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Sunday Edition

Kawasaki Vaquero

Ride 'em Cowboy!

Gary Mraz, Ron Sinoy, Kawasaki


2011 Kawasaki Vaquero (AKA: Vulcan 1700 Vaquero).
What's your initial reaction? Let us know.
2011 Kawasaki Vaquero (AKA: Vulcan 1700 Vaquero). What's your initial reaction? Let us know.

The Vaquero: beautiful to behold, with a curvaceous body, twin scoops up front and a supple round rear section.

Cow punching and cattle rustling just never come up in conversations anymore and grabbing my sixer rarely refers to rounds of ammunition but when I laid eyes on the Kawasaki Vaquero (Cowboy in Spanish) I had to ride it. This motorcycle looks like a rodeo of fun for any cowboy and cowgirl. Lowslung, muscular and dressed in black, the Vaquero will challenge any outlaw Bagger to a gunfight. A 1,700cc overhead cam 52-degree V-Twin motor with 108 lb-ft of torque and single-pin crankshaft provides serious cow punching power…this buckaroo has huevos.

buckaroo: derived from the word vaquero; in Spanish, the letters B and V are both pronounced "B”)
Pondering this bronco over my morning caffeine and nicotine, I laid eyes on Lisa. In fifteen minutes this California native gave “Mr. I’ve-been-everywhere-twice,” a geography lesson and I asked if she wanted to ride with me. Her first suggestion was Glen Ivy Hot Springs mud baths. OK, it’s a great ride over Ortega Highway (CA 74), to Lake Elsinore and I figured if she was willing to roll around in the mud with me this could get interesting.
Comfort and power are immediately noticeable on the freeway but it’s the twisties and mountain grades that expose the Vaquero fury. With very respectable lean angles, it hugs the corners and I can tell by the way Lisa is hugging me on corners she was certainly diggin’ the ride. We made a stop at the Lookout Roadhouse. This place isn’t the usual hamburger and hot dog peddler. Instead, sumptuous breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and a great selection of beer and wine plus the view is stupendous. The Lookout, there since 1968 touts a memorable motto: “Great ride, Great view, Great food, Great people and Lousy service”. But, hey, who’s complains in paradise?
Kawasaki has been paying close attention to the V-Twin custom bagger market and aesthetically the Vaquero’s sleek lines only enhance its muscular build. Riding position is well triangulated and the air ride suspension is downright plush, I can’t recall the last stock bike with a ride this heavenly, but the miniscule windscreen affords minimal protection. Optional 6-, 8- and 12-inch windscreens are available providing more protection. The aerodynamics of the Vaquero’s fixed fairing design (mounted to the frame rather that the forks) are rather amazing, coupled with the fairing lowers the bike cuts an exceptionally clean swath at speed. I am a big fan of fixed fairing design. That’s probably why the Harley Road Glide, Victory Vision and Honda Goldwing are often the choice for serious distance touring. Wind buffeting isn’t transmitted to the handlebars and you’re not muscling around all that extra weight. This a personal preference issue though, and some don’t believe it makes much of a difference on bikes this big.

The backside of The Lookout drops into Interstate 15 and it’s a short jaunt to Glen Ivy. Saunas, Jacuzzis and the Glen Ivy Mud Club are just waaay to much fun, and of course, Lisa needed help covering her curvatious body with the thick red clay. Basking in the sun I’m watching mud dry...literally. She suggested a visit to nearby Glen Eden Nudist Resort. Whoa, hold on cowboy, I know there’s some momentum here but am I ready for a Nudist camp? I gracefully bowed out and her alternative is a secret hidden castle in Glendora.

The open freeway highlights the Vaquero’s acceleration in the 50-70 mph range via engine tuning combined with long-stroke design. I never topped out the speedo on this 835lb motorcycle but I don’t doubt the 140 mph on the cool retro analog gauge. The 6-speed, overdrive transmission operates smoothly with a positive neutral finder. Even in Sixth gear the engine pulls ferociously with a distinct V-twin feel. I’m not a fan of Heel/Toe; the heel gets in my way when stopped.

We continued to Glendora and Rubels Castle near the entrance of Glendora Mountain Road. This is an amazing structure built by Mike Rubel and the 2-acre enclave is surrounded by 20-feet tall stone walls, and features a drawbridge, moat and clock tower. Mike passed on in 2007 and the Glendora Historical Society now maintains the castle. Individuals or groups can arrange a tour of this unique and amazing American castle.
The Vaquero’s gleaming machined, bare-aluminum accents sets off the bike’s black color scheme. Gloss and matte black finishes on the engine provide good contrast and a custom look. Handformed body panels with non-generic shapes further create a customized appearance. Many of the parts are original designs, which add to the factory-custom look and feel of the Vaquero.

These include the engine shrouds, rear fender, one-piece side covers, saddlebags, fairing, seat and strut covers that seamlessly fill the space between the rear fender and saddlebags. The cut-down fairing looks like a true custom piece, right down to the abbreviated smoked windscreen and headlight cover. Louver-style fog lamp covers are replaceable with accessory lamps. Newly designed tapered mufflers add a thoroughly retro look. A sculpted, custom-look seat cradles the rider for maximum comfort. LED taillight is attractive and highly conspicuous when lit for added safety.
We took Glendora Mountain Road through the San Gabriel Mountains. This was a rider’s paradise with some of the best twisties and vistas one could ask for. Inside the fairing large, round dials and aluminum dashboard trim are reminiscent of a ‘67 Caddy. The largest two analog dials serve up speed and rpm. Two smaller dials display fuel level and coolant temperature. In the center, a multi-function LCD displays gear position, time, odometer, dual trip meters as well as readouts for remaining range and average fuel consumption. These can be toggled by switches on the right handlebar. You’ll also find switches for the electronic cruise control (Standard feature) mounted on the right handlebar that operates between 30 and 85 mph. The Vaquero also sports an audio system with AM/FM/WX, XM tuner or CB radio and is iPod compatible. It sounds fantastic and at is no problem to hear at speed with a helmet. A real bonus is how easy all the radio controls are to access at the grips. I didn’t like the horn button placement; it’s to the right of the light switch and should be reversed for easier access.
Lockable storage areas in the fairing, combined with saddlebags add some security to your belongings. Unfortunately, you need the key to open everything all the time (good for security but a hassle). With capacity of 9.6-gallons each, the saddlebags held a decent amount but the side opening while allowing access to deeper portions of the bag also exposed its contents when open. We’ve had bags from every manufacturer suddenly open out on the road, even after checking the latches. The Kawasaki saddlebag liners make it easy to pack and unpack while protecting your gear if you did forget to close the bag properly.

Glendora mountain road connects to Azusa Canyon and spits you out at the I-210/605 freeway junction for an easy ride back to the beach. A round trip of 200 miles visiting fantastic SoCal locations with one special cowgirl, this Vaquero couldn’t ask for a better day.

For more information and a dealer near you log onto Kawasaki.com or call (800) 661-RIDE
(Bonus photo after the Specs- Not for the children or the boss' eyes)




Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, four valve per cylinder, 52° V-twin


1,700cc / 103.7ci

Bore x Stroke

102 x 104mm

Compression ratio


Maximum Torque

108 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm

Cooling System

Liquid, plus cooling fins


TCBI with Digital Advance


Digital fuel injection, dual 42mm throttle bodies


6-speed with overdrive and positive neutral finder

Frame Type

Steel, double-cradle with box-section single-tube backbone


30° / 7.0 in.

Front Suspension / wheel travel

45mm hydraulic fork / 5.5 in.

Rear Suspension / wheel travel

Swingarm with twin air-assisted shocks, with 4-way rebound damping / 3.1 in.

Front Tire Size


Rear Tire Size


Brakes, front / rear

Dual 300mm discs, dual twin-piston calipers / Single 300mm disc, twin-piston caliper

Overall length

98.8 in.

Overall width

38.2 in.

Overall height

50.8 in.

Seat height

28.7 in.

Curb weight

835.7 lbs.**


65.6 in.

Fuel capacity

5.3 gal.

Color Choices

2011:Ebony, Candy Fire Red

2012: Blue, Green/Black


36 months


Curb weight includes all necessary materials and fluids to operate correctly, full tank of fuel


Features & Details

1,700cc V-twin engine

• Liquid-cooled, four valves per cylinder, fuel-injected, 52-degree V-twin engine

• Long-stroke 102 x 104mm bore and stroke delivers high torque levels with a distinct V-twin sound & feel from single pin crankshaft.

• One overhead cam/cylinder for quicker revving and enhanced mid-high rpm power

• Semi-dry sump design allows lower crankshaft positioning and a longer piston stroke without increasing engine height

• Large-capacity airbox is located on both sides of the engine

• Small-diameter iridium sparkplugs reach deep into the combustion chamber for high combustion efficiency, especially during low-load operation

• Engine tuning, combined with long-stroke design, offers superior acceleration in the 50-70 mph range

Fuel Injection

• Based on the systems used by the Ninja® 650R and Vulcan 900 motorcycles

• Utilizes one sensor in place of the usual three for reduced complexity and weight

Electronic Throttle Valve System

• Fully electronic throttle actuation system (AKA Throttle-by-Wire, Fly-by-Wire) enables the ECU to control the volume of intake air (via throttle valve angle) and fuel (via fuel injector timing) delivered to the engine

• Optimized injector timing and throttle valve position results in accurate, powerful engine response

• Control of both injection and airflow provides easy starting and precise cold-engine idle speed control

• With the ETV system the throttle grip remains connected to cables, so the feel at the grip is the same

• Twisting the throttle turns a pulley on the throttle body, which triggers the Accelerator Position Sensor (APS) to send a signal to the ECU, which then modulates the throttle valves via a DC motor

• Accurate throttle position is relayed to the ECU by a Throttle Position Sensor (TPS)

• APS and TPS send two sets of signals to the ECU for system redundancy in the unlikely event of a sensor failure

Electronic Cruise Control System

• System maintains a desired speed even on uphill climbs

• Cruise control can be engaged and adjusted entirely from the right handlebar

• Cruise system can be activated in 3rd gear or above at any speed between 30 mph and 85 mph

• Pressure on the brake lever, clutch lever or rear brake pedal automatically disengages the cruise control, as does manually rolling off the throttle

On Board Diagnostics

• Diagnostic system allows self testing of the electronic systems on the Vulcan 1700

• System displays codes on the instrumentation, which can be read by owner

6-speed Transmission / Final Drive

• Durable and easy-shifting 6-speed transmission with positive neutral finder

• 5th and 6th are overdrive gears for excellent fuel economy when cruising at highway speeds

• Carbon fiber-reinforced final drive belt offers a 40 percent increase in tensile strength compared to current Kevlar belts

• Belt drive system is quiet, efficient and offers reduced maintenance compared to a chain

Light Handling Chassis

• The strong steel frame allows a relatively short wheelbase for optimal ergonomics and easy maneuverability

• Lightweight and slim, the Vaquero frame minimizes the number of forged parts and trims any unnecessary metal. The only forged parts are areas that require additional strength: the down-tube joint, engine brackets, side-stand bracket and rear fender/shock absorber bracket

• This compact design contributes to light handling and facilitates low-speed handling, especially maneuvers such as parking or U-turns

45mm Telescopic Fork

• Provides superb steering feedback

• 5.5 inches of travel for excellent ride quality

• Optimized damping and spring settings for a plush but controlled ride

Dual Air-adjustable Rear Shocks

• Air-adjustable shocks can be tuned to match varying rider and passenger loads

• 4-way rebound damping adjustability helps the shocks compensate for changes in spring pressure

9-Spoke Cast Aluminum Wheels

• Light and strong wheels allow the use of tubeless tires, while flat black paint nicely complements the Vaquero’s styling treatment

• Fat and long-wearing 130/90 front and 170/70 rear tires

• Tire choice and suspension settings augment the chassis’ light handling characteristics

Styling and Bodywork

• Basic engine architecture supports the Vaquero’s factory-custom look, while its blacked-out color with machined and bare-aluminum accents sets off the bike’s color scheme

• Gloss and matte finishes on the engine highlight aesthetics even further

• Hand-formed body-part shapes create a highly customized appearance

• Many of the parts are original designs, which adds to the factory-custom look and feel of the Vaquero. These include the engine shrouds, rear fender, one-piece side covers, saddlebags, fairing, and seat

• Cut-down fairing looks like a true custom piece, right down to the abbreviated smoked windscreen and headlight cover

• Louver-style fog lamp covers can be replaced with accessory lamps

• Sculpted strut covers seamlessly fill the space between the rear fender and saddlebags

• Newly designed mufflers are tapered at their ends for a thoroughly retro look

• Sculpted, custom-look seat looks good and cradles the rider for maximum comfort

• LED taillight is attractive and highly conspicuous when lit for added safety

Wind Protection

• Large, wide fairing with abbreviated windscreen and integrated lowers provides substantial wind and weather protection for riders

• With the fairing mounted to the frame, any wind buffeting is transferred to the bike rather than the handlebar, helping to enhance highway stability and reduce rider fatigue

Convenient Storage

• The Vaquero features hard, lockable and sealed side-opening side cases that provide nearly 10 gallons of storage space each for overnight touring

• Their flowing, rounded shape is an attractive alternative to the square, boxy luggage found on other bagger models

• Up front, lockable glove boxes provide a handy place for storing smaller items

• Dual under-seat helmet holders

Classic Custom Dashboard / Advanced Audio

• Instrument layout and large round dials give the Vaquero’s console a custom look with a retro flavor

• The radio/stereo unit features a classically custom look from the 1960s

• Multi-function LCD display in the center of the instrument console is controlled by switches on the right handlebar. Features include a gear position indicator, fuel gauge, clock, odometer, dual trip meters, remaining range and average fuel consumption

• Analog displays include speedometer, tachometer and coolant temperature gauge

• Audio system with twin speakers features radio (FM/AM/WX) and compatibility with optional iPod®, XM tuner or CB radio units

• The audio system (and your iPod, which plugs easily into the left fairing pocket) can be operated by switches on the left handlebar

• Ignition switch allows key removal in the on position, which prevents keys from damaging the black finish tank cover during operation

• Turning the ignition switch collar to the ACC position allows accessories to be used while the engine is off; turning it to the “OFF” position turns the engine off and necessitates re-insertion of the key to restart


• Sculpted seat blends a stylish shape with ideal foam density for all-day comfort

• Scooped shape allows an easy reach to the ground

• Upright riding position and rubber-topped floorboards contribute to substantial riding comfort

• Dual adjustable rear air-shocks use settings optimized for a compliant ride and higher-load carrying when needed

Long Range

• 5.3-gallon fuel tank offers a substantial range, helping to minimize fuel stops when out on the open road

Optional Accessories

• Kawasaki offers a large number of optional accessories, including an iPod conector, XM radio, standard gel seat, dual gel saddle, solo seat, heated solo seat, rider backrest, quick-release backrest, passenger floorboard kit, saddlebag liners, auxiliary lamps, DC power sockets, GPS mount, billet handlebar clamps, engine cover trim, saddlebag top rails, custom cover and more. See your Kawasaki dealer for more information.


Hola Vaquero!
Hola Vaquero!


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Reader Comments

Hate to say it but it looks good..!

Sydney, NSW, Australia
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Editor Response HehHeh.
thanks from the up top to the down unda.
it is a nice looking scoot for sure. the fairing is a work of art.
whether you, we, or i like it is not as important as choice. some like skinny and short, fat and tall, etc.- thankfully so.
competition from other manufacturers makes everyone stronger- maybe a little heavy, but it's a bit darwinian.
the current offerings from star, victory and kawasaki are not also rans in the category. although harley is THE king of the segment each of the opther bikes has traits that are very attractive and H-D is taking notice.
we all win.

I gotta say ,this is a good looking motorcycle! I'd like to try one out and see if it handles roads that curve like your lovely model. Well written article ,enjoyed the interjection of destination highlights . made this review stand out from the usual. Well photographed with imagination. Fun looking bike ,just wish it was American made.
Good job.

Craig Copenhagen (Copeyman)
Longview, WA
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

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