►The Kawasaki Versys
Living With Versys-tility
Special Report by H.B.C. for webBikeWorld.com
The Kawasaki Versys Story
Not wanting to taunt anyone who lives south of the
border, but for 2007 Canadian motorcyclists have had
ready access to one of the most versatile and smile-generating motorcycles to come along in a long while,
the Kawasaki KLE650A7F, aptly named the Versys (for
Initially released in Europe to great acclaim, in
2007 the model was brought
into Canada only, likely for a
variety of reasons -- one being to test the North
American market. Judging by overall sales, it was a good
move -- most units have been sold and many dealers would
like to get more of these unique motorcycles.
Editor's Note: Kawasaki just announced
the 2008 Versys for the U.S.A.; see our
Versys Information and Specifications page for more
information, including photos.
As way of background, we had been looking at the
Versys ever since our local Kawasaki dealer,
Goodtime Centre (or OGC) put them
on the showroom floor over the winter. Most reports and
informal postings, especially from the UK, tended to
identify the Versys as an extremely competent motorcycle
with a big fun factor.
So when offered the chance to go
on an extended test ride on a unit hidden away in the
dealer’s basement for pending demo purposes we jumped at
the chance. After 30 minutes of tearing along on a
multitude of road surfaces, the die was cast and the
deal was done. Consequently the last unit on the floor,
in Candy Burnt Orange was prepared and delivered the
next day into eager arms.
originally introduced the liquid cooled KLR 650 parallel
twin to North America for 2005 as the powerplant for the
Ninja 650R, part of the Street/Touring line. In Europe,
the engine has been used since 2005 for the ER-6n and
the ER-6f as part of the Sport/Naked category, then with
the Versys, which is slotted into the Dual Purpose
category (this is a clue).
Here at home, the 650R was intended to provide a
mid-stream, well-priced and insurable alternative that
would satisfy new riders; those who wanted to move up;
or, those who wanted a smaller sporting motorcycle. Most
‘R’ owners remain happy with their purchase and one of
the best features identified is typically the motor,
followed by its styling, which closely emulates other
popular Kawasaki Ninja and ZX models.
The Stage Is Set
Kawasaki has never been afraid of maintaining popular
products: to wit, the original KLR single has been
around for 30 years and the venerable and much loved Concours has finally been retired after a 21 year run. The KLR gets a complete makeover for 2008 and the 2008
Concours is all new, now based on the ZX-14 platform.
By the same token, they are not afraid to move on,
and it is safe to say that Kawasaki is making the
investment needed to bring themselves into the ever
evolving middle displacement market, in which the 650
in-line twin sits smack dab in the middle.
Smaller, lighter engines that can be used as a
powerplant baseline for multiple models is a good
approach, and in some market areas, seen as an
innovative move that attracts a lot of attention, and
potentially, market share.
Virtually every motorcycle manufacturer is, or will
be in this space for a variety of reasons and Kawasaki,
as so successfully done in the past, appears to have
fielded an engine that will form another dynasty, like
the original KLR and Concours did before.
Acknowledging that there are other high performance
inline twins in production, this engine has features
that make it unique in its own right, like the
twin. As with the BMW, the Kawasaki approach has been to
merge proven technologies and processes together to
produce a high output in-line twin with the ability to
generate impressive performance figures, and be evolved.
The engine is a 4-stroke parallel twin of 659cc
capacity. Bore and stroke is 83 x 60mm, with compression
a relatively modest 10.6:1. Fuel injection is provided
by two 38mm throttle bodies and the DOHC engine contains
Other features are digital ignition and an
anti-hotwire circuitry. The overall engine package is
ultra-light and compact, allowing the whole frame and
engine package to be "waist" thin. Pictures do not
accurately reflect just how trim this package is.
While the package might be trim and lean, power
output is quite the opposite. Horsepower is listed at
64PS at 8,000rpm with torque at 64N-m at 7,000 rpm. Roughly translated, claims of around 60 horsepower at
the back wheel have been circulating; not unreasonable
judging by overall performance.
These ponies are
delivered to the rear wheel via a 6-speed transmission
(which has the usual Kawasaki positive neutral finder)
operated by a wet-multi disc cable operated clutch, to a
final drive chain. The drive system is simple, cost
effective and should be easy to maintain.
Adding to its compact and narrow is the fact that the
Versys is also tall. Overall height is 51.8 inches
(1,315mm) while total length is 83.6 inches in length. Wheelbase is relatively short at 55.1 inches (1,415mm).
The height is due to the tall diamond high-tensile steel
frame, longish suspension and generous ground clearance
of 7.09 inches (180mm). Accordingly, the standard seat
height is a somewhat lofty 33 inches (840mm), although a
Kawasaki Accessory Gel seat provides a lower seating
position, reducing height by about two inches (50mm).
For a multi-purpose oriented motorcycle, the seat height
is not unexpected. However, even with the accessory seat
installed, it will likely still be a bit tall for many
As noted, the suspension system is quite long, and
stiff. Front suspension is provided by a 41mm telescopic
fork with step-less rebound damping on the right fork
and spring preload adjustability on both and total
travel is just short of 6 inches (150mm).
In the rear, a
unique gull-wing swingarm is mated to a Showa shock
configured in an offset and lay-down position. This
shock provides 13-way rebound damping adjustment and
7-way adjustable spring preload with 5.7 inches (145mm)
of travel. On delivery, the rear shock was set in the
number five detent on the spring preload and the damping
was set to the middle setting.
Fuel capacity is 5.0 US gallons (4.2 Imperial gallons
or 19 litres). Kawasaki recommends that an RON minimum
of 91 grade fuel be used. We have tested the
everything from 89 to 94 octane unleaded, without any
problems. Longer testing will allow us to see if running
any particular octane or brand brings about significant
The gas tank is steel, although the side trim or
fairing panels are plastic, so magnetic tank bags will
be fine, as long as the primary magnets are directly
under the bottom of the bag. A suction-type mount
or strap-on system would provide more mounting options
Braking is provided at the front by two 300mm
dual-piston drilled petal style semi-floating front
discs and once bedded in, they provide consistent and
fade-free braking. A single piston 220mm drilled petal
style disc brings up the rear and as expected, it does
not provide a lot of stopping power on its own, but in
combination with the front pair, the manual setup works
Wheels are 17-inch units, with the front rim carrying
a 120/70-ZR17 M/C or 58W tire and the rear a 160/60-ZR17
M/C or 69W tire. For the Canadian market, Dunlop SportMax D221 rubber is fitted.
Instrumentation and information is provided by a
simple integrated module fitted into the front fairing
portion. The module provides both analog and digital
displays. Engine speed is presented in analog sweep
form, while the road speed is a digital LED readout, as
are the trip-meter and graduated fuel displays.
trip meter, along with other settings, is controlled by
two separate buttons on the left face of the module. A
standard set of warning lights is provided under an
opaque face on the left side, while other status check
lights are found on the right side of the module.
The Versys, despite its height appears to be a
lightweight of sorts and it is. Claimed dry weight is
399 lbs (181kg) and we have no reason to doubt that --
sitting on the motorcycle and balancing it from side to
side reveals a bit of top weight, but at the same time
its overall trim weight and feel becomes evident -- all
of which is borne out when it is on the move. With a
full load of fluids, actual weight is probably close to
While the smooth, strong and economic engine is
common to both the 650R and the Versys, fit, form and
function of the Versys establishes it as something
unique and its appearance does little to change this.
Its initial appearance is what typically draws people
over in the showroom and on the road, it always attracts
a lot of attention, moving and stopped. Based on an
informal survey, it seems that the Versys invokes much
of the same comments heard from purveyors of the new
styled Ducati of some years ago or, the BMW GS models,
which still invoke styling arguments anywhere one goes.
However it seems that many of those who first
questioned the styling of the Versys have now realized
that the motorcycle is indeed a well-balanced blending
of function along with fit and form.
As way of
comparison, the Versys is no more radical than the
original Kawasaki Z1000, one of the best looking, best
performing and best bargains ever produced, but which
languished on most showroom floors for the first three
So for 2007 Kawasaki undertook a total makeover of
the Z1000, addressed what few shortfalls existed and
created a standout motorcycle in virtually every aspect. By the same token, if current sales and interest levels
are any indication, the Versys is already well on its
way to making an impression on the motorcycling world,
in its first iteration.
One Sweet Ride
While the compact twin engine is outstanding in its
own right, the sum of the parts truly does make the
whole. Having spent many hours aboard singles, twins,
triples, fours, and six cylinder motorcycles, we can
honestly say that this twin is one of the strongest
650cc motors we have ever ridden.
Turning on the key,
the onboard system goes through a quick check and once
the oil light flashes, pushing the starter button
instantly fires up the motor (warm or cold). After about
two minutes on a high idle, it revs down, sounding like
a KLR on steroids. Putting the motorcycle in gear and
moving off begins to reveal just what this motorcycle is
The performance of this twin will surprise many, for
others, it will astound. It pulls like a large single or
V-twin right off the throttle and this feeling never
quits until the rev limiter kicks in, somewhere around
10,500 rpm. Forward motion is achieved quickly and
smoothly, both by design and thanks in part to the
counter-balancing setup that keeps most vibration
Revving quickly to 3000, you can feel the
momentum building, and from 3500 to 6000, where torque
and horsepower is optimized, you really start to realize
that this thing is no slouch. It loves to spin up,
quickly. Stirring the gearbox and keeping the engine
between 5 and 8 thousand rpm is guaranteed to bring on a
big smile, and a rapid increase in speed.
Kawasaki states that the chassis was, “designed for
the discerning enthusiast, the Versys’s riding position,
engine characteristics, chassis balance and suspension
settings were all selected to maximize rider
exhilaration on the street...”
With the exception of one
or two reservations, we fully agree with this statement. Repeating the fact that in Europe the
Versys is slotted
into the Dual Purpose category, you are likely beginning
to understand where this evaluation is headed.
The height of the Versys, combined with its standard
seating position and comfortable seat, makes the cockpit
a good place to be for extended periods of time. The
stretch between the stock seat and the foot pegs is 19.5
inches, providing adequate leg room for most riders of
varying shape and height.
The seat is a one piece affair that is easily removed
by the seat lock which is accessed by inserting the key
into a small round opening located on the left hand
side, just below the passenger portion of the seat. The
lock access is very discreet and unless one knows that
Kawasaki uses this position for many of their models, it
can take a couple of minutes to find.
A flat front section makes for a comfortable perch
with some room for movement to suit riding styles and
facilitating weight transfer. The front edges are
cut-down slightly, making the stretch to the ground a
bit easier and taking pressure off the inner thighs.
While not yet tested on an extended trip, no discomfort
zones were felt over the course of a day ride. Back and
forth movement is limited however as the rear section is
stepped up; the differential is quite noticeable. We
have not yet tested passenger comfort, so cannot comment
on its ability to cushion.
The 33 inch wide tubular handlebars fall easily to
hand. The bars can be rotated forward or back slightly
as needed, with the other controls adjusted to suit. While some feel the bars are a bit wide, they are well
matched to the rest of the motorcycle, providing good
control, leverage and consistent feedback from the
Both the clutch and brake controls feature
the standard Kawasaki 5-position rotating bezel adjuster
to allow tuning of the individual levers for differing
hand sizes or to provide better control. The manual
clutch also has a cable adjustment point at the lever.
The counterbalancing systems works well and except
for one or two zones, lower down in the rpm range, the
twin is very smooth, especially up and beyond 6000 rpm. We have noticed that the engine is getting smoother
across its range as we put more time on the motor. Even
the mirror stay useful at all speeds.
Speaking of mirrors, compared to many other
motorcycles, the Versys mirrors are actually functional,
providing a good view of the left and right arcs. Larger
riders may want a bit more depth or width in their field
of vision, which could be addressed with a longer stalk
mirror or offset brackets.
For now, we have installed
the "dollar" mirrors available at most dealers; they
work well and are an expedient solution to what seems to
be an ongoing issue with most motorcycles today, but
don’t forget those shoulder checks!
Taking into account its dual purpose orientation, we
have found that the stock settings are adequate for
riding on a wide variety of surfaces, paved or gravel
and dirt roads with potholes and washboards. During its
short break in cycle, the Versys was subjected to all
types of road surface, more off road than on, at high
and low speeds, all of which quickly revealed its
All in all, the Versys is one agile and stable
platform and it has the same lightweight, flickable feel
presented by the
Ducati Multistrada. The front
suspension is especially noteworthy – it tracks well
under virtually all conditions and the only real
shortcoming, depending on the surface, is the tire
itself. While not up to, say, an Öhlins standard, the
stock front suspension seems to have been carefully
considered and engineered.
While the front suspension brings a big checkmark,
the rear setup is not in the same league and the jury is
still out on the components and configuration used. Providing good travel and coping well with rapid changes
in road surfaces at higher speeds, its shortfalls become
most evident when trolling along in town or trailing
slowly along fire-roads.
Admittedly we are still
experimenting with various settings, but we suspect that
an aftermarket rear shock (which we are trying to
source), would really put some extra icing on this very
We knew the engine would be efficient but real world
fuel economy has exceeded our expectations, even when a
heavy hand is applied (often). We keep usage records on
all the motorcycles: the Versys typically returns an
average of 59 miles per (Imperial) gallon.
A tank of gas
should be good for about 225 miles (365 km). No matter
the type of riding, the mileage never varies by more
than 4 – 5 mpg. Although we have used 89 and 91 octane
gas, the Versys seems to thrive on our usual fill of
Photo Courtesy Kawasaki Motors, Inc.
Sharing is Good, Right?
After two weeks of virtually living on the Candy
Burnt Orange Versys, it became evident to both of us
that the only way to keep motorcycling harmony was to
plead with the dealer for another one -- they had quickly
gone through their original allotment by early spring
and were trying to get additional units.
aligned themselves and within the week, another of each colour was received by the dealer. Given the two colour
choices for the Canadian market, it was only right that
the Ebony unit be selected, prepped and delivered the
same day -- patience is not always a virtue.
We had already mentally made room in the garage for
one more motorcycle this year, so the second Versys has
now joined its Candy Burnt Orange mate, along with the
two BMW R1200GS Adventure motorcycles (2006 and 2007 models), a 2006
BMW K1200R, a 2007 Kawasaki Z1000, and soon to be
squeezed in (out goes the trailer), the project machine,
a 1976 Suzuki GT750A, otherwise known as the Water
Buffalo or Kettle, which is slowly getting refurbished
a true work in progress.
With Experience Comes Wisdom
Riding the Versys is pretty much a fun exercise
anytime, anywhere. So having come to appreciate the
versatility of the Versys and wanting to expand its
riding horizons even further, the Ebony unit got fitted
with a set of Pirelli Scorpion Sync tires before it left
the dealer. Having used these tires on a since-departed
Multistrada DS1000 (another story), we knew they
provided desired features to mixed surface riding.
These tires work as well on the Versys as they did on
the Ducati. Once scrubbed in, they are superb road tires
with tenacious grip, wet or dry. They provide excellent
control and feedback on gravel and dirt roads as well,
which is where the second Versys has been spending most
of its time.
The OEM Dunlop SportMax D221 tires are very good in
their own right, but using them on some of the road
surfaces seen by the Pirelli shod unit would be just
plain abuse. A hybrid tire in a 17-inch rim would be just
about perfect -- any takers?
Other upgrades and accessories are ongoing or planned
and they will be detailed in a possible follow-on to
this article. The planned additions will even further
expand the explorable horizons for this versatile
Nits 'n' Picks
Gearbox: The positive neutral finder is both a
blessing and (somewhat) of a curse; when it works well,
its slick, when it doesn’t, it makes for a lot of work
in moving down through the gearbox. We have had many
Kawasaki motorcycles, most with this feature and had the
same observations then as we do now. Hopefully time, and
possibly running semi-synthetic oil, will aid the
Rear Shock: It needs to be made more responsive and
we feel, beefed up somewhat. Even though the
Versys is a
relative lightweight, it was obviously intended for and
lends itself to adventure touring, which typically means
increased loads, one or two up.
Centrestand: We know it is only natural that many
will want this accessory for maintenance and cleaning,
home or away. Acknowledging typical issues involved,
especially with a new model, we feel that this should be
the next accessory offered for the Versys. Overseas
inquiries have been pretty positive, so we remain
There are lots of picks: Design to function, a roomy
and comfortable riding position, its light weight, agile
chassis with suspension tuned to facilitate a wide range
of road surfaces, a basic but adjustable windscreen that
provides good protection, braking power that matches the
performance of the motorcycle, its fuel economy and
anticipated low maintenance, ability to be accessorized,
its price point value and last but not least, its
overall fun factor.
For commuting, exhilarating street riding, swooping
through the twisties, raising dust along a gravel or
dirt road, or disappearing off into the sunset, we have
found that the Versys handles everything in stride. You
can pay far more and not get as much motorcycle for your
The Kawasaki Canada webpage for the Versys claims
that the, “2007 Versys is a motorcycle that empowers
riders to explore fully their individual riding style
and find true inspiration on all types of roads.” We
could not agree more.
On the futures side, it appears that the Versys will
be available in the US, possibly later this summer as an
early 2008 model. All we can say to that is - ENJOY!
UPDATE: August 26, 2007 - Rumor just in:
Kawasaki may be working on a 1000 cc Versys to compete
Triumph Tiger 1050 and
||List Price: $8,999.00 (CDN)
|Colours: (Canada) Candy Burnt Orange and Ebony.
August 2007 Notes: One year warranty. The Good Time Protection
Plan is also optionally available, providing 24 or 36 months
warranty periods as purchased.
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►Your Comments and
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Not all comments will be published (details
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clarity prior to publication.
Kawasaki Versys Forum
From "J" (9/09): "I must say that
I really enjoy your reviews and articles. There is
some great and helpful information there. I am
interested in a Kawasaki Versys but am wondering how
limited it is in off-road capabilities after the tire
Since you have also reviewed the GS800 I thought you
could provide a comparison with it and a 2001 BMW GS 650
Dakar I am considering.
I understand that the front tire size difference is a
factor but am not sure how much so after the tire
change. On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate the
Versys' performance off-road after the change to the
MT60's versus the GS800?"
a. Versys off-road capability, with tire change -
the Versys is much more
capable of traversing harder gravel and dirt roads with
a good dual-purpose tire like the MT60 units or at the
minimum, the Pirelli Scorpion (or something similar).
But there will still be limitations when the surface
gets very rough or soft - sand, rocks, gravel, etc.
Even the MT60s have their limitations - this type of
tire is oriented mainly for road use and occasional
off-road duties and not the other way around.
Its tire and wheels sizes will work against you as
well. The suspension, while good overall,
especially the front, has limitations for very rough
There are some pretty aggressive tires out there in
sizes that can be put on to the Versys rims, as many
have done, that make the Versys even more capable of
handling the rough stuff.
A big factor that many tend to minimize is rider
experience and skill. For gravel, good dirt and
relatively smooth trails, the Versys, with the right
tires and preparation, can work really well - its
relatively light weight and tractable motor makes it
easy to traverse a lot of surfaces (second gear vice
b. Versys VS 2001 GS 650 Dakar - it has been
some time since I have ridden
a 650 Dakar. In general the older Dakar has a
softer feel from the motor and will likely handle a
wider range of surfaces (of and off-road) than the
Versys. But again, much will depend on how each is
set up and rider skill.
The Dakar's 21 inch front wheel, similar to those
used on full out dirt machines, gives it better
tractability and stability in the rough stuff,
especially the really soft stuff.
The Versys has more useable power overall but at low
speeds both machines are probably pretty close as both
engines are extremely smooth and easy to modulate.
However, fast hard-pack roads will reveal the
differences between the 650 single and the very powerful
I having spent a fair amount of time off-road with
the Versys, I would rate its frame and engine
combination better than the Dakar, but my suspension
vote and thus overall off-road handling, would have to
go to the Dakar, but this is very subjective. Off the
floor the Dakar handles the rough stuff easier than the
Versys can in stock form. Personally I think the Dakar
would still have an edge even if the Versys was equipped
with more aggressive tires on the standard rims. Just
don't forget the rider thing.
This next statement is a bit of a digression...if I
had my way, the Versys, the new KLR and some suspension
enhancements would be forged together to provide a
really good multi-purpose and efficient motorcycle, with
an attractive price point.
Kawasaki could have done that in 07 or 08 and beaten
BMW to market, especially given the resultant delay in
producing the new F650 and F800 twins until late in 08.
This hybrid machine could and would have gone head to
head against the subsequent BMW release.
c. Versys with tire change VS F800GS - despite
my last statement about
what could have been, both our Versys units have been
replaced for new F800GS units, but not without some
reluctance and the odd twinge of remorse.
I had the first F800GS and a Versys on hand last fall
and objectively and subjectively, the F800GS wins.
Even with the right tire or tires on the Versys, it
is not going to catch the little GS whether it has
dual-purpose rubber or something more aggressive, like
its current TKC-80 tires.
While I had some reservations about the decision to
put a 21 inch wheel on the 800, most of my concerns have
been laid to rest and after three different types of
tires on the 800 over the last year, the 21 inch wheel,
although still not optimum for on-road high speed use,
was a good choice.
A rating comparison is really difficult between the
two machines, not really apples to apples here.
Dealing strictly with the Versys for off-road use and
using a scale of one to ten, the stock Dunlops
would get a two or possibly a three, whereas the MT60s
would rate a seven or possibly an eight.
For the F800GS, the stock 'dual-purpose' tires would
get a three or four, while the TKC-80 tires would get an
eight or nine. In considering the scoring, some
consideration of a tire's ability to transition between
smooth high speed pavement or hard packed surfaces to
the soft and rough stuff must be done.
On a final subjective point related to tires, the
MT60 tires on the Versys, with extended high speed road
use and rough off-road duties seemed to wear a bit
faster than expected, but they sure do stick.
The TKC-80 tires on the 8GS don't really seem to care
- they will wear faster with sustained high speed
pavement use (especially if pressures are too low) and
by the same token, some riders seem to tear them up with
regularity off road. But on a day to day basis, when any
surface can or could beckon, they are an outstanding
The Versys and the F800GS (and its F650 sibling) are
outstanding motorcycles, with similar technology
approaches, but different objectives overall."
From "V.P." (5/09): "I have a
question for the author of the Versys article... I very
much like their Givi hard case setup and I'm thinking of
getting a Versys and setting up something like that for
myself. I would just like to know whether it's
practical to be riding with a passenger if I have that
kit installed or if the side cases/trunk are likely to
interfere with my passenger. PS. thank you for a
HBC's Reply: The GIVI PLX
bracketry and V35 bag combination sits far enough back
that there should be sufficient room for a passenger,
but you have to remember the Versys is a relatively
small and short wheelbase machine, so it doesn't have
the same stretch that some other machines in the engine
class have, so space might be limited.
A properly fitted trunk, with or without a back pad,
should not intrude, although many installations do not
consider the addition of a passenger back pad, so that
needs to be factored in as well, as applicable.
It is possible to do a basic assessment or fitment
exercises even without the luggage...taking some
pictures with the rider and passenger on the machine
helps to visual it all and helps in comparing systems.
Even some basic measurements about where the legs and
thighs are positioned, etc, can be useful.
There are a fair number of luggage options for the
Versys, some provide capacity by being longer, while
others take the wide and deep approach, or like the V35
bag, oval and wider, with good capacity.
There is a wealth of information on most of the
available systems or variants of, so some browsing
through Versys forums or threads is a good option for
On a final note, related to an observation I made
earlier, and have made before in other articles, the
Versys is quite light, so the combined weight of the
rider, passenger and any luggage system must be
considered - quite often the 'load' factor gets
overlooked in the search for the right luggage system.
Let us know how you make out, Cheers, HBC"
From "CMP": "I have to say that this
is one of the most comprehensive reviews I've ever seen,
coming from someone seriously thinking about buying this
bike I can't tell you how nice it is to have this much
info available. Thanks a lot.
On to my question: after more time with the bike how
is the off-road capabilities? I'm not looking for
a bike that can go anywhere, but I also don't want to
break it if the trail gets a little bit hairy.
What's your opinion now?
HBC's Reply: "Chris, my first
response back to you is, "just get one". Pound for
pound, dollar for dollar, the Versys is pretty much
After well over a year of living with two of them,
nothing serious has cropped up and frankly, I don't
expect anything will. The MT-60 tires on the Ebony
unit are coming up to 5000km (3100mi) and are likely to
survive another 1000 to 1500miles, a bit more than I
I bring up the tire issue because this rubber was
specifically put on to give the Versys some off-road
boots, or at least an alternative to the Scorpion Syncs
that reside on the Orange one.
Both sets of tires work well on pavement, gravel and
dirt, but the MT-60 tires are far better off-road than
the Scorpions. However, where off road use is
likely to be the higher percentage of use, a slightly
narrower tire on each end would be better.
So, speaking of off road, both machines spend
considerable time off road, the Ebony one in particular.
So far, it is still coping quite nicely with most of the
roads and trails that it has been pointed onto. It
does not have KTM or BMW class suspension, but the stock
front end and rear shock, with some careful setup, work
well, even over some pretty rough stuff.
Another big plus is the nimble handling and
relatively light weight of the machine - it is easily
100 to 150 lbs lighter than either of the two GS
Adventures we use as well. I have only done one
'big boulder' trail on the Versys and it coped well.
With a relatively or well-experienced off road rider,
the Versys can do a lot more than just shuffle down the
pavement fast or commute peacefully...we haven't
hesitated to take the Versys anywhere we would (usually)
take the GSAs. This is not to say the Versys is
the smaller equal of the GS/GSA, but its darn close.
With the right tires, hand guards, a skid plate and
engine/side-guards (stay tuned for next installment),
the Versys becomes an even more well-rounded and
From: "J.P.": "Was reading your
great review and articles concerning the Versys... Quick
question - I currently have a 2004 KLR650 and perform
all of my own maintenance on it. Do you know
anything about the Versys maintenance schedule?
It's fuel injected so that's one less thing to worry
about - what type of valves are used?? Shim under
bucket?? Looking forward to checking out one of
these in person!"
H.B.C.'s Reply: Kawasaki
confirmed that the (valves use the) standard Kawasaki shim-under-bucket
arrangement...the Owner's Manual identifies the
inspection interval for the valve train is 24,000 km or
15,000mi (usually a good indicator of the system used).
Agree fully re the fuel injection. This, along
with other technologies used will keep maintenance low
and simple on this model. So far, outside of
lubing the rear chain and doing some minor accessory
work, neither VERSYS has required anything - not even a
chain adjustment yet (one is approaching the 4k mark).
The initial 1k (600mi) check was basically an oil and
filter change and a good inspection, that was it - a
welcome $hange from many initial inspections.
Again, based on the Owner's Manual, most items, other
than the valve train, are on a 12,000km or 7,500mi
inspection rotation - pretty good. Working on the
VERSYS is pretty simple - pieces are removed readily,
resulting in ready access to all critical components
(our experience to date).
The VERSYS is definitely worth a good
look...especially for KLR owners...there are days when
we still miss having our KLRs sitting out in the garage,
but the 650 in-line twins now residing out there now are
so much better in so many ways."
From "G.A.": "Hi Guys. Read you
article on the Kawasaki Versys. This bike is at
the top of my list of which bike to buy. Your
report put it up there. I am curious to know how
the Orange Versys did on its "expanded riding horizons"
off the paved roads. Any mild trail riding thrown
in? I'm taking notes on the bags and tires.
Does Versys Canada have an ABS version? Europe
One more question. How do you think the Versys
stands up to the 650 V-Strom, my second choice?"
H.B.C.'s Reply: Gary, although I
am currently working on a possible Part III to the
submission, I hope the following information will
address your questions in whole or in part:
Expanded Horizons - we only managed a partial
"over the horizon" trip so far, just under 1000km
(620mi) over the weekend (the Orange Versys and my new
F800ST) - both machines ran perfectly.
The VERSYS had the GIVI bags and trunk on and it was
fairly well loaded. Outside of feeling the extra
weight, the luggage and load has virtually no impact on
the handling and performance of the motorcycle.
The engine remains very responsive at running speeds of
50 to 80 mph, which is around 5 to 8k rpm, depending on
the gear, with some higher run-ups for passing, etc.
Vibration is not a problem.
The Orange VERSYS still has the OEM Dunlop 221 tires,
which handle dirt and gravel roads without any real
problems - they track well, but as reported previously,
not as well as the Pirelli Scorpion Sync tires mounted
on the Black unit, which loves to burn down the dirt and
gravel roads - slides are fun and controllable once you
get used to the light weight and feel of the motorcycle
- this type of running is not for everyone, but our
opinion is that the VERSYS will handle most conditions,
including "mild trail riding", less the most rocky and
treacherous, in its stride.
ABS - the 650-based machines in the European
markets all have ABS variants available and appreciating
the market, its likely that the ABS option/model will be
available next year...the 2007 Canadian model was just
the base model (normal marketing approach, partly based
on some points made below). I have this exact
(ABS) question out to the Canadian Kawsaki rep already.
Nothing adverse about it has been noted so far (from the
European consumer market) and based on long-term use of
ABS on other brands, it is worth the investment on
purchase - take it from a long-term rider who has seen,
and been saved by the benefits of ABS.
You will always see questions raised about whether
the ABS should or can be disabled or turned-off,
especially given mixed surface riding - that is about
the only issue I would hope Kawasaki might address - BMW
provides the option on some models and this seems to be
an agreeable approach: in general, the North American
market has been somewhat reluctant to jump on the ABS
(and integrated braking system) bandwagons.
VERSYS vs V-Strom - this is a tougher
question. On first response, having owned two
DL-1000 units and spent time on the 650 model, I would
say the VERSYS stands up to, and surpasses, the V-Strom.
Having said that, the DL-650 is a larger platform and
more prone to being loaded up with accessories, and a
passenger, and ridden off (into the sunset). In
this instance, I think the VERSYS would more feel the
impact of all the luggage and a passenger.
But, appreciating that the VERSYS is built around a
lighter chassis and has (obviously) been designed to
allow dual-purpose or multi-surface road use, its
flexibility and versatility far exceeds that of the
V-Strom. Not having had a chance to do a
real-world comparison (yet), I would say that the two of
them would be close overall, albeit with differing
"sweet-spots" regarding torque and performance.
My bottom line - if you want the ability to do other
than hard surface travel and want minimal weight and
nimble handling, the VERSYS wins hands down.
On a related note, common accessories are available
for the VERSYS and the list should get pretty long over
the next few months. Our short (wish) list
includes a centre stand, possibly a stronger side stand
(hopefully from Kawasaki), hand guards (we are working
on addressing this) and, hand-warmers (available in the
UK and probably here by now).
A couple more nits-n-picks are getting documented now
(no show-stoppers), but will have to wait for a pending
As on a final note, especially for Rick, the
"extended" trip is planned for this week...allowing us
to show off both VERSYS to our southern neighbours.
The interest in the VERSYS at the BMW Rally we attended
this weekend was far beyond our expectations (one reason
for taking one of them to it).
It would be an understatement to say that many in the
BMW community anxiously await the (anticipated)
announcement of an F800GS
(dual-purpose/adventure-touring) model for 2008.
The VERSYS in its current form and available livery is a
very physical reminder that Kawasaki, not BMW, has
already fielded a mid-displacement, in-line twin,
fuel-injected, multi-purpose motorcycle - this fact is
not lost on current or possible BMW owners.
Probably the most curious attendees were those from
south of the border.