riders are supposed to be rich as Midas, with saddlebags full of money
they're practically panting to spend. Maybe so, but for those of us with
buying power a few clicks down, Kawasaki offers its Voyager. If you want
proof by the numbers, try these figures on for size: At $8700, the Voyager
is $1100 less expensive than the next priciest tourer, Yamaha's Venture;
$2800 less than Honda's GL1500; and a whopping $4300 less than
Harley-Davidson's FLHTC Ultra Classic.
Kawasaki's Voyager is also the quickest in its class. The liquid-cooled,
16-valve, five-speed inline-four provides acceleration both from 0 to 60 mph
and through the quarter-mile that whips every other big-rig tourer. It
complements that impressive speed with an almost ethereal smoothness
(courtesy of twin gear-driven counterbalancers), a broad powerband,
tack-sharp carburetion and instantaneous throttle response. The Voyager's
the class lightweight, too—at least of the big Japanese tourers. Only
Harley's FLTC and FLHTC and BMW's K100LT scale under the Kawasaki's
803-pound wet weight.
But then, the Voyager entered the high-stakes touring game in 1986 with
those attributes, as the quickest, least expensive and one of the lightest.
Not much has changed since then. In 1987 the Voyager gained a cruise
control, rear speakers for the AM/FM cassette deck, winglets on the
fairing's trailing edges and different paint. Otherwise, the firm's flagship
tourer remains the same, with steel-tube frame, triple-disc brakes, manually
adjustable suspension, 16-inch front and 15-inch rear wheels, hydraulically
adjusted valves and a multitude of adjustments for rider and passenger
Out on the superslab, in the land of chicken fried steaks and bottomless
cups of coffee, a rider rarely feels he's had to give up much of consequence
in trade for the Voyager's bargain-basement price. The fairing offers good
wind protection for average-height riders, the riding position is roomy and
relaxed and, set in the lower range of its adjustment, the suspension lets
the bike fairly float over a wide variety of road surfaces. There's abundant
small-item storage, the stereo offers decent sound quality plus a host of
adjustments to amuse the rider, and the cruise control works competently,
exhibiting only a slight jerkiness in maintaining speed on downhills.
Still, there are shortcomings, and first among them is the saddle. The
soft, thin padding practically guarantees you'll be ready to take a break
well before the bike runs through its 6.1-gallon fuel supply. The Voyager
lacks a particularly refined sense of straightline stability, too. The
Dunlop Gold Seal F21 front tire follows rain grooves and pavement ruts, and
even on a smooth surface the bike wanders slightly. And a passenger will
complain about both a shortage of weather protection and a surfeit of wind
Once a rider reaches the bright lights of the big city, he'll be thankful
he's not paying for some things most other tourers have aplenty; namely,
weight and clumsy low-speed handling. The low mass, 16-inch front wheel and
tillerlike handlebars help yield remarkably light, quick steering, making
the Voyager one of the most agile touring bikes at slow speeds. That same
steering quickness, though, exacts a penalty. It's tough to maintain a
precise course at slightly more than a walking pace, especially if the
bike's burdened with a full load and passenger.
Many of those traits characterize the Voyager's twisty road behavior as
well. The bike feels nimble, with slot-car steering response that gets it in
and out of corners quickly. Such assets help rank Kawasaki's
Voyager—again—near the top among touring bikes for back road handling.
Still, a rider needs to exercise a gentle hand at the helm. Flicking the
bike into turns makes the front end feel rubbery, and discourages further
exploration of the rather limited cornering clearance; the footpegs touch
down first and at a lesser lean angle than almost any other modern
For a solo rider, setting the suspension to eight psi in the front, 25
psi in the rear (5.7 to 8.5 psi and 21 to 36 psi are the suggested ranges,
front and rear) and clicking the shocks' rebound damping to the fourth of
their four adjustments gives the best compromise for ride and handling.
Unfortunately, the Voyager's lengthy roster of bests and mosts is
accompanied by a similarly long list of annoyances. Of all the available
adjustments to the handlebars, trunk, passenger saddle and windscreen
height, only the bars offer any useful range.
Anything but the farthest rearward position for the trunk and saddle
cramps riders and passengers of average size, and the same riders end up
looking through the top edge of the screen at its lowest position. Moreover,
the narrow saddlebag openings force you to jam the bag liners in as if you
were stuffing a turkey, and the stereo's main controls are too small for use
with heavy gloves. Balancing that list are the easy-to-use two-stage
mainstand, and the quick-detach saddlebags.
What's important to remember is that many of the Voyager's faults are
largely inconveniences, and not due to the bike's fundamental approach to
touring—one of low-buck; not low-ball. This motorcycle takes the basic
touring-bike formula and folds in a generous mixture of speed, light weight
and agility. For the rider who wants a full measure of amenities for the
long haul, but who has to hold onto a dollar until that eagle grins,
Kawasaki's Voyager still represents a sound investment.
Source Cycle Magazine of 1986