Versys 650 GT
‘Somehow the Versys always managed to raise a smile and carry me home without fuss’ After nearly 10,000 miles through winter, how well has the affordable middleweight Versys held up?
My choice of winter transport for my highmileage commute from Yorkshire to Peterborough raised a few eyebrows around the office. “A middleweight adventure bike?” was the general gist. “Why not go for something with a bit more presence?”
But I’d scanned the market and done my homework, and Kawasaki’s Versys 650 GT ticked all the boxes. With the bad weather approaching I needed a bike that could battle the elements, something with good wind protection and handguards. I needed something comfortable, but I’m only 5ft 7in therefore I didn’t want anything too large and cumbersome. I wanted to have the option of carrying luggage, needed a large tank range, and thrifty MPG. I didn’t want anything with a million gadgets; I also didn’t want crazy power; who needs more than 100bhp in winter? I just wanted something simple and easy to ride.
Going the distance
My commute from East Yorkshire to Peterborough is around 90 miles, depending on which route I choose. It usually consists of the M18 followed by the monotonous A1.
That equates to just over an hour of high-speed touring in all conditions; snow, wind, rain and usually in the dark during winter – but the Versys ploughed through it all effortlessly. With the screen on its highest setting I’m snugly positioned in the comfortable saddle, away from whatever Mother Nature could throw at me. The handguards did their best to deflect the windblast and help to keep my hands warm, and I even had the option of plugging in heated clothing to the handy 12v power socket on the dash.
There is noticeable vibration above 80mph, but the twin will still happily buzz along at 90mph while returning over 50mpg, which equates to around 200 miles per tank.
There have been many occasions in the worst of winter when my journey home, in freezing conditions, has been as appealing as drinking dirty bath water, but somehow the Versys always managed to raise a smile and carry me home without any fuss. The parallel-twin is bulletproof, too. I’ve raced a highly-modified ER-6N, which shares the same engine as the Versys, for years and never had any problems – now you can see why I chose the often overlooked Versys.
The salty truth
Winter hasn’t been overly kind to the Versys though – and, I’ll be honest, I am hardly fastidious when it comes to a cleaning regime. In my defence I’m now on first name terms with the guys at the local car wash. £3 for a full clean – bargain! But despite my best efforts, lashings of winter road salt have taken their toll. The downpipes look very second hand, as you’d expect, but the worst bits are the wheel speed sensor rings, which look like they’ve just been fished out of a North Sea trawler’s nets. But the rest of the finish has stood up to the onslaught pretty well, and after a full clean the bike still looks good – even with three years of average mileage on the clocks, all accumulated in the worst conditions possible. Not bad for a relatively ‘budget’ machine.
Missing you already
The Versys became part of the family. Three hours of commuting each day, five days a week; you do the maths. It’s not all been commuting though. Touring around the Peak District in January was great; no traffic, no fuss and fantastic roads. We’ve also had some surprisingly spirited rides.
I’d love to keep the Versys parked in the corner of my garage, ready to pressed into dutiful service again next winter, or when I want comfort and practicality rather than speed – but I don’t have the room or finances to keep it. I know I’m going to miss the plucky 650, and if the pain of separation gets too much, I could probably stretch to a PCP deal at just over £100 a month – which is pretty tempting.
But for now, it’s farewell old friend.