Kawasaki VN custom range tests


The beautiful chrome of East America

In the motorcycling picture, the production of customs is, for many, the prerogative of an American brand. So much so that, even when faced with representatives of another brand, the layman invariably calls the machine Harley Davidson. This is to say, from the outset, the extent of the task that Kawasaki is attacking in particular, to impose its emblem on the segment. Because if the hyper sports market is on the decline, on the contrary the custom market is particularly buoyant with a 40% growth in sales between 2010 and 2011 !

The manufacturer of Akashi thus offers eight vehicles incorporating the typical codes of low riding. VN900 Classic and Classic Special Edition (two-color), Custom and Light Tourer are the entry level. The tenors VN1700 followed in Classic ABS, Tourer ABS, Custom Voyager ABS and Voyager ABS versions. In the absence of route 66, it is on the hilly bitumen of Burgundy that we go to rediscover a selection of this range.

VN900 Custom, discreet rebel

Dressed in essentials, this custom model combines the genre marginal version. Narrow front wheel and thrown far in front, just like the toe clips fixed to the cradles of the frame, minimalist look, handlebars formed of welded tubular sections and wide low seat almost single-seater set the tone. Welcome to the lone rider … shy. Indeed, the lines remain wise. The rest of the set conforms to the standards of the genre. Its flattened reservoir decorated with patterns is complemented by a central plate where the instruments are grouped together. The large tachymeter dial also takes the place of an analog gauge and a digital window for the odometer, partial and clock. To subscribers absent as usual on this type of machine, the tachometer, the warnings and the articulation of the fuel cap that can be placed where possible by refueling.

Kawasaki VN 900 custom

To power the machine, Kawasaki equips it with a liquid-cooled 903cc V-twin and a single camshaft. The polished fins are fictitious, serving more to take over the codes of engines across the Atlantic. Contained, the power developed is 50 hp (37 kW) at 5,700 rpm but the unit delivers its torque of 78 Nm from 3,700 rpm. The transmission is of course entrusted to a belt. A single 300 mm front and 270 mm rear disc, each clamped by a two-piston caliper will take care of stopping your hellish rides.

Kawasaki VN 900 custom

The ergonomics also reflect the specific dimensions of the custom. We almost fall on this VN900 as the seat is so low. Its large saddle awaits your seat just 685mm from the ground. The legs are stretched towards the footrests, imitating the arms which go, them, to seek the chrome bar of the wide handlebars. There are typed handles of large section while the commodos remain classic. The 41 mm fork is devoid of adjustments and the shock absorber is only adjustable for preload.

Kawasaki VN 900 custom

To start, remember to bring the key to the left side of the machine. Yes, as on the American … The V-twin barely coughs, then releasing a breath with a pleasant and discreet sound, just like the mat black color of the silencers. The VN900 Custom quickly surrenders to its pilot. Although it conforms to its name, its cycle part does not require special handling. Apart from a slightly heavy steering at very low speed due to its large wheelbase and a very open head angle (33 °), the Kawa rase-bitumen is docile. She even enjoys the luxury of less ground clearance than her sisters. Thus, on the road, the custom remains pleasant to take, even at good speed..

Kawasaki VN 900 custom

Its moderately powered twin gratifies the crew with its readily available torque. While it’s not a thunderbolt, its powertrain, although linear, gives this model a lot of fun. We will all the same avoid too much pressure on the footrests, at the risk of then biting their plates welded to the frame … before tasting the dust yourself. Capable of nearly 170 km / h at peak times, the pilot’s air-brake position does not lead to record attempts either. Better to stay at the rate at which your look predestines. Stalled on the 5 ° and last report to the road legal, one then takes advantage of the good provisions of the V twin while appreciating a surprising comfort of saddle. This compensates for the dry work of the shock absorber, whose low travel only partially absorbs certain bumps.

Braking is up to the 278 kg of the machine. Its gradual implementation will reveal a rather flexible fork but correctly managing mass transfers, despite the overall weight.

Kawasaki VN 900 custom

Endearing, easy to handle, the VN900 Custom suffers only from its few plastics (counters). Its motorization, efficient but discreet, makes you forget the usual hairy character of this type of machine but should, on the contrary, appeal to the more gentle women. Unlike the 1700s which are much cheaper than the models from across the Atlantic, it is essentially its price of € 8,899 that can make you tick, cheaper by a thousand euros than a Yamaha Midnight Star but exceeding the entry level by 500 euros. reference that is the XL883N Iron. It will seduce suddenly mainly those and especially those that the too common Harley aspect could disturb.

VN900 Light Tourer, stylish traveler

Taking over the mechanical characteristics and for many the cycle part of its stripped-down sister, the VN900 Light Tourer is intended for travel and is equipped for planning. Vast windshield, large optics and additional lights, long footrest plates, handlebars with marked lugs, saddlebags and a more welcoming passenger seat inform of its road claims. In addition, the accompanying person can lean against the sissy-bar.

Kawasaki VN 900 Light Tourer

The machine is also more seductive, adorning its V-twin with chrome and many of its attributes. Instrument panel and various mounts (windshield, headlights …) as well as fork covers make their surface sparkle. This contrasts even more with the unique black color of the Light Tourer. We regret the common quality of the luggage whose false metal buckles hide a real plastic clip.

Rear Kawasaki VN 900 Light Tourer

Its less open column angle (32 °) and its narrower head (160 mm against 182 mm), improves its comfort in town, despite a tire fitting adopting a wide flange (130/90). Slightly more efficient, the twin-cylinder develops 54 CV (40 kW) at 6,000 rpm and sees its torque increase with 82 Nm (8.4 m / kg) at 3,500 rpm. In fact, its gear ratios longer than that of the Custom hardly change the dynamic behavior to which is added four kilos (282 kg in running order). The sound of the unit is also more subdued at the end of the chrome exhausts.

Kawasaki VN 900 Light Tourer

To accumulate kilometers, prefer the secondary network on board. Its large screen limits the air pressure on the upper body, but allows flow, and possibly rain, to rise to the torso at higher speed. The vibrations of the twin are also important to the legal motorway.

Outside of expressways, the Light Tourer is convincing with appreciable long-distance comfort. Benefiting from the support on the large handlebars, the machine steers naturally even if the direction is sometimes a little blurry. Ground clearance will also limit excess optimism. Dedicated to cruising, the VN900 Light Tourer charms with the more contemplative rhythm imposed by small winding roads.

Style, equipment … the spirit is there and the charm is not lacking. A more demonstrative engine would be welcome in view of the substantial weight. Again, a price of € 10,299 puts it against an XL1200N Nightster from the Motor Company. But Kawasaki this time has the advantage of offering a real road.

VN1700 Custom Voyager ABS, comfort bagger

After the 1600 VN lights, the 1700cc Kawasaki models represent the long-distance cruiser class. Here again, they take up an aesthetic whose codes have been defined in Wisconsin for more than 50 years. With all the same a notable difference.

Kawasaki VN 1700 Bagger

The fairing of the fork crown is fixed, integral with the frame. This large cockpit incorporates a single round chrome-sheathed optic as well as dummy air intakes. It overlooks a large tank surmounted by a plate housing the tank cap and oversized contactor. Equally wide, the soft seats for the crew, framed by large, contoured suitcases, invite you to travel. This luggage easily accommodates a full face helmet on each side. The entire rear loop is lowered to meet the bagger look and is adorned with a particularly rewarding LED light design.

Kawasaki VN 1700 Bagger

The machine puts forward its big heart with two V-cylinders, dressing its cylinder heads and its chrome manifolds. Liquid-cooled mechanics, the big twin is also attempting to mimicry with engines made in the USA. Fake polished fins, round air filter cover, design of the housings … one would almost unfold the star-spangled banner. Likewise the frame is a very classic central beam with double steel cradle..
The cockpit topped with a smoked cap takes care of a retro appearance and is particularly complete. Tachometer, tachometer, gasoline and engine temperature gauges frame a large central digital window. The on-board computer takes place there, listing instantaneous, average, odometer, partial, clock consumption. Finally, the car radio fits in tastefully with this fifty’s style set. Finally, two speakers and lockable boxes are housed on either side of the fairing.

Kawasaki VN 1700 Voyager

Comfortably seated on the wide seats, you lift your arms a little to grab the wide handlebars with massive handles. Commodos follow this overweight trend with less grace. Angular, their ergonomics remain correct but would benefit from being more synthetic. Too many specific functions are indeed available, making their design cumbersome.
The front axle is driven by a 45mm matt sheathed fork and rests on a wide 130mm tire. Two pneumatic shock absorbers adjustable in air pressure absorb the movements of the rear axle resting on a 170 mm flange. To brake the Japanese liner’s 382 kg or so, two 300mm discs are clamped at the front by 4-piston calipers. In contrast, a double piston system bites a single wafer of the same size.

The big V-twin is extremely polished. It is hardly if it vibrates and at most if you can hear it, contrasting with its plump plastic.

The balance of the VN1700 Voyageur is excellent. Its weight-free steering makes it more enjoyable in town than a Street Glide without doing a miracle with the turning radius. The selection is sometimes rough, requiring precision and firmness.

Leaving the urban environment as quickly as possible, the crew quickly savored the pleasures of comfort cruising. Large footrests and a lounge-style position allow you to relax to the sound of your favorite music. Radio or better, Ipod / Iphone connection controlled on the handlebars will accompany your travels.

Take time. Because your mount will give you little other choice. Imperial on the highway, 6th gear overdrive engaged and cruise control activated, the Kawa spins without flinching, almost dissolving the cavalry and its 54 kW (73 horsepower) at 5,000 rpm. On this Custom Voyager, legal speed has the advantage of limiting the eddies felt on the top of the helmet.

Its maximum torque 13.6 da.Nm (13.9 m / kg) yet available from 2.750 rpm moves its mass gently. On the road, the revivals are phlegmatic if you don’t cut down a few gears. Conversely, for those who decide to ride smooth, the VN1700 is a monument of smoothness. In addition, its electronic throttle control manages acceleration with great flexibility. In this way, we avoid having to rub the footrest plates too often, which low ground clearance can quickly undermine.
On board, it is therefore calm and wet seas, as long as the pavement remains smooth. The dry cushioning of the rear handsets sometimes shakes the vertebrae sharply. Fortunately, the upholstery mitigates the phenomenon and the whole remains pleasant. Slowing down your vessel effectively will require simultaneous action of the front and rear brakes. In accordance with the specifications of Akashi’s sculptural production, the system is also based on ABS, which is efficient.

Very stylish, this VN1700 Custom Voyager gives pride of place to contemplative trips. Its vintage-tinged lines and equipment make it a low-riding road with old-fashioned charm. Its motorization, however ample, is forgotten. It is undoubtedly its price of 17,999 € which will ultimately make the difference to convince fans of road custom with nearly 6,000 euros less than an equivalent model at the benchmark of the segment. This is indeed the price of a Harley Davidson Street Glide. A financial and mechanical difference that will make you think and leave the budget to equip the Kawasaki and its rider with a number of accessories…

VN1700 Voyager ABS, luxury cruiser

Developed on the same basis, the Voyager ABS further enhances comfort for a little less authenticity than the Custom model. Large windshield, additional headlamps, streamlined top case forming the lounge backrest for the passenger and chromes galore! These are the major differences between the two models. This traveler is also made more comfortable. Upholstery, passenger footrests, leg deflectors, everything is under the sign of the Plus.

Kawasaki VN 1700 Bagger

The V-twin shines brightly. Almost all of its surfaces are covered with a shiny coating. Same finish for the dashboard and the tank plate, the trunk and the edges of the cases, the tank logo and the fork fairings. If the stems are identical to those of the Custom, the hydraulic tank covers are also adorned with metal. Finally, there is an even more classic meter screen printing..

The protection offered against the elements and aerodynamic pressure is excellent. In hot weather, manually adjustable ventilation flaps will allow air to circulate more easily through the legs. On the Voyager, time would almost stand still. Perhaps also due to an engine that is too docile for some. Serenity is the order of the day and the cruising Kawasaki offers the same audio pleasure as the Bagger. Know how to take advantage of its better acoustics that the air flows in no way disturb.

We regret a storage space in the rear trunk a little too tight. Being able to accommodate the equivalent of two more helmets would have been appreciable. Another sticking point is fuel consumption on both models, averaging over 8 liters per 100 km. Displacement, engine architecture and weight are of course the cause, leaving the crew only 250 kilometers of autonomy.

With a price just below the symobolic bar of 20,000 euros (19,999 €), this VN1700 Voyager ABS is more affordable than its direct competitor, but without reaching the quality of an Electra Glide Classic at 24,190 € (4,000 euros more expensive). Combining plastic with a known aesthetic, however, it offers easy handling and disconcerting softness. The most likely challenger then remains the Victory Cross Country..


The VN900 range is distinguished by its mechanical approval. Half the price of their predecessors, the performance / price ratio will appeal to fans of lightweight custom. The VN1700s have for them a very complete equipment as well as a long-term Pullman comfort for a price much lower than the American references … without forgetting an extension of guarantee to 4 years proposed for a symbolic euro by the green brand..

Relevant, pleasant on a daily basis, the range of Kawasaki customs is very – too much? – close to American production, from which they are distinguished mainly by the price and a very great softness in character. Their quality lies, among other things, in this hushed discretion, far from the exuberant cousins ​​of the other side of the Pacific and their overly community image. Authenticity versus ease…. your choice will reveal what kind of rebel lies within you.

Strong points

  • Price
  • Driving pleasure
  • Comfort
  • Equipment

Weak points

  • Motor character

Competitors: Harley Davidson Street Glide, Moto guzzi California vintage 16,490 €.

Read also the customs comparison Kawasaki VN 900, VN 1700 and W800

Find the custom sites and in particular Kawasaki in the directory

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