The Kawasaki Versys 650 LT returns with electronics and fairing updates for 2022. The popular adventure-style, pure-street, sport-tourer based on the Ninja 650 continues its mission to provide all-around performance at a four-figure price. While the 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT isn’t even close to an all-new motorcycle, it’s updated, and that’s enough to encourage us to go on some long rides to check out the new features.
As soon as you turn the key on the 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT, you see one of the new features—the 4.3-inch TFT dash. Leaving the LCD dash to history, the new TFT display is bright, easily read, and has day and night modes for 24-hour legibility. It has the usual array of information, with your speed, the motor’s rev count, and the gear position shown most prominently. The TFT feels a bit small, relying on the high resolution to render small fonts used for less critical information readable.
The new dash can be paired with your smartphone. We used it with the Kawasaki Rideology app on an iPhone 12 Mini, which paired readily. The app doesn’t provide the adjustment capabilities to the Versys 650 LT that various Kawasaki 1000s enjoy. The primary benefit of the app on the 650 LT is monitoring maintenance intervals. Ride logging is still best accomplished using apps such as Relive or Rever.
Just to the right of the gear position readout and above the arcing tachometer display is evidence of another new feature—traction control. Instead of power modes or an IMU, the new 649cc parallel-twin gets three basic traction control modes—Mode 1, Mode 2, and off. Mode 1 offers reduced intervention, resulting in a bit snappier (and snatchier at lower rpm) throttle response. In Mode 2, the throttle smooths out completely, with a side effect of slightly slower acceleration. For friendly riding, Mode 2 works quite well, while Mode 1 and “off” add a taste of aggression so you can keep up with faster friends. These traction control settings are much more subtle than power modes, though they make a perceivable difference when riding.
The motor is unchanged, and we love it as it is. The venerable powerplant is well sorted out. It has a nicely rumbling feel, and doesn’t feel fussy or buzzy at any rpm. While riding hard, we would unexpectedly hit the 10k rev limiter, as it revs freely and without drama. At the other end of the powerband, there’s good grunt at low rpm, making it easy to ride in all situations. From idle to the redline, there are no hitches, hits, or flat spots in the power delivery. Power does tail off at the top end, so shifting no later than 8000 rpm is a good strategy for maximum performance. Still, it’s nice to have the overrev when needed.
The six-speed transmission is flawless, with perfectly spaced ratios. We like the assist and slipper functions of the clutch, and the oft-overlooked Positive Neutral Finder is an excellent feature in the Kawasaki canon. If you’re at a stop in first gear, lift the shift lever, and it goes into neutral every time.
The new fairing gets the same styling treatment as the Versys 1000 SE LT+. More angular than in the past, the 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT’s fairing fits right in with the big brother in the Versys LT lineup. It keeps the wind off the lower half of the rider’s torso and doesn’t cause any turbulence. We rode the 650 LT at high speeds in strong, gusty winds with no issues.
Augmenting the updated fairing is a new, four-position windshield. The sweep of adjustment is slightly over three inches, making a huge difference. In the lowest position, the windshield lets plenty of air through the rider’s upper body, with the fairing performing most wind protection duties. Move it up to the top slot, and extended 90+ mph blasts across deserted roads are a piece of cake. The windshield’s shape keeps the blast off the rider’s chest and helmet—subject to your build—while allowing just enough breeze through to keep the rider cooled and engaged. A larger windshield is a $175 option, and long-torso riders might find it to their liking.
The new windscreen is much easier to adjust than the last year’s. Instead of having to spin knobs, your right index finger pushes a release button to the right of the dash. Then, your left hand moves the windscreen into any of four notched positions. Kawasaki frowns upon making adjustments while riding, as it requires you to tank both hands off the grips. Though we concur with Kawasaki’s warning, we can report that it’s possible.
Although likely not a functional change, the tail section gets a matching angular treatment. Lighting is now LED all around, with new taillights that get along better with the saddlebags.
Ergonomics are unchanged on the 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT, and that’s quite alright. This motorcycle is instantly comfortable. The handlebar bend is wide with a pleasing rise, while the footpegs are a touch forward and high. The seat foam is cushy, and if you scoot back on the seat, there’s some lower back support. This all adds up to a seating position that feels good for chunks of hundreds of miles.
The intuitive handling of the Versys 650 matches the friendly ergonomics. The 25 degrees of rake and 55.7 inches of wheelbase sit in a nice pocket. Only outliers will describe the Versys’ handling as agile or stodgy. It has a just-right feel for sport-touring that allows you to ride aggressively should the need arise or the urge hit you, while allowing for a forgiving ride while you’re taking in the sights.
Kawasaki kept the suspension touring-friendly on the 2022 Versys 650 LT. Plush to the point of sponginess, the 650 LT’s suspension errs on the side of comfort. Sure, you can crank up the spring preload at both ends. However, there’s no adjustment to the compression damping, so you may introduce some unintended consequences. Really, the rebound damping is just there, like the spring-preload adjustment, to accommodate the added weight of a passenger. Aggressive braking will introduce plenty of dive from the inverted Showa fork, so going fast is best accomplished by smooth riding. When the pavement gets iffy, you’ll appreciate how the suspension—which has nearly six inches of travel at both ends—sucks up the imperfections and keeps the rubber on the road.
The Dunlop Sportmax D222 rubber gets the job done, with the 17-inch wheels giving you plenty of upgrade options. Yes, you can ride quickly on the stock D222s, and they work well in the wet. While the D222s aren’t aspirational tires, they will serve the owner well during break-in—the rider and the bike. After that, it’s upgrade time. The D222 is an old tire design, and you can do much better from Dunlop and other manufacturers.
The braking is perfect for sport-touring. The initial engagement of the Nissan calipers’ pads on the 300mm petal discs is gentle for the casual ride, with the pressure ramping up as your grip on the lever increases. They aren’t pure-sport brakes, as this is a sport-touring motorcycle. The rear brake has great feel, and a skilled rider can exploit that for improved deceleration.
When the Versys 650 LT is new, the side bags can be challenging to unmount. One would think that, by now, this problem would be solved, but we had to use some forceful encouragement to get them to release the first few times. Getting them back on before they’re broken in can also be an unpleasant task. Taking the bags on and off a few dozen times likely smooths the process out, as they’ve been no problem on other LTs we’ve ridden. The bags are great luggage carriers, and have no problem housing my Scorpion Exo-R1 Air Carbon helmet. As you can see, they look good and didn’t need restyling when the fairing and tailpiece were updated.
When you’re on a long ride, ignore the Range readout and rely on the fuel gauge. The Range estimate is erratic, making it unreliable. We’ve seen two ’22 Versys 650 LTs with the problem, so it looks like a software issue. There’s nothing like watching your range go from 177 to 109 miles in the blink of an eye, or seeing a claimed range of 236 miles when you have less than half of the 5.5-gallon tank left.
The 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT is a multi-purpose tool. It makes a superb lightweight sport tourer, a thoroughly competent sportbike, and an outstanding commuter. The tallish 33.3 seat height—2.2 inches higher than its Ninja 650 brother—gives you a commanding view of the proceedings wherever you’re riding. The power, handling, and ergonomics, all point toward doing it all, while the $9999 price tag makes the Versys 650 LT approachable to many.
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!