Think of the Versys as a tall Ninja 650R. The fuel-injected 649cc engine is essentially the same, as is the tubular-steel frame. But its front suspension is an inverted, 41mm adjustable fork with 5.9 inches of travel mated to a single, linkage-free shock with 5.7-in. of travel. Cast 17-in. wheels take Ninja-sized tires: a 120/70 up front and a 160/60 out back. Owners seem to like both sport-touring and adventure-touring tires.
The Versys excels at commuting, sport touring and urban riding. Its 33-in. seat height and upright riding position provides a nice high vantage while balancing weight between your wrists and rear, allowing long hours in the saddle without inviting along your chiropractor. Freeway fuel economy can approach 50 mpg. We here at Motorcyclist realized the Versys’ broad competence early on. In fact, we named it the 2008 Motorcycle of the Year.
Nate Rauba, a Technical Writer for Kawasaki, put more than 30,000 miles on two Versyses, an ’08 and an ‘09.
He describes it as “a great all-around bike with a nice seating position for a reasonable price.” Nate advises that a taller Kawasaki Accessories windscreen will decrease high-speed wind buffeting. Other aftermarket companies, including Givi, Cee Bailey and National Cycle, make replacement screens. Rauba fixed his 2009’s buzzy front fairing by inserting a small rubber damper between the fairing panels.
Some Versys riders report clunky shifting between first and second gear, presumably due to a positive neutral-fnding mechanism. Changing technique to quick, deliberate shifts will help. The stock seat has also elicited criticism, but Corbin, Sargent or others have solutions. Gearing is a little short for freeway speeds. A 43- or 44-tooth rear sprocket instead of the stock 46-tooth or even a 16-tooth front instead of the stock 15-tooth will drop engine speeds and calm the ride on the highway.
At around five grand for an early bike, the Versys represents a great value. Support comes from www.kawasakiversys.com. Find a good used one with heated grips, hard luggage or other farkles already installed and you’re ready for adventure. As long as it’s mostly paved adventure. MC
Broadly competent. Devoid
Not quite dirt-worthy.
Buzzy fairings. Insuffcient paid time off from work.
Magnifcent, mild-mannered, middleweight mile-eater.
2008 KLE650 | $4225
2010 KLE650 | $5300
Suzuki V-Strom 650
2008 | $ 4800
Like the Versys, the V-Strom 650 mates a proven middleweight powerplant with long-travel suspension. A 19-in. front wheel makes the Wee-Strom more suitable for dirt excursions.
2007 | $6200
Belt-driven Bavarian Bahn-stormer: The ST was an uncommon BMW with its parallel-twin engine confguration, belt drive and traditional telescopic front end. But its long legs make it a strong middleweight contender.
Ducati Monster 695
2007 | $4200
Ducati’s air-cooled desmodromic middle weight Monster is alternately carnivorous or cuddly, as you require. Il Monstro
Piccolo is an inexpensive entry into Desmo addiction.