2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 | Preview

2011 Vaquero

The dictionary defines vaquero as a Spanish-origin word meaning “cowboy” or “herdsman.” Well, if that cowboy happened to be independent, adventurous, undeniably-cool and sported handmade boots and a custom hat, he’d probably ride a 2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero.

Baggers are arguably the coolest cruisers these days, and it’s not a stretch to see why. The really good ones are low, long, ultra stylish and, with their chopped fairings and hard-case side bags, plenty functional.

The new Vaquero bagger is all that – and much more. Kawasaki engineers and designers didn’t just throw custom paint and a blacked-out motif on a Vulcan 1700 and call it done. They digested valuable owner and market research, and scrutinized every system – engine, chassis, features, bodywork and appearance – to ensure that the bike being developed squared nicely with what cruiser buyers wanted.

Custom, blacked-out details are your first clue to the new Vaquero’s mission, and there’s plenty to see. It all starts with the beautiful Ebony or Candy Fire Red paint on the abbreviated fairing, sculpted tank and curvaceous bodywork that looks as if it could be a half-inch deep. Luxurious chrome accents (engine guards, exhaust, mirrors, etc.) provide a beautiful counterpoint to the glossy paintwork, but it’s perhaps the multi-textured blacked-out engine and chassis treatment that best highlights the Vaquero’s radical aesthetic look.

The engine, air-cleaner cover, wheels, fork assembly and tank cover all get the blackout treatment, which gives the bike a true custom look that’s beautiful and menacing at once. It’s definitely not a motorcycle you’ll easily forget.

Beneath all that beautiful bodywork, paint and chrome is a superbly engineered motorcycle, one that blends power, handling, durability and confidence-inspiring character in a massively functional package. It all starts with the Vaquero’s 1700cc liquid-cooled V-twin, which powers all four Vulcan 1700 models for 2011 – Voyager, Classic, Nomad and Vaquero.

A thoroughly proven design, this 52-degree Vee boasts the very latest in engine technology yet looks like a throwback to the past, a time when the V-twin was the engine to have powering your motorcycle.

Features include an overhead cam design, high compression and a long-stroke dimensional design that results in the sort of effortless low- and mid-range thrust that’s so desirable and useful in a big-inch cruiser.

Vaquero’s throttle valve system works with the advanced electronic fuel injection to optimize engine response without detracting from its distinctive V-twin throb. The system utilizes an Accelerator Position Sensor (APS) and a Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) that feed data to the ECU, which adjusts the throttle plates to tailor intake airflow accordingly.

The system offers a natural throttle feel, because the APS is activated by a throttle body pulley connected by cables to the throttle grip. Besides the obvious FI advantages such as improved fuel economy and automatic adjustment for altitude changes, the system also permits easy hands-off warm-up and idle speed control.

The Vaquero also features a water-cooled alternator that produces a staggering 46.8 amps of electrical output – plenty to power a selection of electronic accessories to enrich motorcycle travel.

The result of all this new-think engine tech is a massive quantity of usable torque spread out over a shockingly wide rpm range. With 108 foot-pounds of torque, a mere twist of the Vaquero’s throttle delivers arm-stretching acceleration for freeway passing or spirited riding, and the smooth wave of low-rpm grunt is always ready to please when you’re just boppin’ down the boulevard, checking out the scene and chillin’.

Speaking of just cruisin’ along: the Vaquero offers true touring-bike convenience in the form of its electronic cruise control system, conveniently operated from the right handlebar and usable at any speed between 30 and 85 mph in any of the top four gears.

The cruise system can be disengaged in any of the following ways: usage of the brake lever, clutch lever, rear brake pedal, or manually turning the throttle grip past the “closed” position.

Additional touring acumen shines through the engine’s six-speed transmission with overdriven 5th and 6th gears, which contributes to a relaxed ride and excellent fuel economy at highway speeds.

Power is routed to the rear wheel via a narrow carbon fiber-reinforced drive belt that has a 40 percent higher tensile strength than current Kevlar belts. And that chopped, custom-look fairing? Although lower than a traditional windshield or full fairing, it still cuts a decent-sized hole in oncoming atmosphere, giving the rider a useful still-air cocoon in which to enjoy the ride.

Lockable side-loading hard bags set the Vaquero apart from its Vulcan 1700 brethren. They’re beautifully integrated and spacious, and styled to highlight the bike’s long, low look. A scooped saddle offers a comfortable rider perch, while a minimalist passenger pad sits atop a wildly shaped rear fender that integrates equally stylish taillight and turn signal assemblies.

The frame holding all this hardware together is a single backbone, double cradle unit designed to be a slim and light as possible for an easy reach to the ground and optimal handling. Bolted to the steering head is a mammoth fork assembly offering 5.5 inches of wheel travel and a thoroughly compliant ride.

Suspension in back consists of twin air-assisted shocks with spring preload and rebound damping adjustability working through a beefy steel swingarm. Nine-spoke cast aluminum flat-black wheels hold fat, 130/90 front and 170/70 radial tires that offer light handling characteristics, superb traction and long life. Braking hardware consists of dual 300mm front discs with twin-piston calipers and a 300mm rear disc with a two-piston caliper.

It all adds up to a truly top-of-the-line bagger that encompasses a perfect combination of traits: It’s functional in a wide range of environments, from inner-city cruisin’ to running down the open road. It’s got highly advanced technology. And it’s knee-shakingly beautiful, a bike that’ll put goose bumps on your arms and neck every time you open the garage door to take a peek.

2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero Features and Benefits

New for 2011
– The Vulcan 1700 Vaquero is an all-new motorcycle for 2011

Key Features
– Liquid-cooled 1,700cc V-twin puts out loads of torque
– Six-speed transmission allows for relaxed cruising
– Electronic throttle actuation system ensures optimized injector timing and throttle valve position, resulting in an accurate, powerful engine response
– Electronic cruise control maintains speed for more comfort on long trips
– Frame-mounted front fairing directs aerodynamic forces to the chassis to keep steering feel light
– Unique “muscle car” styled instrumentation keeps the rider fully informed
– Audio system has FM, AM and WX and is compatible with iPod, XM tuner, or CB radio
– Aggressive and muscular cruiser styling from end to end
– Twin tapered mufflers maximize saddlebag capacity
– Low seat height with sporty one-piece seat contributes to long, low classic cruiser look
– Aggressive black-out look and strong colors emphasize the simple character of the body shapes

Powerful 1,700cc V-twin engine
– Liquid-cooled, four valves per cylinder, fuel-injected 1,700cc 52-degree V-twin engine
– Long-stroke 102 x 104mm bore and stroke dimensions deliver high torque levels with a distinct V-twin feel
– Valve-actuation system is based on the Vulcan 2000’s, but uses a single overhead cam arrangement instead of pushrods for quicker revving and enhanced mid-high rpm power
– Semi-dry sump design allows lower crankshaft positioning and a longer piston stroke without increasing engine height
– Single-pin crankshaft accentuates the engine’s V-twin character by providing strong power pulses
– Large-capacity airbox is located on both sides of the engine
– Small-diameter iridium sparkplugs reach deep into the combustion chamber for high combustion efficiency, especially during low-load operation
– Dual, newly tapered mufflers, one on each side of the bike, allow maximum clearance for saddlebags and look good
– Engine tuning, combined with long-stroke design, offers superior acceleration in the 50-70 mph range
– Even in overdrive (5th and 6th gear) the engine pulls strongly, which makes highway passing easier

Next-generation Fuel Injection
– Based on the systems used by the Ninja® 650R and Vulcan 900 motorcycles
– Utilizes one sensor in place of the usual three for reduced complexity and weight

Electronic Throttle Valve System
– Fully electronic throttle actuation system enables the ECU to control the volume of intake air (via throttle valve angle) and fuel (via fuel injector timing) delivered to the engine
– Optimized injector timing and throttle valve position results in accurate, powerful engine response
– Control of both injection and airflow provides easy starting and precise cold-engine idle speed control
– From the rider’s perspective, the ETV system works like a standard cable-operated throttle; the throttle grip remains connected to cables, so the feel at the grip is the same
– Twisting the throttle turns a pulley on the throttle body, which triggers the Accelerator Position Sensor (APS) to send a signal to the ECU, which then modulates the throttle valves via a DC motor
– Accurate throttle position is relayed to the ECU by a Throttle Position Sensor (TPS)
– APS and TPS send two sets of signals to the ECU for system redundancy in the unlikely event of a sensor failure

Electronic Cruise Control System
– System maintains a desired speed even on uphill climbs
– Cruise control can be engaged and adjusted entirely from the right handlebar
– Cruise system can be activated in 3rd gear or above at any speed between 30 mph and 85 mph
– Pressure on the brake lever, clutch lever or rear brake pedal automatically disengages the cruise control, as does manually rolling off the throttle

On Board Diagnostics
– Diagnostic system allows self testing of the electronic systems on the Vulcan 1700
– System displays codes on the instrumentation, which can be read by owner

Six-speed Transmission / Final Drive
– Durable and easy-shifting six-speed transmission with positive neutral finder
– 5th and 6th are overdrive gears for excellent fuel economy when cruising at highway speeds
– Carbon fiber-reinforced final drive belt offers a 40 percent increase in tensile strength compared to current Kevlar belts
– Belt drive system is quiet, efficient and offers reduced maintenance compared to a chain

Light Handling Chassis
– The strong steel frame allows a relatively short wheelbase for optimal ergonomics and easy maneuverability
– Lightweight and slim, the Vaquero frame minimizes the number of forged parts and trims any unnecessary metal. The only forged parts are areas that require additional strength: the down-tube joint, engine brackets, side-stand bracket and rear fender/shock absorber bracket
– This compact design contributes to light handling and facilitates low-speed handling, especially maneuvers such as parking or U-turns

43mm Telescopic Fork
– Provides superb steering feedback
– 5.5 inches of travel for excellent ride quality
– Optimized damping and spring settings for a plush but controlled ride

Dual Air-adjustable Rear Shocks
– Air-adjustable shocks can be tuned to match varying rider and passenger loads
– 4-way rebound damping adjustability helps the shocks compensate for changes in spring pressure

9-Spoke Cast Aluminum Wheels
– Light and strong wheels allow the use of tubeless tires, while flat black paint nicely complements the Vaquero’s styling treatment
– Fat and long-wearing 130/90 front and 170/70 rear tires
– Tire choice and suspension settings augment the chassis’ light handling characteristics

Styling and Bodywork
– Basic engine architecture supports the Vaquero’s factory-custom look, while its blacked-out color with machined and bare-aluminum accents sets off the bike’s color scheme
– Gloss and matte finishes on the engine highlight aesthetics even further
– Hand-formed body-part shapes create a highly customized appearance
– Many of the parts are original designs, which adds to the factory-custom look and feel of the Vaquero. These include the engine shrouds, rear fender, one-piece side covers, saddlebags, fairing, seat and mufflers
– Cut-down fairing looks like a true custom piece, right down to the abbreviated smoked windscreen and chrome headlight cover
– Louvre-style fog lamp covers can be replaced with accessory lamps
– Sculpted strut covers seamlessly fill the space between the rear fender and saddlebags
– Newly designed mufflers are tapered at their ends for a thoroughly retro look
– Sculpted, custom-look seat looks good and cradles the rider for maximum comfort
– LED taillight is attractive and highly conspicuous when lit for added safety

Wind Protection
– Large, wide fairing with abbreviated windscreen and integrated lowers provides substantial wind and weather protection for riders
– With the fairing mounted to the frame, any wind buffeting is transferred to the bike rather than the handlebar, helping to enhance highway stability and reduce rider fatigue

Convenient Storage
– The Vaquero features hard, lockable and sealed top-opening side cases that provide nearly 10 gallons of storage space each for overnight touring
– Their flowing, rounded shape is an attractive alternative to the square, boxy luggage found on other bagger models
– Up front, lockable glove boxes provide a handy place for storing smaller items
– Dual under-seat helmet holders

Classic Custom Dashboard / Advanced Audio
– Instrument layout and large round dials give the Vaquero’s console a custom look with a retro flavor
– The radio/stereo unit features a classically custom look from the 1960s
– Multi-function LCD display in the center of the instrument console is controlled by switches on the right handlebar. Features include a gear position indicator, fuel gauge, clock, odometer, dual trip meters, remaining range and average fuel consumption
– Analog displays include speedometer, tachometer and coolant temperature gauge
– Audio system with twin speakers features radio (FM/AM/WX) and compatibility with optional iPod®, XM tuner or CB radio units
– The audio system (and your iPod, which plugs easily into the left fairing pocket) can be operated by switches on the left handlebar
– Ignition switch allows key removal in the on position, which prevents keys from damaging the black finish tank cover during operation
– Turning the ignition switch collar to the ACC position allows accessories to be used while the engine is off; turning it to the “OFF” position turns the engine off and necessitates re-insertion of the key to restart

– Sculpted seat blends a stylish shape with ideal foam density for all-day comfort
– Scooped shape allows an easy reach to the ground
– Upright riding position and rubber-topped floorboards contribute to substantial riding comfort
– Dual adjustable rear air-shocks use settings optimized for a compliant ride and higher-load carrying when needed

Long Range
– 5.3-gallon fuel tank offers a substantial range, helping to minimize fuel stops when out on the open road

Optional Accessories
– Kawasaki offers a large number of optional accessories, including grip heaters, dual gel saddle, solo seat, heated solo seat, rider backrest, quick-release backrest, passenger floorboard kit, saddlebag liners, luggage rack, quick-release solo luggage rack, rear engine guards, auxiliary riding lights, DC power sockets, headset kit, GPS mount, billet handlebar clamp, engine cover, saddlebag top and side rails, front fender trim and more. See your Kawasaki dealer for more information.

2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero Specs:


Four-stroke, liquid-cooled,
SOHC, four valve per cylinder, 52˚ V-twin


/ 103.7 cu. in.

x stroke:

102 x 104mm




lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm


plus cooling fins


fuel injection, dual 42mm throttle bodies


with Digital Advance


with overdrive and positive neutral finder




double-cradle with box-section single-tube backbone

/ trail:

degrees / 7.0 in.

suspension / wheel travel:

hydraulic fork / 5.5 in.

suspension / wheel travel:

Swingarm with twin
air-assisted shocks, with 4-way rebound damping / 3.1 in.






Dual 300mm discs, dual
twin-piston calipers


Single 300mm disc,
twin-piston caliper


98.8 in.


38.2 in.


50.8 in.


5.7 in.


28.7 in.


65.6 in.


835.7 lbs.


5.3 gal.


Ebony,  Candy Fire Red

standard / two-tone:





Motors Corp., U.S.A.

Jeronimo Road

California 92618





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One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007 and is currently Editor at Large at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of 365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).