Kawasaki’s brand-new 649cc cruiser, the Vulcan S, was created to get more new riders comfortably on two wheels. This bike specifically tackles beginner riders’ top three requirements when choosing their first motorcycle: comfort, fit, and confidence. And this is why the Vulcan S made our list of 10 Motorcycles to Get Excited About in 2015.

Kawaski vulcan S riding right side
The Vulcan S’ modern cruiser styling, sporty yet smooth ride character, and its ability to fit almost any sized rider gives the Vulcan S an edge over its middleweight competitors.

motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s white
The parallel twin engine used in the highly acclaimed Kawasaki Ninja 650, and Versys 650, was chosen as the starting platform for the Vulcan S shown here. Its 649cc displacement strikes a balance between providing decent power on the highway without overwhelming a new rider.

The truth—as sad as it is for most women riders—is that almost all motorcycles sold in the U.S. are built to fit riders measuring 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall and who are average weight for their height. Considering the average height for women is 5 feet 4 inches, this means motorcycles simply aren’t engineered to fit the fairer sex. Period.

While many motorcycle manufacturers have options to replace stock parts that lower seat height and give an easier reach to the handgrips and footpegs, this customization comes at a price.

Kawasaki’s new Ergo-Fit program, debuted on the Vulcan S, addresses this issue by using a combination of adjustable components to suit riders of different stature—at no extra cost to the new bike buyer. Specifically, the Vulcan S’ handlebars, seat, and footpeg positions can be swapped out by the dealer, free of charge, before the customer rides off the lot.

motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s ergo fit center
Participating Kawasaki dealers now have the new Ergo-fit Center display on their showroom floor, where three Vulcan S’ are stably secured upright for customers to sit on and compare the different interchangeable components.

How Ergo-Fit Works
To give riders a starting point, there are three basic configurations set up in the Ergo-Fit Center: Reduced Reach for those 5 feet 6 inches and shorter; Mid Reach for riders from 5 feet 7 inches to 6 feet tall, and Extended Reach for 6 foot 1 inch and taller riders.

The Mid Reach setup uses factory positions and equipment, while the Reduced Reach setup replaces the stock handlebar with one that brings the rider 1 inch closer, a seat with a plush back support that pushes the rider forward 2 inches, and the footpegs are adjusted to be 1 inch closer to the rider. The Extended Reach setup keeps the stock handlebar, but uses a 1-inch forward footpeg position, and a firmer, roomier seat that places the rider 1 inch further back.

All of these components can be swapped and adjusted to suit the buyer’s preference. And, if you ride off the lot and decide later you’d like to change one of the components, they are all available for purchase separately. It’s worth noting that the footpegs can be readjusted rather than replaced, but require three different-length brake rods for each of its three positions. So if you want to try a different position once you ride off the lot, you’ll need to purchase another brake rod.

motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s seat height
Being able to place both feet on the ground and reach the handgrips and footpegs easily and comfortably seems a small request, but is often the biggest challenge for new riders, especially women. At 5 feet 7 inches tall, Tricia can easily reach the ground and handlebars on the Vulcan S Mid-Reach setup, that is the factory settings. The seat height of 27.8 inches doesn’t change at all when switching between the three different settings.

The bike’s parallel twin engine sways from the traditional V-twin cruiser platform. Besides creating a modern look that isn’t a Harley-Davidson lookalike, its design and placement keeps the weight low and forward for easy, light handling. The engine also doesn’t require an air box that juts out on the side (like on most V-twins), which can often interfere with a rider’s leg reaching forward-mounted pegs.

motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s short woman rider
The Vulcan S’ narrow frame, underbelly exhaust, tapered seat and tank all provide an unobstructed, easy reach to the foot pegs and to the ground. The bike’s tucked-in, lay-down shock, which resembles the Ninja 650’s, further adds to the Vulcan’s long, low, super-slim, modern profile.
motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s engine laydown shock
Small revisions were made to the liquid-cooled, DOHC, fuel-injected Ninja 650 engine for easier pull and smoother, responsive operation, especially in low to mid-range RPM.
motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s mid reach riding
Tricia started the one-day test ride with her Vulcan S in the stock Mid Reach setup, which is the recommendation for her height. You can see here, she has a comfortable bend in the knee and sits upright with no strain to reach the bars, and with room to lean in on hard corners.
motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s adjustable lever
Brake and clutch lever reach on the Vulcan S are both adjustable to five positions, further refining the custom-tailored fit.

I first noted the Vulcan’s light weight when lifting it off the sidestand. Once in motion, I was pleasantly surprised at the bike’s ease of handling considering its long, lean stance. I wasn’t expecting it to be as nimble as it was. For example, turning the wide handlebar full lock for turnarounds was effortless and will inspire confidence in newer riders getting used to tight turns.

Kawaski vulcan S review cornering
The Vulcan S tracks nicely through turns; youll feel like youre on a much more powerful bike.

Getting caught in traffic was an ideal opportunity to test out the Vulcan S’ slow-speed maneuverability. While the bike’s marketing notes say the engine has been specifically “tuned for smooth acceleration,” I had some difficulty keeping a steady, smooth throttle at low speeds. If I, an experienced rider and MSF RiderCoach, had trouble, I worry that beginners will suffer the same problem. I was told by a Kawasaki rep that an adjustment can be made to eliminate the on-or-off throttle feel, but I didn’t have a chance to test it with the adjustment made.

motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s riding
The triangular headlight is tapered and its profile flows in line with the 3.7-gallon teardrop fuel tank.

motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s man posing
The forward stance of the Vulcan S is aggressive without being too overpowering aesthetically or ergonomically, and its modern touches and attention to detail take it to the next level of cruiser styling.

motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s wheels abs
The Vulcan S’ five-spoke, black cast alloy wheels get a green stripe on all three 2015 colors. The 18-inch front wheel gets a single 300mm rotor with a twin-piston caliper. The 17-inch rear wheel uses a 250mm rotor and single-piston caliper. The brakes are a bit soft but adequate for a motorcycle of this size and price point. Optional ABS adds $400.

motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s chain
The Vulcan S’ 6-speed transmission is complemented with a positive neutral finder that helps riders find neutral easily when stopped. A lightweight O-ring chain requires routine lubrication and adjustment, but it was chosen over a belt or shaft drive for its strength and light weight.

motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s shock suspension
The front, nonadjustable fork springs do a good job of absorbing bumps, and the preload-adjustable rear shock (shown here) can be set to one of seven different positions.

motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s dash display
The Vulcan S’ symmetrical instrumentation display features an analog tachometer at the top, and a LCD display below it showing a large, digital speedometer readout. There’s also a clock, fuel level bar, Kawasaki’s symbol that shows when a rider is maximizing fuel economy, and riders may toggle between an odometer, two trip meters, fuel range, average and instant mpg.

motorcycle review 2015 kawasaki vulcan s accessories
The Vulcan S can be accessorized with with a windshield, saddlebags, LED light bar, tank decal, passenger seat, passenger footpegs, and backrest.

Midway through the ride, I traded the saddle to try the Reduced Reach seat and immediately regretted this decision. With a more defined backrest that pushes you forward, it cramped my legs and put pressure on my tailbone. Testing the Extended Reach seat and peg position had the opposite effect, verifying that the Mid Reach setup was perfect for me, just as Kawasaki suggests.

Specs At A Glance: Kawasaki Vulcan S
Engine Size: 649cc
Price: $6,999 ($7,399 ABS version)
Weight: 498 pounds
Seat Height: 27.8 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons

WRN Recommendation
The Kawasaki Vulcan S is a lightweight, midsized cruiser with a unique look that makes it ideal for confident beginners, or new riders ready to trade up to their first “bigger” bike. The fact that you can customize the fit with dealer-installed adjustable components without raising the initial price, gives the Vulcan S an edge over its competition where fit on a stock bike is an issue.

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12 thoughts on Motorcycle Review With Video: 2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S

  1. I purchased my pearl white 2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S two years ago. I was a new rider and I do love this bike. I was concerned about reaching everything and this bike fit the bill to a “T.” I have become a much more confident rider and this year did my first run through a double switchback up to Estes Park, Colorado. My Vulcan S is so much fun that my husband “offered to let me learn on his Vulcan 900 Classic” just for grins. His bike is too wide for me so I had to burst his bubble and say no. Too funny.My bike was set up with the mid reach seat, stock handlebar, and extended pegs. I may attempt to find floorboards to enhance foot and leg comfort a touch more. The first thing I adjusted was the seat. It was so uncomfortable that everything went numb fast. I had the mid reach seat redone by a local guy who customizes them for a living. It is absolutely perfect now. I do still face the rough throttle at lower speeds but thought that might just be me. I will have to take it in to see if we can get that adjusted. As for all else, I cannot recommend this bike enough! It’s light, can adjust to fit, and is powerful enough to keep up with my husband’s 900, my brother-in-law’s 850, and the rest of the pack.

  2. Just curious and a question for those women riding this bike. Do you think a mid-sized cruiser like this would be improved with an optional cruise control? It bemuses me a bit that cruise control isn’t offered on smaller bikes which sometimes are used for long distances on the open road. I ride a bike with cruise control and find it so much easier on my hands to be able to set cruise control and relax my “death” grip on the throttle. As I said I am just asking for opinions as I want my partner to 1) get her license and 2) ride with me on a bike similar to the Vulcan S.

  3. After reading your article, I’m very interested in the S. I’ve been riding for so many years and have had so many different bikes I’ve always loved the Kawies.Where is there a dealership in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada? I’d like to go and check one out. The price that was quotes on your info was probably in U.S. dollars, I would imagine the price is higher in Canada.

  4. I have had my Vulcan S for about two weeks now. Ever since I first read about it I was intrigued with the concept of it being adaptable to different heights. Being 5 feet tall finding a bike that fit me and where I felt comfortable has been a challenge. I started out on a Vulcan 500 but wanted a bigger front tire and fuel injection. My husband’s Vulcan 900 was just to big for me to feel comfortable on. We went down and traded the 500 in for the S. I love my S. It is very quick and I know I can keep up with my boys on their 900s. I’m not fond of the throttle. It is very touchy, although I have traded out the grips for bigger ones and that seems to be helping also with the aid of a throttle boss but I am still struggling with maintaining the throttle being a newer rider I’m not sure how much of it is me or the throttle itself. Though reading Tricia’s comment I’m sure my husband will take a look at adjusting the throttle to see if we can change that.I got the reduced fit handlebars and seat but I didn’t like the reduce fit shifter so I left the mid-reach shifter and my husband was able to adjust it for me to reach without a problem. We also took my passenger floorboards off his bike and but them on the so I have floorboards instead of footpegs. Love it much better. The seat is a Vulcan seat — not sure about that just yet. That is still up in the air for now. I am used to a pillow cushion type seat on our bike so I may need to find a gel seat cushion or something, but I do like how it pushes me forward to be able to reach better. I took my first big ride last weekend and did more than 200 miles on it and can say I love how easily I have adapted and love the ride.

  5. I purchased my Vulcan S last month and simply love it. I am actually a 13-year bike veteran and this will be my fourth bike. I went down in bike weight and power on this bike but I have never had a bike where my feet are actually flat on the ground; I am 5 feet 3 inches and I am 68 years old so with my feet flat sure makes me feel so much more stable. My WOW group and my husband and I travel all over the US on our bikes and I am looking forward to my first trip on my new Pearl White baby!

  6. The Vulcan S was at the very top of my list for purchase, so I spent a great deal of time drooling over it at the dealership, as well as reading and viewing every review I could find. I will say this, this bike is phenomenally good looking, pictures can’t do it justice. The candy lime green is absolutely jaw dropping, you can’t help but stare. I love the fact that even though it’s a cruiser Kawasaki wasn’t afraid to give it a modern, slick look.The Ergo options are just brilliant and you can easily find a setting, or combination to suit your frame. But the brake and clutch lever adjustments were one of my favorites. Having smaller hands, I loved I could bring them in close enough for a very easy reach. The Vulcan S is a cruiser style with forward mounted pegs, which is important to note. Because even with the Ergo peg adjustments, it can be a little awkward at first if you’re used to mid-mounted pegs. It was for me, personally, and I found the distance between the shifter and peg a bit large and felt clumsy reaching my foot to shift. Also, with the rear brake, I found my foot tended to land on the bar, rather than the actual pad. Again, because the distance seemed a bit long, but this may not be an issue at all for other riders, I do have very small feet.I rode the Vulcan S with ABS on my test ride and found it a very easy bike to maneuver. I did a lot of low speed manuvers, figure eights, U-turns, and the like. I will say I had the same issues with the throttle as mentioned above, it seemed very touchy and difficult to keep steady. It’s also geared a bit differently then similar bikes in this genre, and it wasn’t very forgiving about it. It has a very long range in first gear, and even though the engine sounded like I should shift, when I went into second gear, at around 15mph, she stalled instantly. This was unexpected, but I had read this bike does like to run a little higher in the RPMs. Maybe something to note the first time you ride this beautiful bike. I found the display easy to read, and really nice looking in blue. I loved the fuel gauge and digital speedometer. The nice sweep makes you feel nicely tucked into the bike and very connected, and the cushy rear suspension was a plus, too.I think it’s worth the $400 for the ABS option, and though I didn’t ride in a situation where it was used, I’ve heard many testimonials to the value of it. The Vulcan S actually has the same engine as the Ninja 650, with an actual 649cc displacement and it’s got plenty of get up and go. It’s also lighter than many other bikes in its class, though it doesn’t look like it. It’s got a beefy and sleek look that reminded me of the V-Rod yet it’s very manageable for a newer rider.I know I personally hope this bike gets a good response so we see more of this Ergo adjustability in more bikes in the future. I think having a motorcycle you can customize to your frame, for free, is simply wonderful. I hope this helps anyone considering this motorcycle. I know I poured over this site before purchasing and it helped tremendously.

  7. Just brought home my Vulcan S yesterday. Big step up for me from my Honda Rebel 250. Riding on highways was a white knuckle experience with my 250, as I felt underpowered and too lightweight. Got out on the highway straight out of the dealership and couldn’t get over the difference. The ride was smooth and comfortable, and I just found myself so much more at ease. Even in the stop and go of city traffic the bike feels balanced and maneuverable, and I feel very comfortable swinging a tight circle in front of our garage. The adjustability of this bike really works for me. I’m 5 feet 6 inches and have lower back issues. The reduced-reach handlebars keep me from having to lean forward. They felt a little funky at first, because they are angled in toward each other a bit to achieve the reach, but that feeling disappeared in the first ride. The reduced reach seat was uncomfortably close, so I went mid-reach on that. I kept the pegs at reduced-reach, where they ride a little higher on the bike, and this kept my knees from rubbing against the black trim. I love the adjustable hand levers. No more weary hands from having to reach out and pull so far. I also think this will be a little safer when I wear my cold weather gloves. Having all this adjustability saves money, too, as you don’t have to buy replacement parts for a brand new bike to get the fit you want. I have to say I agree with Tricia about the throttle being overly sensitive. I was glad to read that that’s something I can get adjusted. Love the 3.7-gallon fuel tank on this bike, and having the instrumentation display located up on the handlebars, not down on the tank. The display is easily readable. I love having a fuel indicator, and for running errands the clock is great.I stuck with a cruiser because I wanted my feet on the ground (and it saved that shiny new paint job yesterday at a intersection on a hill, with a gravel-filled pothole under my right boot) and I love the sporty look of this one. You could make a case for the candy lime green increasing your visibility on the road—it sure got a lot of looks out there yesterday.

    1. Congratulations Lynnette! You’re the first WRN reader we know whose purchased the new Vulcan S. Thanks for sharing your insights with us. This will surely help others thinking about this motorcycle. All the best to you!

  8. Thanks for the review. This motorcycle is on my short list when I trade up from my Honda 250. I need something light but with more power than I have now. I am very short and I need a bike that can fit me. Did the motorcycle you rode have ABS? One of the myriad reasons I’m considering the 2015 Vulcan S is the ABS option.

    1. The Vulcan S is available with or without ABS in all three 2015 colors. But for only $400 more than the non-ABS model, I would highly recommend this extra measure of safety. The Vulcan S I tested was equipped with ABS, and I found it to be very effective in straight-line quick stops. Good luck!

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