Out on the road we enjoyed the surge of power delivered with the first crack of the Honda’s throttle, and off the line the CTX has an edge on the Vulcan. Throttle response is immediate and gratifying, as fueling on the CTX700N is crisper and cleaner than the Kawasaki’s more abrupt throttle response and choppier fuel delivery. A trip on the MotoUSA dyno confirmed our seat-of-the-pants assumptions. The 2015 CTX700N delivers 40 lb-ft of torque at 2900 rpm and stays in that range until 5400 rpm, peaking at 41.19 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm. The Honda’s powerplant reaches its peak 43.04 hp @ 6100 rpm on its way to its 6600 rpm ceiling.
The Kawasaki Twin generates a higher peak torque output of 42.43 lb-ft @ 5700 rpm, but it doesn’t match the CTX on the bottom end. The Vulcan doesn’t hit the 40 lb-ft of torque range until 4800 rpm, however, the 649cc Kawasaki engine revs much higher than its Honda rival. The result is loads more horsepower, topping out at 55.9 hp @ 7500 rpm on its way to a 9300 rpm redline. Top end is where Kawasaki’s decision to go with an oversquare design pays dividends because long after the CTX700X taps out, the Vulcan S is still revving.
The CTX700N is fine as long as you keep it in its happy place in the low- to midranges, but it hits the rev limiter way earlier, so you’re shifting a lot more so than on the Kawasaki. In sixth gear on the Honda there’s a lack of roll-on too, and if you’re on a freeway with a 75 mph speed limit, you’ll be gritting you’re teeth getting by semis while it slowly builds up steam. Conversely, the Vulcan S provides plenty of passing power, even in the higher rpm range of fifth and sixth gear.
“The CTX700N engine has a nice amount of pull at the initial application, noticeably snappier than the Vulcan S. The rev range is limited to maintain that pull though, and drop off is dramatic before reaching the red line, which comes quickly. First gear seems to cut out far too soon, and power shuts down abruptly if you tip the needle past the rev limit. In practice I found myself keeping the CTX a gear higher than the Vulcan S at similar speeds to ensure there was something available when I needed to pass,” said MotoUSA Associate Editor and fellow test rider Byron Wilson.
Since you’ll be running through gears more frequently on the Honda, it’s fortunate the CTX700 gearbox shifts smoothly and lever pull is light. Gears fall into place quietly with little fuss. On the Vulcan S, the transmission’s gear ratios allow riders to get the most out of every shift, but engagement isn’t as clean as the Honda’s. We did appreciate that sixth on the Vulcan S is more potent than sixth on the CTX700, which acts primarily as an overdrive.
We spent plenty of time running through those gears on the strip of nearby Highway 199 that snakes through Smith River canyon in a blend of tight, blind 15 mph corners around rocky bends to wide-open sweepers through evergreen forests. The CTX700N shines on these roads, input at the bars is nominal as it flows predictably and precise through the turns. The Vulcan S is able to keep pace but requires more work at the bars to keep it on line. Both exceed typical cruiser levels of capability, but the Honda executes turns with less fuss and greater stability.
One of the reasons for this is the CTX700N’s fork being set at a sportier rake angle of 27.7 degrees compared to the Vulcan S setting of 31 degrees. The CTX700N is also slightly more compact than the Kawasaki, its 60.2-inch wheelbase 1.8-inches shorter than the Vulcan S. The Honda is16.5 pounds lighter as well, tipping our scales with a curb weight of 483 pounds. Another barometer that tips the handling equation in favor of the Honda is both Wilson and I found the suspension on the CTX700N to be the better sorted of the two.
“Suspension-wise, the CTX700N felt plusher than the Vulcan S. It soaked up bumps well at lower speeds and is surprisingly adept in the twisties. It holds its line well and really encourages the rider to lean a bit more and carry more speed through the next corner. It carries its weight low and takes only the slightest input to dip into turns,” said Wilson.
That said, the fork on the CTX700N is soft, most noticeably at higher speeds. The Pro-Link shock on the rear is sprung better and soaks up bumps well as it has a 1.1-inch advantage in travel compared to the Vulcan S. With a 225-pound rider onboard, the Kawasaki’s single Kayaba laydown shock is frequently taxed to the limits of its range.