When a future rider wants to be "user-friendly" with its wallet, but still wishes to ride on an able cruising machine that will totally provide the satisfaction needed in those early days of riding, it heads towards Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD.
Kawasaki came with the wonderful idea that the Ninja 500R engine could be the starting point of a cruiser in the Vulcan lineup. The plan was to tune the engine for better cruising behavior and mount it into a beginner-friendly chassis so that the Vulcan 500 LTD would be born.
This machine now perfectly fills the gap between the Eliminator 125 and the imposing Vulcan 900 by being addressed to first-time buyers in search of wonderful cruising experiences without the need to replace the bike pretty soon.
Kawasaki is producing the Vulcan line of cruisers for almost 24 years now and this makes it have a high resonance among cruisers. Vulcans became popular with the help of their V-twin engines, but the bike we are talking about today was never driven by such a motor.
In the early 1990s it was known as the Kawasaki Vulcan EN500, a motorcycle situated at the thin line between a half-liter parallel-twin Ninja and a Vulcan of the same displacement. This was a positive consequence of a Ninja engine positioned in a cruiser chassis.
At that time, every manufacturer would have tried to create unique machines that would individualize the respective maker and the Vulcan EN500 had that very same purpose.
As the Ninja 500R, the Vulcan didn’t suffered major engine improvement and the truth is that it didn’t quite needed any. It kept on going strong and in 1996 it suffered some major changes: the gas tank was now the proud host of the instrument panel while the front fender got rid of the chrome and got a new shiny paintjob in order to cover the new wire wheel.
Meanwhile the EN500 became 500 LTD, and the bike has the same specifications and features as it did in the past.
In a perfect world, the Vulcan 500 LTD would have had no competition whatsoever as it features a sporty engine, slightly redesigned for more mid-range torque. But the V-twin powered Honda VLX is an able cruiser integrated in an already exceptional line-up. Instead of creating a better performing cruiser, Honda decided to go with the lazy attitude and instead, it gave the VLX an attractive look by integrating an old-school hardtail-style rear suspension, a classic teardrop tank and a very low seat height. Lots of chrome and an awesome sound coming from its V-twin engine was what this bike needed in order to be a true competitor for the Nin…Vulcan 500R.
More against the Honda than against the Kawasaki, the Yamaha V Star Classic is one enjoyable cruiser powered by a 40-cubic-inch V-twin motor. Being light, maneuverable, and reliable, the V Star Classic completes all the requirements in order to enter the fight against the leaders of the class.
Suzuki’s idea of beginner’s cruisers is best represented with the help of the Boulevard S40, a motorcycle representing simplicity, reliability and fun. Perfect as a first bike, the S40 will surprise you with lightweight responsiveness and a comfortable riding position. Even though it only features a big single-cylinder, it is perfect for in town commuting and highway cruising.
Middleweight cruising bikes are all about responsiveness, mid-range torque and easy handling. All the bikes I named feature such qualities even though every single one of them has its own magic.
Even though it is a middleweight powered by a parallel-twin, the Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD still manages to retain all those features which make a cruiser look attractive. And this is a real cruiser, no questions asked. Kawasaki masked the radiator in the frame so that the engine would seem air-cooled. Also, it had some cooling fins attached to the liquid-cooled engine in order to obtain the expected visual appearance.
Apart from the engine, everything else on this bike is about cruising. The round headlight and signal lights covered in chrome, the chromed handlebars and mirrors, all give a nice touch and complement the custom look of the fuel tank and fenders, not to mention the one-piece seat.
The chromed wheels feature nice-looking spokes, so they also make this bike look great on the highway and shine on the boulevard.
2008 model year is available featuring Ebony paintjob
The middleweight cruiser class is practically defined by the way the Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD feels and performs. This bike seems to have discovered the secret of success, as more and more riders begin with this model.
Versatility is this bike’s main feature. The engine’s ability of providing strong low-end pull in city traffic is only outrun by the strong mid-range torque and sufficient power at top of the powerband.
Also, by being lightweight and implementing a low seat height, the Vulcan 500’s character becomes user-friendly and responsive to all of the rider’s needs.
City traffic puts no problems to this light and easy to maneuver machine powered by a quick revving engine. The sporty character of the Ninja 500R sees its way through the cruiser styling and results in good acceleration from down low, even though the 498cc, four-stroke, DOHC, eight-valve parallel twin is now orientated towards mid-range power and strong acceleration all the way to the top of the powerband.
You will have no problem seeing the four-wheelers in your rear view mirrors when accelerating from a stop sign or a red light. I certainly didn’t because I properly used the power coming from the strong pulling motor with the help of the smooth-operating transmission.
The first gear isn’t as short as you would think and it provides quick acceleration from a stand still, while second and third take it further and manage to give you plenty of satisfaction mostly at the middle of the rev range.
Maneuverability is what the Vulcan 500 LTD is all about. This bike is built to handle and no matter the situation it manages to inspire confidence and encourages beginning riders to exploit it in the way the manufacturer intended when it created it.
Out on the highway, this Vulcan is well suitable to be ridden close to bigger displacement V-twins, like the Vulcan 900 Classic. That quiet running motor has enough potential to keep the bike cruising with ease at 80 mph and more, if needed.
The riding position is absolutely excellent as it allows the rider to lay back and enjoy the ride and the long road stretching in front of him. The seat is my favorite. It reminds me of the way the seats were made back in the early ’90, when this bike began writing its long pages of history.
The handlebars are at quick reach, as well as the footpegs. These elements didn’t direct any vibrations to my members and so I managed to ride without any disturbance. The wind wasn’t that much of a problem and you can attach a windshield if you are more into highway incursions.
The brakes are reliable and very strong. I was able to obtain confident feedback mostly when I associated both the front and the rear. It is recommended to use the rear to help the front because this is cruiser’s special way of braking. Remember that in the early days, bad boys didn’t consider the front brake necessary? Well…most of them could actually stop when they needed to (not very often, frankly).
All the things I mentioned before are packed carefully in an ultra-reliable machine offered for the advantageous suggested retail price of $5,049. I say don’t analyze too much and simply go for it if you see yourself cruising on a never ending highway. Not many dreams are accomplished today, but this is one of the few which actually become reality.
The Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD is all you could ever need for your first years of riding and more. By being reliable, comfortable, maneuverable, and by delivering its power firmly and yet smoothly, this cruiser became the best in its class and it intends on keeping things this way, no matter what the competition has in mind.
A great cruiser is a result of a brilliant idea, but this one suffered the consequences of many such ideas. It is that great!
Engine and Transmission
Type: Four-stroke, DOHC, eight-valve parallel twin
Bore & Stroke: 74.0 x 58.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.2:1
Carburetor: Keihin CVK32 x 2
Ignition: Digital TCBI
Final Drive: O-Ring Chain
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame: Double-cradle, steel
Rake/Trail: 33°/5.9 in.
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41mm hydraulic fork / 5.9 in.
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Dual hydraulic shocks with five-way adjustable spring preload / 3.9 in.
Front Tire Size: 100/90-19
Rear Tire Size: 140/90-15
Wheelbase: 62.8 in.
Front Brake Type: Hydraulic disc
Rear Brake Type: Mechanical drum
Fuel Tank Capacity: 4.0 gal.
Seat Height: 28.1 in.
Dry Weight: 439 lb.
Overall Length: 91.3 in.
Overall Width: 32.7 in.
Overall Height: 44.3 in.
Ground Clearance: 4.7 in.
Warranty: 12 months
Good Times™ Protection Plan: 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Twin-cylinder 498cc Engine
Compact parallel-twin design based on the NINJA® 500R sportbike engine
Special cam profiles and ample flywheel weight boost low-end torque
Keeps operating temperatures consistent, resulting in longer engine life
Allows tighter engine clearances for quieter running and more power
Radiator hides between the frame downtubes
Four Valves per Cylinder
Better breathing for more power at high rpm
Compact combustion chamber for less detonation with today’s gasoline
Augments low-end torque
Automatic Cam Chain Tensioner
Maintains precise timing without maintenance
Cam chain runs quietly, reliably
Reduces engine vibration for a super-smooth ride
Allows engine’s full potential to be utilized
Positive Neutral Finder
When stopped, just lift the shift pedal from first gear to easily find neutral
32mm CVK Semi-Flat Slide Carburetors
Quick throttle response
Precise fuel metering provides uniform power delivery at all engine speeds
Designed to boost low and mid-range power
Tuned pipes enhance low-speed pulling power
Single Disc Front Brake
Single piston pin-slide caliper produces quick, sure stops
Tank-Mounted Speedometer with Turn Signal Indicators and Caution Lamps
Gives needed information at a glance
Compact design complements the bike’s clean look
Laid-back riding comfort for two
Chrome-Plated Wire Spoke Wheels
Narrow 100/90-19 front tire and beefy 140/90-15 rear tire fits the LTD’s traditional cruiser styling