2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ First Ride Review

The Versys joins the electronic suspension revolution.

2019 Kawasaki Versys in front of mountains.
Bags, hand guards, a centerstand, and now all the electronics you can shake a stick at.Kevin Wing

For 2019, Kawasaki is introducing the Versys 1000 SE LT+, and it's alphabet soup in the form of a motorcycle. The core of its popular Versys 1000 tourer stays the same, but it's now surrounded by new bodywork, and a suite of electronic upgrades that would make Campbell's jealous.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ on the road about to cross a bridge.
The Versys encourages you to take the long way…Kevin Wing

It starts with Electronic Throttle Valves (ETV), which is Kawasaki’s name for ride by wire. ETV enables four riding modes (Sport, Road, Rain, and a customizable Rider) as well as a long-requested feature: electronic cruise control. When paired with a fix-axis Bosch inertial measurement unit (IMU), the Versys can now compete with the best when it comes to acronym generation.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ riding on road in front of mountains.
…whether the road is straight or curvy.Kevin Wing

Like the Versys' MSRP ($17,999 compared to $12,999 last year), let's start from the bottom and work our way up:

Managing how the tires interact with the pavement is KTRC (Kawasaki TRaction Control). There are three modes of control, and you can turn it off. You’ve also got KIBS (Kawasaki Intelligent antilock Brake System), the same system utilized on the H2 and ZX-10R but with software tweaks to match the longer-travel suspension. The “intelligent” descriptor comes from the fact that the system can apply partial pressure instead of completely cutting out braking, which smooths out ABS pulses and shortens stopping distances. Both functions are overseen by KCMF (Kawasaki Cornering Management Function), which manages traction, pitching, and lean-sensitive braking.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ riding on road.
Your only color option is Metallic Flat Spark Black/Pearl Flat Stardust White.Kevin Wing

Keeping the tires in contact with the road is KECS (Kawasaki Electronic Control Suspension)—the Showa suspension now actively adjusts damping every millisecond depending on your selected ride mode. As you enter a pothole, the Versys can detect the forward pitch and stiffen up the fork, reducing the impact forces. In addition, KECS enables preload adjustments on the fly. If the throttle is closed, you can switch between Rider, Rider and Luggage, or Rider and Passenger while moving.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ with 43mm cartridge fork.
The 43mm cartridge fork receives signals every millisecond.Kevin Wing

KQS is the Kawasaki Quick Shifter, which allows for clutchless shifting in both directions. A neutral finder makes it easy to light up the green “N” on the dash when in first gear at a stop. There’s plenty of other upgrades as well, including three-stage cornering lights, three-stage heated grips, “highly durable paint,” and a TFT screen.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ riding on road in front of bushes.
The cornering lights turn on at 10, 20, and 30 degrees.Kevin Wing

The electronics all work as advertised, though the quickshifter was inconsistent. It never missed a shift, but the smoothness of operation was random, no matter the throttle position or selected gear. In addition, the shifter action feels sloppier than it should.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ shift lever.
The shift lever lacks the usual preciseness I’ve come to expect from Kawasaki.Kevin Wing

Almost all the electronic trickery can be controlled with a phone app that Kawasaki calls Rideology. It allows you to check the current status of your Versys, change settings, and customize power output, traction control, and suspension settings in Rider mode.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ GPS
There’s also an interesting bonus where you can track your ride. Other OEMS offer GPS-based tracking, but Kawasaki takes it to another level by also including additional information such as gear position, rpm, Gs of acceleration, brake pressure, and throttle opening percentage.Kevin Wing

There’s also an interesting bonus where you can track your ride. Other OEMS offer GPS-based tracking, but Kawasaki takes it to another level by also including additional information such as gear position, rpm, Gs of acceleration, brake pressure, and throttle opening percentage.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ Rideology
Want to know how hard you opened the throttle on a straightaway? Now you can.Kevin Wing

In the balance of sport-touring, the Versys leans heavily toward the latter. Kawasaki took us to Arizona for a two-day ride from Scottsdale to Flagstaff—a scenic trip with plenty of twisties. The Versys 1000 SE LT+ is deceptively fun to throw around a corner thanks to 17-inch wheels that ensure quick turn-in, Bridgestone Battlax T31 tires that provide more than enough grip, and a chassis that can keep up.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ front wheel.
KCMF really shines in this environment, providing a guiding hand to both corner entry and exit. But the motor lacks the urgency that one would hope for from 1,043cc. Kawasaki has opted for smoothness at the expense of power delivery, which is fair considering the intended usage. It also means the Versys is an excellent choice to cover hundreds of miles in a day.Kevin Wing

KCMF really shines in this environment, providing a guiding hand to both corner entry and exit. But the motor lacks the urgency that one would hope for from 1,043cc. Kawasaki has opted for smoothness at the expense of power delivery, which is fair considering the intended usage. It also means the Versys is an excellent choice to cover hundreds of miles in a day.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ accessory trunk.
If 56 liters of storage isn’t enough, Kawasaki will sell you an accessory trunk.Kevin Wing

A matching trunk is an available option, as are frame/axle sliders, a shorter seat, auxiliary lights, and a GPS mount. None are necessary as the Versys is well-equipped from the factory for long days in the saddle, though riders above 6-foot-2 should look to the aftermarket for a taller windscreen. The only other drawback is a significant amount of vibration at 6K rpm, though that won’t be an issue in top gear as you’d be doing 95 mph.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+
With the increased feature set and price, the Versys now occupies a solitary spot in the market. It has left bikes like the Tracer 900 GT behind in terms of electronic offerings, but it’s not up at the level of a BMW S 1000 XR in terms of power. The Versys makes a lot of sense for riders who realize that you don’t need the extra 40-plus horsepower offered by Ducati or BMW to have a life-changing two-up motorcycle tour. But they’ll probably be the same riders who ask if you also need all this technology at a $5,000 premium. Just remember that a similarly equipped S 1000 XR or Multistrada 1260 will set you back nearly $21,000, so even if Kawasaki has gone upmarket, the Versys remains a relative bargain.Kevin Wing

With the increased feature set and price, the Versys now occupies a solitary spot in the market. It has left bikes like the Tracer 900 GT behind in terms of electronic offerings, but it’s not up at the level of a BMW S 1000 XR in terms of power. The Versys makes a lot of sense for riders who realize that you don’t need the extra 40-plus horsepower offered by Ducati or BMW to have a life-changing two-up motorcycle tour. But they’ll probably be the same riders who ask if you also need all this technology at a $5,000 premium. Just remember that a similarly equipped S 1000 XR or Multistrada 1260 will set you back nearly $21,000, so even if Kawasaki has gone upmarket, the Versys remains a relative bargain.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ riding on road in between mountains.
Take your savings, spend it on gas, and hit the road!Kevin Wing

Tech Spec

MSRP $17,999
ENGINE 1,043cc, liquid-cooled inline 4-cylinder
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE N/A
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 1,043cc, liquid-cooled inline 4-cylinder
CLAIMED TORQUE 75.2 lb.-ft. @ 7,500 rpm
FRAME Twin-spar aluminum
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 43mm inverted fork adjustable for KECS-controlled rebound and compression damping, manual preload; 5.9-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa piggyback reservoir shock adjustable for KECS-controlled rebound and compression damping, electronic preload; 5.9-in. travel
FRONT BRAKES Dual 4-piston caliper, 310mm petal-style discs w/ non-switchable ABS
REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, 250mm disc w/ non-switchable ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 27.0°/4.0 in.
WHEELBASE 59.8 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 33.1 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 5.5 gal.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 567 lb.
AVAILABLE Spring 2019
CONTACT kawasaki.com