Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 Review And Buyers Guide

  • By: Emily
  • Date: 22/06/2022
  • Time to read: 10 min.

By the time 2004 rolled around Kawasaki had been producing bikes under the Vulcan name for around 17 years.

The Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 was sixth in the line to carry the name and the biggest of the bunch, it had a 6 year run until 2010 but certainly made its mark and lasting impact. 

It is arguably the best Japanese cruiser ever built, which isn’t a title that gets thrown around lightly. 

The Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 series was the pinnacle of the line, and each variant offered its own style backed by uniformed excellent performance. 

So, while today we have motorcycles like the Triumph Rocket III and the Ducati XDiavel that are huge beastly cruisers; the Vulcan 2000 still makes for an awesome power cruiser and at a fraction of the cost. 

Without further ado let’s take a look at this awesome Japanese beast.

Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 Review

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This Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 was photographed by Christian Ammering and is kindly licensed via CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kawasaki had set the bar for performance cruisers with the Vulcan 1500 and later 1600, but they weren’t about to sit back and let that be the end of the line. 

2004 rolled around and so did the very first post 2000cc engine in the form of the 2053cc V-twin that would power the all new Vulcan.

It was the biggest, baddest, meanest V-twin around, and it hit the press with an almighty roar. There was no doubt about it there was a new sheriff in town and the Americans had no choice but to move over. 

Of course this was Kawasaki’s game plan, winning the monopoly on the biggest cruiser was almost a guarantee that sales would increase and the bike would be a success tempting hardcore American fans to the darkside. 

In Cycle World Patrick Kelly, who was product manager for the 2000 said  “We could see where the market was going with displacement, so at the time we thought we’d leapfrog them with a 2 liter,” 

The best place to start with the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 therefore is the engine. 

It is a massive fuel-injected, SOHC, V-twin with 2,053cc capacity, in fact the big pistons used were the biggest ever used in a motorcycle.  

Riders at the time likened the experience created from the big V-twin to the imagined feelings of being strapped to a rocket launcher. 

All that torque was the most immense thing about the experience, the Vulcan packed tonnes of it and would shift you what felt like 50 feet in a blink of an eye.

At the top the engine is liquid-cooled while the bottom two thirds is cooled by cooling fins, so the engine gets the best of both worlds. 

Although the engine was also equipped with built-in oil and water pumps, the transmission also served as the oil tank.

A primary drive chain transferred the torque from the V-twin to the 5-speed transmission, the case of which housed a multi-plate wet clutch.

Not holding back on tech for the Vulcan 2000, Kawasaki implemented an ECU system that managed the electronic fuel injection with the dual 46mm throttle bodies and sub-throttle valves and iridium spark plug ignition. 

A gear position sensor in the transmission was also equipped, which could send signals to the ECU which would further enhance the fuel injection system and timing, increasing the performance to the best of the bikes ability. 

Final drive to the rear wheel was used in the form of a super low-maintenance belt drive that was smooth and quiet. 

In order to accommodate the big V twin, it was utilized as a stressed member of the steel, double-cradle frame which had a large, box-section single-tube backbone. 

A simple cast steel steering stem and swingarm were used, the simplicity was key to providing the necessary structure and support for the powerful engine.

The rear suspension had stepless rebound damping and spring preload adjusters and provided 3.9” of travel whereas the large 49mm forks provided 5.9” of travel with pretty precise feedback given for steering. 

What is essential to know about the Vulcan is its sheer size, it holds a presence that few other bikes in motorcycle history are able to compete with. 

With a dry weight of 332kg, shifting the bike off the short side stand isn’t an easy task requiring some serious muscle and practice. It is simply a huge bike, with a wide 20.8 liter tank that slopes from the forks, down over the engine to the seat in a very artistic fashion. 

The saddle is equally large and wide and the steel fenders add further bulk to the overall silhouette while the bars and the floorboards stretch out the rider and make the Vulcan 2000 seem even longer than it is.

This is all without acknowledging the big twin exhaust pipes that run parallel along the bike’s body and produce that classic V twin sound while the 200 series rear tire that was the largest used on a production machine at the time. 

Interestingly the 35 degree angle of the twin cylinders keep the engine height low, they are actually only 2mm taller than the Vulcan 1500.

Despite being simply massive the 26.8” seat height makes the weight somewhat manageable, once off the side stand. 

The bike has also been well-balanced as would be expected of a Japanese motorcycle, so while manoeuvres at low speeds need to be undertaken with care they aren’t incredibly difficult with a bit of effort and practice. 

Once you are up and going the engine’s power will quite easily let you forget the weight, but the handling is less forgiving of the fact, you are conscious at all times of all that torque.

The levers are big, hard to pull and in heavy traffic or back-road riding your clutch lever hand is going to tire pretty quickly. 

On the other hand, the paired counter balancers and rubber engine mounts largely eliminating vibrations that become annoying to the rider. 

Kawasaki wanted to keep an authentic rumble from the V-twin but also knew that vibrations after a long time in the saddle and at speed could be irritating so decided to erase that fact.

Interestingly the Vulcan 2000 isn’t just for long highway miles, there is fun to be had on curvy roads, with plenty of power to throw you both in and out. 

Of course, this has to be done with a level of respect due to the low ground clearance and the inevitability of the floorboards hitting the road. 

When first riding it can feel very stable motorcycle and remarkably smooth, you feel controlled and not overwhelmed by sheer force. 

That is of course until you pull on the throttle and accelerate, which you can do in any gear with no trouble at all. It seems the bike cares very little for being restricted by what is expected of fourth and fifth gears with acceleration matching that of first and second gears. 

Most cruisers needs to provide a level of comfort, and the laid back, feet forward on floorboards and wide handlebars certainly puts the rider in a stance to lay down some high mileage.

One downside is that the rear shocks combined with the reasonably thin seat means that there is some discomfort after a day’s riding. Rider Magazine wrote of discomfort in the seat “especially in the rear portion where its cupped shape limits the rider’s ability to stretch out. After a hundred miles I was sliding up to the passenger seat to ease the pressure.”    

However, this is something that is easily rectified with an aftermarket seat and some adjustment to the rear shocks to suit your needs. 

Overall, my personal take on the Vulcan 2000 is that it was and is an impressively powerful cruiser, the epitome of what a cruiser should be in fact. One that quite rightly put Japanese cruisers at the top of the V-twin food chain over and above the American Iron that had ruled for so long. 

However, that is just my take, let’s see how it did upon its release.

Performance

Upon its release the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 was received with open arms by the awaiting press and public, it was the biggest engine to date in a cruiser with a name that had been celebrated since the late 80’s. 

It was almost a no-brainer that it would be a success. Big cruiser fans were always wanting more cubic inches, faster, bigger v-twins that could outperform the competition. 

Furthermore Kawasaki had created the Vulcan line that was cemented in the cruiser class as some of the best motorcycles around, offering an alternate option to that of Harley Davidson.

Visordown at the time of the bikes release wrote “From its massive 49mm forks to its 200mm rear tire, the Vulcan 2000 represents a flagship for Kawasaki and it’s a lot of motorcycle in every sense”

The only criticism at the end of their test ride was the lack of a reverse gear which would certainly make maneuvering the lump around a lot easier. 

Top Speed added to this praise with their statement “With the Vulcan 2000 Kawasaki had now completed its Vulcan line of cruisers and it virtually dominated any other form of competition.”

The 2000 series cemented Kawasaki for a time as the leaders in engine displacement and cruiser performance. 

Sales increased and Kawasaki had achieved what they set out to do, as we know it wouldn’t be the last time they would throw all they had at producing insanely large fast machines.

The fact was that from the very first Vulcan 750 in 1985 the entire Kawasaki cruiser line had proven to be indestructible so it was safe to assume the 2000 series would be no different. 

Provided you kept the bike protected from water and salt in the Winter, it would be sure to keep going as long as you could.

Kawasaki would produce three versions of the Vulcan 2000 before it was removed from production in 2010, let’s take a look.

How Fast was the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000?

A claimed 103 horsepower was produced and 177 Nm of torque, with a top speed of around 125mph.

Variants

Vulcan 2000

Kawasaki Vulcan 2000
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Photo by PekePON, license CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This was the base model, which was equipped with the most standout feature being the large futuristic headlight chrome nacelle.

Vulcan 2000 Classic

The Classic variant followed with a more traditional headlight cowl and slightly more classic styling all round nodding to the original styling of earlier Vulcan models. 

Vulcan 2000 Classic LT

It wasn’t long before the Classic LT followed to try and tempt the Harley Bagger fans. It was styled the same as the Classic but with the additions of a windshield, saddlebags, passenger floorboards and backrest. 

With each variant, comfort improved for longer tours. 

Buying a Used Vulcan 2000

On average in the UK you can expect to pay around £8,000, in the US $6,500 is more accurate as an average price.

When you consider the size of the engine you are getting for the money, the capability of the bike and the reliability factor the Vulcan 2000 is quite the bargain. 

Especially when compared to the likes of a current Triumph Rocket III hitting £20,000 to start with. 

This 2009 Classic LT for example would make an insanely good touring bike for rider and passenger and has an asking price of just $6,495. 

If you are looking for the original Vulcan 2000 with the crazy chrome narcele, this low mileage option might be suitable from 2005

Restoring a Kawasaki Vulcan 2000

Parts for a Vulcan 2000 are easy to come by at reasonable prices so restoring one to original condition won’t be an issue. 

There are certainly some mint examples still around and so finding one that only needs a little work won’t be difficult. 

Interestingly, I have seen a few custom Vulcan 2000’s that people have really made their own but I would love to see a few more. 

Taking that great powerplant and using the reasonably simple but bulky frame could be the base of some brilliant custom builds, and at half the cost of what it could be to take a HD or Indian as your base. 

Are They a Good Investment?

The Vulcan 2000 is a better investment than some of the other Vulcan models, as being the biggest gives it some credence as a collectable model.

However, it is not yet considered to be a classic hence the reason prices for them still remain relatively low.

My prediction however, would be to play the long game and if V-twins are your thing, investing in an early original Vulcan 2000 could see a good return down the line. 

Failing that you are getting an impressive, capable cruiser that will take you wherever you want to go in comfort and ease with an engine that can run all day long with no issues and do it again the next. 

Verdict

The Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 was a giant step forward for motorcycles and not just cruisers, it was a leap forward for all bikes in the big capacity race. 

It just so happened that it was and still is a magnificent well built cruiser.

So when you are considering your next V-twin to add to your stable, maybe looking back a few years at a Vulcan 2000 wouldn’t be a bad idea, they are timeless in their design and more than capable at rumbling along with modern cruisers. 

Vulcan 2000
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