The term Versys is the combined word made from ‘versatile’ and ‘system’ and that is what Kawasaki intended the Versys 1000 to be. Perhaps a new category of motorcycle is being birthed with the ‘crossover’ – a combination of enduro, sport, touring, adventure etc. A model in a class of it’s own that can’t seem to decide where or what it wants to be. As for me, I too am in the no man’s land trying to decide whether or not I like it.
A new introduction in 2012, the 1000 is the sibling of the 650 giving the bike that extra bit of power for rapidly changing terrain, pulling out of hairpin turns and making the ascent over high mountain passes.
Similar to other manufacturers, the Versys 1000 offers dual power and traction control with three settings (a feature that is also available with the 2012 Ninja ZX-14R), similar to it’s competitors from Ducati, BMW, etc. By changing the various power modes and matching them with a traction control option, riders can experience being part of MotoGP while enjoying a track day and advancing their sport riding techniques on non-slippery surfaces or load up some optional panniers and a top case at dawn, set the traction control in mode 3 and go develop their skills on unstable surfaces.
The combination of engine speed, full or milder throttle response, matched with the appropriate torque and riders have eight combinations to choose from.
KYB 43mm inverted front forks are the next generation and lighter than the conventional predecessors. Paired with a longer travel suspension in the rear is what will offer the rider a less than conventional landscape.
ABS brakes are standard and should be on a bike that has this many options. Dual semi-floating 300mm petal disc with dual opposed 4-piston caliper brakes in the front and single 250mm petal disc single-piston caliper brakes in the rear.
Intrigued yet? I was.
Motorcycle manufacturers have a tendency to draw riders in with cleverly crafted designs and pair them with a eye catching colour with a fancy name. The Versys 1000 boasts Metallic Magnesium Gray as its colour but it looked like some type of army camo colour to me and not particularly attractive but then again, we are ‘buy a bike/car not a colour.’ A statement used frequently in the automotive industry but if the colour doesn’t grab, how likely are you drop your hard earned dollars? If you spend the money, you want what you want
As I sat in the 33.3” saddle, the ride appeared to be a standard sport ride with a slightly longer reach to the bars perhaps making room for the additional few litres of fuel offered in the 21 litres (4.6 gal. slightly larger than average) tank. Curb weight 239 kg (526.7 lbs.).
An average wheelbase and 120/70 and 180/55 tires was not especially out of the ordinary either yet when I pulled away and began riding, I felt off-balance. As I rode down the highway, something just wasn’t quite right.
I continued riding rather cautiously; apprehensive that at any given moment, something was going to wrong but with a brand new bike how could that be possible? A flood of ‘what-if’s’ filled my head and as much as I awaited the arrival of impending doom – nothing happened.
What was the problem? The truth was simple. Nothing. There was nothing technically wrong with the bike yet for the first time, I felt unnatural riding it.
An hour into my ride, my apprehensive anticipation subsided and I ventured into more challenging road. A mountain (well ok, maybe a large hill in my area), with switch back curves and I still didn’t feel confident or ‘one with the bike’.
The power during the ride was consistent and the gauges provided plenty of information with a digital display offering speed, trip, fuel consumption, fuel levels and paired with an analogue tach whose redline starts at 10,000 rpm, you have room to explore the six-speed transmission.
When I returned the bike, I was asked what I thought and I didn’t have an answer. “I honestly don’t know,” was my polite reply.
I canvassed other journalists and while no one thing stood out in our on-line discussions, the popular topic was the engine – a four stroke, DOHC, 4-valves per cylinder, In-Line Four with 1043cc.
Comparable category bikes from the competition more often than not offer twin engines. Triumph models offer in-line three cylinder engines but the Kawasaki (perhaps why they market it as a versatile system) is an in-line four cylinder – not typical.
It is quite possible that my present skill level did not afford me the opportunity to fully appreciate the design of this bike. After all, Kawaski is the only manufacturer that has made a super sport bike that I absolutely love and can actually fit with the ZX6R, but at the same time, I have ridden many manufacturer’s models and this is the first time I had this type of experience.
MSRP 13,499 with a one year warranty and extended warranty options.