2013 Kawasaki Versys 1000: Bizarre but solid pavement-pounder
With very few exceptions, adventure touring motorcycles are like sport utility vehicles — great around town or on the highway, but take them to where the going gets bumpy and dusty, and they start to unravel.
Really — who is actually going to take a 550-pound, 1,000 cc motorcycle off-road? Someone not especially fond of keeping their femurs in one piece, that’s who.
Thankfully, Kawasaki sees through the “Amazing Adventure Touring Smoke and Mirrors Show” and, just like the 650 version, the new Versys 1000 has no off-road pretensions. It’s shod with 17-inch wheels front and back and the tire pattern is strictly pavement.
The Versys 1000 may look like a dirt bike on steroids but the wide, flat seat, comfortable upright riding position and more than 100 horsepower certainly make up for the somewhat quirky styling. Besides, if you’re riding it, you don’t have to look at it.
It’s not totally hideous — you won’t cringe like a vampire near a crucifix, it’s just that when you walk away from the Versys, you won’t be casting any wistful glances over your shoulder.
The four-cylinder engine is the same 1,043 cc mill as the Z1000 and Ninja 1000 with minor revisions for more mid-range torque and better fuel economy. The incredibly ugly mufflers on the Z and Ninja were shelved (thank goodness) in favour of a nicely styled four into one exhaust system.
In Versys guise, the 118 horsepower with 86 lb.-ft. of torque has a really strong mid-range as well as a big kick on the top end. Vibration is minimal, although it can be felt after a couple of hours on the freeway.
Kawasaki fitted the Versys 1000 with the same three-way adjustable power mode and traction control system found on the flagship ZX14 hyperbike. Modes one and two are best for everyday riding, while “rain” mode is fairly anemic and will only be useful under very slippery conditions — like if you’re towing your ice hut out onto Lake Simcoe. In any mode, throttle response is seamless, smooth and excellent.
The frame was given some extra bracing and a stronger rear subframe added, which was necessary as the Versys was designed to be fitted with hard bags and a topbox, something not advised on the other two bikes.
Steering is light and neutral, the high, wide bars giving lots of leverage although in high speed sweepers, the front end felt a bit vague — something that could be sorted out by using the preload and rebound adjustments. The rear shock has an easily accessed preload knob that allows almost instant adjustment at the back end — a nice touch if you’re carrying a passenger or loading up the bags and topbox for a week away.
The long travel suspension makes for a very comfy ride although on long stretches of bumpy pavement, the ride gets a bit choppy.
Seat height is a somewhat lofty, though not unmanageable, 845 mm (33.2 inches) and even those under six feet tall should be able to put both feet down at a stop. Legroom, even for taller riders is above average.
Twin 300 mm semi-floating discs in Kawasaki’s now familiar pedal style bring up the front while a single 250 mm disc is at the back. The brakes are simply excellent and, seeing as the ABS is the same system used on the ZX10R sportbike, feel and feedback is exemplary.
The manually adjustable screen works very well and should accommodate riders of varying heights. I kept it on the highest setting and it provided a large, still air pocket that was relatively turbulence free.
My press unit was a really unfortunate colour — sort of a dark brown root beer, and even the tiny metalflakes in the paint (that really gleam in the sunlight) couldn’t disguise that brown motorcycles look dull.
So it’s fast, comfortable, handles pretty well and with a 21-litre fuel tank and my measured consumption in the 5.2-5.4 L/100 km range, it has a very good fuel range. Throw in the optional Kawasaki hard bags and topbox and you’ve got yourself a pretty decent long-distance cruise missile that won’t wallow and lurch its way through the twisties.
The styling is a bit odd but if you’re looking for an adventure touring-ish bike to rack up the miles and have no desire to get muddy, the 1000 Versys is definitely worth a look.
2013 Kawasaki Versys 1000
ENGINE: 1043cc, inline four, DOHC, six-speed manual
FUEL CONSUMPTION (Measured): 5.2 – 5.4L/100 km
POWER/TORQUE (hp/lb.-ft.): 118/86 lb.-ft.
COMPETITION: Suzuki Bandit, Triumph 1200 Explorer, BMW R1200GS
WHAT’S BEST: Comfort, power, smooth ride
WHAT’S WORST: Styling, paint colour
WHAT’S INTERESTING: Three power modes, two traction control modes
The vehicle tested by freelance writer Steve Bond was provided by the manufacturer. Email email@example.com
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