Jeff Kahn and I went to the Kawasaki Good Times Street Demo Day in Kirkland today. There was an impressive array of motorcycles for riders to test ride. I was pretty excited to get to try out the different bikes. We arrived at 8 a.m. for registration and picked the two motorcycles we were allowed to test ride. Since I ride a sport bike, I was pretty curious to see how a cruiser handles, but I was interested in checking out the supersports as well.
The test-rides were done in batches. Each rider signed up for a specific time and a specific bike to ride, and two or three facilitators from Kawasaki would ride out with the group. Before each ride, one of the facilitators briefly went over the rules for riding. We were to stick in a group and ride in staggered formation, as with most group rides. And if anyone popped a wheelie or a stoppie, they would immediately confiscate the bike’s key and that person would have to walk back. After the quick two minute spiel, we hopped on our bike of choice, started our engines and zipped off onto the predetermined route. The route was a decent half hour ride, which started straight onto the freeway before veering off onto smaller country roads with some fun curves.
The first bike I rode was a Vulcan 900 Custom. The only time I ever rode a cruiser was a brief ride around the parking lot on some Yamaha 250cc at my motorcycle endorsement class. I was a little nervous at handling a bike with an engine this big, and also its physical size. The Vulcan’s engine was incredibly smooth. In contrast to my Ninja, acceleration was slower, but it was smooth and steady. It didn’t have as much kick as a sport bike, but I could definitely feel that the Vulcan had torque. There were two things that I didn’t expect about the cruiser. First was that although the riding position was incredibly comfortable, the foot pegs on the Vulcan Custom were pretty far forward and high, higher than the floorboards of the Vulcan Classic, which was a little awkward at first. Riding at freeway speeds, whenever I adjusted my feet, I could feel the wind trying to pull my feet off the pegs, since they were so far forward. Second, the bike was really wide, so tight corners were a lot wider than I am used to. Every time I made a turn, I felt like I had to slow down a lot, because I wasn’t sure how far the bike could lean. All in all, it was a fun ride, but I don’t think I’d get a cruiser, at least not one with foot pegs so far forward.
The next bike I rode was a zx6r. This bike was an incredible ride. The riding position was a lot more aggressive than I am used to, but I soon discovered that although the handlebars force the rider to lean forward very far, it’s not as uncomfortable as it looks, especially when riding. It was uncomfortable whenever I was stopped at a traffic light, though. What impressed me most about this bike was how powerful, yet smooth, it was. At 600cc, the engine was only a little larger than my bike, but it had oh-so-much power. The bike accelerated with little effort, and handled incredibly well. I could feel exactly what the bike was doing at all times and it responded instantly. Cornering on this bike was a breeze as well — just a slight lean and the bike went exactly where I wanted.
The whole event was a blast. I enjoyed seeing the huge variety of motorcycles that Kawasaki has to offer, test riding a couple, and mounting the ones I didn’t get to ride, just to try them out. The event was very well run; everyone had plenty of time to look at all the bikes and try them out. The group ride route was also well planned. It started out on the freeway and meandered out through country roads — the perfect amount for everyone to get a good feel for the bike they were testing out. I hope another demo day comes soon!