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Old 11-16-2012, 08:54 AM   #1
ragincajun
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Default Looking for insight from riding pros

This doesn't specifically apply to just the Vulcan but I wasn't sure where else to post, so hope the General thread is sufficient. This is kind of a catch all post for my educational benefit and knowledge.

1. Can anyone explain the actual differences in engine sizes (ie 1300, 1500, 1600, 1700, etc). I know they represent the cc of the engine but in "actual real world" terms of performance, pulling, ease of highway/city driving, what do these mean? Is an 1800 actually twice as fast as a 900? What's the actual difference in a bike's ability from a 1500 to a 1600 or 1700...is it noticeable at all? If so, how. Things like that.

2. You know I test rode a Nomad this week, however I am still shopping for a bike and there is no telling what the used market might cough up each week. I will look until I find one that is priced right and is a bike I like. I want a bike that I can easily cruise around the city on yet get on a highway and get going at highway speeds with ease and a smooth ride. I am a big guy, 6'3 and pushing 4 bills as that probably makes a difference. My prior bike was a Volusia (800cc) and it was great in town and I was able and comfortable to get it out on the highway but it seemed to strain at higher speeds. So far I'm looking at the Vulcan Nomad (1500 & 1600), the VTX1800. Any other bikes out there that I should consider? Not a big fan of the Suzuki M109's. Cosmetically I like the longer flared fenders on the front and the back, more reminiscent of the old Indians rather than the short, stubby fenders.

3. Any thoughs/recommendations on the following: Pros or Cons.
- Fuel Injected: Yes, No or No preference
- Air or Water cooled and why
- Chain, Belt or Shaft drive and why

4. Any other nuggets of knowledge that you might be willing to pass on and share to expand my knowledge (and maybe other newer riders) to help us advance as riders in selecting that "perfect" bike.

Thanks in advance and hope it is OK to post this here again.
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Old 11-16-2012, 09:41 AM   #2
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I will give my opinion on your 4 questions as best I can.

1. (this a general statement) There is more to the engines than displacement. Since we are talking about cruisers we wont go in the the inline 4s. The displacement is calculated (in short) Diameter of piston x length of stroke x number of cylinders. You can have to engines with the "Same displacement" but one of a smaller bore and longer stroke than the other and that will give it more torque than the other and probably run slower RPMs.

The "Speed" related statement. More of that comes in on the gearing. For example the 1600 Mean Streak and 1600 Nomad has the same engine but has different gears in the trans. The Mean Steak has lower gears and fells more powerful off the line than the Nomad but the Higher gear of the Nomad will let it stretch its legs better on the highway than the Mean Streak.

2. If you are a big guy and tall you may want to consider the 2000s (aka V2K). It is by far the most comfortable bike I have ridden (to me). I was up to 3 bills (now down to 2.3 bills) and still felt good on it. The factory floor board are out there far enough that they are comfortable. But all the bikes in the sizes you are looking at will be more than powerful enough to haul you around. It just depends on how fast you want to be hauled around. I can't advise much outside of Kawasaki on those sizes of bike because that is about all I have ridden (with exception of some test rides).

3. Personally I like FI better. The carb bikes I had always seemed like they always needed some tweaking except for the 1500 Kaw Classic but it was almost new when I got it. I like having water and a radiator. They are not like a car you cant just sit still for hours in 100 degree temp but they do run cooler which means you run cooler (usually).

4. I really do not like the slack you get in chain drive bikes and longevity. (again personal preference). I have not preference over belt or shaft. Neither one will make me want to buy or not buy a particular bike.

Now my advise is do not get so hung up on wanting a particular CC bike. Check out some of the mid size bikes too. The 900's are surprisingly roomy and comfortable. I know it surprised me when i threw my leg over one. But sit on as many and ride as many different bikes as you can before you get your heart set on one because you like the way it looks or what size the engine is. Because if you are not comfortable you wont ride. When I had my 1100 Yamaha I only put 3K on in one year because I was not comfortable. I usually tend to put 5-8k a year on one.

I am not a pro, i just enjoy being on one.
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1985 Honda Nighthawk 650 (First Bike)
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Old 11-16-2012, 09:48 AM   #3
ragincajun
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I agree with that last statement. When I bought my Volusia I was amazed at how big it was compared to some other bikes. As noted by you however, with my size I just think I need a bigger engine to haul me around and also when I toss my kids on the back to boot. My 800 really seemed to strain on highway speeds.

The Nomad is shaft drive? That's what I think I'm reading on some spec sites. I had that on my Suzuki and had no issues with it. From ease of maintenance that seemed to be the way to go back then.
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Old 11-16-2012, 10:01 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ragincajun View Post
I agree with that last statement. When I bought my Volusia I was amazed at how big it was compared to some other bikes. As noted by you however, with my size I just think I need a bigger engine to haul me around and also when I toss my kids on the back to boot. My 800 really seemed to strain on highway speeds.

The Nomad is shaft drive? That's what I think I'm reading on some spec sites. I had that on my Suzuki and had no issues with it. From ease of maintenance that seemed to be the way to go back then.
My 1100 V-star did too with me and the wife.

The 1500 and 1600 Nomads are shaft (along with the whole 1500 and 1600 line up) The 1700s are belt. I thought the same too the V2K is the first belt drive bike I have had. If they get a little out of line they tend to squeal on ya. you are messing with it to keep that from happening, but not much. With a shaft drive you have to keep your gear lube changed. Gotta Keep the hub lubed good when you do your tire changes or you will never get it loose again. They all have their ups and down. Its just up to you to decide what down you would rather put up with.
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1985 Honda Nighthawk 650 (First Bike)
2004 Vulcan 1500 Classic (First Big Bike)
2007 Vulcan 1600 Meanstreak (Love Affair)
1999 Yamaha 1100 V-Star Custom (Right Price at the Time)
2008 V2K Classic (Favorite Vulcan)
2014 HD Ultra Limited (Bells and Whistles)
Who would have thought I would grow up to become "Spatially Educated" and play Connect-the-Dots for a living.
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Old 11-16-2012, 12:38 PM   #5
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1.) When it comes to engine displacement, there is a level of diminishing returns. An 1800cc V-Twin is not (necessarily) twice as powerful as a 900cc V-Twin. However, larger displacement motors will have much more torque and provide that torque early. That means they can run at a much lower RPM on the highway without needing to downshift to go over a hill. That is desirable for those who spend a lot of time on the interstate! Most larger displacement motors are geared much slower (in terms of RPM) than smaller displacement engines. That said, displacement doesn't tell the whole story. The fuel injected Vulcan 900 has nearly the same performance specifications (Same horsepower and only a few ft lbs of torque less) as a Vulcan 1500 engine. Of course on the flip side, the Vulcan 1700 engine is built with the same up-to-date technologies as the 900 engine, and is much bigger (and thus develops much more power)

The other advantage of larger displacement bikes is weight. For a long ride a heavy bike is advantageous as it makes for a smoother ride, and you are affected less in the wind.

The DISADVANTAGES of a large bike is the fact that it'll burn more fuel. VN1700 guys report in the mid 30's to mid 40's. Some 900 owners report that as well, but most of us get into the upper 40's and 50's, sometimes even low 60's! A smaller bike is easier on a beginner, because it's less weight to deal with when you come to a stop (a new rider might have a few times where they stop awkwardly and end up putting the bikes weight all on one leg, I know, I did it several times, which is why I'm glad I started on a 900!) It's also easier to manuever in a parking lot, and easier to throw around corners.

This, by the way, is all a 'general' statement. There are exceptions to every rule. A 2,000cc Vulcan won't touch a 4 cylinder 600cc sportbike. Not in the straight line and definitely not in the twisties. But on a long ride (or perhaps a tractor pull! LOL) the VN2K is gonna win. It's all about how you ride and what you want to accomplish. Remember the more horsepower you squeeze out of a given size engine, the less reliable it's going to be. A sportbike engine is built for pure power. A V-Twin has an element of reliability in the design. An 18-wheeler might only develop 400 horsepower, 800 lbs of torque out of a MASSIVE engine (around 10,000 cc's for several Detroit Diesel models!). But a gasoline engine half that size and much, much less weight could produce that same horsepower and torque with the right aftermarket parts (and lots of 'em). But that ultra souped up 350 isn't going to last a million miles like that 10L diesel will.

2) This is a Vulcan forum, so most of us have experience with the Vulcan. It all depends on what you want to ride. I think the Nomads are a great choice for you. I'm a big guy too, I ride two up, with luggage, and can handle the highway on a 900 Vulcan. It would be nicer on a Nomad though.

3)

Fuel Injected; Here is what you're gonna hear, 'I know how to work on a carb'. That's true, you can work on a carb, not much you can do to an FI system except replace parts. However, you aren't going to HAVE to work on an FI system. Very rarely do issues pop up with the FI systems. Carbs, however, need occasional maintenance and adjustment. The main advantage of fuel injection is this, the injectors make a fine 'mist' of fuel to spray into the engine. The carb will do this too, but not quite as well, and not until it's warmed up (that's why a carbed engine needs a choke and runs rough when cold). That means with fuel injection, it doesn't matter how cold it is you just hit the button and go. Throttle response is also smoother and, generally speaker, a fuel injected bike will make a little more power than it's carbed counterpart.

Air or Water; The proponents of air will say water cooling is one more thing to fail or mess with. That's true. Due to the small size of the cooling system the coolant must be flushed every couple of years, things can leak and fail and leave you stranded, etc. But I personally prefer liquid cooled. You will still have some heat, but not near what you'll have on your legs with an air cooled engine in the summer. Liquid cooled engines tend to last longer as well, as heat is a major destroyer of components, and the air cooled engine will run hot more often than a water cooled engine. Not hot enough to make it seize or anything, but hot enough to accelerate wear.

Chain/Belt/Shaft. I don't like chain. The main reason is, the chain and sprockets need to be replaced ever now and then (20k miles seems average), they need to be oiled and cleaned, etc. It's a lot of maintenance. I ride a lot, and I don't want to put up with that. A belt drive will transfer as much power as a chain with no maintenance, however, it can break and be very expensive to replace. This is rare, but it does happen. You'll want to use caution on gravel roads. Shafts are the most reliable if properly maintained, and will probably last the life of the bike without any repair or adjustment (just the occasional grease and lube). But it robs some of the horsepower from the engine. My wife rides a 750 honda that is shaft drive. Smooth as butter and pulls my big butt on the highway at 75 (when I rode it home from the dealer), so I'm sure a larger bike with a shaft drive wouldn't be an issue.

4) Just figure out what YOU want out of a motorcycle. People will tell you what THEY want out of a motorcycle, but THEY are not YOU. If what YOU want is to take long trips, travel, commute, or make your motorcycle your primary mode of transportation when the weather allows; get a bike with a big motor, good solid brakes, and plenty of storage. (Nomad would fit here great, or a Voyager!). If you want something that gets better gas mileage and can be thrown around in the corners, fast, etc. Then a sportbike might be for you! If you are wanting sleek looks, an occasional around towner, etc. Then a 'classic' model Vulcan (they've got 'em all the way from the 900 to the 2000!), or the VN900 Custom is the way to go.

FWIW, I ride a VN900 Classic LT. That's because it was my very first bike. I am elated with this decision 20,000 miles later. The reason is, now I have some miles and can confidently handle a larger bike. But I'm in no hurry to trade up. The 900 does most things well. One day, I'll trade it in for a Vulcan Nomad, H-D Road King, Honda Goldwing... something along those lines, something built for the long haul and touring (because that's what I love to do). So if you are like me, and love to tour and spend a lot of time on your bike, but have a little more experience than I did when I was shopping (and it sounds like you do!), then I would really encourage you to look at a touring model bike.

Here's my checklist for a touring bike;

1) Dual Disc brakes up front. Good strong brakes are a must for loading the thing down.

2) Larger displacement engine that is geared to run low. Don't worry about how many gears it has. My buddies Ninja runs at 6,000 RPM's on the highway in 6th gear. Find out what RPM it runs in top gear and look for a bike that lumbers along, whether it's 5th or 6th.

3) Dual shock rear suspension. A mono shock is adequate, but a dual shock suspension will be much nicer. Adjustable rebound and air shocks are a plus too.

4) Wind protection. Fairing/windshield/etc. You'll definitely want it on a long trip.

5) Storage. Hard, waterproof, lockable storage is a must for a long trip. Though, these can be added later very easily (as I did on my 900!)

6) Large fuel tank. You want something that can handle 200+ miles on a tank of fuel.

Good luck!
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Old 11-16-2012, 01:54 PM   #6
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All things being equal...

go with the bike the feels most comfortable to you, in the type of riding that you want to do. Solo vs 2-up; city vs backroads vs highway; long vs short trips; speed/handling vs comfort

Chain vs belt vs shaft or carb vs FI...mostly those are small technical issues. My personal preference is FI belt.
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Old 11-16-2012, 02:05 PM   #7
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oh yeah, 2 up can be an issue. I loved the way I sat on my Mean Streak but the Wife hated it. I did have a better seat for her but she still sat awkward on it. If you plan on much 2 upping you better bring the extra passenger along.
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1985 Honda Nighthawk 650 (First Bike)
2004 Vulcan 1500 Classic (First Big Bike)
2007 Vulcan 1600 Meanstreak (Love Affair)
1999 Yamaha 1100 V-Star Custom (Right Price at the Time)
2008 V2K Classic (Favorite Vulcan)
2014 HD Ultra Limited (Bells and Whistles)
Who would have thought I would grow up to become "Spatially Educated" and play Connect-the-Dots for a living.
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