Kawasaki SA has announced the imminent arrival of the third member of its ER-6 family - the Versys. The name is short for "Versatile System", and as it suggests, this is a dual-purpose, back-roads bike rather than an urban hooligan tool like the ER-6n or a sports-tourer like the ER-6f.

It uses the same 649cc parallel-twin engine as the previous two variants, retuned for this application to deliver lots torque where it's most likely to be needed on a machine of this type - low and mid-range.

It retains the counter-rotating balance shaft to tame the characteristic second-degree vibration that can make 180º twins so wearying to ride but still has a noticeable low-frequency pulse to remind you that you are indeed riding a twin.

Kawasaki claims an unremarkable 47kW at 8000rpm but with a more impressive 61Nm at 6800rpm.

The compact motor allows a wheelbase of only 1415mm and the narrow frame means the bike can have healthy ground clearance without normal-sized riders battling to reach the ground.

The curvaceous aluminium gull-shape swing-arm, off-set rear shock-absorber and under-engine silencer are all borrowed from the ER-6 but the swoopy-styled body panels and distinctive instrument/headlight pod give the bike a look all its own.

The Versys isn't a dirt bike but it's very capable of handling gravel roads thanks to its generous ground clearance and long-travel suspension. The 41mm upside-down front forks are adjustable for both preload and damping while fork height can be adjusted through a range of 8mm.

The lightweight swing-arm does away with the usual complex linkages in favour of a direct strut between the swing-arm brace and the upper right frame spar via a Showa shock-absorber with a free piston and two-stage damping valves to give smooth action on the initial stage of the compression stroke and firmer damping near full compression.

The rear suspension is also adjustable for rebound damping and preload.

The Versys, says Kawasaki, is a real all-rounder with solid performance, lively handling and the ability to cope with bad roads. Its tall seat and relaxed riding position allow the rider to see over the traffic for hassle-free easy commuting while the three-way adjustable windscreen ensures optimum wind and weather protection at all speeds.

The 19-litre fuel tank should offer impressive range, given that an ER-6f recently won the 24th SA motorcycle Economy Run using only 3.02 litres/100km, and the Versys, with its lower state of tune, could be even less thirsty in the right hands.

It will be available from Kawasaki dealers towards the end of November; prices will be settled when the bike gets here but it will come with Kawasaki's usual two-year, unlimited distance warranty.