Few annoyances on VN900 (2006 - 2013) and how to mend them.
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.
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.
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.