2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ Review: Sit Tall, Go Far
The Kawasaki Versys lineup is an interesting one. Although nominally adventure, it ranges from the dirt-worthy Versys-X 300 to the purely street Versys 1000 LT. It is a good year for the big Versys, as the 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ makes its debut as a coast-to-coast ready sport-touring motorcycle that provides a lofty view of the open road. Although not quite an all-new model, the SE LT+ is an impressive upgrade of the Versys 1000 platform.1. The 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ gets a modern suite of electronic aids. With an IMU feeding essential information to the motorcycle’s CPU, the SE LT+ utilizes active suspension, cornering awareness, ABS, traction control, riding modes, quickshifting, cruise control, electronically actuated throttle valves (true throttle-by-wire), and a Bluetooth-connected app to assist in the rider-motorcycle interface.
2. Kawasaki uses a propriety semi-active suspension system with Showa units on the Versys 1000 SE LT+. With a reaction time of 1/1000th of a second, stroke sensors in the suspension units, and direct actuation on the valving via solenoids, the modulation of the Showa suspension on the SE LT+ is absolutely seamless. There are three presets, along with a Rider setting that can be personalized. With any of them engaged, you never feel the CPU making adjustments to the suspension. However, the result is predictable action in all modes.3. The 1043cc DOHC motor is relatively unchanged. In addition to the new throttle valves and new injectors, there have also been changes to the EFI setting to make the power delivery even more linear than before. The exhaust system has new connector pipes between pairs of headers (1-4 and 2-3), plus a new catalyzer system to make the Euro 4 folks happy.4. Because of the relative lack of low-end grunt inherent in an inline-4, maximum torque comes on late at 7500 rpm. That means roll-on power in sixth gear isn’t impressive unless you are cruising at 100 mph or so. The upside is that the power delivery is extraordinarily smooth and not fatiguing. When you need to pass with authority, the quickshift allows you to drop a couple of ratios rapidly and make short work of your overtake. Otherwise, the power is smooth and predictable, regardless of the gear you’re in or how many rpm the motor is spinning. Despite its Ninja heritage, the engine is never intimidating.5. There are three preset ride modes—Sport, Road, and Rain—plus a customizable Rider mode on the 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+. The preset modes adjust the power, traction control, and suspension. Not surprisingly, Sport has the firmest suspension, full power, and the least intrusive traction control. Road softens the suspension, retains full power, and increases the TC’s sensitivity. Rain is about maximum traction control, softest suspension, and backs down the power. The Rider mode allows you to set a fully custom combination of the three parameters, along with the ability to fine-tune the three damping settings. Also, you can tell the system if you’re riding solo, two-up, and if you have cargo—further rear-spring preload adjustments are also electronically actuated.6. Sport mode gives a good feel for the pavement, and puts you in the mood to make some time. When the Versys 1000 SE LT+ is in the Sport mode, the firm suspension offers plenty of confidence to the rider. The motor never overpowers the suspension or handling, so you will always feel in control. As you push harder, you get plenty of warnings when you get to the edge of the envelope. Although the Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T31 tires are optimized for wet weather performance, they are also superb dry weather tires delivering impressive feedback in conjunction with the long-travel semi-active suspension. The dash alerted me that I had reached 40 degrees of lean angle in each direction, and the Versys was rock-steady.7. When it comes to touring through the twisties on the 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+, the Road mode is difficult to beat. With the suspension set to the Normal position, the ride is a perfect compromise between sporting Hard and wallowy Soft. Rough roads are smoothed out, yet there is still a confident feel for the pavement as you hustle through the twisties. All the power is there, with a bit more traction control added in case there is a wet or sandy patch on the road. Functionally, the traction control works unobtrusively, and I never had an issue with the added theoretical intrusion.8. I rode through about 80 miles of rain on I-40, and was glad to have a Rain mode. Backing down the power, softening up the suspension, and cranking up the traction control was exactly the right solution when the rain came down in northwestern Arizona. Though the storm was generally light, it was occasionally moderate and heavy, and the Versys 1000 SE LT+ never put a foot wrong. Even when negotiating fast 75 mph sweepers through passes on the way to the Colorado River, the Versys never gave me cause for concern. I also found the Rain mode to be a relaxing offering when working through traffic in urban settings.9. For those who are fastidious, the Rider mode awaits your investigation. The Rider mode allows you to pick either power mode, as well as any traction control setting, including off. After you select one of the three suspension presets, you then have five clicks in either direction for fine-tuning both the rebound (the menu calls it “TENS”) and compression damping. While the Normal and Soft settings will overlap when choosing your settings, the Hard mode is considerably stiffer. Lowering the Hard mode five clicks leaves if far firmer than Normal set to five-clicks harder. I found myself wishing for the ability to save two Rider modes—one for touring on the freeway with full power, maximum traction control, and Soft suspension, plus a sporting mode with the suspension getting additional firming and traction control disabled.10. There are two ways to adjust the suspension settings—via the new TFT LCD dash or on your mobile device via Bluetooth and the free Rideology app. There is a reasonably intuitive interface through the dash, though you have to get into the coder’s head for working the suspension fine-tuning settings and saving them. Once you get accustomed to the system, it’s pretty good. Alternatively, you can download Kawasaki’s Rideology app onto your mobile device and do all the setup at your leisure.11. Rideology has more functions than manipulation of the ride modes. The mobile app will also keep track of vehicle info on your motorcycle, as well as log your rides. Although it paired quickly, I had mixed results with the riding log portion. Rideology manages just a 2.2-star rating on GooglePlay, and there’s only a single review in Apple’s App Store. If it works for you, consider that an extra.12. Handling on the 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ is predictable. With a wheelbase of nearly 60 inches and a relaxed 27 degrees of rake, everything happens in due time on the SE LT+. That’s good, as you are making your way on a motorcycle that is near 600 pounds with the 5.5-gallon fuel tank topped off. As long as you respect your ride mode settings, all should be well. Even with its heft, the big Versys is impressively agile and willing to change direction. With the gentle power delivery in the lower rpm range where touring usually happens, the SE LT+ will boost your confidence regularly.13. Upright and neutral perfectly describes the ergonomics of the 2019 Versys 1000 SE LT+. This is an uncommonly comfortable motorcycle. The riding position behind the new larger windscreen is natural, and the seat/grips/footpeg triangle is pleasantly relaxed. I had no problem putting in 500 high-speed miles on the Versys—Interstate and desert backroads—in just 7.5 hours with three fuel stops. The seat is also amenable to long, uninterrupted rides. The only flaw is an engine buzziness around 6000 rpm that is seriously pronounced in anything other than sixth gear—in the top gear, it’s hardly noticeable.14. Kawasaki decked out the 2019 Versys 1000 SE LT+ with all-new plastic. The fairing has a sharper look, and with the Metallic Flat Spark Black/Pearl Flat Stardust White two-tone treatment it looks great. The paint has an astonishing self-healing process to recover from light scratches—it’s like magic, so have the dealer demonstrate it for you.15. Protection from the elements is excellent. You never feel any air you don’t want to feel, yet heat from the motor is whisked away effectively. A couple of adjustable vents would be nice, but Kawasaki got it pretty good. I rode in temperatures ranging from the 40s to the 90s and had no complaints.16. Built into the new fairing are LED cornering lights. These are great if you hit the canyons after dark, and they light up progressively as you hit 10, 20, and 30 degrees of lean angle—another IMU benefit.17. The new windshield is an interesting piece. There’s an always-open vent in the windshield that cuts down on negative pressure on the rider. Despite the sizeable opening, it doesn’t let much rain through. It is incrementally adjustable over 1.6 inches, and you have to do it manually—two locking knobs have to be manipulated. This is best done at a stop, though brave riders can do it while riding—no one recommends that. Unexpectedly, in hot weather you will want the windscreen in the up position; the bottom of the screen leaves a gap between it and the fairing, allowing cooling air through. In the down position, the cockpit will be warmer and protect you better from rain, and it is still high enough to direct air over my head—your experience may be different, of course, based on your build.18. The stylish bags are unchanged, and continue to work well for touring. The bags will store a good amount of cargo, and can be installed and removed in seconds. The only downside is that the aerodynamic shape of the bags makes it difficult to fit a larger laptop.19. A favorite gets better. We have always liked the Versys 1000. It never was a real adventure motorcycle, and now it is a pure sport-touring motorcycle with longer-than-average suspension travel and some plastic bits protecting the motor from pockmarks on a gravel road. This is the type of motorcycle that seems unwilling to sit quietly in the garage. It calls out for a ride across the state or the nation. With the new suspension and other updates, the 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ solidifies its favorite son status.RIDING STYLE
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Motos and Friends, the weekly podcast brought to you by Ultimate Motorcycling. My name is Arthur Coldwells.
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In this week’s first segment, Editor Don Williams takes the smallest BMW ADV bike on an urban adventure in Los Angeles. The BMW G 310 GS is a full size motorcycle with a modest engine, so of course we wonder if it is a little too underpowered and might struggle. Don put it through its paces and gives us his take.
In the second segment, Neale Bayly and Kiran Ridley have returned from the Ukraine to Paris where Kiran is based.
Kiran is an award winning photojournalist, and as an accomplished documentarian, he has covered stories as diverse as drug smuggling around the Mexican border, to the devastation of the Australian Bush Fires, to the tragedy of the Mediterranean migration crisis. Neale and Kiran reminisce about their motorcycle adventure in the Ukraine, and their observations and experiences with the incredibly resilient people of Ukraine, who have been put through such brutal hardship.