KAWASAKI VN900 CUSTOM (2007 - 2016) Review
- Reliable, comfortable cruiser
- Modern ride and handling despite retro look
- Makes a great secondhand buy
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£100|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Over recent years Kawasaki has created an impressive portfolio of cruisers and Kawasaki VN900 Custom is one of its best yet. Its laid back, chopper style is down largely to its distinctive, cast alloy big 21-inch front wheel.
But other differences between the Kawasaki VN900 Custom and Kawasaki VN900 on which it is based include the high-rise drag bars, which not only look good but prove very comfortable, along with the forward highway pegs.
Sometimes it’s too easy to question the authenticity and credibility of so-called ‘Harley clones’, but not with the VN900 Custom, especially in the Special Edition trim pictured above.
It’s great-looking, beautifully built and detailed, far better than the ‘genuine article’ of the same period as a riding experience both in terms of performance and handling. Best of all, though, as secondhand examples clearly demonstrate, as a used buy, it’s an absolute steal. What more could you want?
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
For a custom, the Kawasaki VN900 Custom is impressive through bends. Scraped metal is unlikely and stability is excellent. Out back, the Kawasaki VN900 Custom's rear remains planted thanks to Uni-Trak suspension that offers seven-way adjustable spring preload and 4.1 inches of travel. Ergonomically, most should be comfortable.
The Kawasaki VN900 Custom also accommodates a passenger with a gunfighter-style seat that is designed for comfort and style. And with a decent 5.3 gallon tank close to 180miles on the Kawasaki VN900 Custom is possible before fill-ups.
EngineNext up: Reliability
Although the Kawasaki VN900 Custom's SOHC, 55-degree, V-twin is just 903cc the amount of torque and power delivered belies those small dimensions.
Its gearchange is snickety smooth and there’s a decent amount of grunt up to 3000rpm. Beyond 3500 the Kawasaki VN900 Custom engine loses some of its pep, but at cruising speeds, even when the speedo reads 75, buzz is absent and the Kawasaki VN900 Custom continues to deliver a silky-smooth ride.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Kawasaki customs are usually a cut above the norm and the Kawasaki VN900 Custom continues that tradition with dream chrome, good paint and neat detailing and build quality. Common faults? Dating back to the VN800 of the mid-90s, the Kawasaki V-twin’s powertrain is proven and refined while the chassis is solid and under stressed.
Instead, being a cruiser where the ‘look’ is everything, the biggest area of concern should be its cosmetics. Kawa cruisers are better built than most but it’s still important to check for any dings or scrapes (possibly the result of a novice rider’s inexperience) or poor maintenance.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The most impressive aspect of the Kawasaki VN900 Custom is not just the new shiny bits and pieces, but how Kawasaki managed to change the appearance while retaining its appealing price tag. The Kawasaki VN900 Custom delivers aesthetics, performance, and refinement normally found in motorcycles that cost thousands more.
On top of all that, other neat touches on the Kawasaki VN900 Custom include an instrument cluster which not only offers classic styling but also all the requisite dials and lights to keep the Kawasaki VN900 Custom rider informed, including a fuel level indicator and a digital clock.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 8v V-twin, five gears|
|Frame type||Tubular steel double cradle|
|Fuel capacity||20 litres|
|Rear suspension||Preload only|
|Front brake||300mm disc with 4-piston caliper|
|Rear brake||270mm disc with 2-piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||80/90 x 21|
|Rear tyre size||180/70 x 15|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||55 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£101|
|Annual service cost||£100|
|Used price||£4,500 - £6,400|
10 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||53 bhp|
|Max torque||60 ft-lb|
|Top speed||115 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||165 miles|
Model history & versions
- 2007: Kawasaki VN900 Custom introduced.
- 2016: Bike goes off sale.
Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI VN900 CUSTOM (2007 - 2016)
17 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI VN900 CUSTOM (2007 - 2016) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£100|
Annual servicing cost: £80
It's low seat height and relaxing, comfortable ride make it ideal for me. Steering is a bit heavy when pushing it around but other than that it's great. I've added a windshield, a Barons front pulley, givi monkey side pannier frames a back rest and some 3" bar risers and now it's perfect. It originally came with a Vance and Hines exhaust but it was far too noisy so had to go. Now got a stock exhaust which is quiet, my ears (and riding buddies) thank me.
Likes swooping country roads, it's a good all round bike that you can ride for a couple of hours before you need a stretch. No complaints from pillion (usually my 12 year old son), but I've had a custom seat done (Tony Archer)and asked for a thicker, wider pillion seat.
Engine performance ok upto about 70 after that you have to try a bit harder. Could do with a sixth gear.
Very well built, no issues in two years of ownership
This is an approx figure as I genuinely can't remember!
No feature stands out. I've got Metzeler 888 Ultra Marathons on both bigger than stock, 90/90/21 on front and 200/70/15 on rear, been out in all weathers and they've performed faultlessly.
Buying experience: Bought privately from a lovely chap in North Yorkshire. Paid about £400 less that what he advertised it for.
Version: VN900 Classic
Annual servicing cost: £120
She is a lovely bike however she could have done with a more comfy seat for longer rides. The engine is strong, lazy but pulls well from wherever in the rev range.
Ride is fine for a cruiser not knee scraping but does the job. Brakes with a single disk up front need plenty of strength to pull up in short order but the back brake actually feels stronger.
Lovely peach of an engine
Never had a problem mechanically but there are rust spots on the rear wheel and up front on the grey painted fork brace.
She is as far as I am concerned good value for money
Basic but she is a cruiser.
Fantastic bike for the money, good range of accessories on the market well made bike. Standard seat could do with improvement in terms of padding. A 6th gear would help and 1st gear is too geared down for general pulling away.
The brakes are not the one you expected - front is weak and the rear locks up so easily it's hardly worth using. But handling is surprisingly good and light, and there's plenty of ground clearance.
I owned a VN900 for four years. I also tested a Suzuki M50 (M800), Yamaha XV950, Triumph America and Harley Sportster. The Kawasaki was the best overall. It was my daily commute, weekend ride and tourer. The longest trip I did with it was 3,500 km in a week, fully loaded with camping gear, and it handled everything very well indeed. Can't think of a better sub-1000cc cruiser.
Most people hate the seat but I could tolerate it. The riding position is very tiring over long distances although a small screen helps. Massive rake and long fork travel mean it's comfy at the front, but the rear suspension is harsh. Increasing preload helps a bit. The brakes are terrible -- front is weak and wooden and the rear locks up so easily it's hardly worth using. But handling is surprisingly good and light, and there's plenty of ground clearance.
Definitely not going to set the world on fire, but it's unstressed and smooth cruising at reasonably high speeds. Some say it needs a sixth gear but as it won't even rev out in fifth I'm not sure what the point would be. Has decent grunt off the line.
In four years and 45,000km from new I never had a problem, although stators frying is apparently a common issue. There's not much to corrode as most of what looks like chrome is actually plastic. Fasteners are a bit cheap and I had an issue with an exhaust heat shield clamp that would rattle loose, but that's it.
Servicing is straightforward enough although intervals could be longer. Oil filter change requires typical cruiser fiddling, in this case removal of regulator/rectifier. Not a big deal. It's very fuel efficient -- on long trips I wouldn't hit reserve until after 300km and then you have 4L of the 20L tank left, so a 400km range is possible.
No frills, though it does have a fuel gauge. No storage space whatsoever. I fitted the Kawasaki cafe screen, which does the job of killing some windblast without spoiling the bike's look. A braided front brake line will increase feel but not overall stopping power. I switched from a 180/70 rear tyre to a 170/80 and it handled better -- I reckon that was the tyre it was meant to have, as it also fills the rear fender better and corrects the speedo a bit, and Kawasaki just put the 180 on so they could say it had the widest rear tyre of any mid-sized cruiser, back when such things were fashionable.
love this bike would highly recommend anyone to buy
excellent build quality compared to the yamaha
Version: candy orange
Fantastic bike for the money, good range of accessories on the market well made bike. Standard seat could do with improvement in terms of padding, and 1st gear is too geared down for general pulling away. Once used to it. It becomes a dream to ride
Service £100-180 Tyres £120 45-60mpg £20 to fill fuel
Never let me down. Well maintained
Standard headlight on custom VN is slightly high and not enough adjustment
Buying experience: Bought mine pre reg £6400 Brand new £7800
Version: LTD edition
Annual servicing cost: £100
Great bike around town and country roads, can get a bit monotonous on motorways as I don't normally sit in the inner 2 lanes on my ZX9R. However, very comfy and has enough torque to be fun
Its a cool bike, Brakes are ample with quality parts, get rid of the standard Dunlop tyres, I use Bridgestone Exedra Max (40 psi front and rear) not the recommended by Kawasaki, however highly suggested on the VN forums, eliminates "cupping" around the bends
Reliable, adequate torque for a 900cc twin, lovely sound without the baffles
2 years owned, only problem I have had is a snapped cable, probably due to aftermarket ape handle bars, having replaced these with standard, and original cables, not had a problem
quality parts are quite cheap, I'm a Mechanic by trade, so I don't have labour costs, but they are easy to maintain
Loads of accessories available, depending how much Bling required, I have Clik lock saddlebags and a Givi rear backrest with carrier. Previously stated, ditch the Dunlop tyres (otherwise 5/5)
I reviewed below just after I got the bike, but thought I'd do an update. The fact I'm still riding it after 3 years says plenty. Like many cruiser buyers, for a long while I thought of it as a stepping stone to a bigger bike. Now I'm convinced the 900 is just right for me. What it lacks in top-end power (and all mid-size V-twin cruisers are similarly lacking) it more than makes up for in grunt. Braking seems poor at first but is actually adequate with reasonable feel, just needing more grip strength than a sportsbike. Handling is very good in the cruiser style (more about shifting your weight than leaning the bike), ergonomics are not extreme and you're not locked into position as on some cruisers, and the bike isn't too heavy. The rear shock is crap (unless your'e very light, increase preload to max for best results) but there's still a reasonable amount of travel. And this is where the VN really scores over bigger bikes. The only way to go 'bigger' without adding weight is with a Sportster 1200 (actually physically smaller bikes and a bit lighter), but then -- or with any other Harley cruiser -- you're faced with a dramatic loss of suspension travel and ground clearance, which I just will not accept. The Vulcan leads the class in these respects, and believe me it matters (eg 140 mm ground clearance on the VN compared with 110 mm on a Sportster Custom). Any other bigger cruiser is way heavier, and if like me you ride every day and park on that street, that matters too. Incidentally my bike is outside 24/7, never covered, and still looks pretty much new. Admittedly I live in Brisbane, but it does rain a lot here too! I've had no issues with my bike other than a short-lived clutch cable which I blame on aftermarket levers and excessive feathering (fuelling is perfect so I've had to relearn my clutch technique). I could get 400 km or more from the 20 L tank if I ran it dry. The pipes are fully debaffled and after a year or so of mellowing sound wonderful but not too loud (for me anyway!). Some people hate the seat but it doesn't bother me -- although that might be the only category where a Harley would score higher. Are there better cruisers out there? Of course there are. Are there any better value or more practical cruisers for everyday riding? I doubt it.
Would highly recommend
Would highly recommend
I bought this bike after completing my Direct Access and wow am I impressed. I was previously riding a Honda Shadow 125 and the stability of the VN900 is out of this world its responsive, agile and great looking which why it was the clear choice for me when upgrading to my first 'big' cruiser. Awesome stealth looks on my 2011 model with the matte black everywhere. Just hoping for some decent weather!
Have owned this bike for just over a week and have covered a little under 1000 miles, mainly commuting up the motorway. Bought 2nd hand, 4 years old with only 1600 miles on the clock. In that time, I have returned an average of 60-63 mpg at motorway speeds, its very comfortable and holds the road like a dream. The seating position is excellent and I love this bike. I have owned a few bikes over the years, and to date, this far exceeds my expectations and will remain on the inventory for many years to come. Would recommend riding in low gears around town to ensure head turning reactions!!!
I've owned cruisers, supersports and 'UJMs' and the VN900 is a very good bike by any standard. Japanese cruisers have come a long, long way in the last 10-15 years and a lot of the people who knock 'em might do well to check out a new one just to see how good they've got. At all sensible speeds this Vulcan handles outstandingly well -- in most situations I find it easier to ride than the CBR600F I traded it for, which is saying a lot. Great low-down torque for town riding, and I actually prefer the slower roll-on at highway speeds (more time to think about how fast you're going...). Luggage is an issue, can't really carry any without bolting extra bits on, but otherwise I just love it. And I found out the other day (the hard way) that if you drop it at walking speed or less it rests on the footpeg rather than falling flat! Result!!
After coming to the conclusion that my knee could no longer live with the ZZR (this being classed as a roomy bike cut down the replacement options somewhat), I started looking at adventure tourers like the Ktm's and the Bmw's, but none really lit a fire under me. Loved the look of the Griso and the Triumph Scrambler but sitting on them soon ruled them out. Then I saw the 09 custom with the black pipes and thought very nice, but am I still too young at 31 (and after the ZZR) to go sedate. Simple answer, the best money I ever spent. Absolutely the most comfortable and relaxed miles I have ever done on two wheels. As for speed you don't ever feel like you want to rush, and there is plenty there to overtake most traffic anyway. She handles great and I haven't managed to ground the pegs yet. Anybody worried about the weight will be glad to hear it feels like it is carried really low and gives loads of slow speed confidence. I am putting K-Drive panniers on her, but am going to try and resist the temptation to over-bling! Downsides: None really, just adjustments to the class. Remembering to put my feet forward to the pegs instead of down onto the road! Driving her home 300 miles from the dealer in sub zero conditions bought home how much a fairing cocoon's you from the wind chill. Thought I was going to have hand's like Ranulph Fiennes afterwards. Heated grips are on the list. Brakes are what could be classed as a bit lazy, but that is only to be expected after coming from a bike with the same weight but an extra disc. If you find yourself liking the looks, then at least try a test ride before dismissing the idea out of hand. You just might find yourself smitten! I would like to say a big thank you to Lloyd Cooper Motorcycles in Watford for putting in all the effort of finding me an 09 model when everybody else just said can't get one, but here's the 2010 model.
After lots of years on sports tourers, this is my first cruiser. I've always hankered after a Harley but wasn't prepared to pay over the odds for the brand name on something that is inadequate in the stop, go and build-quality departments. I really can't fault the VN Custom in any of these respects, plus it handles very well for a 250kg custom thanks to its 21" front wheel. Not so sure about the finish on the 2009 MY bike, though - I got a good deal on my chrome-laden metallic black 2008 bike registered in April 2009. Despite 4-star scores for ride/handling, equipment and engine, I've rated it 5-star overall because it's a great package and exactly what I wanted.
What can I say? I've had my '07 Custom for nearly 8 months and I love her. Not only is the Custom the best looking sub-1000cc cruiser available, but it's extremely affordable, very comfortable, handles fabulously and performs wonderfully. Considerably cheaper than the basic HD Sportster, the Custom has a bigger engine, bigger fuel tank (i get 200 miles out of mine), looks better, is more comfy and draws more attention than the boring HD. I've spent about £1500 on extras from the US on mine and will keep her until she dies. By far the best looking bike on the road. The only down-sides: Stock exhaust is very quiet, stock seat is uncomfortable after 2-3 hours in it, and the skinny front tyre can easilly get caught following tarmac tracks. Otherwise i'd highly recommend it to anyone if i wasn't a little anxious that they would become as common as muck. I've not seen another on the road since December.
Another awesome cruiser from Kawasaki. Handles like a dream, very stable, accleration awesome, very comfortable beautiful bike. Recommend to anyone who wanted a cruiser bike.