2014 Kawasaki Vulcan Vaquero


Introduced as a 2011 model, the Vaquero (which means “cowboy” in Spanish) is one of three dressed versions of the popular Vulcan 1700. Each is powered by a liquid-cooled, 1,700cc (103.7 cubic inches), 52-degree V-twin with single overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Its single-pin crank provides just the right amount of shudder so coveted by cruiser riders. Power is routed through a 6-speed gearbox, the upper two gears of which are overdrives. The power gets to the rear wheel through a belt final drive. In typical V-twin cruiser fashion, the Vaquero makes modest horsepower but plenty of low-end torque, topping out at 73 horsepower at 5,300 rpm and 92 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm on Jett Tuning’s dyno (redline is 5,800). The Vaquero’s torque nose-dives early—it drops below 90 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm and keeps declining—so short-shifting is the name of the game. A convenient rocking heel-and-toe shifter allows the rider to upshift by either lifting the lever with a toe, or pressing down with a heel.

All three Vulcan 1700 models carry wind protection and side-opening saddlebags. The Voyager is a full dresser with fairing and trunk, the Nomad has a windshield but no trunk, and the Vaquero fills the gap by offering a fairing and no trunk.

For style, the Vaquero has a multi-textured blacked-out treatment on the engine cases, cylinders, air-cleaner cover, wheels, fork assembly, tank trim and windscreen. Chromed items include engine guards, exhaust system and mirrors, and there are polished fin edges on the blacked-out motor. Color-matched plastic molding pieces bridge the gap between the bags and steel rear fender for a more integrated, custom look.

A steel swingarm is mated to a dual-cradle, single-backbone frame. The frame-mounted fairing is the same as that on the Voyager touring model, but the Vaquero’s lowers are slimmer and it carries that vestigial wind deflector. Because of the weight of the fairing, the Voyager and Vaquero have 45mm fork tubes rather than the 43mm on the Nomad. The fork provides a full 5.5 inches of suspension travel and the dual air-assisted rear shocks 3.1 inches, in addition to four rebound damping settings.

Its dual 300mm front disc brakes and single 300mm rear are each squeezed by a 2-piston caliper, and anti-lock braking is standard. The system provides plenty of feedback, power and control.

The audio system receives radio broadcasts (FM/AM/WX), and is also compatible with iPod, XM tuner or CB radio units. The iPod receptacle in the left fairing pocket (accessory adapter required) can be operated by switches on the left handlebar. There are also two small locking luggage compartments in the fairing.

The Vaquero is available in basic Metallic Flat Spark Black ($18,299), or the gorgeous Two-Tone Candy Burnt Orange SE model we test here ($18,699). Who wouldn’t love those outrageous flames?