelessly disconnected. If you like Vulcan, you should have one; functionally it is an excellent personal transport unit.


Type: 805cc liquid-cooled, 55° V-twin, SOHC 4v/cylinder; double
anti-vibration countershafts
Bore and stroke: 88 x 66.2 mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Fuel: 36mm Keihin CVK
Ignition: electronic, digital
Valve Adjustment Intervals: 7,500 miles
Transmission: 5-speed wet multi-disc clutch

Chassis: steel frame
Front suspension: 41mm fork, 5.9″ travel
Rear suspension: coil-over shock absorber, link
type; 3.9 in. travel, adjustable for spring preload
Front brake: 300mm disc
Rear brake: drum

Wheels: 3 x 16 in; 3 spokes of 16″
Tyres: 130/90-16, 140/90-16 Bridgestone Exedra
Wheelbase: 63 inches (1600 mm)
Rake/trail: 32 degrees / 4.8 inches (122 mm)
Seat height: 27.5 in.

Measured weight, full fuel tank: 575 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 4 gallons
Fuel Consumption: 45mpg
Colors: red, purple
Suggested price: $6,799 (US dollars)

Jerry B. Hatch