Have you ever been in love? The type you associate the color pink, and hearts and cupids with? The type one Karan Johar tried to portray using some laughable analogies in a song in the most rubbish movie of the year? Correct! Wohi waala love! Sounds like a frivolous beginning for the review of a Japanese litre-class motorcycle, doesn’t it? For us, it makes great sense, though. That’s because, for the fans of touring, the Versys in most cases would be love at first sight. Here’s what had us smitten.
Images: Vaibhav Aher
To start with, the expectations were high for a crackerjack of a Kwackerfest featuring a quartet of big bikes. We had four bikes in the offing and personally the anticipation bubbling inside me was more for the ZX10R and the ZX14R than the Versys 1000. Amit, however, with great confidence, remarked “Deepak, you will enjoy the Versys more than the other bikes”. “No way!” I mumbled. The Versys, in my books was a litre capacity engine packed into a 650’s frame.
My ill-informed notions, however, had to change in a matter of a few hours as the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 arrived from Kawasaki’s Wakdewadi showroom. I was gulping down multiple glasses of neera (palm nectar) on a hot afternoon waiting for the bikes, as the big machine finally announced its arrival growling from behind the mighty ZX14R like an undercover secret agent in black. The first look at the Versys 1000 was a big blow to my preconceived opinions. That subtly styled, yet tall frontal look staring through those twin Ninja-ish lights, the wide seat and those single key hard bags had me bowled over. “Damn this baby is big” I exclaimed. And somehow it appealed to me right from the first moment I saw it.
The racy anticipation for the ZX14R was subjugated by the touring spirit to the extent that I didn’t bother looking at the mighty 14 again. No longer could I feel the summer heat, body temperature dropped, I couldn’t hear the surroundings as I walked towards the Versys in slow motion. The proportions were to my liking and I was already in love – and I hadn’t even ridden it yet. I couldn’t restrain myself but swing a leg over the saddle and just ride off with no consciousness of the rest of the team’s presence.
From a minor twist of the wrist to the climbing numbers on the dash – I could feel arrows being ferociously fired at me from Cupid’s bow. With so much adoration for the big tourer, it was going to be difficult for me to be objective about the machine in the review. A job, though, is a job. So I shook all my affection for the bike off like a wet dog shaking water off himself, and decided to be as clinical about the subject as possible.
From the traffic infested bumpy roads of Paud to the twisty sections of Mutha and Lavasa to the wide well paved Pune-Bangalore highway – the testing ground was set for the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 and I set the big baby rolling.
STYLING, FEATURES & BUILD QUALITY
There are enough attention seeking motorcycles on the planet and then there are some which would go about their job clinically without any airs of pretension. The 2015 Versys 1000 falls into the latter category and it starts right from the styling. Though it wouldn’t win any beauty pageants, the Versys still looks like a fresh design with the trademark frontal Ninja look and twin cat-eye headlights housed in the high-set front fairing. The horizontal chin below the headlights add downforce at high speeds aiding stability to the motorcycle. Also an air intake between the headlights feeds air into the engine with increase in speeds.
With the extended gap between the fairing and the wheel the Versys 1000 looks more like an adventure motorcycle than a sports tourer. Sideways, the design might not set hearts racing, but every panel is slotted perfectly into the right place. The finish and the workmanship on this thing, like most Kawasaki motorcycles these days, is stellar to say the least. The big, round, exhaust unit may pass as the barrel of a canon – it’s not the sharpest, sleekest of the units, but is extremely well finished. The upright handlebars, the contoured, comfortable saddle for both the rider and pillion and that large adjustable windscreen will bring wide smiles on the faces of the touring fans.
Kawasaki is also providing Standard KQR™ (Kawasaki Quick Release) 28-liter Hard Saddlebags (optional at extra cost) and a luggage rack for a top case to substantiate the bike’s touring credentials. The robust looking centre stand might scare you off at first, but it’s easy to operate even for those with a slender built. Overall the Versys 1000 simply evokes the globetrotting emotion instantly makes one ruminate a date with the horizon.
Up front, the twin cat-eye lamps impart a modern look to the Versys 1000 with the right lamp serving as a daytime running unit. The illumination, however, fell a bit short of our lofty expectations as riding down the Lavasa twisties in the dark, the lights didn’t offer adequate intensity and spread expected from a sports touring motorcycle.
The screen is large and delightful to look at – especially when you think about the utility part and it indeed works well even at high speeds. The two adjustment knobs allow for a 75mm movement and the screen can be adjusted according to the rider’s comfort and convenience. The upright handlebars go well with the gorgeous seat to offer an extremely comfortable, upright seating stance.
We put the bike’s pillion comfort to a rigorous test as we took the Versys for a two up dash of 300 km with just one break en route. As we expected, the big tourer came out with flying colours with minimal fatigue registered for both riders aboard.
The 21 litre tank is well recessed to tuck your legs into and the capacity is good enough for a range of 300 kms once brimmed – decent figures, those, for a heavy litre-class motorcycle.
The cockpit, though not very futuristic, looks modern enough and the numbers on the LCD panel can be read clearly even in broad daylight. An analog tacho (thankfully) and various LED backlit indicators keep you constantly informed about the electronics in action.
Switchgear finish is top notch with great ergonomics to match the quality. The cluster on the left bar, in addition to the regular turn indicator toggle, low / high beam, horn and hazard lights, also features buttons to select power and traction control modes. Clear lens turn indicators offer good visibility even during daytime.
The large horizontally octagonal LED tail light has 12 illumination points. The twin hard bags give the Versys 1000’s rear a decidedly massive look.
Talking of hardware – the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 features long travel 43mm KYB separate function inverted forks with the spring adjuster on the left and rebound-damping adjuster provided on the right fork leg. At the rear is an equally plush back-link monoshock which can be adjusted for preload and rebound via a remote adjuster. Both ends read similar suspension travel of 5.9 inches and offer amazing levels of comfort to both rider and pillion while tackling undulations.
A pair of radially mounted Tokico four piston calipers squeezes the twin 310mm petal rotors at the front and a single pot caliper mounted over a single 250mm petal disc at the rear. Footwear on the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 reads a grippy pair of Made-in-Japan Bridgestone Battlax Sports Touring tyres with 120/70×17 and 180/55×17 sizes at two ends.
The Versys, similar to the Ninja 1000 gets two power modes – Full and Low with three modes of KTRC traction control. The F mode gets you to belt out all the horses while the L mode cuts down power as much as 25% – but even the L mode is enough to keep you ahead of most vehicles on the highways without even breaking a sweat.
The difference in both modes was easily evident while switching between the two on the fly. The L mode would get the bike into a somewhat languid mood – but switch to F and the Versys turns into a restless derby charger. There’s also the three mode traction control where Mode 1 is for spirited riding with minimal electronic interference. So if one still feels the urge to pop the front wheel up on this quarter tonne motorcycle – Mode 1 is where the TC should be at. Mode 2 ensures that the front stays glued to the ground with Mode 3 being the most conservative, with best suggested use in conditions where the tyres are somewhat struggling for grip.
Build quality and finish is absolutely top-notch. The Versys really impresses with its overall quality, be it the materials used, the ergonomics or the immaculate assembly of the panels. It’s one of those motorcycles which exude quality by the truckloads from the very first time you look at it.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Here comes the part which I’m so eager to talk about. Even though it’s been a year, memories of the Z1000 and the Ninja 1000 are still fresh in my mind. The remarkable level of refinement on those two motorcycles is something hard to forget and the Versys 1000 ups the ante. Propelled by the same 1043cc liquid-cooled inline-four cylinder engine that powers the other two motorcycles, the motor here has been tweaked with revised ECU settings for a more linear power delivery at the low and mid range than outright burst at the top.
The horsepower and torque figures have been reduced for the sake of efficiency and rider friendliness with the Versys churning out 118 bhp of peak power at 9000 rpm and 102 Nm of torque at 7500 rpm. All that shove is sent to the rear wheel via a slick six speed gearbox. An assist and slipper clutch has been provided for riders with compulsive quick downshifting habits.
The Versys 1000 may not have violent power to boast of, but that, again, isn’t what’s required of motorcycles in this class. It has ample horses, and more for the job at hand, and to top it up, it boasts great refinement and rideability. So while the Z1000 would start howling from 5000 rpm or thereabouts, the Versys maintains its unruffled character until you take it to the very top of the rev range. The motor demonstrates its unflustered character even while sprinting at double ton speeds. The engine heat is nicely deflected well off the rider’s feet. Also, if needed, the Versys would potter around like a commuter motorcycle doing speeds as low as 30km/h in top gear without any spluttering.
For those who like relaxed cruising on the highways, the Versys could munch miles effortlessly in top gear with the speedo indicating 100 kph with the corresponding rev value of 3750 rpm and 120 kmph at 4600 clicks. If the fuel capacity wasn’t a limitation, the Versys would take you to the moon and back without breaking a sweat.
HANDLING, RIDE QUALITY AND BRAKING
Now this is another delightful part that would remain etched in my memory for a long time. The Versys might intimidate you visually at first with its epic proportions – but swing a leg over it and you’d realize what a breeze this motorcycle is to ride. You’d be hard pressed to ponder as to where all those 250 kg have vanished once on move. Graceful is the word for the way the Versys 1000 goes about doing its job. A solid planted stance along with a commanding seating position is brilliantly complemented a balanced, lithe demeanor around the bends. Devouring straights while putting the peripheral view into a violent blur, or carving corners effortlessly, elegantly, while traversing the winding country roads, the Versys can handle it all with rare authority.
The only thing to watch out for is the pegs kissing the tarmac with relative ease. The Versys is a tall bike, and while the foot-pegs aren’t too low-set, the bike leans into corners much easier than you’d think. This often encourages the rider to lean it harder into the bends. The Versys, however, isn’t a supersport machine, and you would eventually feel the pegs grinding under your feet if you push it too hard. Also, sudden change of directions gets the front suspension diving in and out a bit which is understandable considering its travel and suppleness – but not to an extent that would get you nervous. I still cannot get over the fact of how easy and agile this motorcycle is to ride. The Versys 1000 has to be one of those very few motorcycles which despite its humongous dimensions would befriend you right from the word go. The Versys is, however, a tall motorcycle and doesn’t suit shorter riders too well. I being a 5.8 framed rider could barely flatfoot being on the seat.
Ride quality is stellar with the broad seat featuring about the perfect foam density and padding to offer the right mix of suppleness and support. The suspension pampers the rider and pillion alike, with the rear suspension being one of the absolute best in the business. It devours irregularities with uncanny ease. The grippy Bridgestone rubber offers excellent grip during spirited riding, cornering and hard braking.
Talk about brakes and they’re on par with the other performance parameters of the motorcycles. The ABS equipped Tokico calipers at both ends offer adequate and predictable stopping power to this burly motorcycle. In addition to the usual brake tests, we tried a couple of high speed braking experiments and at no point did the brakes managed to get us unnerved. Extremely predictable, progressive, easy to modulate and forgiving – those brakes are just what a big touring bike like the Versys needs. You have to be an extremely (mis)adventurous rider to get yourself into a braking mess on the Versys 1000.
Here is a motorcycle aimed at the sports touring segment, but that’s not the only thing it’s good at. The Versys 1000 serving its key brief is a supremely comfortable companion on your long journeys, without discriminating one bit with the co-rider. Some may disagree, but it can be the perfect commuter, too for the taller riders. Whether a short weekend outing or a weeklong expedition, it’s got enough grunt and dexterity to keep up with your superbiker friends during their weekend breakfast runs, and leave their troubled, tired selves miles behind on long distance runs. Whatever the situation, rest assured that you’d be getting off the seat fresher than the rest. Internationally the Versys 650 already has a strong following given its versatile character and the Versys 1000 betters the proposition for riders looking for more punch and that addictive inline four symphony.
At INR 12,90,000/- ex-showroom Pune, VFM isn’t the Versys 1000’s trump card. But for the performance oriented touring biker who wishes to ride around in luxuriant comfort without sacrificing the adventure aspect that makes motorcycle the addiction it is, the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 is an irresistible offering. As for myself, I’m hunting for a kidney buyer.
2015 KAWASAKI VERSYS 1000 TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
|Engine||Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, Inline-four|
|Bore x Stroke||77.0 x 56.0mm|
|Fuel System||DFI® with four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies, oval sub-throttles|
|Max Power||118 bhp @ 9000 rpm|
|Max Torque||102 nm @ 7500 rpm|
|Ignition||TCBI with digital advance|
|Clutch Type||Wet Multiplate with Assist & Slipper function|
|Final Drive||Sealed chain|
|Front Suspension / Wheel Travel||KYB 43mm inverted front fork with adjustable rebound and preload / 5.9 in|
|Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel||Horizontal back-link shock with adjustable rebound damping and adjustable spring preload, remote preload adjuster / 5.9 in|
|Front Tyre||120/70×17- Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T30|
|Rear Tyre||180/55×17- Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T30|
|Front Brakes||Dual 310mm petal rotors with four-piston calipers and ABS|
|Rear Brakes||Single 250mm petal rotor with single-piston caliper and ABS|
|Power Modes||2 level- Full & Low|
|Traction Control||3 level KSRTC|
|Frame Type||Twin-spar aluminum|
|Rake/Trail||27.0 degrees / 4.0 in|
|Overall Length||88.2 in|
|Overall Width||40.4 in|
|Overall Height||55.1 in / 57.7 in (windshield DN/UP)|
|Ground Clearance||5.9 in|
|Seat Height||33.1 in|
|Curb Weight||250 kgs|
|Fuel Capacity||20 litres|
|Top Speed (as tested)||214 kph|
|Fuel Efficiency||16.9 kpl|
|Price||INR 12,90,000/- (Ex-showroom, Pune)|
2015 KAWASAKI VERSYS 1000 IMAGE GALLERY