Kawasaki VN900 Light Tourer - first ride

Published: 22 April 2009

Kawasaki pulled a surprise at the launch of the VN1700 range by announcing a fourth bike – the VN900 Light Tourer. And as luck would have it, they’d brought a couple along to test.

  • A popular reaction to this semi-skimmed Classic Tourer would see it brought to Britain. But does it deserve it? Vote in our poll

The Light Tourer adds a screen, spotlights, passenger back rest and 15l leather saddlebags each side, for an additional £500 over the £5999 base model. At the price, that’s a very cheap trolley-dash round the VN accessories catalogue, and one that’s meant to reinforce the versatility of the entry-level cruiser.

There’s no doubt the bike’s eminently capable of a long weekend away, and it won’t be left trailing by the full-bore cruisers in the group unless they’re being ridden at an uncruiserlike hustle. You will be stamping on the heel-and-toe gearchange twice as often though – the 900’s a revvy lump that needs to be kept alert with careful gear choice if you’re not to drop back.

Unsurprisingly, while the slash-cut pipes look similar to those on the 1700 Classic, the exhaust note is less likely to stop schoolchildren in their tracks, but it’s certainly no sewing-machine. And looks-wise it’s far from being 47% less imposing, despite being 47% down on capacity from its bigger brothers.

5’ 5” riders and even shorter will have both feet flat on the floor, and novices will relish its light feel that’s partly an illusion contributed by its lower, narrower-waisted seat – next to the 1700 it feels like it’s made of cardboard. But you’d have to be even shorter to get the best out of the screen – for this 5’6” rider it’s too low to hide behind but just high enough to interrupt forward vision annoyingly.

In heavy rain it will undoubtedly keep you much dryer than the standard VN, but mist or fine rain has a disconcerting ability to render it opaque. It pegs the practical top speed to 90ish too – but at that speed you’re no longer cruising of course.

Overall, the additions suit the look of the 900 perfectly and bolster its already pretty good weekend touring abilities. Its tank range betters the VN1700 and it’s a pretty plush and unwearying ride. The 1700’s air-assisted shocks and higher-quality overall detailing and finish will see it triumph in the long ride and the long run, but the Light Tourer doesn’t feel a world away in any respect its price might suggest. 

Would you like to see the VN900 Light Tourer brought to Britain? Tell Kawasaki by voting in our poll here.

Kawasaki VN900 Light Tourer £6499
Torque: 57.5ft-lb @ 3700rpm
Weight: 249kg
Colours: Likely to be black only