Helmet: Icon Alliance
Jacket: Icon Accelerant
Gloves: Alpinestars Munich Drystar
Pants: LL Bean Fleece-Lined Jean
Boots: Sidi Canyon
To hear it from the folks at Kawasaki, it’s like they’d never built a bagger before. Take a look around these pages and there are Road Kings aplenty, so Kawasaki’s Nomad with a Lexan windshield and hard bags has qualified for years, but to get to the true heart of the matter with a chopped-up full-touring rig…that had never been done in Vulcanland before. Until the Vaquero.
Randy: “Feliz Navibla!”
Catalina: “That doesn’t mean anything!”
Randy: “Well maybe not to you, but to millions of Americans, it means Merry Christmas in Mexican.”—My Name is Earl
Vaquero means cowboy and is also slang for “jeans” south of the border. Kawi looks to make a grand entrée into baggerville with this bike, praising the long, low lines and inherent usefulness of the breed. Unlike many Japanese manufacturers these days, they’re actually looking to get in enough to come with a significant price savings over other baggers, especially ones with a frame-mounted fairing.
Much of the cost saving can be attributed to something that H-D has done for years. Instead of building a ton of models with independent engines and transmissions, Kawi has made a family of 1700cc cruisers. They include everything from a stripped-down bare-bones cruiser to various levels of touring amenities, all the way up to the full-boat Voyager tourer at the top of the range. Unlike so many other metric tourers that are built-up cruisers, never intended for touring duty, Kawasaki’s 1700 family is a true hybrid machine. The base 1700 Classic has the same adjustable shocks and wealth of dashboard information (albeit on a smaller screen) as the top-of-the-line Voyager. The new Vaquero slots just below the Voyager in the lineup, with nearly as many touring amenities, but stripped down for style.
"I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride"
Jon Bon Jovi
While the Kawasaki folks could have dropped on a short shield, blacked out some stuff, lost the top box, and called it a day, they went quite a bit further thinking of the project in terms of designing a new motorcycle. All baggers as we know them owe a debt to the Street Glide, and while that’s where most makers start their quest for baggerness, this Vulcan took a different path. Since the top-of-the-line Voyager is a frame-mounted fairing design (like the Road Glide), so is the Vaquero.
"My heroes have always been cowboys"
In the stripping-down process, Kawasaki wasn’t happy with the line the full-coverage fairing lowers of the Voyager cut on the less hefty Vaquero, so they were re-designed to follow the same line as the front of the upper fairing. They’re also quite a bit narrower, allowing more breeze past, while still giving some added protection. I’ve ridden the Voyager in the summertime and it’s quite the shin heater, so for me this was a welcome change. The seat was redesigned as well, with a low-profile unit that tapers to a very small p-pad. The hard bags that reside on the other Vulcan 1700s are large and useful, but pretty bulbous and ugly. Kawasaki designers apparently recognized this and used outward-opening bags similar to the ones that used to come on their Nomad.
What got left behind, besides the obvious, is a trio of acronyms: CB, XM, and ABS. You can buy the first two as add-ons to the sound system, but the third is strictly on the Voyager. Thankfully it keeps the large-diameter 45mm forks of the Voyager for more front-end rigidity.