Go-anywhere Kawasaki Versys grows up


Kawasaki's go-anywhere, do-anything Versys 650 all-rounder has been quietly been making a name for itself since it was released late in 2006 for genuine versatility and long-haul comfort, earning it the nickname the 'Great Escaper'.

Now Kawasaki has done a bit of inside-the-box thinking (the box in this case being the Kawasaki parts bin) to put together a bigger, torquier Versys with similar insectoid styling and accessible, real-world mid-range power.

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Bigger, torquier Versys with similar insectoid styling and accessible, real-world mid-range power.Versys series has genuine versatility and long-haul comfort, earning it the nickname the Great Escaper.

The slide-rule samurai started with the tried and tested 1043cc inline four Z1000 and Z1000 SX, reshaped the combustion chambers to reduce the compression ratio from 11.8:1 to 10.3:1, increased the length of the intake tracts and fitted new, 38mm oval throttle bodies.

Oval header pipes get the exhaust gases flowing smoothly and a collector hidden behind the engine bash plate keeps it that way, without needing a bulky end can.

The end result is 86.8kW at 9000 revs and a creditable 102Nm at 6800rpm; first and second gears are a little shorter than on the big Zed for killer take-offs (and on-demand wheelies!) while the top four ratios are taller for relaxed cruising and creditable fuel consumption.

With 17” hoops at both ends, the Versys 1000 is intended purely as a streetbike, but Kawasaki has recognised that today's streets have less than perfect surfaces, with potholes, bumps and ripples aplenty.

So, like its smaller sibling, the Versys 1000 has un upright seating position and long-travel suspension with firm springing, enabling it to deal with most roads that are sufficiently well-maintained to appear on a map, without making Herself seasick on fast corners.

The frame is welded up from five cast-aluminium sections, with its main members wrapping over rather than around the engine to keep the centre of the bike narrow, and uses the engine as a stressed member.

The windscreen can be adjusted over 30mm for height by turning two knobs (no tools needed), there's a lightweight, composite rear carrier and (nice touch) a large underseat stowage space that can accommodate rain gear.

Front-wheel modulation is by 43mm 'big piston' upside-downies, with stepless adjustment for preload and rebound damping, while the rear suspension uses a similar horizontal back-link set-up to that of the KLE650 Versys, also with adjustable Rebound damping and preload - the latter tuneable 'on the fly' by means of a large remote handwheel that can accessed by gloved hands while on the move.

Then the white-coat warriors stepped across to the ZX-14R parts bin to pick up that bike's three-mode traction-control system: modes 1 and 2 prioritise acceleration, as with the system on the latest ZX-10R, while mode 3 is similar to the system on the 2010 1400 GTR, set up specifically to keep the bike under control on slippery surfaces.

In modes 1 and 2 the programming allows a degree of wheelspin to maximise acceleration while keeping a close eye on front and rear wheel slippage (and rider inputs on the throttle and brakes) so that it can react to reduce torque before the bike tries to re-write the laws of physics.

Versys, Kawasaki tells us, stands for VERsatile SYStem, and this grown-up version promise the same comfortable, easy-to-live ergonomics with a whole lot more heavy-duty hauling muscle.

The Versus 1000 is due for South African release early in February; pricing will be announced then.


Engine: 1043cc liquid-cooled four.

Bore x stroke: 77 x 56mm.

Compression ratio: 10.3:1.

Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.

Power: 86.8kW at 9000rpm.

Torque: 102Nm at 6800rpm.

Induction: Electronic fuel-injection with four 38mm Keihin oval throttle bodies.

Ignition: Digital transistorised with electronic advance.

Starting: Electric.

Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.

Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.

Front Suspension: 43mm inverted 'big piston' cartridge forks with stepless adjustment for preload and rebound damping.

Rear Suspension: Horizontal back-link, gas-charged, with stepless rebound damping and remote spring preload adjustability

Front brakes: Dual semi-floating 300mm petal discs with Tokico four-pot opposed-piston callipers.

Rear brake: 250mm petal disc with single-piston floating calliper

Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.

Rear tyre: 180/55 - 17 tubeless.

Wheelbase: 1520mm.

Seat height: 845mm.

Kerb weight: 239kg.

Fuel tank: 21 litres.

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