WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

Mailbag: Kawasaki Vulcan 500 for a starter bike

By James - 12/5/2006

I received an email from Colleen . . .

I am looking at purchasing my first bike. I am told the (Vulcan) 500 will not keep up with my “riding buddies” on the highway. They ride 100 plus. thoughts ??? I actually have a 900 on hold but wonder if the 500 would be a better first bike.
The Vulcan 500 is a great starter bike. Its low weight, center of gravity and forgivable throttle response will help you learn how to ride and bail you out when you make a mistake. I spent the first three years on my Vulcan 500 and it let me gain the skills I needed to become a safe rider. The Vulcan will do 100 mph, but it won’t get their quickly and won’t have much to spare. Funnily enough, the 900 doesn’t go all that much faster, and any bike at 100 mph is not all that fun. Whether or not you can keep up with your “buddies” at 100 mph should not be your concern at this point in your riding career.

The first year you ride you will be building confidence and skills. Riding a motorcycle is not like driving a car. You can’t just hop on and be able to go fast. I suggest taking a MSF course to learn the basics. Find riding buddies that are willing to slow down and tutor a new rider. Don’t ride faster than you are comfortable. Riding is not about being the first, that is for the track. Riding is all about making sure your group shows up in one piece.

My parting advice is to buy a bike that fits you, not your riding buddies. You will have a lot more fun in the long run.

For more information read my article on the Vulcan 500.



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  1. Think about what your asking. A new rider…first bike…and 100 mph all in the same sentence?
    Even if you go with the 900 do yourself and your friends a favor and take it easy for a bit and get some miles under your belt. Dont want to be another statistic for those anti motorcyle people now do we.
    Besides, you miss alot of great scenery at 100 plus.

    Comment by jands_44 — 12/6/2006 @ 8:54 pm

  2. 100 mph? are you nuts? Riding a scoot isnt about going fast its about enjoying all the things you cant in a cage. 100 is a death sentance.Let me know where you ride so I can avoid the road

    Comment by Inkslngr — 12/14/2006 @ 9:01 am

  3. Colleen, James and the rest are so right. You will find when you get on your motorcycle that you won’t want to go 100 mph. Learning to ride a motorcycle isn’t as easy as you might think. Corners and turning are tricky and at high speeds for a beginner can be deadly.

    We’ve lost a few beginner motorcyclist in my town this last year just for those exact reasons. You will be much happier starting with the 500. I have a Yamaha 650, and at almost 2 years of riding, I’m very happy with it. Sure, the larger bikes pass me and so what. I don’t ride with people who won’t adjust to my skills or I just let them go ahead and enjoy myself where I’m at. The 650 has gotten me over the highest mountain range here in Colorado, on the highway, with no problem.

    Definitely attend the MSF course James mentioned. My husband and I did and we can’t say enough great things about it. They are very thorough and we loved it. We learned so much.

    I found a wonderful group of riders by joining my local Women on Wheels group. Go to www.womenonwheels.org to see if there is a group in your area.

    Good luck and Safe Riding.

    Comment by Biker Betty — 12/19/2006 @ 9:57 am

  4. Why not buy a chopper?

    Comment by Jake — 12/22/2006 @ 9:41 am

  5. A ‘95 Vulcan 500 was my first bike. I only had it for a year, but in that time I put 20,000 miles on it.

    I mostly road with my Uncles who both have 15+ years experience each. One has a 2006 Harley Roadking and the other a Honda VTX 1300. While they could easily out run me when and if they so desired, I had no problem keeping up with them when we road. The seat is one of the comfiest stock seats you will ever have the pleasure of doing 500 miles in one day on. Yes you will outgrow this bike, but lucky for you starter bikes don’t lose much of their cost during your learning curve. I sold my Vulcan a year later for $200 less than what I paid for it, and this is with the additional 20k miles!

    Go for the Vulcan!

    Comment by Angi the Biker Chick — 1/5/2007 @ 12:08 pm

  6. ok, perhaps I should reword my question concerning a first bike…the Vulcan 500. My buddies ride at speeds ranging from 100 to 110 kms. per hour NOT miles per hour. I have taken a bike safety course and understand I will need many hours of “safe driving” with friends who will ride to My speed. Sorry for the speed misunderstanding.

    Comment by colleen — 1/12/2007 @ 8:00 pm

  7. Going as fast as your skill level is the best advice anyone can give you.(starting out with a 500cc bike would be your best bet)STUDY your owners manual, and spend time on your new bike(in the driveway) unitl your can reach for the controls instinctivily. Stick to your guns and do not allow your buddies to rush you( if they persist, find other freinds to ride with). Maitenance is CRITICAL no matter what the displacement. Enjoy YOUR learning experience, don’t rush it and have regrets! This time is YOURS!

    Comment by jSpringer 1 — 1/27/2007 @ 12:08 pm

  8. I’ve been riding a Vulcan 500 daily for about 1 & 1/2 years in Kansas. Cold as #$%@& in the winter, hotter than %*#W@$*% starting mid summer. This is not my first bike. I am 6′ 4″ and about 230 lbs.

    I rode it home from a dealer about 50 miles on the highway, and was a little numb below the waste for a little while. It wasn’t painful, but…I would NOT take a long trip on it at highway speeds. I don’t hot-rod it, but I can get from 0 to 60 in a little over a block (there is enough juice to pick up and go when I need). Not so much with a passenger on board (not bad, just not as much power available).

    I rode my wife’s Rebel 250 once last summer and it just didn’t feel right. Carried me OK, but the Vulcan has power to spare for in town & short trips with a lot left over at the top end up to about 50 mph, so I’m spoiled.

    FWIW, gets about 50 mpg. My ONLY complaint is the frame is a little small for my frame. Great ride.

    Comment by PMW — 1/29/2008 @ 9:11 am

  9. I have a 95,(my 15th bike) belt drive, 6 speed, water cooled. It’s a little rocket! This bike lacks nothing. I had the seat re-upholtered to build up a couple inches, put sportster bars on and at 6′ it fits me like a glove. I smile everytime I ride. There are so few vertical twins out there, I love it’s symetry. I’m not sure why they went to chain. Anyone? Paul

    Comment by Paul Marin — 5/30/2008 @ 7:26 pm

  10. hi my name is ivan santos i am fron brasil, i love kawasaki 500 cc , see you, by.

    Comment by Ivan Santos — 1/29/2009 @ 4:14 am

  11. I recently bought a 2001 Kawasaki 500 with low miles. We love the bike but no book came with it and I’m trying to figure out how to change the oil and filter. Any tips.

    Comment by dorothy — 7/15/2009 @ 9:15 am

  12. The oil filter is easy to change on the 500. It is an external filter, so you unscrew it from the front of the engine, under the radiator. The oil is the big bolt on the bottom of the engine. There are schematics at bikebandit that you can look up to help you.

    Comment by James — 7/15/2009 @ 5:54 pm

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