After several years riding and fixing my Vulcan 500, I was venting about it online when a friend pointed out that financing a new bike would cost less than my cell phone bill. I started doing some research on what was out there, and decided on the Vulcan 900 Custom. The 2014’s were on sale at the time, so I took a run up to Middletown and visited Cycle Motion.
Now at this point, I believe the stator had burned out again on the 500, parts of its engine were scattered over my coffee table (not the first or last time I’ve taken a motor apart in my living room). I wasn’t drawn to anything America built (Harley made some great looking bikes, but I couldn’t afford them) so I stuck with what I knew. There were no 2014’s on the lot, but there was in fact a “brand new” 2012.
I was a fan of the cruiser style (blame my brother), this had more power, and to me just looked cool. I learned quickly that it didn’t handle as well as my old bike, it couldn’t lean over as far, and the seat was unbearable after 45 minutes of riding, but overall it was a good, comfortable ride and got 50mpg.
Now I mentioned the seat, and over the years I’ve tried different seats, seat beads, etc… I even invested in the factory Kawasaki gel seat. It looked great, but not only did my back hurt more, so did my legs as it placed me lower in the saddle. I may or may not invest $400 in a seat from Mustang (very highly rated) the jury is still out on that one.
Like my previous bike, I performed some modifications on this one. Vance & Hines Exhaust, a K&N air filter, and I think it was called a “fuel pak” from V&H. A side effect of opening up the intake/exhaust on this bike is that the stock computer simply can’t compensate. As a result, the bike may run too lean, or it may run too rich and backfire excessively. This tool makes up for that failing.
All in all, the bolt ons took me an hour to install. The exhaust I will say – was deafening. After a half hour of riding, my ears would be ringing… I figured it would be a good idea to get the new silencers for it. They preserve the exhaust note, but bring it down from ear bleeding levels to something more manageable. I picked them up maybe… 5 years ago? Still on a shelf in my garage.
The installation video made it look so easy. Remove the old silencer (basically a formed pipe in the exhaust tube) by simply removing a screw and sliding it out. No, you need a slide hammer. Even then, it’s an effort to remove. Then installing the new one. Oh boy. The video from V&H? Slides right in like a knife through butter. In reality, the fiberglass insulation gets bunched up and the inserts won’t budge without magic.
Two things conspired against me 5 years ago that nearly put me off of riding altogether. When work brought me to NYC in 2015, the amount I rode my bike dropped drastically. Previously if the road was dry and the weather above 50, I’d commute on it. The idea of leaving it at a train station instead of an office 10 minutes away bugged me. Tack on the overall increase of my commute from 20 minutes round trip to over 4 hours round trip… the bike sat in my garage. Some summers, I took it out twice.
The other thing, summer of 2015. I had my first motorcycle accident. I fared MUCH better than most when they say “motorcycle accident.”
I’d stopped at a crosswalk on Main Street in Warwick, NY to let some pedestrians cross… I glanced in my sideview as I always do and saw a red Ford Taurus coming up from behind. It didn’t stop.
The hit threw me forward, my rear fender and tire taking the brunt of it. The driver was a kid, probably messing with his phone instead of paying attention. He begged me not to call the police. This bike, I bought it to cheer myself up after my divorce. It was one of the few things in my life at that time which brought me any semblance of joy. He broke it by being careless, and expected mercy. No. Freaking. Way.
The repair cost about $500 and took a week or two, the parts came pre-painted from Kawasaki. Physically I was fine, but mentally – mentally I was scared to death of getting back on that bike. Any rides I took after that were short and not too far from home. I always considered myself a safe and observant rider. Didn’t help that 2 weeks prior apparently the town Police chief was hit at the same spot. I was done riding like I used to.
Come 2019, I decided to pay off the bike so I could sell it. My plan was to clean it up in the spring after a particularly wet and cold winter. Ever since the accident I really didn’t enjoy it anymore, and it was wasting away in my garage.
I cracked open my garage on that first warm day of Spring and she wouldn’t fire up. Then I noticed that corrosion had started to sprout up on the engine, the frame, the wheels. Guessing parking a snow blower next to it, letting the snow melt off, evaporate, etc… cranked up the humidity enough that nature started to take its course on the metal.
Off to Auto zone I went, picked up a new battery and some stuff to clean up the bike. Didn’t take long until she was purring again and looked as good as she ran. Funny thing happened. Bike was idling, so I went inside, grabbed my helmet, put on my gear, and took it out. For a few hours. First time I’d really ridden it in years and it was fantastic!
Part of me is still considering selling the bike once the weather warms up. Maybe gone for good, maybe get something else. Maybe I’ll fire it up on that first warm day of Spring and forget about my problems for a while, who knows.
That’s the thing with me and riding a motorcycle. When I’m out there on the road, one with the elements, the sound of the engine, the feel of the wind, the smell of the air… I’m at peace. I’m not thinking of anything other than right, left, or onward. Life is simpler. Life is slower. I can speak, shout, sing, or pray, and whatever is said is between God, myself, and my steel. I find peace on the road that I rarely find anywhere else in life.
Up next, my first real 4 wheeled adult toy… my 2016 Volkswagen Golf R.