Kawasaki presents the 2009 Versys without having too much to mention under the “Improvements” heading as the bike is still a relatively new introduction, a faultless one considering the many positive opinions we got related to it.
They do ad a new color scheme, the Blue in the pictures, apart from Kawasaki Green, but the Versys remains the same all-rounder with many secrets yet to be unveiled when you jump on its seat. Combining a touring-like riding position with sports-like design and performance, a rider would have to reconsider its idea about data such as the 64 Hp, 45lb/ft moving 454 lbs wet weight.
That’s a great bike to get for just over $7K, now painted, hopefully, according to your preferences.
Every once in a while, Kawasaki strikes a hit in their competition by introducing brand new models that have little to do with the manufacturer’s consecrated style, but adapt perfectly to the market and carry on gathering tremendous benefits around the world. This is exactly what happened with the Versys model, a middleweight all-rounder that was first introduced to Europe and Canada at the end of 2006, a year before going for the American market.
Relying on the 649cc, liquid-cooled, parallel twin cylinder engine with DOHC and four-valves per cylinder that Kawasaki engineers borrowed from the Ninja 650R , the bike stands out as a great urban ride because of the healthy low-to-mid rpm range. The digital fuel injection system with 38mm Keihin throttle bodies is behind this achievement, but there are no worries related to the bike not being able to keep a constant elevated pace on the freeway and obtain great mileage while doing it.
Although not a veritable tourer, the Versys does offer an upright riding position and considering that it is supposed to commute, scratch and tour, it features a three-way adjustable windscreen so that riders of all sizes can direct the air flow just above their heads. Also, the bike features relaxed ergonomics and, still, the rider’s knees grip on sides of the gas tank offering better control and inspiring confidence.
We do have to admit that the Versys remains a tall bike for 2009 as well, but the 33.1 inches high seat is perfect for the average sized rider. Also, the decent ground clearance ensures that this thing can cover different types of surfaces although not being specifically built for the off-road terrain. The long-travel forks and single shock rear suspensions are also up for the challenge so it’s good to know you’re bike has a few extra advantages that the one from which the engine was borrowed, for example, doesn’t. The 17-inch 6-spoke wheels come in contradiction with a rider’s plans to hit the off-road, but as long as we’re talking about silky soft enduro, it is absolutely no problem.
Overall, Kawasaki’s all-rounder with a soft spot for pavement is still built following a new recipe, one that the competition hasn’t yet been able to literally recreate.
The 2009 Suzuki V-Strom 650 is a motorcycle that knows pretty much the same tricks as the Versys does. Powered by a fuel-injected 645cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90-degree V-twin and also being built to suit various rider necessities, but mostly on the streets, the middleweight V-Strom starts at $7,499 so it gets a decent market share.
So is the all-new 2009 BMW F 650 GS. With an MSRP that starts at $8,995, the European alternative offers a 798cc, liquid-cooled, parallel twin cylinder engine with two overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. This too is electronically fuel-injected and it will ensure that the Beamer top out at 115 mph. The pavement is this bike’s favorite playground, but it won’t be disturbed by a little dust either.
Designing the Versys, Kawasaki people aimed towards an uncompromising modern look with lithe features shared to the bikes in the same class. The best example in this concern is the uniquely shaped headlight as well as the adjustable windscreen. As strange as it might look, this bike does feature what appears to be an idea of a half fairing, which looks nice too mostly because it provides a smooth pass towards the gas tank.
The seat is pretty much flat while the ergonomics are brought back at the rider so that the Versys would offer the much bragged about upright riding position. The alloy wheels and all the rest of the chassis components are left unpainted while the engine is matte black covered just so it would distinguish perfectly. Like on the Ninja 650R and ER-6n , the exhaust is positioned under the motor for a lowered center of gravity and a compact look. Also, the petal-type brake discs (two 300mm ones up front and a rear 250mm one) look nice and enhance the sporty appearance.
The 2009 Candy Plasma Blue color was the adequate choice for the Versys while the Candy Lime Green is also available.
As the name says, versatility is the key feature of the Versys, a motorcycle that doesn’t fit any specific category, but which combines the benefits of different ones such as sports, touring and even dual-sport. The first impression that it provides is that of comfort as the handlebars-seat-pegs triangle works perfectly for the average sized rider and after a whole day of riding the Versys, we’ve come to the conclusion the comfort is not just an impression, but something definitely worthy to brag about.
Power is there at every twist of the throttle. Given the engine’s user-friendly nature, we tended to underestimate the bike’s capabilities of providing a rush all across the powerband and it was only when we rolled on the throttle healthier and lifted that front wheel off the ground we noticed that there’s plenty more of the Versys than it actually unveils at a quick worming up run. The engine enjoys being revved although at around 8,000 rpm most riders will think they have to shift. Actually, the tachometer’s needle hits redline at 10,500 rpm, which means that it can be a rush after all.
Around the bends or on the freeways, the 2009 Kawasaki Versys will prove being a top performer. This thing leans easily into corners and offers a nice reassuring feel even though you’ll be positioned a little higher than on any middleweight sports bike. Also, thanks to the presence of a sixth gear, the engine’s capabilities can be taken even further and hit the more than decent top speed of around 120 mph. At these speeds, wind protection becomes a key factor and for us the highest windscreen position worked just like on a veritable sport-touring motorcycle.
Furthermore, yet another cool think about the Versys is that it offers the possibility to leave the tarmac in favor of fire roads and generally not bumpy off-road terrain. It’s simply amazing to have the possibility to explore on a bike which performs like a more or less docile middleweight sportsbike with a touring riding position. Also, riding upright on a pretty tall motorcycle provides a great view of the scenery ahead so the bike won’t get more than it’s capable of dealing with.
The suspensions have much to do with this bike being this versatile as they were designed to take the best both of the dual-sport and sportbike worlds. Around sharp bends, these perform brilliantly and at no time the rider will feel like the bike was specifically built for the off-road while off the road these aren’t bad at all.
Not only the 649cc parallel-twin engine was borrowed from the Ninja 650R , but the brake systems too and they work as good on the Versys as they do on the donor bike. Stopping power is always enough and the bike remains stable under hard braking. Also – before corners– slowing down feels almost natural, just like the entire performance of the 2009 Kawasaki Versys.
For a bike starting at $7,099, the ’09 Kawi Versys is more that riders in the United Stated could have wished for especially now with the economical crisis that the country is traversing.
All in all, 2009 doesn’t mark an evolutionary step for the Versys, but given the ride we’ve got on this bike, we reckon it won’t be upgraded a long time from now, but simply revised.
Engine and Transmission
Engine: Four-stroke, liquid cooled, DOHC, four-valve per cylinder, parallel twin
Bore x stroke: 83.0 x 60.0mm
Compression ratio: 10.6:1
Maximum torque: 44.9 lb/ft @6,800 rpm
Fuel system: Digital fuel injection with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies
Ignition: Digital CDI
Final drive: O-Ring chain
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame: Semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel
Rake / trail: 25 degrees / 4.3 in.
Wheelbase: 55.7 in.
Front suspension / wheel travel: 41mm hydraulic telescopic fork with adjustable rebound and preload / 5.9 in.
Rear suspension / wheel travel: Single offset laydown shock with adjustable rebound and spring preload / 5.7 in.
Front tire: 120/70x17
Rear tire: 160/60x17
Front brake: Dual 300mm petal discs with two-piston caliper
Rear brake: Single 220mm petal disc with single-piston caliper
Overall length: 83.7 in.
Overall width: 33.1 in.
Overall height: 51.8 in.
Seat height: 33.1 in.
Curb weight: 454.1 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.