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Packing the 500 Vulcan for touring

The 500 Vulcan isn't likely what you would think of as a touring bike, unless you had a 500 Vulcan and wanted to go touring with it. Generally the touring bike category is occupied by large displacement bikes equipped with hard luggage and large fuel tanks, and mostly over 500 pounds. Not a particularly good choice for a new rider, certainly not a 5'2" 115 lb. rider with a 28.5 inch inseam. Dismissing the idea of a larger touring bike, I started to figure out how to tour on the EN 500 Vulcan. It turns out to be a very capable touring bike well suited to a smaller rider, who doesn't mind frequent stops for gas.

A 500 Vulcan packed for a few days of camping

Packing the Vulcan at first seemed a bit of a challenge. Finding a good 'tail-bag' with bungee points on four courners to fit onto the back seat solved my packing needs for day-trips, commuting and a weekend away if I packed light. I never liked carrying a knapsack, I don't think it's very safe, and I know it's uncomfortable. The tailbag provided about the same volume of packing space and attached easily to my bike, not my body. When I started to think about touring, packing camping gear onto my bike, I looked around for more ways to attach gear to the Vulcan. I tried saddle bags, on one trip only, and never used them again. They caught so much wind, acting like a drag 'chute, so much so I thought there was something wrong with my motor. That trip taught me the importance of aerodynamic packing on a small-displacement touring bike. Tool-bags that mount across the forks could be found to fit the Vulcan, but they have never appealed to me - it's not really a very good place to keep your tools for one thing. A tank bag was out of the question, the steeply angled Vulcan tank is hard to fit, and anything that covers the gas-cap quickly becomes tiresome. Luggage you have to remove five or more times a day to add gas would not be convenient. Eventually I saved up for the Kawasaki accessory tail-rack, which fits neatly into the frame rails and passenger back-rest, and doubled my packing space. It has proven to be a very worthwhile investment.

Example of a packed Vulcan 500

I've learned to keep most of the weight of the pack on the rear seat, and less heavy items on the rear-rack. The two bags form a platform around which other items can be packed, as you can see in the photo above. If too much weight is packed too far back on the bike, on the tail or tail rack, the front wheel gets pretty light, and if the pack is too top heavy, handling the bike at low speeds gets much more challenging.

Andrea and her Vulcan 500

In the photo above you can see the tail-rack and the engine-guard, both Kawasaki 'Fire and Steel' accessories for the 500 Vulcan. I found the tail-rack very useful, and the engine guard not so useful; I'd hoped to mount highway pegs on it, but they wouldn't really be in a comfortable place, and I decided not to put the engine guard back on after the motor was rebuilt.

EN 500 Vulcan packed with touring gear This photo shows a relatively similar packing job, although this was a different trip than the 'anatomy of a pack' photo above, I'm loaded with most of the same components in the pack. As you can see, I end up with a comfortable backrest when it's all packed.
Bungee points are plentiful on the Vulcan, the chromed frame rails have notches hidden under them, and you can fit a bungee hook into the the end above the rear shock too. The passenger back-rest is easily bungeed around, as is the accessory rack. Getting luggage with loops to attach bungee hooks to helps extend your packing space.

Packing Tools

Packing the right tools for your bike is important, and knowing what bits and pieces will be useful in the event of a road-side breakdown. In addition to the tools you see here, I recommend a roll of duct-tape and a siphon or length of tubing. With the Vulcan's small gas-tank, you'll eventually encounter a situation where you'll be glad you have it.

Tool Roll folded up and packed - can be rolled or folded to fit into different shaped spaces in your pack. Tool Roll for motorcycle touring Tool Roll opened up
When you open up the tool roll and fold up the flap, you get a little working surface to lay your tools and parts on as you work on your bike.

Motorcycle touring tool roll, opened up

Even if your bike is very reliable, tools are handy to have - zip ties are great for fixing broken zipper tabs, on your gear or clothing. Fuses are always nice - if you ever have the chance to assist a stranded motorcycle rider with nothing more than a few cents worth of fuse, you'll be extra glad to have them. I've had this tool roll for years now, and it goes practically everywhere I do.

More on Packing Tools

Vulcan Pages: Brochure - Diagrams - Packing

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