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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Few annoyances on VN900 (2006 - 2013) and how to mend them.

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I love my VN900, and this is not a rant about the bike. This is a summation of very few things that are wrong with this model, and ways of fixing them should you wish to do so.

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This last November I wanted to upgrade my little ride to a cruiser. Not knowing much about Vulcans I was attracted by it’s classic looks, low cost and comparably light weight and the fact that it is a Japanese product. I do not want to sound un-patriotic here, but all three of my American cages where rubbish, and all the Japanese cages worked for ungodly amount of miles. Why Japanese bike should be any different I’ve reasoned.

Infatuated by an unstoppable desire to possess Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic specifically, I have made a cardinal error reading reviews in magazines. Belatedly I’ve realized that those reviews were written by deem-witted journalists, some of whom even had problems with basic arithmetics. For instance, the review article would point out that the range of VN900 is 156miles, and later mentioning a 50mpg while it has specks for 5.5 gallons tank. Math just does not add up, does it? So I was a fool, a blithering idiot to just believe what I was reading in the magazines. Bottom line was: I wanted VN900 and nothing would convince me otherwise.

When I bought my 2006 VN900 last November I was deeply disappointed. While it looks almost new, had only 10,000 miles on it, the ride was awful. It was fine for a test ride around the block, but on a highway?! Oh deal lord! What did I get myself into! I did not do my homework properly before buying. So I had to go in to damage control mode. Web research.

It turned out a lot of folks who has (or had) a VN900 made between ’06 and ’13 complain about a set of annoying problems that come stock from the factory. Incidentally those were exactly the same complaints I had. These are, seat (common problem with most bikes), fuel gauge, speedo off by about 10% and lack of 6th gear. (extremely high RPM at highway speeds)

So I set out determined to salvage the situation. Now that it has been salvaged I wanted to share it with those who either have VN900 and wishes he/she had VN1500 or is thinking about buying a used model made between 2006 and 2013 and want to know what to expect.


Mending the annoyances.

I have covered the seat problem here http://www.vulcanforums.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1937842#post1937842 there are also options available such as for instance Mustang saddle, which works great for a lot of folks.


The fuel gauge reads off from the factory. It will show empty when you still have 2.5 gallons left. Your stock tank on VN900 is 5.5 gallons US, this will give you about ~250 miles range (verified). The low fuel light will come on at about ~200 miles or so, but the fuel gauge will be flat on empty for quite some time.

I know that some argue that this is a bike, and that the speedo and the fuel gauge are for sissies and it supposed to be off. Yeh, yeh I know. If you are that old-fashioned I respect that. Do not let me spoil your fun. In fact, if that is your strong belief than may I suggest Ural, a soviet copy of 1939 / 1940 R71 BMW that Russians nicked from Nazi and still make to this day. The original copy was for military use only, but in 1957 Ural made an upgrade (made it worse) so it was suitable for sale to general public. (If you are a dictator, you do not want your plebes to have a better bike than that of your military). In 2003 Ural made some more mods to make the bike legal in US. They aded a small disk brake on the front, (so you have some chances of stopping) and the drive shaft was no longer made out of papier-mâché and horse glue.

Ural 2013

BMW R71 1939



This will give you an authentic old school experience. This is a bike for guys with really big balls and a penchant for endlessly mending things. The speedo will jump up and down as you go down the road. The paint from the fuel filler cap will fall in to the tank and clog your authentic old school carbs. The aluminum drum brakes on the back will not work at all and the drive shaft may brake at any moment. However, there are no proper dealers in US as such, more of a dude that sells to mates. But this is as close as you can get to the authentic Nazi classic BMW for only about $15,000.

I do not have such big balls and being a spoiled, wining child of the seventies I expect my 21st century bike to look classic, but not have any classic problems. When it comes to VN900 it is too much to ask. And thus the speedo is way off, the fuel gauge is lying and gear ratio is designed for fast 0 to 60 but no more then 60mph. Which is a problem if you want (and sometime have to) go 80mph.

The fuel gauge can be mended with 270 or 260 ohm resistor. All you have to do is to undo one bolt on the speedo cover and gently slide the cover towards the bars. Once the two plastic prongs disengage from the rubber it will come off. You will find two cables going to the speedo cluster. One of those cables will have only two wires in it. Place the 260ohm resistor across those two wires. The next time you ride your fuel gauge will read true. (If you use 270 ohm it will read very close to true)


The speedo is off too. Usually by about 10%. Do not believe me? Get a cheap speedo app for your smart phone and get to 65mph on your Vulcan speedo. Now look at your speedo app. It will read about 57mph if not lower. Not technologically savvy? Have no smartphone? Than have your girlfriend drive your family cage at exactly 70mph on the dot. Catchup to her and look at your speedo. Account for standard and mandatory +2 miles error on your cage.

The speedo can be healed in two ways.

One involves a Speedohealer. It is an electronic gadget that is connected to the transmission and speedometer. http://www.healtech-electronics.com it cost about $100 and needs to be calibrated to your bike. The unit itself is the same for all bikes, but the wires are made for each specific model. If you want one make sure you order it with the wires for YOUR bike.

That tiny little black and yellow thing is a speedohiller unit



The other way of fixing your speedo is by also fixing the lack of the sixth gear. To do that you need to install aftermarket pulleys. Specifically 34 teeth on the front and 62 teeth on the back. The 34 teeth on the front instead of stock 32 will reduce the final drive ratio from 2.0625:1 to 1.941:1. which will give you a 5.9% reduction. Installing the rear 62 teeth pulley instead of stock 66 will reduce your final drive from 2.0625:1 to 1.9375:1. This yields a 6.1% reduction. So if you do both pulleys you will drop your final drive from 2.0625:1 to 1.8235:1 and thus total of 11.6% reduction. This means lower RPM at higher speeds, and (arguably) less fuel since the engine will have to do less RPM for every mile ridden. Coincidentally this also fixes the ~10% off in the speedo. Thus with this setup your speedo will show about -1 mile off the true speed. (depending on how off your speedo is).

If necessary in combination with speedohealer you will get much better performance and true reading on your speedometer.




The aftermarket pulleys are available from Scootworks http://www.scootworks.com/shop.cgi/page=parts.htm/SID=PUT_SID_HERE and Baron https://baronscustom.com/catalog/category/19/index.html.

There are two draw backs with this mode. One is if you are portly, riding with a portly girlfriend and pulling an elephant in a trailer, your first gear might be a bit too high to start up-hill. It is no problem if you weigh less than 240lbs and ride solo. Your 900cc power-plant still has plenty of go to howl you around.

I have this mode on my 2006 VN900 and it is now a joy to ride. I can keep-up with the highway speeds without ripping the bolts of the engine and still have plenty of up-hill climb power. Also it is nicer (less twitchy) in the corners.

The second potential drawback is that your stock belt, while work fine with these pulleys might squeal like a bag of pigs. That happens if there is too much tension on the belt of the wheel is slightly cocked to one side. It is a fine finesse to get the tension just right to have no squeal at all. In some cases it will still squeal a little especially when you give it the beans. This could be cured with a bit of silicone lubricant. But applying silicone lubricant might (will) attract some dirt on the belt and will increase the wear and tear over long long miles.

Thus I found that with a cheap 260 ohm resistor, two aftermarket pulleys and a custom seat your Vulcan 900 becomes a much nicer ride.

Ride Safe
 

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Lol, do some serious research on Ural's.... they're not the least bit popular for a good number of reasons. Most people complain their considerably more maintenance, with simple components failing quite frequently. The problem with those bikes, is that they use a 75 year old engine design, and it shows. Yes they've improved them by leaps and bounds, but it doesn't matter what year of Ural you buy, it'll have the same grossly outdated powerplant. Any reviews on the Urals will tell you, yes their great bikes for off roading, especially with the 2wd, but fail in countless other areas. I wanted a Solo ST (the side car less version) albeit their not available in Canada due to the fact they don't meet the requirements.

You're absolutely right on the fact the engine does just scream at highway speeds, but keep in mind, the redline of these engines is an astronomical 7400, which is very very high for a V twin cruiser. Yes, most people know about the aftermarket pulley's... Im about to pull the trigger on a set myself. Problem solved. Im not one to gripe excessively about a bike in its entirety because of the fact they were geared too low from the factory. A simple $450 fix will fix that issue for those that it bothers.

Hey, if you don't like the Vulcan 900's, move on. There are plenty of other bikes that will tickle your fancy.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
:) Yes, me pointing out Ural was an irony. I know that they are notoriously unreliable. The best thing on their forum is "I've made it home from church today and I did not brake down even once. What an amazing ride." :) Besides I am an immigrant from USSR. My dad had one. The original thing, with milk tops for brake pads.

And no. I LOVE my Vulcan 900 now that I've moded it. And no I am not selling it. It is a fantastic bike for me now.
 

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Whole lotta research to tell us stuff we already knew mate. We coulda told you all that and probably more (checked your stator lately?) if you had just asked.
But really liked the picture of the BMW. Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Yep. It is a lot easier when you know what to ask. So I just summed all up, at least the immediate stuff I found out and had taken care off. If another Vulcan virgin comes across this post they'll will know what to expect.

What's up with the starter? Mine works fine for now. Is it going to blow up in a month?
 

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He mentioned STATOR not starter.....they are know to conk out on the 2006 model usually around 15,000 miles according to what I've read from some forum members on here.
 

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Don, Its called buyers remorse and it will pass !
Either that or you are from "another place" and are taking a sideways kick at the single best bit of bang for your buck ever concieved.
Seriously though, firstly for me its better to fill up with fuel too soon rather than too late, the guage is pessimistic, but I know that. Secondly looking for a sixth gear was an issue for me for a short time until I watched an owners chat on a well known video site, where he talked about holding on to those gears for much longer on the VN 900.
That was my revelation about the VN900. I used to ride it like another V twin, but not any more.
I used to use all 5 gears all the time, but was not considering the useful rev range on these bikes. Nowadays I do not use 5th until doing well over 50, and sometimes over 60. These bikes thrive on revs, while also pulling from low revs well.
Try it. Where you would normally change into third, stay in second. When normally in 4th, try using third. I often do not use 5th for miles on country lanes, and its a better ride for it.
I feel much more in control as I am in the right gear.

Next time you are feeling the bike is too busy at 60 mph , change down a gear, keep 4th until at least 70, and find the VN 900 strength. It also will not hurt your fuel consumption. I ride my bike like I stole it and still get over 50mph.
Ride it, use it, love it!
 

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I always laugh at those who complain about a lack of a 6th gear on the 900. I came to my 900 from a VN750, which only has 4 gears. I was happy to have the 5th one. :-D
Lol. I'll be coming from a Honda VT600 with only 4 gears. Using that to learn on will make the extra gear on the Vulcan 900 seem like a luxury.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Don, Its called buyers remorse and it will pass !
Either that or you are from "another place" and are taking a sideways kick at the single best bit of bang for your buck ever concieved.
Seriously though, firstly for me its better to fill up with fuel too soon rather than too late, the guage is pessimistic, but I know that. Secondly looking for a sixth gear was an issue for me for a short time until I watched an owners chat on a well known video site, where he talked about holding on to those gears for much longer on the VN 900.
That was my revelation about the VN900. I used to ride it like another V twin, but not any more.
I used to use all 5 gears all the time, but was not considering the useful rev range on these bikes. Nowadays I do not use 5th until doing well over 50, and sometimes over 60. These bikes thrive on revs, while also pulling from low revs well.
Try it. Where you would normally change into third, stay in second. When normally in 4th, try using third. I often do not use 5th for miles on country lanes, and its a better ride for it.
I feel much more in control as I am in the right gear.

Next time you are feeling the bike is too busy at 60 mph , change down a gear, keep 4th until at least 70, and find the VN 900 strength. It also will not hurt your fuel consumption. I ride my bike like I stole it and still get over 50mph.
Ride it, use it, love it!

Before I changed the pulleys to gear-up the bike this is how I rode it to keep up with the highway. High revs all the way. Sort of like a sports bike. But at the back of my mind it was "damn. I am going to ruin my engine" if I do this. Just a nagging thought. And I did not like sport-like sharp response on the throttle at high revs. (Still one can get used to that)

However now, with pulley mode and a custom seat. I absolutely love this bike. It is light enough for me. 1500 would be a bit too heavy. It is low enough, it is now comfortable and 900cc has plenty of power to hurl my skinny ass around.

So no I have no remorse as such. In fact I am glad I did not immediately sell it and gave it a chance. Now I can't get enough of it and I will not go to 1500 or 2000 anytime soon. Too big and too heavy for me. 900 is just right for a small guy like me.
 

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Ok I read all this and I did change the front pulley. However I read here that some guys did both pulleys and did not like it. I don't mind dropping some cash for the back pulley but who's right. Also with putting on two bigger pulleys you can keep the same belt? Doesn't that move the tire forward?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The front overdive pulley is bigger than original stock, but the rear is smaller. No performance degradation on takeoff. I live in California, we have a lot of hills here. I do a bunch of hill-starts from traffic lights and stop signs. No problem. I weigh about 176lbs. Guys who are heavy built and ride two up may not like it. But if you are light (I'd say up to 220lbs) this works just fine.

The stock pulleys are front 32 and rear 66 teeth
The overdrive aftermarket pulleys are 34 for the front and 62 teeth for the back. Since you have installed the front but not rear the tire will go back a little bit because the rear overdrive pulley has 4 teeth less than the stock one.

I used my original stock belt.

The only thing to watch out for is a bit of squealing when you accelerate hard. This happens if the rear wheel is a bit off alignment or if the belt tension is a bit too high.
 

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Well I'm looking at doing some long rides this year so maybe I'll look into getting the back pulley. Hey Don didn't you put a Corbin seat on yours? How's it ride? I looked for a Corbin on line and didn't see much.
 

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Here is my write up on Corbin

Long story short: I did not buy it online but went right to their factory and had it made custom for my butt. Took about 6 hours to do (read the article on "why") and the seat is buttasious. It is a fantastic throne, very comfortable fits me perfectly. But it was custom tailored for my butt. Anyone else riding my bike will not like it, unless they have a butt shaped exactly like mine.

Ordering online their stock version is a gamble. It may or may not work for you. So if you plan a vacation and want to ride to Cali, make an appointment and visit them. Their on-line service is not that good. I've read horror stories on Yelp, most bad reviews are from people who ordered it online. Seat did not fit their butts, or was shipped elsewhere etc. Going there in person is the best bet. Plus they will go out or their way to make the seat custom for you. Specifically you.

On Saturdays in summer time the shop is a zoo, full of people. Week days during the summer is better, especially if you make an appointment. Winter is the best time, but riding in the winter from TX is not something I would attempt.
 

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The nice thing about the 900s however, is that they are so popular that you have a plethora of aftermarket options like this for them.

Not counting the more standard stuff like, exhaust, intake, fuel processor, baffles, bars and the like.

I am in the process of doing some of this stuff to my 900 as well...pure solo ride. The wife has her own bike and I have the 1700 for long range and 2-up stuff.
 

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Outside of those who own and love their VN900's, the 900 Vulcan is largely misunderstood. Magazine articles don't do it justice, either. Niggles aside, there is little to dislike about the 900 Vulcan. It is a revved, and that does take a bit of getting used to, but once you get used to it, you just don't notice it a lot. I came from 20 years of Gold Wings and a 1700 Nomad, so it took quite awhile before I was comfortable with the 900's engine revving.

If the Vulcan didn't have a gas gauge, that bit of inaccuracy would be a moot point. Once I've figured out just how far a bike will go on a tank of gas, I pretty much go by the mileage figures and go less by the gas gauge. I would like to see the speedometer be more accurate, but it's not. It can be "fixed" by any of the methods mentioned above, or by making your next rear tire a 200 series.

I sold my 900LT, and I so miss it for all its attributes that make it a thoroughly enjoyable motorcycle. I sold the '06 Classic, then when my wife quit riding, I rode her '10 LT for awhile after I got my 650 VStrom, but eventually sold the LT. In retrospect, that was probably a mistake. I am at the point where I no longer desire to go offered, and would be happy with another 900 LT and sell the VStrom.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Yep. Both a valid points. Any vehicle has it's pluses and minuses. And on Vulcan900 the few annoying things can be fixed quite easily. After that it becomes a very awesome bike to ride. (or ride it stock). That was the point of the article really, is that the few things that are annoying out of the box are not that big of a deal. And as @CaptKurt mentioned, there is tons of add-ons and modes available. On this and other forums I have seen what other people do with their 900. From bob to fully dressed cruiser. The possibilities are huge.
 

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All valid points Don. I did the fuel guage trick a while back and the seat was fixed with an airhawk pad. I didn't go the pulley route although searching for a non-existant 6th gave me the sh*ts. I did notice that wearing earplugs induced me to rev much higher than normal & I stopped missing 6th. The vn900 is not meant to be a low revving loper.
 

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I've always intended to change the pulleys but I guess in 40,000 miles I've just gotten used to it. I don't really care about the speedometer or fuel gauge accuracy. Now the seat? That had to go. Mustang to the rescue!

The 900 is definitely a bike that most riders need to tweak a bit to enjoy. But when they do the tweaking; they really enjoy it. Come to think of it; that's the same for quite a few bikes!
 

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I have only been on the 900 for about 7000km and so far I'm loving it. I've changed out a bunch of things but most were cosmetic except the seat.

I have to admit, I regularly go looking for the imaginary 6th gear. It's my biggest gripe and from what a bunch of people are saying here, it's just something I'll get used to. I'm not likely to change pulleys at this stage partly because I have already spent too much and partly because I don't want to risk the lower end pull that it has at the moment.
 
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