Power Cruiser With Handling and Brawn
For me, the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 is a bit too much displacement, too long of a stroke and more muscle-bound than muscular. The Vulcan 900 is certainly a fun bike to ride, but I can imagine that many cruisers picture themselves on something larger than a 56 cu in bike. Enter the Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak.
Sporting a wild flaming red-and-black paint job, matched to a red frame and wheels with a polish-highlighted blacked out motor (we had the Metallic Diablo Black Special Edition), the Mean Streak is an absolute attention grabber. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it will not be ignored.
Kawasaki dubbed this pro-street cruiser a Mean Streak, and it’s certainly a tough guy in the performance department. That 95” motor is oversquare, so it revs nicely. Each of the cylinder heads houses an overhead cam and four-valves, so this isn’t throwback motor. Fuel injection and liquid cooling add to its performance, so the Mean Streak is a bike that has absolutely no problems getting away from stop lights with authority.
The Mean Streak isn’t only about drag racing. Although the ground clearance is limited in corners—it has less than the Vulcan 900—it’s still a credible cruiser in the canyons. Kawasaki kept the rear tire’s size under control, so the 170 isn’t unwilling to change directions. The fat 130 in the front assists in sure direction changes. Sure, you’re hauling around on a 640-pound bike (dry, claimed), but the bike carries its weight low enough, and the seat height is a low 27.6 inches. There’s no flex in the frame, and the inverted 43mm forks and damping-adjustable twin shocks keep things nice and steady.
Dual 320mm radially(!) mounted front discs give the rider the confidence needed to wind the motor up, knowing that he can slow down aggressively (there’s also a 300mm disc in the rear). It may be shaft-driven, but the Mean Streak doesn’t act like it—I didn’t notice any strange torque reaction characteristics, and I rode it fairly hard.
Sure, the new Suzuki Boulevard M109R has upstaged the older Mean Streak in the performance department. But, the M109R is larger, heavier and more expensive. And, of course, you have the styling differences. There are certainly riders who will prefer the bare-knuckles appearance (and name) of the Mean Streak over the, perhaps, overly modern M109R.
Helmet: Icon Mainframe Hooligan
Jacket: Arlen Ness
Boots: Red Wing
Photography by Don Williams