2014 Kawasaki Vulcan Vaquero ABS SE Review

2014 Kawasaki Vulcan Vaquero ABS SE
Vaquero puts the rider relatively upright with a higher handlebar and the feet forward on footboards. Fairing and lowers blunt the wind blast to the torso and legs. (Photos by Kevin Wing)

Introduced as a 2011 model, the Vaquero (which means “cowboy” in Spanish) is one of three dressed versions of the popular Vulcan 1700. Each is powered by a liquid-cooled, 1,700cc (103.7 cubic inches), 52-degree V-twin with single overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Its single-pin crank provides just the right amount of shudder so coveted by cruiser riders. Power is routed through a 6-speed gearbox, the upper two gears of which are overdrives. The power gets to the rear wheel through a belt final drive. In typical V-twin cruiser fashion, the Vaquero makes modest horsepower but plenty of low-end torque, topping out at 73 horsepower at 5,300 rpm and 92 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm on Jett Tuning’s dyno (redline is 5,800). The Vaquero’s torque nose-dives early—it drops below 90 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm and keeps declining—so short-shifting is the name of the game. A convenient rocking heel-and-toe shifter allows the rider to upshift by either lifting the lever with a toe, or pressing down with a heel.

Vaquero luggage
The Vaquero’s bags offer a clean amount of luggage space, and straps to help hold your gear inside. A full-face helmet won’t fit.

All three Vulcan 1700 models carry wind protection and side-opening saddlebags. The Voyager is a full dresser with fairing and trunk, the Nomad has a windshield but no trunk, and the Vaquero fills the gap by offering a fairing and no trunk.

For style, the Vaquero has a multi-textured blacked-out treatment on the engine cases, cylinders, air-cleaner cover, wheels, fork assembly, tank trim and windscreen. Chromed items include engine guards, exhaust system and mirrors, and there are polished fin edges on the blacked-out motor. Color-matched plastic molding pieces bridge the gap between the bags and steel rear fender for a more integrated, custom look.

A steel swingarm is mated to a dual-cradle, single-backbone frame. The frame-mounted fairing is the same as that on the Voyager touring model, but the Vaquero’s lowers are slimmer and it carries that vestigial wind deflector. Because of the weight of the fairing, the Voyager and Vaquero have 45mm fork tubes rather than the 43mm on the Nomad. The fork provides a full 5.5 inches of suspension travel and the dual air-assisted rear shocks 3.1 inches, in addition to four rebound damping settings.

Vulcan Vaquero Gauges-
Flanking that classic, hot-rod-style dashboard is a pair of small locking compartments. The radio is at bottom.

Its dual 300mm front disc brakes and single 300mm rear are each squeezed by a 2-piston caliper, and anti-lock braking is standard. The system provides plenty of feedback, power and control.

The audio system receives radio broadcasts (FM/AM/WX), and is also compatible with iPod, XM tuner or CB radio units. The iPod receptacle in the left fairing pocket (accessory adapter required) can be operated by switches on the left handlebar. There are also two small locking luggage compartments in the fairing.

The Vaquero is available in basic Metallic Flat Spark Black ($18,299), or the gorgeous Two-Tone Candy Burnt Orange SE model we test here ($18,699). Who wouldn’t love those outrageous flames?

Kawasaki Vaquero ABS SE

Base Price: $18,699
Warranty: 3 yrs., unltd. miles
Website: kawasaki.com


Kawasaki Vaquero ABS SE Engine
Blacked-out motor with diamond-cut fin edges offers plenty of style to complement its prodigious power.

Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse, 52-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1,700cc
Bore x Stroke: 102.0 x 104.0mm
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Valve Train: SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: NA
Fuel Delivery: Digital EFI w/ 42mm throttle bodies x 2
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 5.3-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt

Ignition: TCBI w/ digital advance
Charging Output: 562 watts
Battery: 12V 10AH

Frame: Dual-cradle w/ steel backbone & swingarm
Wheelbase: 65.6 in.
Rake/Trail: 30 degrees/7.0 in.
Seat Height: 28.7 in.
Suspension, Front: 45mm stanchions, no adj., 5.5-in. travel
Rear: Dual shocks, adj. for air pressure & rebound damping, 3.1-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual discs w/ 2-piston calipers & ABS
Rear: Single disc w/ 2-piston caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 16 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.50 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 130/90-H16
Rear: 170/70-H16
Wet Weight: 843 lbs.
Load Capacity: 387 lbs.
GVWR: 1,230 lbs.

Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gallons,
warning light on last 1.0 gal.
MPG: 90 PON min. (low/avg/high) 36.6/37.5/39.4
Estimated Range: 199 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 2,100

(This article was a sidebar that ran along with the comparison Ripped vs. Stripped in the May 2014 issue of Rider magazine. To read the full article, CLICK HERE.)


  1. Bill, I appreciate that you’re trying to inform your readers about this Vaquero. But a listing of the features of the bike is NOT a review. Readers want to know what it’s like to RIDE the thing. I can look at it and see what is different, read specs, etc. What I come to RIDER for is a REVIEW of what it’s like to ride the machine, some of it’s strengths and weaknesses, etc. I think RIDER can do better than a smattering of words and specs about a bike and calling it a “review”. C’mon, Rider.

      • Thank you for the quick reply, Rider, and for the clarification. If I seemed a little miffed or frustrated in my comment above, it’s because all too often, when I’m researching reviews of a particular bike, many links bring me to sites that list only specifications and equipment. I can get those things from the manufacturer’s website. I look to the m/c publications to provide real-world knowledge and practical applications for the products it reviews. I’ve been a reader of your publication for years and enjoy your website and will continue to do so. And thanks again for your reply, I’ll check that link!

      • Thanks for the quick direction to the Rider review. It’s the only review that answered the questions the manufacturer specs don’t. All others seem to miss the point of informative review information.

  2. Not too much information on the bike out there. The dyno numbers are rather modest, no? For a claimed torque of 108, that is a big drop. Thank you for the link on the riding impressions.


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