03 Kawasaki VN 800 Drifter discussion forum: War Hoop!
After owning a VN 800 Drifter for a year, I can´t say enough good things about it. Some people look down their nose because, supposedly, Kawa "stole" the Indian Design. But the truth is that the good people at Starklite Indian (faithful manufacturers of repro parts for the Indians from the 40´s) pondered the question: What would it be like to have a bike that LOOKS like an old Indian, but incorporates the latest technology? The Vulcan running gear was chosen because it is a tried and tested design, the bike was built and sold at an auction, causing enough of a stir for Kawasaki to take notice and mass produce the motocycle. Ok, now that we have that straight and know that it is a reliable and running machine, let´s look at performance. Off the showroom floor, the Drifter was a pleasure to ride. It is without any modification a quick and nimble bike, with responsive throttle (thanks to Kawa´s TRIC=Throttle Response Ignition Control) and stops on a dime, thanks to Ninja disc brakes front and rear. What really made my year is that the Drifter is very easy to work on, (I lovingly call it my "Lego bike") and just as easy to modify. After stiffening up the front suspension (which also provides a little more clearance for the floor boards), opening up the exhaust and air flow (yes, you will need to rejet) and advancing the timing, the ride is barely recognizable as the mild mannered mid-sized cruiser. It still doesn´t go over 100 mph, but it does not go over 100 mph very quickly and has no trouble whatsoever to keep up with a Road King decked out with performance parts. The plastic fenders, a turn-off to some people, has the dual advantage of not rusting (a serious problem with the old Indian) and being light weight. Before buying the 800 Drifter, I looked at every make model cruiser available today, and the only thing that made me suspicious was the unabashedly low price, $7000.-! This was my first cruiser (having owned 6 Yamaha XT´s and a Honda 350 flat tracker) and was supposed to be my first cruiser, just to get my feet wet, but guess what? It´s a keeper, not just because it is so much fun to ride, not just because it´s easy to maintain and affordable too, but because it lends itself to mods like nothing else. From the looks to suspension and motor, if you have the inclination to do so, you can build a really spectacular looking bike, and you can build yourself a real go-getter that will have you holding on to your ears! Between the monoshock rear suspension and the Ninja brakes, this bike just encourages you to bring it.Of course it is no match for a Sport bike, but anything in the cruiser class will be hard pressed to keep up through the turns and off the line. And all the while, people will come up to you and tell you what a nice Indian you have there. I love it when the old timers come up to me and tell me "they used to have one of these", and ask what year it is.Starklite Indian was thinking right, because all the old timers agree that for all the beauty and the quaintness of the old Indian, they were a downright pain to maintain and needed a valve adjustment every 200 miles or so, and changing a flat tire meant a long day on the side of the road. 6 easily accessible bolts loosened, a plug disconnected and the entire rear fender comes off, leaving only the axle bolt to be taken off and your tire is ready to be fixed. Oh yeah, it is chain driven, unlike it´s bigger brother with the drive shaft, but if you like to feel connected to the bike and the road, there still is nothing like a chain to do that. Yes, I did my homework before I bought this bike, but still, I have to admit, I lucked out and got a whole lot more than what I was hoping for and paid a lot less for it! If you are considering buying a 800 Drifter, go for it! Just don´t mistake more power for a better bike. The 1500 may look like the "same thing" only larger, but the bigger motor is actually quite doggy and the bike itself does not handle anywhere near as quick and easy as the 800 and only has the advantage of handling more weight and better top end performance. If that is what you want, get a GoldWing or some other geriatric device which there are many of these days. But when it comes to the sheer joy of motorcycling, give the 800 a try, you won´t regret it!
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