According to some there’s nothing more versatile than a Swiss Army Knife and now Kawasaki also claim to have a similar versatile system, in the motorcycle world that is. So can this new bike “cut it” in these difficult times? Bill opens up the Versys to find out.
A few years ago Kawasaki took their functional Er-6, added some different bodywork and bits and invented another model to their successful 650cc class, called the Versys. It was certainly a popular cycle in SA because quite a few of these funky commuters are seen buzzing around our busy roads. But what happens if a “mere” 650cc engine isn’t enough and you prefer more, much more? Well Kawasaki obviously had a few letters with the same question scribbled onto parchment because they’ve now made a bigger, fatter and faster version. Can you guess what they’ve called it? Yes you’re right; it’s a Kawasaki Versys 1000, hurrah!
Kawasaki’s Versys badge stands for “Versatile System” (abbreviated to Versys because, I suppose, they’d need a longer fairing to put that name on), and versatile means something that can be used for many different things. But to me that’s quite a vague statement because surely many bikes out there already can be used for many different things as well. How about their brilliant Z1000SX for example, which is one of the best 1,000cc motorbikes available and does as much as the Versys, if not more, with a near identical engine? So where and to whom does this new bike belong?
To be honest that was the question on my mind the entire time I spent with the Versys 1000 and at the end of the week I still couldn’t find an answer. Don’t get me wrong though the Versys 1000 is a very, very good motorcycle in its own right but it never lifted my skirt and excitedly exposed my “fruit and veg” as much as the fabulous and unbeatable Z1000 and Z1000SX did.
The engine used in all these Z thou’ derivatives (and the Versys) is the fantastic 1.043cc, liquid cooled, 16-valve, in-line four cylinder unit. This super smooth power plant has always been a big favourite of mine especially in Kawasaki’s naked Z1000 and, again, it’s a peach in the Versys. But Kawasaki chose to lose some power in the quest for versatility and improved low down torque, which they’ve achieved, but at what cost?
Well quite a large one I believe because instead of leaving the Z1000 engine alone Kawasaki lowered the compression ration from 11.8:1 to 10.3:1 by reshaping the combustion chambers. Then longer and smaller throttle bodies were used to improve low-down torque and another secondary balancer shaft is claimed to make the engine vibrate less, which it never really did in the first place. Oh and first and second gear ratios have been changed for lower ratios, while the other four remain the same. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to leave their already superb engine alone? Well, I just had to run it on Noddy’s Dynojet dyno and indeed found at least 10 horses had left the stable and the Versys now has 105hp at the wheel. The torque is the same as the other Zeds (95Nm ish) but more of it up to 6,000rpm, which is what Kawasaki wanted.
Still Kawasaki’s re-tuned engine is fun to play with and it will entertain a new owner for sure. It will wheelie nicely, if you like that sort of thing, cruise beautifully, launch hard and effortlessly haul a chunky pillion along with you on your travels. I think the Versys 1000 will be at home the most here, while touring, with its long travel and very good suspension package. In fact the whole bike is pathetically easy to ride and slovenly comfortable due to that fat padded seat for both rider and passenger. The touring theme continues with the huge rack that comes as a standard fitment and you’ll be able to buy matching panniers and top box for full wardrobe mode. To keep the wind away at motorway speeds is an adjustable screen that goes up and down by 30mm, but you’ll have to get off and adjust it yourself which is easily done by a couple of big black screws on the front. Unless you have arthritis in your hands and wipe your bum with a stick, then you might need assistance?
It seems at the moment that all bikes tend to be riddled with electronic gadgetry and the Versys 1000 is no exception. Kawasaki has fitted their take on traction control, from the ZX-10, with three options. When and where this will be used is another question, perhaps while inadvertently entering an ice-rink while your missus goes shopping, or riding across rotting cabbages, but it’s there anyway if needed. Apparently it’s for slippery surfaces while on heavy machines but with just over 100hp at the wheel, a gentle twist will suffice nicely I’d imagine.
I really hope I’m not coming across too negative with the Versys 1000 because, like I said earlier, it’s a very nice motorbike to ride, well it definitely rides better than it looks because that to most is another issue. For some reason it reminded me of Lego, if you catch my drift?
The Kawasaki Versys 1000 is a big motorbike and because of that it feels a safe and relaxed place to be (it also comes with ABS if you’re asking), which all adds up to friendly giant with impeccable manners, which for some is all they’ll ever ask for. The comfort levels combined with those high swept back handlebars are just what a doctor would order for such a practical machine, and for that this bike is near perfect for everyday use, and for that matter every other day too. Its engine is well suited to the rest of the bike because of the relaxing way it thrusts you forward and a decent turn of top speed in the 250kmh plus region is enough to send you to a cell where traction control won’t help you at all. But for R136,000 it’s just too close to the price of that amazing Z1000SX, don’t ya think?