On a hot Southern California morning, my wife Jane and I pulled out for a day of riding Kawasaki’s biggest bagger-the Vulcan 2000 Classic LT. The goal-visit two legendary motorcycle hot spots: Hells Kitchen above Lake Elsinore and The Rock Store near Malibu.
Hells Kitchen is a popular motorcycle destination on the renowned Ortega Highway. Starting east of San Juan Capistrano, I rolled on the throttle to feed the massive Kawasaki two-liter V-twin. Putting its plentiful torque to good use, we ascended the tight two-lane road that cuts through the Cleveland National Forest. Twenty miles of lazy swooping through the countless corners revealed the Kawasaki Classic LT is biking at its purest level. No extraneous gadgets have been added to hinder the visceral riding experience; only the essential controls are present to tame this massive machine.
For a motorcycle weighing in at over 800 pounds full of gas, it confidently handles direction changes, with a touch of the wide handlebars. Also, the Kawasaki Vulcan’s low center of gravity contributes to a stable platform for rider and passenger comfort.
Wrapped around 16-inch cast aluminum wheels, Bridgestone’s fine Battlax tires provide a high level of grip and keep the Vulcan motorcycle planted between lane markers. As is typical with cruiser-based touring motorcycles, the chief limiting factor is the cornering clearance, as the floorboards touch down fairly early in turns. Braking is secure, thanks to twin 300mm discs with four-piston calipers, and a massive 320mm rear rotor.
Pulling into the parking lot of Hells Kitchen, we found a space amongst the menagerie of motorcycles that seem ever present at the California Live Oak canopied roadhouse. Viewed alongside the other motorcycles, you notice that from the front wheel back to the taillight, the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 Classic LT is larger in every dimension compared to almost any production motorcycle. Despite its size, everything about the Kawasaki Classic LT is nicely scaled within itself-including its full-sized ergonomics-giving the motorcycle an appealing aesthetic balance that facilitates its classic cruiser silhouette.
The propulsion of the Kawasaki Vulcan Classic LT is pure retro muscle. The centerpiece of the motorcycle is an enormous, but beautifully rendered, 125 cu in, 52-degree V-twin, twin-cam pushrod engine, generously adorned with chrome and black wrinkle paint. Even though the motorcycle employs a radiator, heat dispersal is augmented with polished cooling fins on the matte black cylinders, adding visual interest to the machine.
Throttle response is linear with a slight delay after initial twist of the grip, due to the mass of the rotating parts and the distance they are traveling. With a bore of over four inches and a long-reaching stroke of nearly five inches, this engine produces a huge amount of torque, a maximum of 141 ft/lbs at 2800 rpm.
The 5.5-gallon fuel tank is wide, with lines reminiscent of Heywood-Wakefield furniture. The Kawasaki instrument cluster set in the center of the tank is simple yet has a high-gloss art deco appeal that highlights the flowing lines of the machine. Two-tone paint with gold pinstriping accentuates the Classic theme.
After stowing our jackets and gloves in the cowhide saddlebags, Jane and I proceeded to the back patio for an early lunch. The motorsports-themed roadhouse’s diamond plate clad fireplace, and flame-painted coffin hiding the condiment bar, set the milieu for a discussion on our impressions of the ride. Besides comments on the heat we encountered along Ortega Highway, talk naturally revolved around the Kawasaki Vulcan Classic LT.
Jane found the Vulcan passenger seat and backrest comfortable, both providing a secure feeling that she appreciated. The pillion’s height over the saddle gave her a good view and kept our helmets from bumping. The passenger seat is set back from the pilot’s saddle, giving me plenty of room to recline. Wearing heeled boots, Jane prefers footpegs to the shortish passenger floorboards. Even so, thanks to the Vulcan backrest, she never felt unstable, even on the tighter roads.
We both appreciated the heat management Kawasaki designed into the Vulcan. Along with liquid cooling, the saddle is set back from the engine and the dual pipes are low, providing sufficient distance for the heat to dissipate before affecting the rider and passenger. The large acrylic windscreen is adjustable by an inch-and-a-half, the lowest position being the most appropriate for hot days, and it can be completely removed for full airflow.
Anxious to get started toward our next destination, Jane and I motored back down Ortega Highway toward The Rock Store in the Santa Monica Mountains, taking in about 100 miles of freeway with some two-lane at each end. No matter, though, because the muscular Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 eats up freeways with little fuss, whether wide open or heavily trafficked. Ample power leisurely delivered, an agreeable five-speed transmission, and the laid-back cruiser stance position all ensure the rider and passenger can comfortably cover great distances.
Arriving at The Rock Store, we grabbed a burger and picked a table on the patio where we could enjoy a view of the legendary parking lot. From our vantage point we admired the simple beauty of the Kawasaki Classic LT-a laid-back rugged visage that pays homage to motorcycles from an earlier time.
Built for riders who long for distant destinations, the substantial Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 Classic LT will take you in style and comfort, with power to spare.
MOTORCYCLE RIDING STYLE | HERS
Helmet: Scorpion EXO-1000
Jacket: Cortech Magnum Leather
Gloves: Cortech Womens Airflow
Pants: Firstgear Kwik-Dry Sport Tour
Footwear: Red Wing 1671
MOTORCYCLE RIDING STYLE | HIS
Helmet: AGV Stealth Razor Red
Jacket: Tour Master Magnum
Gloves: Tour Master Summer Elite 2
Pants: Firstgear TPG Escape
Footwear: Firstgear Star
Location Photography by Don Williams