An adventure bike with a high road clearance and a sporty engine, the Kawasaki Versys 1000, one of the new breed of crossovers, defies all conventions by featuring a totally different engine, brakes and frame. Still, the Versys borrows solutions and systems found on other Kawasaki models, namely the Z1000, ZX-10R
A Premier Model
Stemming from the Z1000, the 4-cylinder engine has been reworked to decrease its compression ratio from 11.8:1 to 10.3:1. The valve lift and opening rate has also been reduced. These longer intakes translate into low to mid-range torque.
With a new operating range, high engine speeds have been dropped in exchange for decent accelerations, starting at just 1800 rpm. The bike pushes forward smoothly, without any fits or starts, and accelerates steadily until you reach the red line. The experience is, however, in no way sterile: we can still feel the huge 4-cylinder rage on as it growls ever faster, a prized sporty feel from the Japanese maker.
Kawasaki’s reputation for designing big 4-cylinder blocks has been well-founded. Nonetheless, the brand's transmissions are known to have room for improvement. Featured on its latest sport models (ZX-6R and ZX-10R) including the new Versys 1000, Kawasaki can now boast green gearboxes that are just as effective as the competition. Changing gears in this transmission is fast and precise, making us feel like we've already been on this bike for years.
|Stemming from the Z1000, the 4-cylinder engine has been reworked to decrease its compression ratio from 11.8:1 to 10.3:1. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)
The Versys also borrows its frame from the Z1000. With a less rigid design, the steering's caster angle has been opened up 27° for greater stability. The two machines share the same wheels and disc brakes, though the Versys fork has been improved for greater versatility, comfort and clearance.
Although it looks heavy on paper, the Versys 1000 is agile and easy to steer. Thanks to the bike's balance, low-speed city or parking maneuvers are easy and sure - even in heavy traffic, you don't need to constantly touch your foot to the ground. Another nice surprise: the engine's heat doesn't spoil the ride, even at stops.
On a country road, the Versys 1000 rapidly reveals its potential for sportiness, no doubt inherited from the Ninja 1000. It zips from turn to turn, where the Versys' stability on corners is worthy of a GT. The driver can easily detect traction by the powertrain, and the excellent Pirelli Scorpion Trail (80% asphalt and 20% gravel) tires provide just the right grip on a dusty road, whatever the changing conditions.
The suspension also strikes just the right balance between flexibility and firmness. Comfortable on a bumpy road, the Versys 1000 surpasses itself when the road is smooth and sinuous, though we could use a little less pitching. This can be compensated, in part, by adjusting the BPF (Big Piston Fork) to prestress, compressed and cruising mode and by regulating the shock absorbers with an adjustable spanner on the right side of the bike.
|On a country road, the Versys 1000 rapidly reveals its potential for sportiness, no doubt inherited from the Ninja 1000. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)
All-purpose? Yes. But it may be that in wanting to do too much, Versys 1000 doesn't excel in anything in particular, except maybe for comfort…here, the bike almost reaches the same level as the great sport touring motorcycles. The saddle is plush and nicely sculpted, the handlebars are lifted and tilted towards the driver and the foot rests bend the legs just enough to slightly elevate your backside, which makes it easier to absorb abrupt changes.
The windshield is height-adjustable, without tools, to 30 mm. The full dashboard features an odometer, two trip meters, a digital speedometer, an analog tachometer, several classic pilot lights and a fuel gauge. The bike, however, doesn't have a central crutch because the catalytic system hogs all the space, neither a cardan shaft, a question of cost.
The big Versys sports the latest and greatest Bosch KIBS anti-lock braking system and programmed digital fuel injection, both similar to the ZX-10R superbike. The Kawasaki Versys 1000’s S-KTRC
antislip system is a mix of the two versions that comes with the ZX-10R and ZX-14R models. As for the superbike, the antislip system neutralizes itself completely whereas the ABS always sticks to its job?
As for other Kawasaki models equipped with the S-KTRC system, the word is: surprising! The traction control system displays an eloquent transparency, no matter the road conditions. On a gravel or slippery road, it allows you to ride hard while effectively controlling your way around turns and coming out of corners. Very ‘mother-hen’ protective in Mode 3, it’s more discreet on the other positions while remaining present and effective. In Mode 1, it lets you prove that you can handle some slippage, otherwise it intervenes to save you from a serious blunder.
|The big Versys sports the latest and greatest Bosch KIBS anti-lock braking system and programmed digital fuel injection, both similar to the ZX-10R superbike. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)
The ABS system also acts precisely and efficiently. In fact, stopping distances on dry, wet or gravel surfaces are managed so well that only Dakar rally driver, Marc Coma, could do better without the benefit of the system.
For those who want more than a traditional touring motorcycle, the Kawasaki Versys 1000 promises more suppleness, more versatility and especially more performance while offering a level of comfort above that of the average tourer. Since the revision of the ZX-6R in 2009, Kawasaki has shown us that it is constantly evolving when it comes to model design. The quality and the artfulness of their latest incarnation, the Versys 1000, demonstrate this in a beautiful way.
Big thank you to Nadon Sport St-Eustache
Smooth and effective engine
No particular speciality