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Thread: Decade of Decadence (part 2 of 8)

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    Flirting With The Redline 10,000 Posts! Shadow Shack's Avatar
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    Las VLXas, Nevada U.S.A.
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    Decade of Decadence (part 2 of 8)

    Customarily Minded
    November 11, 2008

    copyright owned by author

    A Decade of Decadence --- the Life and Times of Shadow Shack's Multitude of Motorcycles

    PART 2 of 8

    Late summer, 1998. I had just turned 30, she was 45...a recent widower with a fair inheritance. You know, a sugar mama. Why be biased? Young gals have sugar daddies, so there's no shame in putting the shoe on the other foot for a change...right? She wanted to buy me something special, I wanted to make sure I got what I wanted. It was almost a brand butt-spanking new LC1500, if memory serves me it was the first year for the bike.

    I really wanted a sportbike, but didn't want to be burdened by the rediculous insurance premiums...sugar mama or not (always think about the future). One bike kept calling to me, even though I couldn't quite achieve solid footing when parked. All the reviews said the same thing: despite the competition's best efforts, it's still the fastest V2 cruiser on the market. It had sportbike-like frame geometry and ground clearance, and John Deere-like stump pulling torque. It had a 1500cc powerplant but tipped the scales at 1100cc cruiser weights. It had everything going for it except for a pretty face.

    That bike of course was the 1987-1998 Kawasaki VN1500A Vulcan, the pre-Classic line aka "BUBF" model (Butt Ugly But Fast). This was a 95 model, lightly used but nicely equipped and moderately priced. Prior owner touches included Cobra slip on mufflers, chrome palted lower case covers and under-seat side covers, a chromed grill, Fire & Steel mini case guard, artistic detailing, raised white letter tires, and debadged tank. And it had a four speed tranny...something I was already quite familiar with after a year on the VLX. I put it on a credit card, she paid it off when the bill arrived.

    Now I had two bikes. This one was the best of both worlds, it got up and went like a scalded cat. First gear would easily carry me to 50mph, second to 70-something, and third got me into the ton...even with a passenger going uphill. My sportbike buddy clocked me at 140 sustained in top gear. The OEM seat was actually quite comfy and never gave me the numb-butt syndrome that the VLX did on the out of towning ventures. The bike was just as comfortable at 55mph cruises as it was at 100mph sustained. I got between 32 and 42mpg depending on the freeway cruise or red to red racing scenarios. The 4.2 gallon tank seemed huge in comparison to the VLX, but the 120-160 mile range made it even smaller.

    I never got to modify the beast, despite the trouble it got me into on numerous occassions. And I'm not just referring to the speeding ticket or following get-offs either. The bike turned into a constant source of rind. L-E-M-O-N. Following the 6K service, it developed a simultaneous coolant and oil leak. That's when I discovered how quickly Kawasaki can get parts for current production models to a dealership, it needed a total of five seals and the dealer had one in stock. The other four came two months later. At least the transferable extended warranty kept the labor cost out of the issue while the tires sat dry rotting.

    Next up came a brake fluid leak on the master cylinder. This time the only part needed was in stock, so I got it back in a matter of hours. A short time after that, the fuel line cracked and spewed gas all over the parking lot while I worked. I saw the resulting stain on the asphalt, smelled the gas odor, and the bike wouldn't fire. Until I flipped the reserve switch, and then the source was immediately apparent. It looked like Niagra Falls under the tank!

    So that brings me up to all four fluid leaks within a nine month period. Oh wait, there were a few other quirks. The starter switch would intermittently not work, until I "bumped" the tranny withthe bike in gear, and then the switch would turn the starter motor over. Of course this NEVER happened for the Kawasaki techs in order to further test the limits of this extended waranty (the only thing about the bike that enede up being reliable). The "adjustable" horn was another quirk, I'd spend 15-20 minutes before each ride removing the horn, adjusting the screw behind it until the horn would sound, reinstall the horn, have it not work, remove the horn, adjust the screw until it worked, replace the horn, have it not work, remove the horn, adjust the screw behind it until the horn would work, reinstall the horn, have it not work, etc...etc...etc...and finally when it would work I'd ride off and not even two blocks later the horn would not work. Andlet's see...the long but distinguishing list of parts that rattled loose and fell off, including screws to the rear brake lever actuator, a rear peg mount/muffler mount screw, all four directional screws, one heat shield that was deposited both in the path of my rear tire and the front tire of a dump truck behind me, and the speedo cable disconnected at the axle end dropping the cable out of the sheathe somewhere between my house and Boulder Beach at Lake Mead (about 50 miles worth of curvy roads I vainly searched before sunset). There's more but that's what stood out the most.

    Ah yes, and the fine quality craftsmanship of Kawasaki's fasteners can't be overlooked either. I learned that one between two oil changes I performed on my bike and one I did on a friend's ZX-6R Ninja, that the best advice for any Kawasaki owner is to buy one drain plug with four quarts of oil and the oil filter, or else the old one will strip and leak despite using torque wrenches to the specified setting and resulting oil pukes directly in the path of the rear tire, and further resulting of returning to the dealership for a new drain plug and four more quarts of oil to replace the brand new fresh oil that will dump out as soon as you remove the POS leaker.

    So I finally get around to saving up enough money to buy a windshield and saddlebags for the bike, and the bike behaves long enough to deserve some additional spending, and then I have two drops. One during a sub-freezing January morning combined with lawn sprinkler run off at a four way stop, and about six weeks later the overdue front brake pads don't work too well resulting in a dump on the other side. On that note I'll tell one of the few aftermarket tidbits I did manage to add: NGK performance plug wires. If you're ever hard pressed in deciding whether to invest $30 into new plug wires or overdue replacement front brake pads, take a lesson from me: go for the latter.

    Windshield and saddlebag money suddenly get diverted towards OEM replacement parts, including a dull boring black grill to replace that once former chrome one that got hammered when the case guard collased into it, a pair of master cylinder caps (one for the clutch, one for the brake), a new front fender minus the cool artistic detailing, rewelding the frame bracket for one of the mufflers, a mirror mount, and a pair of levers to replace the now matching curled units, and oh yeah...tossing the bent case guard.

    Then I learned an all new and exciting bad habit with the bike: fishtailing (now known as drifting) and wheelies. About the same time another friend let me take a spin on his kick start only Ironhead Sportster chopper, with Euro-foot controls (clutch on the right/rear brake on the left), and the hot rod era ended for me. I knew what I wanted next, despite having lost the sugar mama to make it so.

    After I turned 31, the bike went to the dealership on consignment, lingered for a while despite the aforementioned attempts at "bribes & bonuses" to the sales staff, and terminated when the call came in from the dealership concerning the new and improved Kelly Blue Book retail listings for the bike.

    See, buyers wanted form over function by then, and the 1500A had just been announced as discontinued in favor of the better selling but much slower and much heavier 1500 Classic. Sure, it had the same engine, albeit with 100 more pounds in the longer beefier frame and one less carburetor to restrict breathing for the overweight pig, but at least the pig looked like the competition's 1100 ACE which looked like the other competition's Softail line, which is what buyers wanted more than get up and go.

    And you thought HONDA was the first to dumb down their bikes (re: 99+ VLX minus one carb and current 750 minus one carb + shaft drive formula: less power, more weight)

    So when I went to the dealer to discuss pricing options, I took another gander at a used bike that had been lingering for a while next to my consigned congenital conundrum. It was a 95 VLX deluxe, 1423 miles, "Live to Ride/Ride to Live" gold embossed mirrors, master cylinder cover, and air cleaner. And then I get the sales staff to fire it up for me, and oh the bonus: debaffled stock pipes that were loud enough to peel the paint off the wall! I already had a couple leads for some chopper-like goods for the VLX in mind for the first bike, and then it hits me: get another, ride the first while the new one's down.

    So I ask the sales manager about trading my 1500 title for title toward that 95 VLX. He reverts back to the KBB guide, flips a few pages, crunches a few numbers, then looks up at me and says "Yeah, we can do that. But I gotta be honest with you...are you SURE you want to trade a 1500 down towards a 600?"

    Did I even have to think about it? After all the problems that piece of scatology ushered unto me? And all the while how the "other" bike never complained once with a year head start? OW!!! STOP TWISTING MY ARM!!! Okay, I'll do it, where do I sign?"

    One more "Are you absolutely sure?" And I said "Yeah, I want something light to make a chopper out of." They looked at me like I had three heads. "Kid, nobody makes chopper stuff for these bikes. If they did, we'd have done one by now." "Are we gonna do this?" was all I could say, followed by, "Hey, it's a Honda. I've had good experiences with that brand in the past."

    Bike #3 found a new home in my garage.

    Ironically, despite all the problems that bike gave me, I still find myself missing it and lusting after the power and crispy handling it offered when it was working right. It truly was a power cruiser, and while it didn't live up to the V4 namesake it sure was the biggest kick in the pants you could get from a V-Twin. No other big bike in production today has been able to come close to replicating that ride, save for one: the 1400 Intruder/S-83 to which the 1500A Vulcan was originally designed to compete with. I sometimes wish I had another just to show up the multitude of big inch lumber truck sized bikes of today, and suck their headlights out as I leave them in my wake. Acquiring another is still a distinct possibility, I've seen a few over the years listing for $2500...

    (to be continued...)

    PM or E-mail Shadow Shack through his profile and challenge him to a BUBF drag race.

    Customarily Minded Wicked Wonder of the Week

    This week's bad boy is something I'd have no qualms replicating if I were to ever acquire another BUBF. This stunning example sports an aftermarket wide glide raked triple tree coupled to the BUBF's replacement VN1500D Classic's front end, and an aftermarket fender blank to better accomodate the fatter front hoop. HEadwinds brand headlight and a wide set of dresser bars rounds out the leading edge. The wider Classic tank also gets transferred to the BUBF frame, and the tail is lowered a couple inches to support the additional rake up front. Another aftermarket fender blank covers the rear rubber, which surrounds a Classic rear wheel to match the spoked front. A reupholstered BUBF seat pan wedged between the new fender and tank. The lower case covers recieved the similar chrome bath treatment that my bike once had performed, and the grill was swapped to a chrome piece as well. The business end sports a Cobra slash cut system fed by DUAL hyperchargers, one feeding each carb.

    Meaner and cleaner, I thought the stock bike was nasty.
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    Last edited by subvetSSN606; 11-16-2008 at 07:19 AM.
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