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.
Testing wiring harness and components
Installing components and wiring harness into the fairing.
Customized and on the road to Big Bend
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.
Posted in Miscellaneous
Tagged 1500cc, Air Rider, airrider.com, AM/FM, audio, audio system, Batwing fairing, Big Bend, bikes, billet aluminum, CB, cb transmission, Clarion, cruise control, custom, Customizing, dash, design, din, driving lights, electronics, fairing, fog lights, garage door opener, garmin gps, gas tank, GPS, Harley, helmet hooks, intergrate, kawasaki, Kawasaki Nomad, kawasaki nomad 1500, kawasaki vulcan 1500, kawasaki vulcan 2000, Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad, led, luggage rack, Marine radio, mechanical, motorcycle driving lights, motorcycle seats, Motorcycle Touring, motorcycling, mount, mustang backrest, noise, nomad, project box, radio, Radio Caddy, riding buddies, Seat height, speakers, swr, top heavy, Tour pack, touring, touring bike, trike shop, trikeshop.com, trunk, trunk mount, v-twin, venture, vulcan, vulcan nomad, water cooled, yamaha
Someone is always asking me what motorcycle I ride and why. I’ve owned only 5 two-wheeled vehicles (1 scooter & 4 motorcycles). My first was a 1963 Cushman Super Silver Eagle motor scooter. I loved that scooter and had a blast riding it and it ignited my love of riding. Later in my late 20’s I bought a Kawasaki 250 and rode it for a few months. I soon wanted something bigger. A friend was riding a Honda 450 and I wanted something like that. I bought a new 1975 Kawasaki KZ400. I rode the wheels off of it. I took two long trips (Dallas, Texas to Denver, Colorado – 1837 miles & Houston, Texas to Bryant, Alabama – 1650 miles) on the KZ400. From those two trips I was hooked on motorcycle touring. But… not long afterward I got married and sold my KZ400 when our first daughter was born (the sale helped with the hospital bill). It wasn’t until 2000 that I was able to renew my passion for riding and touring. I told my wife I would like to get another motorcycle and she said “You should… You never buy anything for yourself”… And the rest is history.
Me and my Cushman Super Eagle
Not my Kawasaki 250 but one like it…
My KZ400 ready to go to Alabama…
My 2000 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad.
It was then I started looking for the perfect touring motorcycle. There were many bikes to choose from but there were a lot of things to consider. As a vertically challenged person (5’ 6”) there are issues. There are advantages to being short but not very many and when it comes to motorcycle riding there aren’t any… So I am jealous of you taller riders… In order to handle the bigger touring bikes you as a rider need to be able to get your feet solidly on the ground.
- A must for balance.
- A must to pushing the bike backward.
- A must for passenger mounting and dismounting.
- A must for stopping on uneven ground.
At this time seat height was my main concern and thus a limitation for several of the bikes I looked at. The weight of the bike was not an issue for me as long as I had my feet firmly planted. I decided that a seat height of 29” was a maximum height for me and that was pushing it.
I learned this from riding larger bikes of friends and checking out the different bikes in showrooms. My best friend an old Air Force buddy bought a 2000 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad. I had ridden his bike and it was a good fit. I had looked at other bikes… mainly the Yamaha’s and the Kawasaki Voyager. I had thought about the Honda Goldwing also but the Nomad had everything I wanted and was reasonably priced. I purchased a 2000 Nomad in July of 2000.
Nice and Necessary
I loved the Nomad and over time found all those things I thought to be “nice but not necessary” were “necessary and not nice to not have them”.
- A large comfortable seat and backrest for my wife. Nobody’s happy if the wife is not happy… Just kidding… I realized long ago as a rider you need a good seat if you are in the saddle very long. I like having my wife ride with me and I would do anything to insure that she continued riding.
- A trunk. Duh, you can never have too much storage space especially when traveling with the love of you life.
- An intercom for rider & passenger. It wasn’t long that Janet & I bought an intercom to solve the problem of communicating.
- A CB. When riding in a group and everyone but you has a CB radio it doesn’t take long to figure out a CB is essential.
- A weather radio. This is a “duh” after riding very long. Not knowing for sure what those dark clouds up ahead have in store for you. With the weather band you can find out and take action if needed.
- A GPS. I thought this was stupid even in a car but after Janet got me one for Christmas, it didn’t take long to realize the need. Especially when riding through large cities and towns you aren’t familiar with. It also helps find gas stations, motels… etc.
- AM/FM radio & CD player. Sometimes it is just nice to listen to music. You can also get local weather information. Don’t get me wrong, riding with nothing but the hum of the engine and wind is nice too.
- A larger gas tank. When riding in remote areas like West Texas where gas stations are few and far between and sometime not open when you need them, a larger tank for longer cruising range is a must.
Having realize all of the above, I began looking for solutions. I loved the Nomad but it was lacking. My solution was to add after market products. The products I added are…
- Radio Caddy Batwing Fairing.
- AM/FM/CD Marine radio.
- CB radio with intercom and ability to integrate other audio equipment. (AM/FM/CD radio & GPS)
- Tour Pack Style trunk with Mustang backrest.
My customized Nomad
My customized Nomad in Big Bend
These addition served us well but what I really wanted was something more like a Honda Goldwing. These additions were invaluable but only delayed me buying a new bike with “all of the above”.
Center of Gravity
Over time I realized another consideration was the bike’s center of gravity. When stopped a high center of gravity means the point where you lean and drop the bike is slight. Dropping a bike is no fun… 1) You have to pick it up and… 2) IT IS EMBARRASSING! The center of gravity also affects how the bike handles at slow speeds. Like when maneuvering through parking lots and tight places. The lower the center of gravity the better it handles…
My search for a solution, to all of the above issues, kept bringing me back to the Honda Goldwing. It had everything. All the “Nice and necessary” things mentioned above plus heated seats and grips and a reverse ( no more issues with pushing the bike backwards out of a parking spot)! My biggest issue with the Wing was the seat height of 29.1”. Before buying a wing, I looked at ways of lowering the bike or reducing the seat height. I could stand straddle of the bike flat-footed with my boots on but there wasn’t a lot of room for error. Lowering the seat or bike seemed the solution. The other issue was the price vs. some of the other bike offerings. On returning from one of our trips we stopped a the local Honda dealer here. My friends from Alabama and Georgia told me I could get a good deal from the Honda dealer (Southern Honda) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Later I check their prices online and they were a lot cheaper. Thousands cheaper. Thus the wheels were turning and I looked at ways to make it happen. In October 2009 I bought a new 2008 Honda Goldwing from the dealer in Chattanooga. I will probably never own a better bike.
After I bought the Wing, I found the seat height hasn’t been that big of a problem. The seat height is still stock. It would be nice if the seat was lower but I am fine with the way it is. The Wing has a very low center of gravity that translates into amazing handling. The “horizontal six” is the smoothest ever and it has lots of power for mountain riding. My wife loves her seat and we both love the heated seats. I thought I would miss the floorboards or the heel/toe shifter but I don’t. I did raise and bring back the handlebars a bit which fits me better. I added the CB and a MP3 player and other things for touring. The Wing is one great bike for traveling and we look forward to making many long trips on it.
We have done many long rides on the Nomad and Wing. You can read about them here. Ride safe… I hope we see you somewhere on the road…
Posted in Riding Tips
Tagged after market, AM/FM, Batwing fairing, buying a bike, buying a motorcycle, CB, Center of gravity, Cushman Super Silver Eagle, Cushman. Super Eagle, custom nomad, Goldwing, goldwing honda, goldwing motorcycles, GPS, handlebar, heated seats, Honda, honda gold wing, honda goldwing, honda goldwing 1800, honda motorcycle, Intercom, kawasaki, Kawasaki 250. Honda Goldwing, Kawasaki Nomad, Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad, KZ400, motorcycle cb radio, motorcycle dealers, motorcycle ride, motorcycle riding, motorcycle road trips, Motorcycle Touring, motorcycle touring tips, motorcycle travel, motorcycle trip, motorcycling, my first bike, nomad, riding tips, Seat height, tips, Tour pack, touring motorcycles, touring tips, trunk, vulcan, vulcan nomad, weather radio, what bike should i buy