As appealing as the new high-tech, high-performance Ducati Multistrada 1200 S may be, it is quite a bit of motorcycle for daily riding. Until we see the Multistrada 796 or Triumph Tiger 675, the Kawasaki Versys will hold sway in the mid-sized street-focused adventure bike genre.
A close relative of the unquestionably fun and practical Kawasaki Ninja 650 and ER-6n sport bikes, the Versys inspires the rider to put the city at his back and do some exploratory traveling.
All the features are there for the job: the spunky parallel twin powerplant sports double overhead cams, eight valves and liquid cooling; the upright seating position keeps me fresh after hundreds of miles in the comfortable saddle; the abbreviated fairing reduces fatigue, and the near vertical windscreen keeps air flowing around me, rather than through me.
Like the Ducati Multistrada, the Versys has longish legs-though not too long for those of us who learned to ride on dirt bikes-but the taller bike does not result in awkward handling at any speed.
Happily at home in the canyons, the Versys has plenty of cornering clearance and effective twin-disc braking up front. As noted before, the Ninja-sourced motor spins up nicely, without being intimidating-it is just right for riding hard, yet keeps things reasonable on public roads. The perfectly ratio, six-speed tranny shifts slickly and is ideally matched to the motor’s wide powerband.
Besides improving the view, the semi-adjustable long-travel suspension that approaches six inches at both ends keeps any road imperfections at bay.
Kawasaki kept the spring and damping rates sporty, so the Versys does not wallow when pushed. Riding the bike as intended, I never felt out of sorts or experienced any “moments.”
The Dunlop Sportmax tires are flawless on the street, but do not tempt any off-road excursions. Having said that, the ergonomics of the Versys make well-maintained dirt roads unintimidating.
Although the Kawasaki Versys lacks the sophisticated charisma of a Multistrada, it is nevertheless a great riding companion that delivers in almost every situation.
Its agreeable personality will appeal to both the re-entry rider rediscovering the sport, as well as the rider who feels he can accomplish his adventure goals without a Testastretta motor and more electronics than a Boeing Dreamliner.
Motorcycle Riding Apparel
- Helmet: Arai RX-Q
- Jacket: Tour Master Motive
- Gloves: Cortech Scarab Winter
- Pants: Firstgear TPG Escape
- Boots: Sidi Discovery