READER MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: 2008 Kawasaki Vulcan 500

By Sue Zirkle, Lowell, Indiana

Sue's height: 5 feet 7 inches
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Sue with her 2008 Vulcan 500, shown with the windshield she added.

I am 50 years old. I traded up from 33 years in the passenger seat to my first bike ever. After taking the MSF class twice because it was so much fun, I decided I really liked the Suzuki GZ250, but my experienced hubby thought I would outgrow that too quickly. So I read a lot online and rode a few bikes. I had only sat on the Vulcan and thought I could probably handle it. Positioning was great for me, but I was still pretty nervous about the size. (I know this is not big for some.)

I hate to admit it, but after only 30 miles in the parking lot and about 90 on the road, I realized hubby was right. Im glad I went bigger than a 250cc. I like the look of the bike, the handling, the weight and the seat—very comfortable. Havent had a sore bottom yet (but havent been out for more than three hours either). I do have a small sheepskin that really helps with sweating on warm days. And for cool days, I have a smaller windshield that does help, but not like my hubbys body used to. I’ll get used to it! Im not sure the engine guard will protect that much, as its kind of small.

Sue with her daughter and husband. You can see her sheepskin seat cover and Willie Max Revolution Fork Bag.

The only thing I dont like so far is the small storage compartment. It is so difficult to close after opening. I dont know if there is a secret Im missing, but dont plan to store much in there. I put on a Willie and Max Revolution Fork Bag, which is great for the wallet, hairbrush, etc., and quite roomy. I have my fringe saddlebags picked out for spring. Im so sad winter is coming so quickly!

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8 thoughts on READER MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: 2008 Kawasaki Vulcan 500

  1. Love the article. I learned to ride at 52 years old. Started on a Rebel, then to a Buell then to a Vulcan 500, which I loved, then to a Sportster and did NOT like it, then to a Vulcan 800 which I rode for 6 years and really enjoyed. It was a complete customized bike, belt drive, hydro. brake, floor boards, chromed everywhere. It was beautiful and we removed any evidence that it was a Kawasaki and fooled even HD dealers. Well, as I’ve aged, I kept remembering the fun I had on my Vulcan 500 and the get-up-and-go it had (Hubby re-jetted it). So, I decided I had to ride one again. Had a fantastic offer on the 800, so off she went and my hubby has just finished the work on my 500, except for the engine guard that he made and is now off getting chromed. I have a single seat he made and we had covered, and he re-jetted it. He is thinking about chroming the forks, and changing the mufflers to a Honda 650 for their sound and maybe even changing the chain to a belt drive. However, with all that said I love this bike. We’ve had three 500s (our son learned on one) and with each my hubby converted to a single seat; it’s a nice profile.

  2. Am so glad I found this site. I love reading the reviews! I’m a brand new rider, in my BRC as I type. Have been looking at what bikes are good for beginners. My boyfriend did tell me not to go too small so I wouldn’t feel the need to upgrade too soon. I found the Vulcan 500 and just love the look. Love the reviews. I will have my eye out for one.

  3. The Vulcan 500 is a great bike. I ride a Harley 883, but my partner rides a 500. I had recent back surgery, so our rides are a short distance before we have to stop and stretch. Sometimes my partner and I will switch bikes because the Vulcan is so much more comfortable than my bike. I love my Harley, but for long distance and enough power you cannot beat the smooth ride of the Vulcan 500. It is a great bike for all levels of riders. I cannot understand why they stopped making them.

  4. Just got my M endorsement (first time on a bike and in my late 50s) and am chomping at the bit to take out the used Vulcan EN500 my husband and I bought. I am actually looking for a used 250cc Rebel or Virago to putter around on in town. Thought it might be an easier bike (basically in the city 35 mph streets for a 5 mile commute each way) but am hearing more and more from people like you that once I get used to the Vulcan. I won’t want to go smaller. Good info! Thanks!

  5. Congrats on the Vulcan. I’ll be 58 too soon. My first bike was a new Honda CM250 (with a trunk). I got rid of it when I was riding on Highway 101 in San Jose and an idiot in the right lane looked at me – we had eye contact then he started moving into my lane. Saying I rolled the throttle on a 250 expecting speed is an oxymoron. I managed to get slightly ahead of him and held up one finger. I knew he did not “see me.” In the NC driving manual (for bikes) that’s even one of the comments – that auto drivers who “see” bikers often doesn’t register in their brain. Fast forward to 2006 and a bigger bike. I ended up with a 2004 Vulcan 500 and loved it. The six gears now make sense and it was light enough so I could bounce off anything and not drop it.My warning to anyone who doesn’t listen to me anyway (like my younger sister) is not to start with anything smaller than a 500 if you live in a higher traffic area. I’m looking for that lovely Vulcan 500 LTD or EN. It will be my last bike but I’m growing older with a bang. My sis now has a Harley 883 Low and admitted she goofed not listening to me years ago.

  6. Congrats Sue! I like yourself am new to the drivers seat. My first and only choice was the Vulcan 500 and I was lucky to come across an ’07 that had my name written all over it. I’m 44 and about the same size and absolutely love the feel of it. I haven’t been far and the husband doesn’t want me wandering off on my own… yet… but I do love the size, look and feel of her. I’ve got her fitted with a windshield and am still looking for fringed saddlebags but haven’t found the ones that appeal to me yet. Could you point a sister in the right direction? Stay safe and happy riding.

  7. You can order saddlebags from Saddlemen Co. for your Vulcan 500. The order arrived at my doorstep eight days after ordering. Fringes or no fringes. Mine have locks on them. I ride black 2008 Vulcan 900 Classic. I had been riding 2002 Intruder 800 for about a year after taking the MSF course in Oct. 2008. I started off riding Suzuki GZ250 in the first place for about six months. I loved it but it was not a good bike for a long trip. I really love my Vulcan for it rides so smooth. Balancing the bike is what you have to work on. Not the weight. Have you ever ridden your bike on Blue Ridge Parkway yet?

  8. Hi Sue, I have the same year and bike. I started on the 250 Rebel, which I'm glad I did. I would have been intimidated with the 500 if I had not. I really love the Vulcan now. It is just the right size, and has all the speed that I will ever need. I just need to learn to pick mine up. I have dropped it twice. Once just my own stupidity. But I guess that happens. Like you, I rode on the back for many years off and on. But there is nothing like riding your own.

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