Switched from 390 Duke to Vulcan S: Review with 6 pros, 8 cons & 5 FAQs

I think with the Vulcan S, Kawasaki wasn't trying to make a typical cruiser motorcycle like a Harley.

BHPian marcussantiago recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I bought a Kawasaki Vulcan a little over a year ago.

The newer color scheme brings just a bit of life into the otherwise drab flat all-black color (which I also kinda liked but those deep red pinstripes are just tasty IMHO).

Was saving up for the 35L Givi hard cases when I stumbled across an absolutely killer deal: 22 L Shad cases for just 14 k (including the mounting brackets!) Really completes the cruiser / tourer look.

So here's my experience so far: absolutely amazing.

I mean yes, there's been some downsides. Barely one month in, I was on a road trip with my club and we had to cross an absolutely colossal speed breaker that was more like two humps with a third one on top to absolutely guarantee destroying the underbelly of anything lower than an adventure bike. And I beached it and broke the exhaust (header pipe things specifically). No other damage so we carried on and I took it in for repairs. Kawasaki West Delhi was able to bend it back into shape without needing to order a full exhaust replacement, so that was lucky.

I want to eventually sit down and write a long-term review for this forum now that it's been with me for over a year, but I'm also lazy lol. So for now, here are the highlights:


  1. Okay, something that people need to be very clear about: this is not a "normal" typical cruiser. Which I suspected even before I bought it, but was confirmed once I was riding daily. Basically, Kawasaki went the route of "what if we built a cruiser that thinks it's a Ninja but is still a cruiser somehow?" Purists and Harley types will hate it because it thinks it's a Ninja at times. Sportbike riders (like my now-good friend Himalayan_Ice lol) will hate it because it's not sporty enough, basically.
  2. It is very comfortable. No question it's ticked that box in the cruiser checklist. At least for the rider, not so much for the pillion (see below).
  3. It's absolutely bulletproof and reliable. I thought my old KTM was reliable but this is a different level. I've had absolutely zero problems with it in terms of its build, performance, reliability, etc. There are some problems but what I mean is I haven't had like, breakdowns and issues in that sense. Royal Enfield purists will hate it because they won't know how to deal with a bike that never breaks down lol.
  4. Personally, I love the looks, but that's all up to personal taste. I'm not a big fan of chrome or the "old fashioned" retro type stuff, I've always wondered why cruisers need to be old-fashioned looking. And here's an answer, the Vulcan has absolutely zero chrome on it anywhere. Again, this might turn off some people, but I think it's an indicator that Kawasaki wasn't trying to make a typical cruiser like Harleys etc. Not that they can't do it (see: older Vulcans like the 900 et al).
  5. The power delivery is just perfect for me. In traffic, it's decent and well-behaved when you need it to be. But if you open up the throttle it'll surge your adrenaline just like a Ninja, where it gets its engine from. Yes, there isn't a ton of torque at the low end like most typical cruisers but there's enough to make me happy, so I honestly don't find it a problem at all.
  6. This cruiser loves to lean! Take it to the twisties and you'll be shocked at how happily it leans to attack corners, as though it thinks it's a Ninja all of a sudden. Again, sport bike purists won't be too happy because you'll scrape the pegs. But this is what I'm getting at when I wax philosophical about Kawasaki deliberately creating a cruiser that sometimes thinks it's a sport bike. It's like it has a split personality.


  1. That said, it's far from perfect, but then what bike is, really?
  2. The first and biggest complaint is that it's not a "true" cruiser. And that debate is more philosophy than anything else. But see the points above, I don't think Kawa was trying to make a "true" cruiser here.
  3. The looks are polarizing. You won't get many stares and looks when you're out on the street, because people do tend to assume it's an Avenger lol. Not a deal-breaker for me by any means, but this is a simple truth, it's just not that flashy of a superbike.
  4. The closest thing to a real design flaw on the part of Kawasaki is their stubborn insistence on installing a candle from a child's birthday cake into the headlamp assembly. It's pathetically dim. Of course, this is easily fixed with an after-market bulb, and optionally aux lights.
  5. Indicators etc are pretty bog standard, nothing exciting. A friend of mine with a Vulcan had Denali indicator lights installed and they're amazing, though eye-wateringly expensive.
  6. Instrument cluster is from ten years ago. Coming from a Duke 390 this was quite the downgrade and somewhat disappointing. Still, I got used to it quickly. And it's functional, it tells me everything I need to know, including the gear indicator, and it's easy to read. So I'm not really complaining there.
  7. And here's the biggest problem with the Vulcan, specific to Indian roads: Its ground clearance. I am now a tenth-level zen master of clearing speed humps sideways. I can even predict if the underbelly will scrape. It doesn't scrape on every single speed bump, but it happens on almost every ride at some point. Bad / chopped up roads aren't such a problem as long as you're going slow, which you would anyway if you were riding a Ninja or something. Bottom line: it's a problem, but if all the other boxes are ticked and your heart throbs for a Vulcan, you'll learn to live with it as just one of those compromises you have to make when you really want the thing. I'm a big fan of highway rides anyway, so I don't really feel a sense of regret that I can't take it to Leh Ladakh and ride up a rocky slope or some Dakar-Rally-level antics, coz that's not for me anyway.
  8. The pillion seat is, for a cruiser, quite stiff and small. The addition of a backrest works wonders, along with the supplied grab handles. My wife hasn't complained, although I suspect she's not admitting it's uncomfortable because she doesn't want me blowing even more money on a better seat. My aforementioned friend with a Vulcan got a seat made at Khajanshi (sp) at Karol Bagh and it's much nicer.


  • Q1: What's the average? (standard Indian question lol)

A: Honestly surprisingly good for a 650 cc parallel. I get roughly 23 kmpl in city / daily riding. On longer highway rides it's gone up to 27 or so but I didn't do really heavy calculations. Also, I failed maths in school, there's a reason I'm an artist. But yes, overall it's quite decent with fuel consumption.

  • Q2: Can you handle it in traffic?

A: It's quite a long bike, but I've had a few problems needling it in traffic. Again, I tend not to do the typical thing where bikers shoehorn their bikes into impossibly tiny gaps between cars and whatnot, I tend to just stick behind the car in front of me and relax even if it means I get home later. It's just too stressful. On a Duke it was stressful because I'd be tip-toe-ing it, on the Vulcan with the hard cases I can't be bothered trying to squeeze through a gap, seeing I'm too wide, and then holding up the impatient uncles in honking scooters behind me because I can't squeeze through a gap that everyone else can. So I don't really care lol.

  • Q3: What's it like on the highway?

A: Just blissful. Exactly what I was imagining when I'd gawk at it in the showroom before I finally bought it. I've done all-day-long highway runs without any fatigue or cramps or butt ache or anything like that.

  • Q4: How fast does it go?

A: If I wanted to go fast and set land speed records, I'd have bought a Ninja instead. But I've taken it up to some properly heady speeds and there's no sense of drama or vibration or anything. It's just solid and smooth, you just have to deal with the wind buffeting and wind noise, which a windscreen would probably help with. Haven't installed one so I can't say.

  • Q5: Why did you buy a Vulcan when you could have bought [insert bike here]?

A: I have an answer for that but it's so long it would be a college-level thesis.

So aside from everything I've already said so far, I'll save the pontificating and philosophizing for a long-term review if I ever get off my lazy butt and actually write it.

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Redlining the Indian Automotive Scene