"\x0D\x0A" Jack and Luzimar's Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500 FI

Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500 FI


Dealer Info

First Impressions

Detailed Review


Trunks & Racks


2005 Nomad

Lowers Patterns



More Pictures

Page Two

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I loved our Suzuki 1200 Bandit, but it wasn't working out as well we had thought for two up riding. It's okay around town, but forget about it for the open road. There are not too many "big" bikes that we like. I love the Harley-Davidson FL series (Electra Glides, Road Kings, etc.), but they're priced way out of reach. In fact, in 1987 was excited about purchasing the Road King, MSRP $8,800! Now, they are twice that (MSRP), and many dealers are tacking on $3,000-$5,000. We also like the Gold Wing 1800. Almost pulled the trigger on one for $14,500. But I feel a bit scrunched on the Gold Wing and it feels like it weighs a ton.

Then, as we were taking one last look at the Gold Wing, a Nomad at DGY caught our eye. Wasn't there a few days before. It has the basic shape and setup of a Harley Road King, at about half the going price. I had called around regarding the Nomad, but no one seemed to have them or they were not dealing. DGY had the bike and it was on sale (MSRP - $1,500), so we pulled the trigger!

Oh, and before you leave, check out our second Nomad page. It contains additional pics of our bike, plus pics and notes from other happy Nomad riders.

First Impressions

A few early impressions of the Nomad:

  • You would think a 1500 CC, 90 cubic inch motor would have a lot more git up and go! The motor is underpowered for my liking. It is not a matter of top speed, but rather acceleration and roll ons. Mini vans out accelerate us at traffic lights. Update: With about 3,500 miles, acceleration seems to have improved and performance does not seem to degrade riding two up. I now refer to the Nomad's power delivery as "relaxed". Update 2: At 5,000 miles the performance continues to improve.

  • Once up to speed, the engine is very smooth and effortlessly handles highway speeds, even two up. We often cruise at 80 MPH, and have ridden at 90 MPH (two-up) and the motor felt like it had more to give. By the way, the bike is as stable and smooth at 80-90 MPH as it as at 40 MPH. Surreal.

  • Helmet buffeting is a killer. Rattles my brain anywhere above 45-55 MPH (depending on wind). Raising and lowering the fairing (a generous 2 inches of adjustment) did not help. Thanks to Nomad Owner's suggestions, I made and installed larger lowers--this fixed the problem completely. Helmet buffeting is minimal if not non-existent with the larger lowers. As Nomad owners will you tell you, the buffeting is caused by the air coming up around and over the tank and meeting the air streaming over the windshield. The larger lowers probably affect acceleration and handling a tad, but are well worth the effort, expense, etc. E-mail me for patterns.

  • Rear shocks bottomed incessantly during the first ride with Luzimar aboard. I purchased a bicycle fork pump and set the shock air pressure to 30-35 lbs PSI and the handling is much better and we don't bottom out the shocks. As we continue to pile up the miles I have resolved that our next purchase will be a set of Progressive shocks.

  • Brakes are very good. The front and rear brakes have a good feel are plenty strong. I was concerned about the small rotors on the front, but frankly, with larger rotors you have a heck of a time accessing the tire valve or cleaning the rims.

  • The clutch feel is excellent and does not tire the left hand, even in traffic.

  • Overall ride and control is very good. However, the front end seems very light, giving an odd vague feel of the road and bumps. At times the fork feels like is topping out. I plan to change the fork oil to something with a higher viscosity. (Owners suggest changing the oil and adding Progressive Shock springs.)

  • Love the engine rumble, could be a tad louder, but I really do like the sound and feel of the engine. Vibes are very low at any speed.

  • Love the foot boards, heel shifter, handlebars. Everything feels 100% right. The only adjustment to ergos I have made was to slightly adjust the mirrors. The bike just feels right. Harley FLs and Goldwings feel cramped to me--like they are forcing me into a particular position. Not the Nomad. The two bikes that fit me like a glove are the Nomad and the Harley Fat Boy.

  • Luzimar is very comfortable with the backrest, foot boards, and the additional space (compared to the Bandit.) Plus, the Nomad is much calmer taking off--we kinda lope along. She also likes the sound, though it has a tendancy to put her to sleep. She refers to it (and the bike) as a lullaby. Hmmm. Have to add some aftermarket pipes, don't want the wife drifting off you know.

Detailed Review

I wrote the following after putting on 3,000-plus miles on the Nomad...

Looks, comfort, handling, price, reliability, low-vibration

Low power, rear shocks

The Details
We purchased the 2003 Nomad FI new last year after careful consideration. We considered the Gold Wing, the Harley FLs, and the Yamaha Venture. With a good (okay, great) discount from Downers Grove Yamaha, we decided on the Nomad and am very glad we did.

The bike handles and rides very well. 80% of the time I ride with my wife as a passenger, and she loves it. The Nomad is several inches longer than the Harley FLs, providing more room for the wife and I. (Is it just me, or do the Harley FLs seem to have shrunk?) The Gold Wing had plenty of room between us, but the foot peg placement for the driver was restrictive and did not give my 6'2" - 6'3" frame enough room. Plus, even though I love sport bikes, we both have come to appreciate the floorboards, front and back.

The Windshield does a great job of blocking the wind, though I did make replacement lowers as the stock lowers allowed significant wind turbulence. I can comfortably ride the bike anytime the temp is above 40 degrees, thanks to the large windshield and lowers. In the summer, I drop the windshield to its lowest position to get more air flow to my head.

The handlebars, controls, mirrors, fit me perfectly--it is by far the most comfortable bike I have ridden. Controls are easily accessed, even with thick winter gloves.

The wide / large tires, brakes, and front forks inspire confidence and easily support and stop our combined weight of close to 400 pounds.

The bike looks great and gets lots of positive comments. The saddlebags have a nice rounded shape, unlike the squared-off bags of the Harley FL. The bags open on the side, not the top. At first I was a bit anxious about the side opening bags, but after using the bike for a year, we love them. We added a Harley FL Tour-Pak that holds our two helmets, jackets, and so forth. It was an expensive, but great addition.

Needs more power! I cannot understand how a four valve per cylinder, 1500CC engine puts out such little horsepower. I've been around and know about low RPM tuning for HP/Torque power bands, but this bike should put out at least 60-65 HP. The torque is fine, and once up to speed you can cruise all day, with passenger, at 90 MPH--we've done it. But roll ons and initial acceleration is sub-standard. There is no initial surge or rush. Several owners I know have added the Vance and Hines Dual Bagger exhausts and K&N air cleaners and claim the power is much improved. But by the time you buy the pipes, air cleaner, and FI power commander, you've spent the better part of $1,000!

The rear shocks are air adjustable but they're a pain to adjust and get dialed in. Riding solo, they are fine. But adjusting them for the wife and I is a pain. I purchased a special air pump for the shocks, but still I would prefer a good set of Progressives--at $450 we'll do it someday.

If I had to choose again, I would buy the Nomad without a second thought. No question. We love it. The price is right. It looks great. It is the best bike we've tried for two-up riding. I would prefer a more powerful engine, but the bike lulls along very well once up to speed. It is stable, comfortable, reliable, just a very good two-wheel deal!

Looks wise, it is a great-looking bike. It does not quite have the chrome and class of a Harley FL, but then again, what does? And it is very hard to justify the price difference, given the comfort and more modern features of the Nomad (standard FI, water cooling, shaft drive, etc.)

The Bottom Line
It has the look and performance of a Harley FL for thousands $$$ less, plus it is liquid-cooled, better suited for two passengers, and generally more comfortable for larger riders.


Accessories we have purchased, made, or plan to purchase:

  • HD King Tour-PakŪ & backrest. The Tour-Pak was $461 in the catalog, but when my Harley dealer ringed it up, it was $579! The dealer knocked $58 off of the "new-adjusted" price. The backrest cost another $195. The total price today is $675 + $210, unless your Harley Davidson dealer is willing to deal. I purchased the Tour-Pak and backrest from our local Harley dealer. You might do better using E-Bay. More information below in our Trunk and Racks section.

  • Scooter Works or Wompus Rack. Both appear to be excellent racks. However, I chose the Scootworks rack, which is for sale by the way (Contact me for price). More information below in our Trunk and Racks section.

  • Edmonds or Moxy Lowers. Both the Edmonds and Moxy lowers have received raves from Nomad riders. Bottom line, they reduce the helmet buffeting by 95% or more! The Edmonds lowers run $62 (including shipping), the Moxy lowers are a bit more expensive. However, being a DIY guy, I drew a pattern and produced my own. I purchased .250 Optiplex material at Home Depot (18" x 24") for $10.00. Probably should have used a thinner material, but they are sturdy! It took less than two hours to make and mount the lowers and they work GREAT!!!! The helmet buffeting is GONE!!!! Total cost was less than $12, including tax and the gas to get to Home Depot. The .250 Optiplex is thicker than the stock lowers and windshield. Something in the .180 range would suffice. However, these home made lowers look good and work very well. Do you want access to free patterns of the lowers? Just Click Here to Email me your request!

  • Dowco Legend XL Touring Cover. I purchased it from Chaparral Motorsports. I paid $36 ($35.99), which was the best price I found by about $10.

  • Battery Tender Plus. We have one for the Bandit and it really makes a difference. It intelligently charges the battery--so I can leave it on all winter long without worrying that it's overcharging the battery. I purchased it from Chaparral Motorsports. I paid $35 ($34.97), which was the best price I found by about $10 and a full $30 less than my local dealer's price.

  • CenterStand. I find cleaning and working on a bike is made much simplier by placing the bike on its centerstand. Since the Nomad does not have one, I purchased the highly recommended CenterStand from Cycle Lifts. Price was $100 plus $12 shipping. The lift works okay but because the engine cases extend below the bottom frame rails the lift does not rest on the frame rails when lifting the front wheel. When lifting the rear wheel I place the lift on the two frame lugs that extend down below the frame rails. Seems to work fine, though I may add something to the lugs or the lift to provide a better base to lift from.

  • Performance Mods. I would like to improve the performance of the Nomad.
    • I may start with the Vance and Hines Dual Baggers. Click here for sound file. Click here for picture. I prefer the tapered ends of the standard exhaust, but....

    • The Factory Pro Air Filter supposedly adds some power with the Vance and Hines exhaust. Factory Pro Tuning Not sure if it works with the Nomad FI. More info coming.
    • Factory Pro Tuning
      179 Paul Drive
      San Rafael, CA 94903
      415 492-8803 fax
      415 491-5920 voice

Trunks and Racks

I have done some extensive research regarding trunks and racks for the Nomad. There are a number of options:

  • Premeux Nomad Trunk and Rack. Premeux, a company in Quebec Candada, makes a beautiful trunk, backrest, and chrome rack combo (as well as many other trick Nomad/Classic components). If you want the best looking, painted to match combo, this is probably it. The trunk appears to a Harley Tour-Pak clone, meaning it looks great. The chrome rack appears to be very sturdy. Currently the trunk, rack, and wraparound back/arm rest runs about $1200. Phone Number: 514-208-2975. Ask for Serge. Web site: Premeux Accessories

  • Wompus Nomad Rack. Great looking and a very popular trunk rack. Will accept the Harley Tour-Pak, and most other trunks. Wompus does not sell trunks. I have received comments from numerous wompus rack buyers and they all agreed it was great. One respondent commented that it put the Harley Tour-Pak a bit too high, so he drilled a set of holes in the rack to mount it about 1 inch lower. This was also my concern regarding the rack.

  • Scootworks Nomad Rack and Nomad Trunk. I purchased the Scootworks rack, made by Wompus. The rack arrived two days after I ordered it. It comes in powder coat gloss black or chrome. It has elongated holes that exactly fit the mounting holes of the Harley Tour-Pak trunk. The rack + shipping was $197. Mine is now for sale for $100 OBO.

    Scootworks also sells a HD-style trunk (SuperTrunk II). It is an excellent buy. It is shipped ready for paint. Click the following link to check it out: Scootworks Trunk, Backrest, Luggage Rack, Trunk Rack
Scootworks, Inc.
114 E. Vance St.
Zebulon, NC 27597
(919)269-0986 (phone)
(919)269-0977 (fax)
    Update: Our Harley Davidson Tour-Pak finally arrived so we mounted it to the Scootworks Tour Rack. The rack fit perfectly and the instructions were very helpful. I was very pleased that the rack came with the required hardware (bolts, nuts, washers) to mount the Harley Tour-Pak trunk. The Harley Davidson Tour-Pak fit the existing holes of the rack perfectly and the height of the rack base/Tour-Pak is perfect! The adjustabililty provided by the rack's slotted holes allowed us to place the Tour-Pak exactly where Luzimar felt comfortable. I have since moved the Tour-Pak more towards the front to improve handling.

  • Harley Davidson King Tour-Pak. We ended up purchasing the Harley King Tour-Pak, Backrest, lock, and misc. parts. The total price was $792.00. The Tour-Pak was advertised at $461 in the Harley Accessories Guide, but there was a price increase that now sets the trunk at $675. My local dealer, knocked 10% off because of the price difference. The backrest ran $195. The Tour-Pak comes equipped with a reinforcement plate, luggage box mat, map pouch and side light covers. Holes are drilled for the Tour-Pak lock and passenger backrest. Consequently the Tour-Pak, Backrest, Tour-Pak components, and Scootworks rack cost us $989! A lot to spend, but it provides the security and comfort that Luzimar wanted and provides solid, good looking, and ample storage. An update: After two full years we are elated with the Harley Tour-Pak. It looks great but most importantly, it functions great. It's great to be able to store the helmets, gloves, and jackets when we get off the bike to walk, hike, shop, etc.

  • This is the order information for what he purchased:

    Component HD Part Number Price
    Additional Notes
    King Tour-PakŪ 53116-97DH $579 The Tour-Pak is available in many colors, most of which will not match your Nomad. I purchased vivid black but should have probably ordered black pearl. The part number shown is for vivid black.
    Tour-Pak lock set 53848-00 ??? The Tour-Pak lock set is sold separately. Ask your dealer to refer to P&A Bulletin 561 for additional component requirements for the Tour-Pak.
    Tour-Pak Backrest 52892-98 $188.95 There are actually several to choose from. Ours has the HD Flying V symbol sewn on. The pillowed version does not.
    Click Here to View the King Tour-Pak on the Harley Davidson Web Site

  • Champion Side Cars produces a beautiful rack and trunk setup for the Nomad. The package runs about $900. For a significant discount, contact Cruiser Customizing

  • Givi Luggage. Givi makes great, high tech trunks. Though they don't have a model and mount specifically for the Nomad, their universal mount (which I believe comes with the trunk) will mount the Givi to any of the racks described above. The Givi 460 (and other models) is proportioned well for the Nomad and is a rounded design that reasonably matches the rounded saddlebags. The Givi 460, painted black runs about $250. A simple back rest runs another $70, and you will need the Wompus or Scootwork rack. So the total for a Givi / rack setup is around $500.

  • Southern Trading Co. - Helmets and Protective Gear. Here is another link: Southern Trading Co. This is an importer of a few nice looking trunks. No racks. Contact: Salvatore Jr.. Prices run less than $100! Click on the following to view the trunks:
  • Trunk TR-1
    Trunk TR-1
    Trunk TR-3
    Trunk TR-3

Fairings & Windshields

Do you want the look and function of the Harley "batwing" fairing? Check out these options:

  • Premeux Nomad Fairing. The Premeux fairing includes a 10" windshield with 5 1/4 " speakers. (Clarion Marine AM-FM-CD, with antenna and quick attachement wiring). It is perhaps the most complete fairing of its type for the Nomad. Expect to pay about $1000 for the fairing.

  • Cruiser Customizing offers a similar fairing for the Nomad.

  • Targa Fairing. The Targa fairing painted runs about $750. The unpainted version runs about $600.

  • Accessory International sells the Targa Nomad fairing in primer for about $515.00.

  • JIREH CYCLES (877)681-0448 offers a "Radio Caddy Fairing" that can be fitted to a Nomad. Runs about $350, plus mounting kit. Click on the online catalog and search for "Radio Caddy Fairing".

  • Gadget's web site provides great information in regards to fairings for the Nomad.

  • Laminar Cruiser LIP provides additional air deflection over the windshield.

Lowers - Fork Leg Wind Deflectors

Helmet buffeting is one of the few "common" complaints Nomad owners have with their trusty steeds. I originally figured the buffeting was caused by air coming over the windshield, but that is not it, at least not totally. Air is deflected up and over the fuel tank and evidently mixes with the air coming over the windshield to produce the dirty air. The fix is a set of Moxy or Edumunds lowers. They are significantly larger than the stock lowers and do away with most if not all the buffeting. I made my own lowers for less than $10 and offer the pattern for free. If you're handy with a jigsaw, e-mail me for the pattern.

2005 Nomad 1600

Kawasaki made some significant changes to the Nomad for 2005:

  • Modified: The slightly bigger engine produces more torque and horsepower.
  • New: The Nomad now employs the 1600 Classic frame--a great improvement in strength and looks.
  • New: A passenger backrest mounted to a beefy wrap around aluminum frame.
  • New: Rear shocks. Thumb adjuster, look completely new.
  • Modified: The previous 2003-2005 no-seam fuel tank looked great for a stock tank. For 2005, it has been enlarged to hold more fuel and in doing so now has that stretched look the chopper guys are after. Looks great!
  • Modified: The floorboards are a bit nicer and the hanger for the passenger footboards is now painted silver that looks like polished aluminum from a short distance.
  • Removed: The 2005 no longer has the cheap looking plastic cover hiding the frame / steering head junction. This frame junction is executed beautifully so why hide it?
  • Modified: A new chrome horn, chrome fillers between saddlebags and rear fender, and other tid-bits make for a great looking bike.
  • Unchanged: The price.

Now for the Million-dollar question...would you trade your 2003 Nomad for a 2005? If I did not have the Bandit and tons of other hobby purchases, I probably would. But given that we love our current Nomad and being that it is almost paid for, we will stick with what we have. But the 2005 Nomad is a much nicer ride in a lot of ways.....

Rider published a great review of the 2005 Nomad. It has a few errors regarding the older Nomads, but the article is well done. For those of you that reported you can't get your hands on your own copy, borrow mine. Click here to download a zip archive of the Rider Magazine review of the 2005 Nomad.


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A few pictures of our Nomad. For more, click here!










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