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2009 Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD

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It’s long been known that when beginning riders want to approach the cruiser style, Kawasaki offers a greatly balanced package under the Vulcan 500 LTD model name. We’re glad to find that in 2009, at least things haven’t changed for the worst as the bike carries on with a simple color scheme change that refreshes the overall look, helps the low seat stand out and corresponds with the attractive engine performance.

 

Introduction

The unbeatable combination behind the smallest Vulcan is achieved by a user friendly chassis and sportbike engine heritage. As a rider, you feel well at home on the low and comfy seat and the handlebars are at quick reach so it’s clear that Kawi built this thing around the rider, but what’s best about the chassis is how it ensures light handling as the 471.9 lbs wet weight seems to disappear as speed increases.

Powered by a 498cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, eight-valve parallel twin engine, like the one on the Ninja 500R, the small cruiser is very lively so it competes with much more recent entry level alternatives and also manages to deal with four-wheeled traffic participants without any problems whatsoever.

Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD


Versatility was always the key behind the Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD and the 2009 model year makes no exception. From boulevard cruising to high speed passing down the open road, it stood out as a top performer and time allows for that to become part of this Vulcan’s character. This is not the kind of bike about which you read some other guy’s first impressions, but one that is recommended to you by experienced riders who have spent a few years on it when they were just starting out. I’ve often happened to hear people refer to it as “Kawi’s two-cylinder Magna” or “the small cruiser blast” so you don’t just buy the 500 LTD to learn how to ride, but you buy an enough serious motorcycle that invites to be ridden long after experience is gained on it.

The biggest drawback is the lack of fuel injection. This system would have radically improved engine performance and, to be quite honest, we were expecting this from the 2009 model year. Yet, there’s a six-speed gearbox ensuring both low fuel consumption and a decent top speed of approximately 90 mph.

What’s best about this bike is that things have always been this way so you just can’t expect less from it…less than 46 horsepower and 45 Nm that it.

 

History

 

Competition

Honda quit making the Shadow VLX so the most appropriate bikes remaining for us to mention are the V-twin powered Star V Star 650 models, the Classic, Silverado and Custom. These are at least $1 grand more expensive motorcycles, but do look like veritable cruisers and not at all like starting bikes. Also, the 2009 Suzuki Boulevard S40 features a much bigger engine (652cc), but featuring a single cylinder and that’s what keeps the starting price just under $5 grand. We’ve reviewed these models so click on the links and check out the details.

Exterior

In the case of consecrated models such as this one, it is no problem buying with the heart as long as this last beats harder when spotting the bike. Kawasaki doesn’t mention the Vulcan 500 LTD as being neither a classic nor a custom, but the overall design indicates towards the last category mentioned.

Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD


You get a sharp front fender curved around a 19-inch front wheel, quick-grab handlebars and a one-piece seat so it’s a good thing to start considering from the very first time you lay your eyes on the bike. It would be so easy looking at it like at a standard motorcycle simply because there isn’t a V-twin engine contradicting us. Still, the teardrop tank with the speedometer, turn signal indicators and caution lamps being mounted on it compensates for the engine configuration not being the right one for this kind of bike. So is the 28.1 inches seat, the straight-flow exhaust and the custom rear fender and taillight. The passenger also gets a decently sized portion of the seat and the spoked rear wheel features a 140mm wide rear tire.

The 2009 model year distinguishes thanks to the Metallic Imperial Red paintjob as the bike hasn’t been significantly changed for years now.

 

2008 Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD Test Ride

 

Price

Not only economic, reliable and highly performing for a 500cc cruiser, the 2009 Kawi Vulcan 500 LTD comes with an affordable starting price which positions it in between the Star and Suzuki models - $5,499.

Conclusion

Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD

Kawasaki could have revamped the half-liter Vulcan with the facile addition of a fuel injection system and yet they choose to carry on producing the bike with no significant change. Hopefully, at least 2010 will bring the much anticipated upgrade together with a totally restyled body if the engine isn’t of the most appropriate type for this kind of bike.


SPECIFICATIONS

Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD

 

Engine and Transmission

 

Engine: Four-stroke, DOHC, eight-valve parallel twin
Displacement: 498cc
Starting: Electric
Bore x stroke: 74.0 x 58.0mm
Compression ratio: 10.2:1
Cooling: Liquid
Carburetion: Keihin CVK32 x 2
Ignition: Digital TCBI
Transmission: Six-speed

 

Chassis and Dimensions

 

Final drive: O-Ring chain
Frame: Double-cradle, steel
Rake / trail: 33 degrees / 5.9 in.
Suspension, front / wheel travel: 41mm hydraulic fork / 5.9 in.
Suspension, rear / wheel travel: Dual hydraulic shocks with five-way adjustable spring preload / 3.9 in.
Front tire: 100/90x19
Rear tire: 140/90x15
Brakes, front: Hydraulic disc
Brakes, rear: Mechanical drum
Overall length: 91.3 in.
Overall width: 32.7 in.
Overall height: 44.3 in
Ground clearance: 4.7 in.
Seat height: 28.1 in.
Curb weight: 471.9 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 4.0 gal.
Wheelbase: 62.8 in.

 

Features

Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD

 

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
  • Liquid-Cooling

  • 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 flow 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
  • Gear-Driven Balancer

  • Reduces engine vibration for a super-smooth ride
  • Six-Speed Transmission

  • 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
  • Straight-Flow Exhaust

  • 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
  • Stepped Seating

  • 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


  • 2 comments:

    I rebuilt a 1993 Vulcan EN500 that was on its way to the junk yard. I saw a lot of potential in it.

    It was an easy motor to fix. Parts were moderately priced. The engine weighs only about 125 lb so I could get it on and off myself.

    Clutch, carbs, trans, and drive are simple and rugged.

    Motor has pretty good power for a 500, but kind of flattens out in performance around 70 MPH. Dropping from 6th to 5th to pass something at 60 doesn’t help all that much since gear ratio os pretty close. But mileage is twice as good as an 850 and i have no complaints.

    This is an EXCELLENT first machine for ANY rider, unless the person is real big (over 6 and ft over 250 lbs).

    It fits smaller people like me just right. Also, has a very low center of gravity and you can tip it at least 45 degrees before you feel like you are going to drop it.

    Yeah, well now we know why Kawasaki did not bother to upgrade this bike with fuel injection. Unfortunately, this bike was discontinued. Too bad. To me, this is the perfect motorcycle, and I really get angry when it is referred to as an "entry level" bike. This bike actually has too much power for a beginner. And it has enough power to do anything you would want a motorcycle to do while getting great mileage. It outperforms many V-twin cruisers with much bigger displacement. Perhaps that is why Kawasaki stopped making them. It outperforms many of their other more profitable models. That is why Honda stopped making the 750 Magna. It took away too many sales of their, bigger, more expensive and profitable bikes that could not keep up to the Magna. With fuel prices what they are, we need more motorcycles in the 500 cc category. This is the perfect size for someone who wants a bike that will delivery excellent fuel economy, but still big enough to cruise the freeways all day long.

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