2010 Kawasaki Versys

Staffers' Rides

Photography by Kawasaki

Ringleader: Marty Estes
MSRP (2010): $7599
Miles: 824-1637
Average Fuel Mileage: 48 mpg
Accessories & Modifications: None yet

In 2008, Kawasaki's Versys appeared on the scene and beat out some strong competition to take our Motorcycle of the Year honors. For 2010 the do-it-all bike is even better, and I'm pleased to have secured one as my next long-termer. The new bike's look is considerably different, with updates to the muffler, engine covers, radiator shrouds, fenders, headlight and windscreen. It's still weird-looking, just a different kind of weird. But the new model is more than just a cosmetic rehash; Kawasaki addressed the bike's minor weaknesses, too. New rubber bushings at the rear engine mounts and hollow, rubber-covered footpegs have appreciably lessened vibes transmitted to the rider, and new mirrors offer a better rearview. While some loyalists at www.kawasakiversys.com bemoan the new look, I like it, especially in badass black. For most people interested in this bike, it will come down to one big difference: The new bike costs $700 more.

No matter what you think of the Versys' looks, it doesn't matter when you're in the saddle. This bike just works. The riding position is neutral, the controls are precisely where they need to be and the cockpit offers a commanding view of your surroundings. The suspension is firm and well-damped for a bargain bike, and there's enough ground clearance for me to satisfy my appetite for the occasional dirt road. Thus far I've found the three-position windscreen to be perfect around town and for commuting, but for longer hauls more surface area is needed. As of this writing there aren't any aftermarket screens available for the new Versys (there are plenty for the old one), but a few companies are developing applications. The seat could use some help, too, as it starts to get uncomfortable for me at about the 90-minute mark. Apparently some people get along just fine with the stock saddle, but there are a few aftermarket options I'd like to explore.

This is the smallest displacement streetbike I've tried to live with. My main trepidation in choosing the Versys was whether the 649cc mill would be up to the task of hauling me (a relatively big guy) around. I'll save you the suspense: It is. The little parallel-twin isn't the most inspiring engine to listen to, but it produces enough power to accomplish most tasks with ease, all while getting an average 48 mpg. Those with a more restrained right wrist will surely fetch upwards of 50 mpg. There are two more plusses when it comes to fuel economy: The Versys nets 200 miles between fill-ups and it runs on regular unleaded.

My goal for this long-term test is to err on the cheap. The Versys is already a great commuter, but I've got a few long-distance trips in the works so am thinking of outfitting it for comfort and cargo capacity. Considering how good this revised version of our '08 MOTY winner works, I think we're going to get along great.

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