2012 Kawasaki Versys vs. 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650 | Cheap Adventure

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Kevin Wing

Off the Record

Brian Catterson

Age: 50 | Height: 6’1”
Weight: 215 lbs. | INSEAM: 34 in.

Much as I love dirtbikes, I still prefer streetbikes on the street. And as far as I’m concerned, that made for an immediate winner here. The Versys may literally be long-legged, but it’s still very much a sportbike, with a fun, revvy motor and agile handling. The gas mileage isn't quite as good as the V-Strom, but it does pretty well, and costs less. I like the way it looks, too, at least in Metallic Spark Black. It’s pretty menacing for a middleWeight!

The V-Strom is longer and lower, and while its 19-inch front wheel makes it marginally better off-road, its tires are still largely street-biased, so it’s pretty much limited to graded dirt roads. If it had a broader range, like its Adventure counterpart does—or should—I’d be all-in. But until then, I’m going green—even if it’s yellow.

Off the Record

Karel Kramer

Age: 57 | Height: 6’1”
Weight: 225 lbs. | INSEAM: 32 in.

I know some riders find these middleWeights boring, confused or drab, but not me. I began street riding on small-displacement dual-sport bikes and progressed to standards with a sit-up riding position. Factor in decades of hardcore off-roading, and you can see why I like the V-Strom and the Versys. Of these two, however, I would own the Suzuki. The riding position works for me, and the linkage suspension and larger front wheel make it more composed than the Kawasaki on bumpy roads. I’ll admit that the Kawi has the Suzi smoked in roll-on power, but it’s buzzy at freeway speeds. The ’Strom’s EFI is more civilized transitioning from off-throttle, and it feels relaxed at speeds that endanger my driver’s license. I like the look of the Kawasaki, but the Suzuki makes me want to go riding. And at 50-plus mpg, I can afford to go!

Double Duty

Words: Marc Cook

As the motorcycle industry digs out from stem-to-stern economic upheaval, would you believe that the category leading the return to sales success is none other than dual-sport? According to Motorcycle Industry Council figures, dual-sport bikes led the market by posting sales figures up 12.7% in the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same time the year before.

Why the dual-sport resurgence, if you want to call it that? Partly cost: The popular Japanese DSes are all, ah, mature designs, so the MSRPs won’t cause a heart attack. A Suzuki DR650SE is still under $6000, some $2300 below a V-Strom 650. You could almost buy two Ds for the Price of one GSX-R600. (Yes, we know, different horses, different tracks.) The dual-sport surge is also fueled by the popularity of adventure bikes; BMW's R1200GS is still among its best sellers, and Yamaha has done very well with the Super Tenere. Maybe, too, buyers in today’s market value one bike that can do two things relatively well over models that do one thing extremely well. Call it the new practicality.

By Brian Catterson
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I've been riding my 05 V-strom 650 for 45,000 trouble free miles. I use it for commuting as well as 450 to 600 mile touring days and the occassional week-end, two-up. I especially like the nearly 500 lb. payload capacity, much more then even the new Triumph Trophy Sport Touring ride. I sometimes wish it were an 800 cc ride so I did not lust after a Strom 1000 for 2-up riding. No doubt the Versys is a good ride but just does not fit me or my riding preferences. For the record, I am nearly 70 years old, 240#, 30 in. inseam and ride pavement, graded dirt and gravel.
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