The Kawasaki Versys 650 LT has been a mainstay in the lightweight adventure-touring motorcycle division, and now it has a direct competitor—the new Triumph Tiger Sport 660. Although not a touring model out of the crate, we added a pair of Triumph’s accessory hard side cases to the Tiger Sport 660, and an instant adventure-touring motorcycle is born, and a good-looking one at that. We set out on long rides to compare the two motorcycles, which have as-tested MSRPs within $81 of each other. With price out of the equation, it’s an even battle as the two $10k motorcycles go head-to-head. Let the comparison commence between the newly updated 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT and the new 2022 Triumph Tiger Sport 660.
Although both motorcycles have adventure trappings—off-road inspired ergonomics and slightly longer wheel travel—these are pure street bikes. Seventeen-inch wheels are used front and back, equipped with street-only tires. So, we ignored the dirt and concentrated on many miles of pavement, ranging from droning high-speed Interstates to the tightest mountain twisties with our bags packed.
Ergonomically, the Kawasaki and the Triumph stake out distinctive territories. The Versys 650 LT puts the rider in an upright position with a taller handlebar bend, and footpegs that sit a bit forward. The handlebar on the Tiger Sport 660 is a sportier bend, and the footpegs are more rearward. The Kawasaki’s seat height is 0.4 inches higher than the Triumph, though that is mitigated by the Kawasaki having a cushier throne. Still, both seats are very comfortable regardless of the length of the ride. Both motorcycles have a manually adjustable windscreen. Oh, and the LT has handguards standard, which we like—tack on $125 to the price of the Tiger to get them.
Chassis numbers further reinforce the disparities between the two motorcycles. Although the two chassis have nearly identical wheelbases, Triumph tucks in the rake to a sporty 23.1 degrees, compared to the neutral 25-degree geometry on the Kawasaki. Suspension travel is just under six inches all around on both motorcycles. Kawasaki’s fork and shock offer rebound-damping adjustability at both ends, compared to the fixed damping on the Triumph. Kawasaki provides spring-preload adjustment front and back, while Triumph only offers that flexibility on the shock.
Triumph ups the tire ante by shodding its cast-aluminum wheels with the highly regarded Michelin Road 5 rubber, compared to the lower-spec Dunlop Sportmax D222 tires. Both bikes go with a 120 in the front, with Triumph getting fat with the rear—the Tiger Sport 660’s back tire is a 180, compared to the 160 on the Versys 650 LT.
As nice as comparing numbers and parts are, nothing beats miles in the saddle for evaluating motorcycles. We put in long, varied rides on the two mounts, and the two personalities revealed themselves to us in no uncertain terms.
In the case of the 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT and the 2022 Triumph Tiger Sport 660, the names tell the tale. Yes, we’re going with spoilers early, so you’ll know where we’re going as you follow the comparison. The Light Touring LT is the superior motorcycle for touring, while the Sport is a more aggressive performer. Fortunately, each motorcycle happily infringes on the territory of the other, so there is plenty of overlap in their missions.
Sport-touring means performance, so let’s talk about the two motors, which have distinct personalities.
The Triumph Tiger Sport 660 feels very much like the Trident it is based on. The inline-3’s origin is on the Street Triple 675, and you don’t get much sportier than that. The Tiger’s motor runs within a few ft-lbs of its maximum torque output from about 3000 rpm to the rev limit of over 10k. The triple just loves to rev out, adding horsepower the entire way. At its peak, the Tiger Sport 660 puts out about a dozen horsepower more than the Versys, and you can feel that when you’re winding it out on the freeway or riding aggressively in the canyons. However, at higher speeds on the highways, the triple can start feeling a bit busy through the pegs, seat, and grips—not a problem for sport riding, but not ideal for piling up the miles.
Power from the Kawasaki Versys 650 LT is delivered deliberately. Though the parallel-twin is not putting out more power than the Tiger once they get to 3000 rpm, the two 325cc cylinders feel more muscular at low rpm than the three 220cc cylinders. When enjoying the scenery and letting the revs drop, the twin demands less of your attention. The power delivery is agreeable, particularly when upping the traction control to its most attentive. The 650’s rev limiter kicks in just short of 10k. However, the power peaking around 8000 rpm, so there’s no point in wringing the twin’s neck. When you take to the freeway to rack up the miles, the twin’s vibes add to the experience.
To the credit of Kawasaki and Triumph, the personalities of the chassis are matched to the respective motors.
The 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT is focused on stability and comfort. It settles nicely into corners if you don’t push it. Riding too hard will cause front-end dive from the plush fork. Cranking up the spring preload is an option, though you’ll blow through that adjustment quickly because you aren’t changing the spring rate. Once into the corner, the Versys holds its line with authority. The kind of riding it encourages means you’ll rarely test the limitations of the Dunlop Sportmax D222 tires. They wear well, and have enough cornering performance for the tool and job at hand—sport-touring, not pushing every limit.
In contrast, the 2022 Triumph Tiger Sport 660 lives up to its name. The Tiger loves to corner. Its suspension is set up for the more aggressive rider, and you’ll have to like what you get, as the only adjustment is spring-preload on the shock. We love the way the Tiger leaps into corners and encourages spinning up the motor on exits. The Tiger weighs 23 pounds less than the Versys, with the same fuel load, adding to the more agile chassis feel. Riding the Tiger is an active experience if you want it to be. If you’re taking it easy, you’ll feel more inclined to use the gearbox on the Tiger than the Versys, as the triple feels more natural with a few more rpm under its belt than the twin.
We had no complaint about the transmissions and clutches of either motorcycle. They both have slip-and-assist clutches, which we like. Kawasaki’s proprietary Positive Neutral Finder is a feature that you have to use to appreciate—if you come to a stop in first gear and shift up, you end up in neutral every time without fishing around. Triumph offers an optional quickshifter for the Tiger, and we would spring for it without hesitation at $265.
Braking is more aggressive on the Tiger Sport 660, not a surprise, as it employs larger discs on both wheels. The Versys 650 LT will slow you down with good authority, though not quite as strongly as the Tiger. Feel is excellent on both motorcycles—it’s all Nissin calipers all the time on both bikes—though the rear brake pedal is easier to find on the Versys. ABS is unobtrusive and non-adjustable on both motorcycles.
The fairing/windscreen combination on the Kawasaki is superior for touring. The Versys protects the body nicely with the screen in the lowest slot, scoring high points for the fairing. The LT’s windscreen in the tallest position offers good helmet protection, while staying out of your line of sight, and there’s plenty of airflow in the down position. The Tiger’s windscreen is out of the way in the low slot, and does a good job diverting windblast from the body. In the highest position for droning on Interstates, the screen is a bit visually intrusive—not as much fun for touring. Adjusting the windscreen on the Versys required pushing a release button and should only be done at a stop, per Kawasaki. The Triumph’s windscreen requires some muscle, and the safety-conscious will pull over to change the windscreen position.
Although the Kawasaki Versys 650 LT comes with standard bags and the Triumph Tiger Sport 660 offers them as an accessory, the Triumph bags are superior to the Kawasakis. Both pairs are roomy, can accept a full-face helmet, and lock. However, the LT’s bags are highly reluctant to be installed and removed. It requires muscle and just the right touch; lubing the mounts with graphite only helped a bit. In our experience, the Kawasaki bags eventually break in and work pretty well. However, the Tiger Sport 660’s bags were a pleasure to use from Day One. Both bikes look great with bags, too, and there are no aerodynamic issues, as you can cruise along at triple-digits without any problems—on a closed-course only, of course. We can also put in a good word for both motorcycles as commuter mounts.
Kawasaki and Triumph take two different approaches to their TFT dashes. Triumph goes with a split dash and a tile system, where you can choose what you want to see, within various parameters. While the Triumph display is excellent, we can’t always see all the pieces of information we want at one time and have to scroll through the tiles to find what we’re looking for. Kawasaki puts all the info on one screen. While it’s a busier presentation, everything is there. The switchgear works well on both motorcycles.
Selecting the right motorcycle is about being honest with yourself about your needs. The 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT is a wonderful sport-touring bike for those putting an accent on touring. The warm feel of the motor makes every ride a joy, and the protection of the fairing and windscreen is adjustable to most tastes. When you need to make time, the Kawasaki does just fine if you ride smoothly, and the extra gallon of fuel capacity adds touring flexibility. The 2022 Triumph Tiger Sport 660 is inarguably more performance-oriented, with the buzziness of the triple offering the only major caveat for a rider who will be putting lots of miles on high-speed Interstates.
Story and photography by Kelly Callan and Don Williams
RIDING STYLE (Kelly)
- Helmet: Arai Regent-X w/ Pro Shade
- Communications: Sena 50S
- Jacket: Dainese Rapida Lady Leather Perf.
- Back protection: Dainese Wave D1 G1 – Short
- Gloves: Racer Gloves USA Guide
- Jeans: Dainese Amelia Slim Lady
- Boots: Dainese Aurora Lady D-WP
RIDING STYLE (Don)
- Helmet: Arai Signet-X w/ Pro Shade
- Communications: Sena 50S
- Jacket: Joe Rocket Atomic Ion
- Back protection: Alpinestars KR-Celli
- Gloves: Joe Rocket Super Moto
- Jeans: Joe Rocket Accelerator
- Boots: XPD X-Two
|Specs||2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT||2022 Triumph Tiger Sport 660|
|Bore x stroke||83.0 x 60.0mm||74.0 x 51.1mm|
|Maximum torque||45 ft-lbs @ 7000 rpm||47 ft-lbs @ 6250 rpm|
|Valvetrain||DOHC; 4vpc||DOHC; 4vpc|
|Fueling||EFI w/ 2 Keihin 38mm throttle bodies||EFI w/ ride-by-wire|
|Transmission||6-speed w/ Positive Neutral Finder||6-speed|
|Clutch||Wet multiplate w/ assist and slipper functions||Wet multiplate w/ assist and slipper functions|
|Final drive||Sealed chain||X-ring chain|
|Front suspension; travel||Rebound-damping and spring-preload adjustable inverted 41mm fork; 5.9 inches||Non-adjustable Showa FFF inverted 41mm fork; 5.9 inches|
|Rear suspension||Cantilevered rebound-damping and spring-preload adjustable shock; 5.7 inches||Linkage-assisted cantilevered spring-preload adjustable shock; 5.9 inches|
|Wheels||Cast aluminum||Cast aluminum|
|Tires||Dunlop Sportmax D222||Michelin Road 5|
|Front tire||120/70 x 17||120/70 x 17|
|Rear tire||160/60 x 17||180/55 x 17|
|Front brakes||300mm discs w/ Nissin 2-piston calipers||310mm discs w/ Nissin 2-piston calipers|
|Rear brake||220mm disc w/ Nissin single-piston caliper||255mm disc w/ Nissin single-piston caliper|
|DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES|
|Wheelbase||55.7 inches||55.8 inches|
|Rake||25 degrees||23.1 degrees|
|Trail||4.3 inches||3.8 inches|
|Seat height||33.3 inches||32.9 inches|
|Fuel capacity||5.5 gallons||4.5 gallons|
|Curb weight (sans bags)||483 pounds||454 pounds|
|Colors||Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Flat Spark Black||Lucerne Blue/Sapphire Black; Graphite/Sapphire Black; Korosi Red/Graphite (+$125)|
|Price||$9999||$9295 ($10,080 as tested)|