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Will Kawasaki Ever Bring Back the Mean Streak?

Will Kawasaki Ever Bring Back the Mean Streak

Ask MO Anything - Kawasaki Mean Streak

Dear MOby?

Will they ever bring it back? Great bikes.

Rick York
Gmail man


Dear Rick,

As we’re all not aware, the Mean Streak was a power cruiser Kawasaki sprung in 2002, when power cruisers were a big deal. The Harley-Davidson V-Rod had appeared a few years earlier, in 1999, and imitation was the sincerest form of flattery then as now – even weak imitation.

What you were looking at in 2002 was a 1470cc Kawasaki SOHC fuel-injected 50-degree V-Twin, which was bumped up to 1552cc via a bore increase, from 2004 until the Streak ended after 2008. In spite of all those cubic centimeters – and hotter cams, higher compression, bigger valves in freer-flowing heads and larger fuel-injection throttle bodies – the Mean Streak wasn’t particularly fast. But it was fast enough, and did have a reputation for being pretty sporty thanks to its inverted cartridge-style fork, air- and damping-adjustable shocks, big dual front disc brakes with six-piston calipers, and sporty 17-inch wheels.

Seems like it was a nice-enough bike and comfortable/practical, too, judging from MO’s 2007 Power Cruisers Shootout, where the Streak finished in a disappointing tie for next-to-last place with the Yamaha V-Max (which was kind of a wild-card entry).

2007 Power Cruisers Shootout

Guest tester Buzglyd(!) nicely summed up why:

So, with the third largest engine of the five, nice styling, a comfortable riding environment, light handling, great brakes and the tiniest price tag, how is it that the Mean Streak winds up one tick off the bottom? Buzglyd summarizes it best when he said, “We all marveled at what a good all-around motorcycle it was and it’s clearly the most inexpensive in the test. If you’re a 40 year-old virgin looking to be a badass this might be your machine. But this [category] is about being bold and dangerous; not virtuous. As nice as it is, I voted it Miss Congeniality.”

Cruisers and customs of all kinds did not do well in the aftermath of the Housing Bubble implosion. An interesting tidbit from that 2007 comparison was this: Today Kawasaki’s cruiser line-up consists of 15 models, 14 of which proudly carry the Vulcan name. From the Vulcan 500 LTD all the way up to the mighty Vulcan 2000, Kawasaki offers a formidable line to suit just about everyone’s needs.

Fifteen years later, I count four Kawasaki Vulcans – and two of them are the same bike, the 1700 Vaquero and Voyager. The cruiser herd has definitely been culled.

NO.

The answer to your question is “no.” Kawasaki is not going to start building a 2002 model again 20 years later. Only Harley-Davidson could get away with that. Actually, even Harley can’t get away with it anymore, thanks to way stricter emissions regulations among other things.

The happy news, if you want a Mean Streak, is that there are plenty of perfectly preserved ones for sale. In the Mean Streak’s heyday, everybody was buying a power cruiser and a second house whether they wanted one or not: Plenty of people found out they really didn’t, but also didn’t want to come out on the short end of their “investment.” Hence, things got pushed to the back of the garage and forgotten.

The key is to find your niche and stick to it, and in hindsight, the Aughts were kind of a golden era, just before all kinds of cars and motorcycles sort of went overboard with computerized complexity.

A quick googling of Kawasaki Mean Streak for sale turns up 14 Mean Streaks on Cycle Trader, in the $4,000 to $6,000 range, including this orange 2005 number in Wenatchee, Washington, showing 4241 miles and asking $6500 OBO. My best offer would be considerably lower, but it seems the Streaks have held value better than you’d (I’d) expect. Most of them have aftermarket pipes and Power Commanders, which you may or may not want, but as in any used-vehicle tango, caveat emptor. Anyway, it’s hard to break a Kawasaki, really; they’re all reliable vehicles, and all the Streaks also come with the subject of our last Ask MO: shaft drive.

Warrior, what is it good for?

The Mean Streak’s a perfectly okay motorcycle if that’s what you like, but we’d be remiss in our duties if we ignored the power cruiser that won that 2007 shootout by a significant margin, wouldn’t we? Though it’s actually become a bit of a cult bike, the Road Star Warrior that Yamaha began cranking out in 2002 looks like it’s not selling for much more money than the Streak these days.

First Ride: 2002 Yamaha Road Star Warrior

This thing’s cool enough that former Cycle World EiC and savvy collector David Edwards bought one. A crazy mix of American nostalgia and Japanese samurai sword, the Warrior houses an air-cooled pushrod V-Twin in an aluminum frame, with an inverted fork and R1 brakes, single-shock rear end (adjustable), belt drive, and 17-inch wheels including a 200mm rear.

That 2007 comparison test ended with: …MO thinks that you’ll agree with us that the Star Midnight Warrior [a blacked-out version] is the one to have. It doesn’t have all the horsepower or all the torque but it has more than enough of each. Nor does it have the most refined and honed appearance. But at least it’s modern looking, and bad ass, too. This bike will certainly get you into trouble with Mr. Man. It will also create some grief for the regulars at the drag strip or the arrogant youths careening up and down the twisty roads. Do you have a riding partner who refuses to let you have all the fun? Stick her or him on the back and cruise to your heart’s content. The Warrior will do all this and more, for a mere $1,700 more than the least-expensive bike in the test.

On top of that, and very unusual for a Japanese cruiser, Yamaha came out shortly with a bunch of Speedstar performance parts for the bike, based as I recall, on this Patrick Racing Warrior. Oh hey, look. That stuff is still available.

Today, I count exactly zero Road Stars on Yamaha’s website, though its big $30k Star Venture touring machine is still powered by a modern version of that excellent air-cooled pushrod V-Twin. But it barely matters, as there’s a plethora of Warriors on Cycle Trader, a few with under 5000 miles retaining the cool stock sewer pipe exhaust, in the $4 – 7k range.

Lately, the cure for middle-age moto-malaise has been the adventure bike, but cruisers have never gone entirely away. And from where we sit (on the back patio, ogling used motorcycles online) the Mean Streak and the Road Star Warrior were, and still are all these years later, two of the best of the breed: Reasonably upright and nearly ergonomically correct, and with the added bonus of low seat heights. Getting great deals on lightly used things like these is one of life’s great pleasures. We advise you to take full advantage. Send pics of whatever you wind up with! (I vote Warrior.)


Direct your motorcycle-related questions to [email protected], Remember, the only dumb question is the one you ask in public using your real name. Oh brother.

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