Yamaha Bolt vs. Kawasaki Vulcan – Which is the most comfortable ride

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Cruisers give offer you the luxury of riding on your bike at moderate speeds while you soak in the scenery. Both Yamaha Bolt and Kawasaki Vulcan are moderately priced and offer an array of customization options.

Cruiser bikes are load and they announce their presence to anyone in their vicinity that here is a serious biker. In fact, nothing looks as cool as someone coming out of their cruiser bike with a leather jacket adorning their muscled body. Harleys have largely dominated the market but that does not mean the Japanese bike makers like Yamaha and Kawasaki have been left behind.

If you are looking for a community of bikers to join for your weekend escapades then getting a serious cruiser should be on top of your bucket list. You don’t need to spend all your savings on it, there is always something to fit your budget. This review examines two iconic cruisers – Yamaha Bolt vs. Kawasaki Vulcan and tells you which is the better.

What are the key differences between Yamaha Bolt vs. Kawasaki Vulcan?

Model Kawasaki Vulcan Yamaha Bolt
Displacement 649cc 942cc
Kerb weight 235kg 247kg
Fuel capacity 14 liters 12 liters
Bore 83mm 85mm
Stroke 60mm 83mm
Compression ratio 10.8:1 9.0:1
No. of gears 6 5
Transmission type Chain drive Belt drive
Front Brake Disc 300mm Single 298mm disc 2 piston caliper
Rear Brake Disc 250mm Single 298mm disc

Yamaha Bolt vs. Kawasaki Vulcan – How do these bike models compare?

Performance

The bolt is Yamaha response to a trendy bike for the youthful population. The cruiser features a larger engine at 942cc when compared to the Vulcan 649cc. While the engine seems small when compared to the bolt it offers really fast acceleration. This is courtesy of DOHC eight valve parallel twin. The Vulcan modified intake tract means it is easy on consumption while optimized for speed. When riding you will notice that the Bolt heavy engine begins to vibrate a lot at speeds of over 80 mph but the Vulcan remains quite stable even under medium or high revs. Changes in the Vulcan exhaust have led to a 28% increase in flywheel mass.

The bolt features 61.8 inch wheelbase that gives it its agile characteristics. The Bolt engine is a 60 degree V-twin that measures 58 cubic inches. It also boasts of fuel injection, four valve heads, and a transistorized ignition. Its compression ratio is set at 9.0:1 while the bore and stroke measure 85mm and 83mm. To help the bike keep its heat dissipation low it comes with an advanced cylinder design that makes it super light hence enabling it navigate corners at high speeds with ease. The bolt comes with a five speed transmission which is quite a disappointment as one desires a sixth gear to get all that horsepower on the roads.

The Vulcan first came as a 700cc cruiser but it was briefly limited to 699cc to make it accommodative to the US market. This was later adjusted to the current 649cc.

Body frame and styling

The bolt is quite stylish coming in with a low seat that gives you an excellent viewing angle. You have some blacked out components that make the cruiser stand out whenever it hits the streets. You also get a high tank that is accompanied with a short wheelbase. What many love about the bike is the fact that it is neither too large or small it is in between. This makes the bolt very agile on the roads. The seat has a height of 27.2 inches which makes it easy to mount and dismount. You can even bend your knee as you ride along. Yamaha offers a lot of customization for the bolt as you can strip it to the rear steel fenders and customize it as you want. The 3.3 gallon fuel tank is kind of a setup as it you will need to stop frequently for fuel refills. However, the peanut shaped fuel tank adds to its appeal as a classic cruiser.

The Vulcan is one of the lightest cruisers in Kawasaki display of cruisers. It allows you to make several adjustments to the footpegs, handlebar position and seat height. This allows the bike to accommodate a variety of riders despite their heights. The styling for the Vulcan will depend on the variety you go for. If you purchase the Vulcan S café sports then expect some bullet fairing while the SE is more colorful and geared towards the youthful market. Kawasaki developed an innovative feature the Ergo fit that allows you to customize some common features for your cruiser. Here you can adjust your handlebars so that they are closer or further away from the body or change the saddle while moving the footpegs forward. The customization options just like the bolt are numerous as you can even adjust the hand levers.

On the outside the Vulcan is better looking than the Bolt. It comes with triangular headlights and LED taillights. You have a classical looking teardrop fuel tank and blacked out muffler and frame.

Suspension

Suspension for the bolt is courtesy of front 41mm forks that enable you to get around 4.7 inches of wheel travel. At the back the shocks have been made to be shorter and you get 2.8 inches of wheel travel. The tires are quite adequate to handle any terrain that you take the bolt to. You have for the front 19-inch Bridgestone tires and 16-inch rears. The bike is not large and that is why it comes with 298mm discs for the front and rear. This is enough to bring the bolt to a halt even at high speeds.

The Vulcan comes with front 300mm brake rotor with single pot caliper binds while for the rear your get 250mm discs. The Vulcan models come with ABS as standard and in some cases like the S it is optional. The Vulcan was introduced with the sole aim of capturing the younger generation and that is why Kawasaki came up the idea of the Ergo fit. This customization options allow you to do wonders to your bike and make adjustments that meet your tastes.

Yamaha Bolt vs. Kawasaki – Overview

Yamaha Bolt In-depth review

The Yamaha Bolt was introduced in 2013 and features a 942cc air-cooled engine. The cruiser is a 4-stroke, 4-valve V-twin SOHC engine. In the US it goes by the name “Star Bolt”. The bolt success has been due to its numerous customization options that have led to it been called the chopper, bobber, or rat. The aftermarket for the bike is huge and you can easily get a second hand bike at an affordable price.

The bolt comes with a low seat that stands at just 27.2 inches. This gives you a laid back riding style. Due its lightweight characteristic, the Bolt is quite agile and good in handling city roads. The slim design means you can easily place your feet to the ground while still riding on bended knees.

The Bolt uses a double-cradle frame that helps keep it light and agile. The 29 degree of rake enables the bike to have a short frame and this is characterized by its small wheelbase of just 61.8 inches. The fuel tank is the commonly used peanut shape and it comes with a 3.2 gallon fuel tank. The air-cooled V-twin 60-degree engine is powered by a five speed transmission. The bore and stroke are at 85mm and 83mm respectively and this gives them a compression ratio of 9.0:1. To help in friction reduction and heat dissipation, you get an advanced cylinder design with ceramic-composite pistons.

The suspension on the bike is decent; you get 4.7 inches of wheel travel. At the front you get 41mm forks while the suspension at the back offer you 2.8 inches of wheel travel. This helps keep the bike super short. To further keep the cruiser at a low level riding space, you get 16-inch Bridgestone tires on 12-spoke aluminum rims.

What we liked:

  • The bike can be fully customizable
  • Lightweight bike that offers great handling
  • Advanced cylinder design for reduced friction
  • Affordable cruiser for beginners

What we did not like:

  • The cruiser would have been better with a sixth gear

Kawasaki Overview

Kawasaki decided to enter the cruiser niche in 1985 through its Vulcan VN700A. The bike maker has built a solid base of super bike fans across the world. It is not unusual to find a Kawasaki model in any racing track. When the Vulcan was been marketed to the US it’s displacement was lowered to 699cc to avoid stiff tariffs but this was later in 1986 increased to 749cc. The Vulcan has over the years remained largely unchanged with a few minor changes.

To capture a more youthful customer base, Kawasaki introduced the Ergo fit to the Vulcan. This feature helps you customize a few options in your cruiser like foot peg, seat design and handlebar options. With the seats you have three options of a mid –size or extended reach seats. You can also have a pullback style handlebar or one that is with reduced reach.

The Vulcan fast acceleration is courtesy of a liquid cooled 649cc engine that is fuel injected. The DOHC engine comes with eight valve parallel. The peak torque is set at 3000 rpm but you will experience some vibrations at speeds of over 80 mph. Gear shifting is swift and this enables you to navigate city traffic with ease. You get a tachometer to monitor this. When it comes to braking you have optional ABS braking system but overall the suspension handles really well. This will enable you tackle any bumps and potholes on the road.

The Vulcan designers made it in such a way that you can customize a lot of accessories for the perfect riding position. If you want the bike to be closer to your body just change to short handlebars. You can even change the hand levers that come with the bike. On the outside the Vulcan comes with a classical 3.7 teardrop fuel tank that gives it a nice vintage look. It also has LED taillights, triangular headlights and blacked out muffler and frame. This gives it a menacing look that makes it stand out on the streets.

The Vulcan features a tubular steel frame with the fore and aft pipes acting as an added layer of protection for the engine. This are supported by double cradles. The steering head is agile as it is set at 31 degree angle and this helps you keep your eyes on the road even at high speeds.

The suspension on the front are styled in such a way that they give one 5.1 inches of travel and help in navigating corners with ease. The rear shocks are even better as they offer you spring loaded adjustment, are seven position and this allows them to accommodate a variety of weights. For the front you get 300mm brake rotors with two pot calipers while for the rear you have 250mm discs with single pot calipers binds. ABS is standard in the SE while it is optional for the Vulcan S.

What we liked:

  • Bike allows you several customization options
  • LED taillights for better visibility
  • Great handling especially in corners
  • Strong tubular steel frame

What we did not like:

  • The engine displacement is a bit low for a cruiser of its type

Conclusion

The cruiser category has largely been the domain of the Harley and new entrants like the Triumph. Kawasaki and Yamaha have been doing astonishingly well in the superbike category. The entry of the Yamaha Bolt and Kawasaki Vulcan is their response to this fast saturating market. The Vulcan S does well for its innovative Ergo fit feature that allows a variety of customizable options geared towards the younger segment of the market. However, the liquid cooled parallel twin engine was bit of a letdown. The Bolt Hip styled nose is a great addition to the bike’s design and it gives the bike a classic look. The lack of ABS is a letdown and this leaves us with the Vulcan cruiser as the better cruiser.

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Cyborg
Steven Reilly is a qualified mechanic and his passion for cars goes beyond just the technical aspects. He is also an amateur racer and all round car enthusiast. When he is not driving them, he can often be found in his garage under the hood of a rare model. Steven Reilly has lost track of the number of hours he has spent setting up his fine collection of rebuilt models. He believes that cars can provide a constructive and fun opportunity to teach the youth important life skills. In line with this, he is developing a community outreach program, potentially dubbed ‘Cars for change'.
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