Kawasaki Versys 1000
If this motorcycle were human, who would it be? Not Killer Kowolski. Not Rudolf Nureyev. Not General Douglas McArthur. But possibly James Bond. Utterly efficient, resourceful, handsome, and somewhat inscrutable. The 2019 version of Kawasaki’s big sports tourer embodies all of these traits, and the deeper you dig, the more you find.
Let’s start with first impressions; tall and a little top-heavy, especially with a full (21 litre) tank of fuel. At 257kg unladen, this is a fair bit of bike, and with packed panniers, top case and a pillion, it goes up from there. As such, you need to be careful with low speed manoeuvres, but this sensation soon abates, the moment the road begins to disappear beneath the wheels. Once in its stride, the Versys just eats the kilometres, and there’s a multitude of settings and adjustments to ensure the ride is supremely comfortable and efficient. The luggage compartment consists of side panniers and a top case, the latter large enough to take two full-face helmets. Amongst the vast catalogue of optional extras, there are internal soft bags which fit snugly and are easily carried so you don’t need to detach the panniers for overnight stops. The Versys 1000 is also big on electronics, very big. First, choose between Road, Rain or Sport setting for the throttle map, activate Traction Control if you wish, then adjust the suspension according to how many people and how much luggage is aboard. The computer dials up the suspension settings you need. All at the touch of a finger, and all clearly visible on the colour dash. Or, you can do all this via the Kawasaki Rideology app and connect your smartphone to the bike via Bluetooth. Simples. I mentioned the 21 litre tank, which will take you at least 400km, probably more, between fuel stops. You also
have Cruise Control and heated grips (with three levels) to maximise comfort. Given the uber high-tech nature of the Versys, I thought the manually adjustable screen, with its complex-looking steel carrier and adjustment knobs, to be a bit infradig, as it can’t (or shouldn’t) be adjusted on the move. An electrically-controlled screen would be a very sensible mod. For a break from Sydney traffic, we loaded up the green machine and headed south, itching the get off the motorway and onto the back roads that took us through Kangaroo Valley and on to our overnight stay at Kiama. With the suspension settings dialled up to full load and the engine in Sport mode, the Versys grew extra muscles. Even with this load, it was rare to need to drop out of top gear, such is the mid-range beef in this engine, which would also rev off the clock if required, which it wasn’t. In time, I forgot all about the weight bias and the need to keep the revs up at low speed. And while these back roads were quaint and interesting, the actual surface varied from average to awful, and here the suspension really came into its own. The front compression damping soaked up the biggest potholes, and there were quite a few, while the rear did its job with the utmost in stoic efficiency.
All in all, the Versys 1000 is a machine for a purpose, or actually many purposes. As an escape machine it is brilliant; a combination of an engine that has been carefully refined from its Z1000 roots to an impressive and versatile unit that feels like it would take you from Victoria to Vladivostok if required. Once you get the hang of the electronic heart of the machine and learn to use its full capabilities, you expand the whole package immeasurably. Sophisticated, practical and sharply styled. Just like James Bond.
Buzzing through the Illawarra hills. Heaven!
Dashboard is easily read and displays all the various functions.
Left switch is the heart of the electronic controls. Spot lights and engine protector bars are amongst the many options.
ABOVE Windscreen works well but is only manually adjustable when stopped. LEFT A handsome package.