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Kawasaki VN1500 CLASSIC Custom Motorbike Review

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Kawasaki VN1500 Classic motorcycle review - Riding
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Kawasaki VN1500 Classic (1996-2004)

Detail Value
Used price range View Kawasaki VN1500 CLASSIC bikes for sale to see current asking prices
Engine size 1470 cc
Power 69 bhp
Top speed 118 mph
Insurance group 12 of 17
  MCN ratings Owners' ratings
Overall rating is 4 rating is 5
Engine rating is 4 rating is 5
Ride & Handling rating is 4 rating is 4
Equipment rating is 3 rating is 5
Quality & Reliability rating is 4 rating is 5
Value rating is 4 rating is 5

MCN overall verdict rating is 4

A far, far cheaper way of cruising than buying into the Harley dream. Reliable too. The VN1500s are positively vast so, if road presence is important to you, they could be your thing. Lots of gutsy, low down performance with smooth touring speeds at the top end mean relaxed, joyful and easy riding.


MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 5

A rubber-mounted, v-twin, oozing with thunderous torque, it hauls this heavyweight around with a seeming lack of effort. Low down grunt is what’s required on a cruiser and the VN’s got it in spades. At higher speeds it copes well, cruising happily at around 80mph. Delivery is smooth and laid-back.

Ride and Handling

MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 4

Soft, plush… Like sitting in a pile of cushions. The suspension’s ok: nothing too sharp or soggy going on, whilst the handling’s predictably slow for a bike of this style and weight (although it’s more forgiving than it looks). The single front disc could do with a twin but the VN’s surprisingly low on vibes, which is a treat.


MCN rating rating is 3
Owners' rating rating is 5

The tank-mounted dash is fairly basic, but looks the part, plus wide bars, a low seat and plenty of sleek chrome round it off. Shaft drive is definitely a bonus as you’ll have your work cut out, cleaning all those shiny bits. Early bikes lacked fuel injection and the five-speed gearbox.

Quality and Reliability

MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 5

In all, the bike/engine was running in various guises for around sixteen years, so something must be right with it. More reliable than its American counterparts, the VN rumbles on and on. Finish is very good. Recalls on some early (1997) bikes were for electrical failures and transmission problems.


MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 5

The VN1500 (they’re sometimes called “Vulcans”) did and does represent a ludicrous amount of bike for the money. Even when new, it held its own amongst starrier counterparts (Yamaha’s Royal Star and various Harleys) on the road whilst offering great value which they hold pretty well, even now. Find a Kawasaki VN1500 for sale.


Insurance group: 12 of 17

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Model History

1996: VN1500 Classic launched, updated from an earlier version dating from 1988. Six months later (November 96), it gets revised gear ratios, single valve springs and a new oil pump.
1998: A significant update. There are suspension modifications and the bike goes from a 4- to 5-speed transmission.
2002: The Classic becomes the “Classic Fi” as fuel injection is added. The model is discontinued in 2004 as the VN1600 takes over.

Other Versions

VN1500 Classic Tourer: Based on the standard model, the touring version had cast wheels, a wider front tyre, a new exhaust, an adjustable windscreen, new footboards, hard luggage and more chrome! Ran from 1998 – 2003.
VN1500 Drifter: The first VN1500 to get fuel injection (in 1999), the Drifter had a definite 1940s look about it with acres of bodywork in a theatrical, cruiser design and a single, saddle-style seat. Single front disc. Ran from 1999 – 2004.
VN1500 Nomad: Based on the standard bike but with screen, panniers and twin front discs (it needed them: it weighed in at 337kg). It also had fuel injection. Ran from 2000 – 2002.
VN1500 Mean Streak: A low-rider version with slightly more horsepower (71bhp), a bit less weight (289kg), twin front discs and bigger, 43mm forks. Ran from 2001 – 2004.


Top speed 118 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 15.3 secs
Max power 69 bhp
Max torque 83 ft-lb
Weight 292 kg
Seat height 700 mm
Fuel capacity 16 litres
Average fuel consumption 36 mpg
Tank range 127 miles
Annual road tax
Insurance group 12 of 17
Engine size 1470 cc
Engine specification 8v V-twin, 5 gears
Frame Steel tube double cradle
Front suspension adjustment None
Rear suspension adjustment Preload
Front brakes 300mm disc
Rear brake 270mm disc
Front tyre size 130/50 x 17
Rear tyre size 150/80 x 16

Owners' Overall Rating rating is 4.5(1 review)

  • VN1500 Nomad


    Average rating rating is 4.5

    Show Details

    Ride and Handling
    Quality and Reliabilty

    Great bike, the weight and power took alot of getting used to but a joy to ride when you get to grips with it. The panniers hold loads of gear, the acceleration off the line is superb. the bike does move around alot in the wet so you need to be really smooth also the tank range is not great for a touring bike. Riding position is sooo comfortable you can go for hours on end. Wouldnt trade this bike in for the world. its a definite keeper.

    24 May 2007


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I owe a 1600 Meanie. The difference between Classic and MeanStreak are far greater then described. Try riding both of them. Classic is plush, soft and not in a hurry. Meanie on the other hand provokes a bit of aggression when riding it. Additional power comes from more than just ECU. Effect? Savage acceleration. 300 kg launching to 60 mph in about 4 sec, accompanied by sounds of thunder and earthquake - yes, there are faster things around, but as a whole, this one is amazing. And it handles. USD forks, Adjustable rear suspension and leaned forward rider position - you can push it A LOT harder then Classic, but remember it still is a third of a ton heavy cruiser. Breaks? Adopted from ZX12. They do stop the thing. But be gentle with them, no ABS and 300 kg weight mean tires can lose grip fast if you push them to hard. Power delivery is ridiculously smooth. You twist more, you get more. No surprises anywhere, just loads of sheer linear power. Down end? Let this be the answer: It can go 20 mph in 5th gear... then twist the throttle and it accelerates. So does it have anything in minus? No. If you ride alone (forget what they say, it DOES NOT have a pillion seat). And if there are gas stations every 80 miles (in town, till fuel warning light goes off) or 140 (easy cruising). Ask any owner, they all adore Mean Streaks. Yes, there are better (and more expensive) power cruisers out there. But this one not as die-hard drag bike, you still can tour it. Alone :)

24 September 2009 15:57

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