The hows and whys of customizing my 2000 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad
When I bought my 2000 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad it had everything I wanted and thought I would ever need as a touring bike. It was a perfect fit for me. The Nomad had two large hard saddle bags, 1500 cc water-cooled V-twin engine that averaged 42 mpg giving it a 150 mile range. I added a sissy bar for my wife’s comfort and luggage rack to carry more. After riding a while I realized some of the things I thought “Nice but not necessary” soon became necessary. One thing lacking was a trunk and comfy back-rest for my wife. When traveling long distances of 1500+ miles and over several days you need more storage. We had learned a lot about packing for those trips but more storage would be nice. The sissy bar was lacking when staying in the saddle for hours and I wanted my wife to enjoy our trips as much as I do. My two riding buddies’ bikes had CB radios as well as AM/FM radios. They could talk about sights, the ride as well as communicate their needs when they needed to stop or whatever. I on the other hand was left to hand signals… It didn’t take long to see the need for a CB. The AM/FM radios were useful for getting local news and weather and just listening to tunes. I had thought about getting a Yamaha Venture, like my two buddies, but the Venture was just too top-heavy and the seat height was just too high for me. Pushing that beast back from a sloping parking spot would have been impossible for me. Because of the seat height and being top-heavy made it hard to get the bike off the side stand and almost impossible if the bike is parked on a slope to the left. I really liked my Nomad so I decided to customize the Nomad adding all “nice but not necessary” things. I searched the internet for after-market products. Eventually, I came up with some good solutions that worked well. Customizing the Nomad ended up being quite a project. But it was very satisfying to do because I ended up having to design a lot of mechanical and electrical parts. What I ended up adding to the Nomad was the following…
- A Radio Caddy batwing style fairing: This was a fairing from trikeshop.com. It looked similar in style to the Harley batwing fairing and it has a compartment which accepts a standard DIN-size radio and two 4″ speakers. That was fine for the marine Clarion AM/FM with a CD player but I needed to add the CB/Intercom combination (see below). My solution was to build another compartment from an electronic project box that screwed to the bottom AM/FM radio compartment.
- A CB/Intercom (rider/passenger) combination: I looked at several CB/Intercom solutions but I chose the one from airrider.com. The Air Rider CB has connections so the AM/FM/CD could be integrated through the CB so you could listen to AM/FM/CD through the helmet headsets. The CB mutes the AM/FM/CD or GPS when a CB transmission is sent or received.
- A trunk: I purchased the trunk from scootworks.com. It to looks very much like the Harley Tour Pack trunk. I added a luggage rack to the top of the trunk for even more carrying capacity. I originally mounted the trunk on top of my existing luggage rack after removing the sissy bar. The problem with that was the trunk sat too high and looked homemade. While the trunk was being painted, I removed the original luggage rack and made my own mounting from 3/8” billet aluminum and polished it to a chrome like finish. This lowered the trunk and made it look more finished. I also moved the helmet hooks from the rear crash bars to the bottom of the trunk mount. Moving the helmet hooks made them more accessible and easier to attach the helmets.
- A Garmin GPS: I bought part of a motorcycle mount for the GPS and made the rest. The part of the mount I didn’t buy looked rather kludgy. What I made looks better. The voice commands of the GPS were integrated into the audio system.
- Driving lights: Driving/fog lights were mounted to the front crash bar. I bought the lights without the mounting and I made my own mounts.
- CB antennas: I made mounts for the 2 CB antennas from billet aluminum and polished it to a chrome like finish.
- A fairing dash: There was a significant amount of exposed wiring from all the extra added electronics plus I need places to add switches. The solution was a dash. The dash would allow me to mount switches for the driving lights, and a switch for switching from the external speakers to the helmet headset. I added an extra switch, to fill in a empty space, to integrate the garage door opener. Because I will eventually add a trailer hitch I added a switch for the future trailer running lights, which also integrates the driving lights switch. I added an indicator LED for the driving lights. I moved the turn signal, neutral, and high beams indicators from the gas tank to up on the dash. To fill in space and kind of finish out the dash I added an analog clock and thermometer.
- Cruise control: I found plans to add a cruise control on the internet and planned to add this later.
There were a number of electrical issues that came up but I was able to find solutions on the internet in a timely manner to resolve them. Most of them had to do with noise in the audio. I was to have all the above finished sometime in January and ready for our ride to Big Bend in April but because of problems with the painter (fairing and trunk) I did not get the fairing and trunk back until a couple of days before our trip in April. I got my bike together but I had planned on taking all these additions out on a shakedown run long before the trip. I was very uneasy about taking all the additions on this long ride. I got everything back from the painter late Wednesday. I spent a few hours Wednesday night getting a few things done in preparation for mounting everything and all day Thursday getting everything put together. I did run into several problems while assembling it all but I figured out some workarounds. I ended up mounting the GPS in a different place than I had planned but I think where I mounted it is better than the original place. I had a wire to the driving lights come off a terminal so the driving lights didn’t come on once I got everything together. That would not have been a big deal except the fairing was a real pain to mount with the dash I had made. There were 2 bolts that were very difficult to reach because the dash made it hard to get my hand into position. The 2nd time I tried the driving lights still didn’t work because I put the wire on the wrong terminal. Fortunately that terminal wasn’t connected to anything. Third time was a charm. Friday my brother Gary got here before lunch so he helped me set the SWR on the CB. The rest of the crew didn’t get here until about 8:00 PM and by then a thunderstorm was blowing in. They managed to stay just ahead of the storm until they got here. They had trailered their bikes from Alabama (950 miles). When we were unloading the bikes from the trailer it started to pour down and we got soaked. Everyone pulled their bikes into the garage. The four bikes barely fit. The next morning it was windy and cold when we left on our trip to Big Bend. Amazingly everything worked very well. Janet liked the Mustang back-rest with arm rest and we both liked being able to communicate with the other three bikes. It was a great ride without these additions but an even better ride with them. All in all, I think I hit a home run.