MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Nomad

What to make of the super cruiser

By Teri Conrad, Photos by Kinney Jones

Building on the positive response it received from its Vulcan 1500 Nomad, Kawasaki made a number of functional and fashionable upgrades to this highly sought-after model and released the Vulcan 1600 Nomad for the 2005 model year.

The eye-catching 1600 boasts additional chrome and newer lines, thanks to the now standard passenger backrest. Thicker seat and stock floorboards add to a passengers enjoyment, and for the driver, a larger engine and a refined fuel injection system provide an additional boost of power when needed. The seat height on the 1600 Nomad is a comfortable 28.4 inches suitable for my 5-feet 7-inch frame. Although I was new to riding a motorcycle with floorboards and a heel-to-toe shifter, it took only a short time to acclimate myself to these features.

The 1600 Nomad displayed good throttle response on the freeway, shifted smoothly, and accelerated to speeds of 80 to 90 mph effortlessly. The hydraulic clutch release engages easily, and both the clutch and brake levers are adjustable to accommodate an individuals hand size and strength. The large manually adjustable windshield (adjusts up or down 2 inches) provided ample protection, and was a godsend when it began to rain halfway through the ride.

Headed for Californias intimidating collection of switchbacks otherwise known as the Ortega Highway, I was ready to put this bikes handling abilities to the test. Normally, I try not to brake through any of the turns on this road, but I had to make some exceptions on this run. I began cautiously on the two-lane back road, slippery with runoff from the waterlogged mountain, but the 1600 took it all in stride, handling confidently and keeping a steady line as I rode through several inches of standing and running water at various points along the way.

Cruising along the meandering cliffside of Highway 76 en route to Palomar Mountain, I became more comfortable with the power of this super cruiser, the largest bike I had ever ridden. And on the few occasions I had to slow for traffic, the Nomads brakes were very responsive: up front, dual discs provide maximum stopping power, and a large single rear disc easily handles any additional load.

Climbing the grade to the higher elevations of Palomar Mountain, apprehensions about handling a bike this size on the wavy S-curves that lay ahead surfaced, but I braced myself for the floorboard scraping that would inevitably occur. Despite leaning into the continuous hairpin turns with confidence, I managed to scratch the pavement only twice, and the bike never shuddered. I was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which I was able to handle this heavy bike (it has a dry weight of 675 lbs.) at slow speeds, as well as at the usual stops and starts, and that I was able to lift the bike off the kickstand without any problems. My only challenge was in a parking lot where I had to make a tight turnÜthe handlebars flare out so far that I had to stretch a little more than I was comfortable to keep both hands on them.

One of the most convenient features is the spacious, hard saddlebags that lock with the ignition key. I fit my leather chaps and an extra fleece in one, and a medium-sized camera case in the other with room to spare in both; a half helmet would easily fit in either of these bins. Soft removable inner bags are available as an optional accessory.

Planning a romantic getaway? A mesh compartment inside the drop-down lids could hold a corkscrew and two glasses while the main compartment could ably accommodate two or three bottles of wine. This stylish touring bike also features self-canceling turn signals, a 5.3 gallon fuel tank, an electronic speedometer, and an easy-to-read LED odometer/trip meter and clock. The ignition is located high on the tank, and although the key can be removed once the engine is started, if left in place, it could partially block ones view of the speedometer.

With the only liquid-cooled engine in its class, the 1600 Nomad offers the latest technology, fuel injection, low maintenance and more standard features than the comparable 1670cc Road Star Silverado and 1462cc Suzuki Boulevard C90T for about the same price. I enjoyed the relaxed highway cruising, and the agility with which it performed on the winding roads. It provided enough torque when needed, and didnt drag at high speeds.

As the end of my 200-mile ride neared, I found myself not wanting to part with my new friend, and considered what it might be like to own this cruiser whose size once intimidated me.

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Specs at a Glance
Displacement: 1,552cc
Seat Height: 28.4 inches
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gallons
Weight: 772 lbs.
Colors: Metallic Dark Green/Metallic Phantom Silver, Ebony
Price: $12,999

WRN Recommendation
This is a big motorcycle meant for riders who are confident with larger bikes, no matter the size of the person. Once a rider decides fit is not an issue, this bike has all the creature comforts one could ever need. With the comfortable seat, the big windshield, and the smooth ride, you could easily eat up hundreds of miles without feeling like you did. And the price is right for all you get.

About the Author
Teri Conrad is a freelance writer and photographer based in Southern California. Some of her publishing credits include: Iron Horse, Ride Texas, Women Riders Now, Biker Ally, Friction Zone, Adventure Sports Outdoors, Portrait of Achievement, and Accelerate magazines. She can be reached at

1 thought on MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Nomad

  1. Read your article a few days ago. I have a 1985 Yamaha Maxim X. I have kept it looking nearly new so was hard to part with. I purchased the 1600 Nomad in ocean blue/ silver. I have been nothing but impressed with this bike. The response from the big engine; the smooth engine torque; smooth ride with very minimal vibration; price and detail of workmanship of the bike. I have not got the 600 mile break-in miles yet, but will the upcoming week on a trip with my wife to florida.

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