Here are a few realities when it comes to creating and selling big touring bike in Canada.
|A sunny day, a cool breeze off the lake, and a trusty steed to go for a spin whenever you feel the urge. Life is good! Especially with a good looking machine like this one, so close to American cruiser looks that clannish riders of that other brand were waving at me.
- Almost half of the bikes sold in North America are of the custom or cruiser variety, with touring models being the most popular and gaining market share year after year.
- Harley-Davidson leads the big touring cruiser market with two Electra Glide models at the top end, and Kawasaki and Yamaha want a slice of that pie.
Which brings us to the Kawasaki entry into the segment, the Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS 2009
Unabashedly aimed at the Ultra Classic Electra Glide from the Motor Company, Kawasaki’s Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS wants to be the better bike, with more power, better finish, a more comfortable ride, and some extra safety items – and for less money.
I got a chance to see how well the Voyager behaves on the scenic roads of the Quinte peninsula, near Kingston in Ontario, where I also discovered how well new and useful technologies make a real difference on that machine.
A torque monster
The 1700 Voyager is a considerable bike, one that requires an equally considerable engine to move it into the happy zone for most riders. Given that power plant have always been a forte at Kawasaki, the 1700 motor we found in the Voyager, an evolution of the 1500 and 1600 engines that also borrows from the Vulcan 2000 monster motor, certainly does the job, as well as displaying some intelligent (And useful) technologies of its own when it comes to the chassis, as well as the braking and fuel injection systems.
The almost square (102 x 104) narrow angle (52 degrees) V-Twin displaces 1,700cc, and delivers maximum torque, a whopping 107.8 lb-ft, at a low 2,750 rpm, while the unannounced power figure feels like somewhere between 80 and 85 horses at the crank. The engine features four valves per cylinder, driven by a single overhead camshaft for each cylinder. Both pistons use a single crankpin, to keep the engine nice and narrow, while balance shafts manage vibrations down to an enjoyable level.
The new, highly sophisticated ECU uses fly-by-wire technology from the throttle to manage ignition and fuel injection electronics (The actual throttle cable remains in place as a back-up and to add some “feel” for the rider).
|A modern engine looks clean, simple and stylish, with all the wires, cables and hoses well hidden.