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Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 Cruiser vs BMW R1200GS

The R1200GS and Vulcan 2000 LT

During a recent trip to Botswana we had the opportunity to take our newly acquired BMW GS through its paces and thought it appropriate, to share our views concerning the two totally different beasts with our Biker friends, who may not have had the privilege to experience the two types for themselves.

When comparing the specifications, it becomes clear that these are very different designs, and as it pans out, optimised for very different ride experiences.

The Cruiser has a low revving high torque engine whilst the GS has a high compression and revving engine. The GS is much lighter with smaller wheels and uses a drive shaft to the rear wheel.

Ride comparison

On a smooth tarred road the Cruiser cannot be beaten for both rider and pillion comfort. The rider is protected from wind gusts by the large windscreen and the sheer weight of the bike makes it very insensitive to wind and movement of the pillion. The large and wide seats with foot plates make long distance riding a pleasure.

In contrast the GS seating position is totally different for both the rider and pillion with narrow seats and foot pegs. The small windscreen only buffers the rider from in-line wind and any gusts or winds from the side are fully felt and absorbed by the rider and pillion upper bodies. The relative light weight of the GS also makes it much more sensitive to wind and movement of the pillion and thus more taxing for extended time in the saddle.

The GS however comes to its own when the road is no longer smooth (repaired pot holes etc.) when the suspension setting to “Comfort” dampens out any road bumps. The cruiser suspension was not designed for this type of surface and the rider feels every bump transmitted through to the handle bars.

The cruiser handles long sweeping turns in passes very well, but cannot be compared to the immaculate road handling of the GS when set to “Sports” mode.

The cruiser is very happy plodding along at 110 km/h and the general vibration levels increase drastically above 130 km/h. In contrast the GS cruises like a dream up to 180 km/h when fully laden and the high speed stability is something to be experienced. Engine and wind noise is also a lot less on the GS.

Although the cruiser has 200 Nm of torque available to pass traffic ahead, the lighter GS does this without having to gear down and provides better fuel economy.

The cruiser has two side panniers and a rear carrier to fit a custom baggage bag providing ample space for about a weeks’ worth of clean clothes. The GS has custom top-and side boxes which can be expanded in size and is easy to remove with even more luggage space than the cruiser.

The cruiser is a real hand-full when riding in town, mainly due to the weight, whereas the GS is a pleasure riding in- between the traffic.

When it comes to dirt roads, the cruiser is a definite no-no as she is not happy riding on any dirt road, no matter how smooth. With specific off-road suspension settings, the GS handles dirt roads very well with one exception……as long as there is no SAND! (We have realised that GS stands for GEEN SAND).

Vulcan view from rider position

GS rider view – sand on the right should be avoided!

GS side and top boxes

Vulcan side and top panniers

In conclusion

In our opinion the GS is a very versatile and capable motorcycle for a multiple of road surfaces but does not quite match up to the ride comfort of the cruiser on specifically long distance smooth tar road rides. We are however very fortunate to have two wonderful bikes to choose from when planning our rides.

Safe riding!

Philip and Marietjie VOG 354

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