A hazy April afternoon cruising through the long, winding roads of the Northamptonshire countryside. Mark Shippey bonds with Kawasaki's VN1600 Classic
Click to read: Kawasaki VN1600 Classic owners reviews, Kawasaki VN1600 Classic specs and to see the Kawasaki VN1600 Classic image gallery.
Long low and covered in chrome the VN is a beautifully designed piece of kit. Clean lines, curvaceous bodywork, detailed engine, shrouded telescopic forks, and oh-so wide bars. But its all on the minimalist side of overkill, which is nice.
The massive engine thrums into life like an Ann Summers' bestseller with a simple push of the button. Take hold of the fat bars, stomp her into first and head for the sunset. The exhaust note on the standard pipes is loud enough to compliment the thumping 1552cc's, and idling through town a little blip of the throttle will give that classic note all cruiser riders love to hear.
Although the Classic is incredibly heavy (307 kilos) and takes some time to get used to at slow speed, once on the open road she bursts into life. Slow? I don't think so. Compared with many of her 'Cruiser' brethren, she is no slouch. Any super cruiser that can fire up to 50mph in first, and 90mph in second gear is definitely not slow. The massive 94ft lbs of torque is produced so low down this beast will pull big time from around 40mph in top, leaving all and sundry whimpering in your red and chromed wake.The seat is brilliant. Wide and thickly padded, with a neat lower lumbar support incorporated to keep your back straight to prevent the usual back ache on longer rides.
Pillion comfort is fairly well catered for too. The pegs are not too high and the rear pad is fairly generous. All that is missing is the obligatory sissy bar, but like any good manufacturer this comes for an extra few bucks. Handling is only minimally affected two up, and the stepped rear pad means they can at least see where you are heading.
Happy trolling the back roads, the VN changes into a nightmare from hell as soon as she sniffs a motorway. Lurching forward with great gusto, she will comfortably sail to 70mph, still leaving plenty of power for top gear overtaking. However, this is where the problems begin. The bars are so wide that there is no way of tucking anything in to streamline your body once over the legal speed limit. It feels more like a personal test of endurance than a Sunday afternoon cruise. Neck muscles pulse as your head is banged side-to-side, shoulders strain to keep your arms pinned to the grips, and thighs burn from clinging tightly to the tank as you squeeze every last ounce of speed from this iron horse. I managed to reach 110mph, and there was still room for a little more but I would be buggered if I thought my body would do anything other than spontaneously implode if I tried.
Drop below 70, head for the solitude of your favourite A-roads, and it becomes a whole new ball game. The riding position is relaxed and oh-so comfy and the wide bars make it easy to control. The suspension is a little soft but more than competent and the very low center of gravity means she is happy to be slung into relatively fast sweeping corners. Ground clearance is never fantastic on cruisers, but the long hero blobs on the bottom of the foot boards give you plenty of warning of any imminent wipe-out. The well-balanced shaft drive makes for a positive response and has the added bonus of being maintenance free.
Read the verdict of the Kawasaki VN1600 Classic review.
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