On 7/11/09, Hawk and I decided to check out the
newest offerings in the Kawasaki big touring bike line. Brian at
B&B Kawasaki in
Elgin had made the offer to let us ride a new Voyager when he got
one in. While prepping the new Voyager, he also grabbed another
plate and pulled out a new Nomad. This was unexpected but welcome.
We signed all the necessary paperwork and went on our way. We were
asked not to take the bikes to Wisconsin or Iowa, but otherwise told to
have fun and enjoy the experience.
I was fully prepared to hate the new Nomad as I really do
not like the bags on the new 1700 touring bikes. I was
Starting out, this bike feels different then my 2002 Nomad
1500FI. The rider placement is different with the brake
pedal and shifter being farther forward. Not a bad
placement but it took a little to get accustomed to. One
thing that I noticed right away is how balanced this bike is and
how light the front end was. I felt more like I was on my
VN750 rather then on a Nomad. The 1500 Nomads have a big
front end and you get accustomed to that feel. The new
Nomad has more of a nimble feel and can take corners much
easier. Doing figure 8's in a parking lot felt like I was
on my VN750. I was very impressed. We hit the city
streets to get accustomed to the feel of the bikes and to get
comfortable. The brakes on the Nomad work great, a little
grabby but I attribute that to the bike being new and me being
accustomed to my 1500 Nomad. The brakes on this new Nad
are superior to the 1500FI that I have. The transmission
on the other hand took some used to. It was loud and
clanky and felt more like a Harley transmission. I could
hear Hawk shift the Voyager and he could hear me shift the Nad.
Not a deal breaker but definitely different then my 2002 Nomad.
Windshield. It looks taller then it is when you are on
the bike. I could easily see over it. I didn't look
to see if it is adjustable, but if it is like the previous
Nomads, it should have some tilt adjustment and up/down too.
The shape of it did good to keep the wind out of my face and I
didn't notice any buffeting. At highway speed, only a
little wind resistance was felt. Not bad at all...
Heat... Boy, these new 1700 CC engines sure can kick
some heat in stop and go traffic. I would have loved to
have a temperature gauge, but that is something I gave up when I
moved on from my VN750. But the Voyager has one.
This engine will produce some heat but the cooling system kept
everything running smooth. Nothing you can do about it
except keep high quality coolant in the bike. I cannot see
how the HD's handle the heat with the air cooled system that
The seat... Freaking Banana Hammock... That seat
climbs up the gas tank and is strange to look at. I'm not
sure why, but it didn't get in the way. Might even protect
"the boys" in a sudden stop situation. The seat felt
deeper then the stock seat on my 1500FI Nomad but not as deep as
the Mustang I currently ride. With Kawasaki stock seats,
they are either hit or miss. Momma Kaw did an exceptional
job with the stock seat on the Nomad 1500FI but made the Nomad
1600 seat one of the worst stock seats in history (beaten only
by the VN750 stock seat). As we only put on about 15
miles, we didn't get a chance to really evaluate the seat on
this bike otherwise to say that we had no complaints.
Besides, there are plenty of aftermarket companies from Mustang,
Corbin to Daylong that can make anything comfortable.
6-speed transmission - WOW... This bike tells you what
gear you are in. The digital display shows N, 1-5 and OD
for 6th gear. A little difficult to see since the display
is on the tank but that is what you you get with a cruiser.
Nice but IMHO, not necessary. As I stated before, the
transmission is loud and clunks in gear but didn't display any
dead zones. The belt drive was quiet and didn't catch my
attention, which is good. Getting to 5th gear, you need to
be running at least 50mph. Needing the 6th gear (OD on the
display), you need to be doing at least 65-70. It's nice
for long haul touring but might never be used for city / around
Bags - I was prepared to really hate them as they do not
have the classic Nomad bag look. They do look like they
can hold a lot and seem better made then the mock-up bike we saw
at the motorcycle show in February. Overall, I could get
used to them. I just wish that Kaw made them to look
different then the Yamaha RS Tour Deluxe. Maybe some Nomad
style stripes on them or something. I wonder what type of
luggage Momma Kaw will make for these...
Corners, twisties and highway... This bike has the
juice... I would like to take one of these through Wildcat
Mountain in Wisconsin. It tracks and hugs a turn with ease
and on the highway it displays some real get up and go.
This bike has the ability to eat some miles and do it in
Overall, I was impressed with the Nomad. I went into
this season pissed at Kawasaki because I felt that they killed
off the Nomad. I was proven wrong and in a good way.
The evolution of the Nomad is on a good course and if for some
horrible reason I have to replace my current Nomad, this new
Nomad is a contender. It is a great bike for the cruiser
rider who doesn't want to spend the extra dough for the Voyager
or just wants a great solid touring bike without having it be a
full dress bagger.
Momma Kaw - you did good...
Overall, I have to say that I was blown away by the test
rides. While I had heard a lot of good things about the
new Voyager, it surprised me how easy this bike was to ride.
Hawk and I switched bikes in a parking lot and I took us to a
industrial center that I knew of which had some great curves and
open roads. There are a lot of toys on this bike. I
really like how the bike has all of it's information up high in
the fairing and not on the tank. This makes it easy to
evaluate your situation and status without having to take ones
eyes off the road. The handlebar controls to change
displays are also exceptional.
So I don't rehash the Nomad review in the Voyager, let me
say that the positive Nomad comments also apply to this bike.
It is nimble, well balanced and easy to ride. The heat
comments do apply here but more as the fairing and all the
plastic add to the head build-up. There are adjustable
lowers to direct air flow but in a hot stop and go traffic day,
you will feel the heat. I doubt that it would be any
different with any big bike, so it cannot really be taken as a
The Fairing... WOW is a good a word as any for this.
It was a little weird at first turning the handlebars and not
having the windshield turn too but that frame mounted fairing is
solid. No shake at highway speed and the wind protection
was astounding. I was a little disappointed in the height
of the windshield (really freaking tall) but am told that there
will be aftermarket shields available in various heights.
ABS linked brakes - when we got back to the dealership,
Brian asked us how we felt about the ABS linked brakes. I
didn't have a observation on them as I didn't notice any
negative points. I suppose that in itself is a great thing
as the ABS linked system on the Voyager felt like a motorcycle
braking system should and didn't register any complaints or
comments. The brakes on this beast were strong and stopped
all of it's considerable weight. Positive in my book...
Speaking of considerable weight, this bike didn't feel like
a 900 lb bike. The saddle height was a little taller then
my Nomad 1500FI and the first time off the kickstand felt
heaver, but after that the bike felt balanced and moved with
grace that I didn't expect from a bike of this weight. At
a stop sign, it was easy to keep it balanced and upright without
putting down the feet.
The Toys!!! This bike is loaded with toys. The
radio is top notch and upgrades can be added with ease.
Controlling the radio with the handlebar controls is easy and at
80mph, the radio is still clear and loud. There are
upgrades available and a CB or communication system can be
added. There even looked to be plugs in the fairing so
additional components, like a IPOD, GPS or Sat Radio could be
added with ease.
The Dash. This bike has it all. A easy to read
speedometer, tachometer, temp gauge, fuel gauge and a data
screen to give you all the info you could want on the bike
including mpg and miles to empty. And when you run the
tank down, it will let you know with a flashing display, a
orange light and if you ignore all the warnings, the engine will
even shut down. As the demo bike was giving me all the
warnings and I didn't want to be embarrassed by running out of
gas, we stopped to put in a few dollars of petrol. The
spec on the tank calls for mid-grade, which is what I'm
accustomed to anyway.
Luggage (Bags)... As I stated with the Nomad, I was
prepared to HATE these saddle bags. But with time, I'm
sure that they could grow on me. I still wish that Kaw did
something to make them look distinctive like the 1500/1600 Nomad
bags, but as far as function, they look to be able to accomplish
the job and then some. They do look to hold a lot.
But I do wonder if we will be able to add chrome farkles to them
such as racks and guards. Same question for the top-case.
Now, the top case is nice. It looks to hold a lot of gear
and could even accommodate two helmets. Unfortunately, a
lot of potential space is taken up with electronics under a
panel in the bag, which would totally disallow removing the
top-case for around town riding.
Lighting... The brake lights on both the Nomad and the
Voyager are LED and nice ones at that. But what really
impressed me was the wrap around LED running/brake lights on the
trunk (top-case). WOW... Freaking bright. Not
much more I could do to them to get more light.
Unfortunately, while Momma Kaw did a great job with the red
lights, the turn signals are still 1157/1156 bulbs. WTF???
I'm sure that it would not be too difficult to source a set of
amber LED boards for the new Nomad/Voyager, but IMHO Kaw dropped
the ball on this one. The head lights are the same H4 bulb
configuration that the previous models have. I would have
liked to see a HID offering, but will have to wait for what the
future brings. The built in fog lights on the Voyager are
nice. Since we were riding in the day, we didn't get the
opportunity to test out the headlights in a nighttime
environment, but I'm confident that they are just as good as
what I have now.
Overall, I was impressed by both bikes. If I had to
choose right now, I'd go with the Voyager just because of all
the toys and gadgets as well as the trunk. But make no
mistake, the Nomad is a great bike too and I'm now proud of
Kawasaki for keeping the Nad updated and I feel that it is
heading in a positive direction.
2009 Kawasaki Nomad & 2009 Kawasaki Voyager
2009 Kawasaki Voyager & 2009 Kawasaki Nomad
Hawk on the new Voyager. Can you see it??? He can!!!
Bulldog on the new Nomad.
Back at the shop. These two bikes performed better then expected
and were a joy to ride. To someone looking for a new Vulcan tourer,
either of these will fit the bill...
As a side note, on the ride to try out the newest Vulcan's, I hit 13,000
on my Nomad - all but 8 of those miles are mine.
Motorcycles provided by BBK Motorsports in Elgin.
If you are looking for a Kawasaki in the Northern Illinois area,
this is the shop to go to. BBK sells more Vulcan's then any
other dealership around including the "super stores". Why go
to a dealership that sells every brand and is not very knowledable
on most of them when you can go to the dealership that knows
Vulcan's (and all other Kawasaki's too) and will be able to take
care of your every need. Best price, best service and the best
crew. BBK is your one stop shop for all things Vulcan (and