2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom Test Ride

“2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom: Looks aren’t everything”

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The old adage “Looks aren’t everything” is certainly true when it comes to Kawasaki’s latest Vulcan 900 series. The Vulcan 900 comes three ways: the Vulcan 900 Classic; the Vulcan 900 Classic LT; and the 2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom. Let’s not get off on the wrong foot here, we’re not talking about the “Looks” phrase being used in the context of someone trying to set up a friend on a blind date. The Vulcan 900 Custom, which we’ll review here, looks really good  (make that great), but it goes well beyond simply a visually appealing image – it’s a bike that delivers a high performance level along with being easy to ride, and it’s got a proven dependability over the long haul.

The 2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom falls into the currently popular retro “Bobber” trend. It’s not really an all out Bobber in the traditional sense, but its sparing use of chrome goodies, with blacked out components, short rear fender, drag style bars and large, narrow front wheel and tire certainly attest to the Bobber influence. The fuel tank displays a twin-valley design, with the theme continuing to the rear fender.

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Power for the Vulcan 900 stable comes from a 903cc four-stroke, liquid-cooled,
SOHC, 8-valve V-Twin motor with Direct Fuel Injection and dual 34mm Keihin
throttle bodies along with TCBI ignition with digital advance. Motive force is
delivered to the rear wheel through a five-speed sequential manual transmission with a positive Neutral finder, via a final drive belt. The exhaust exits on the right side through blacked out, staggered, slash cut dual pipes.

Suspension componentry consists of reversed 41mm hydraulic forks with 5.9-
inches of travel up front and a Uni-Trak swingarm with 7-way adjustable spring
preload and 4.1 inches of travel in the rear. The Vulcan 900 rolls on Dunlop tires-80/90×21 mounted on a 9-double-spoke cast alloy wheel forward, and a 180/70×15, wrapping around a solid, slotted disc aft.

Brakes are hydraulic with a single 300mm disc up front and a 270mm disc in the rear, and they are effective in bringing the bike to a halt.

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The wheelbase of the Vulcan 900 Custom measures 64.8-inches, while the overall length is 94.7-inches. The 900 Custom tips the scale at 610.8 pounds dry (before operational fluids are added) and the 27-inch seat height allows even vertically challenged riders to touch down with ease. The one-piece, gunfighter-style seat is deep set and narrowed at the front, with an extension that serves as a passenger pillion. The foot controls and rider pegs are mounted forward, which is great for long-legged riders, but may be a stretch for more diminutive types. Folding foot pegs are provided for the occasional two-up scenario.

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My 2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom test bike came with a base price of $9,199, but expect to add an average of another $200 for dealer prep and handling. My bike was finished predominantly in Pearl Flat Stardust White fenders, and the top half of the 5.3-gallon fuel tank (which is the largest in its class) and a contrasting Flat Ebony finish.

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Summary:  Riding the 2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom results in a pleasant and fun experience. The rigid, large diameter box section backbone of the frame provides a lightweight handling feel at lower speeds, while the fork offset and frame geometry combine with the long wheelbase for a stable ride at highway speeds. The 33-degree rake and 7.2-inch trail yield outstanding straight-line tracking and nice overall balance.

Clutch operation is smooth and easy, acceleration is responsive across a broad torque range and the shift lever is a standard toe-operated unit rather than a heel-toe affair.

I found the riding position to be ideal with the drag-style chrome handlebars curving back from the upper triple clamp and set just right for me. The forward foot controls and long seat heightened my level of riding comfort. The speedometer and rider info were legible and easy to read, and encased in a stylish chrome housing atop the tank.

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In the final analysis, the 2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom is an affordable, mildly retro-styled bike that is destined to deliver riding enjoyment to both the novice  and accomplished rider. It also easily lends itself to customization.


SPECIFICATIONS: 2013 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom


Base Price: $9,199.
Price as Tested: $9,449* estimated with dealer prep and handling.
Engine Type and Size: 903cc four-stroke, liquid and air-cooled, SOHC, 8-valve V-Twin DFI with dual 34mm Keihin throttle bodies and TCBI ignition with digital advance.
Horsepower (bhp): Not listed.
Torque (ft./ lbs.): Not listed.
Transmission: Five-speed sequential manual with a positive Neutral finder.
Drive Train: Final Drive Belt.
Suspension: Front – 41mm hydraulic forks with 5.9-inches of travel.
Rear – Uni-Trak swingarm with 7-way adjustable spring preload and 4.1 inches of travel

Brakes: 300mm hydraulic disc up front / 270mm hydraulic disc in the rear.Tires: Dunlop 80/90×21 front / 180/70×15 rear mounted on a 9-double-spoke alloy wheel forward and a solid slotted disc out back.Wheelbase:64.8 inchesLength Overall:94.7 inchesCurb Weight:610.8 lbs. (dry)Fuel Capacity:5.3 gallons.Seat Height:27.0 inches0 – 60 mph: Not tested.


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