• 2008 Kawasaki Versys

    2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys

Big Comfort, Long Travel Suspension, and Innovative Styling: One Versatile, Fun, Street-Savvy Motorcycle.

  • 2008 Kawasaki Versys
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Four-stroke, liquid cooled, DOHC, four-valve per cylinder, parallel twin
  • Transmission:
  • Torque @ RPM:
    44.9 lbs/ft@6,800 RPM
  • Displacement:
    649 L
  • Price:

First Impression

Kawasaki has had a dual sport on offer for many years. KLR 600, KLR 650, KLE 500, KLV 650 and so on. Now, Kawasaki has introduced a brand new multi purpose motorcycle designed for all sorts of different riding styles and needs, the 2008 Versys.

Versys is a 649cc parallel twin derived from last years ER-6 models and is more of a "Multistrada" than offroad and it looks pretty good.

You will notice a new aluminium banana swingarm (the most striking feature of the new Versys model) which was necessary to obtain a sufficient ground clearance because of the side shock absorber. The front fork is now a USD with long travel, the new windscreen is adjustable, ABS is optional and is available in Passion Red.

Versys stands for Versatile systems.

Kawasaki Versys

2008 Kawasaki Versys
- image 178508
2008 Kawasaki Versys

The new 2008 Kawasaki Versys is a machine which occupies a hard to define sweet spot in the motorcycling universe. Is it a practical commuter? Long-legged urban assault vehicle? Sportbike? Light Tourer?

The answer on all counts is a resounding Yes! This isn’t a niche specialist but rather a jack-of-all-trades with user-friendly versatility as one of its many charms.

The 649cc parallel twin and the neutral handling and light steering chassis of the Ninja® 650R sportbike made the perfect starting point for this comfortable gridlock commando. A swoopy gull-wing swingarm, long-travel inverted 41mm fork, six-spoke superbike-inspired wheels, adjustable-height windscreen and a comfortable cockpit were combined to create a motorcycle that just begs to be ridden wherever the pavement might lead.

The compact liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, 8-valve, 649cc parallel twin engine was modified for the Versys motorcycle so it delivers smooth power that’s well-suited for off-the-line acceleration and flexible torque in the cut-n-thrust of a rider’s morning commute. This engine’s overall characteristics are entertaining for even the most advanced riders, yet predictable enough to inspire confidence in less-experienced motorcyclists.

Its suspension offers the next level in sophistication: an advanced Showa rear shock featuring a free piston and two-stage damping valves for progressive compression damping which firms significantly as the shock moves through its stroke. This allows a longer wheel travel with a feel that is initially soft like a dual sport, but firms to near sportbike levels as suspension loads escalate. Of course, this advanced shock is fully-adjustable and connected to a beautiful aluminum gull-wing swingarm that is longer than average, thanks to a short/compact engine and chassis.

Up front, the Versys suspension continues the high-tech approach with a fully-adjustable 41mm tapered-tube inverted fork that combines the best of off-road and sportbike suspension action for a stiffness balance that is a perfect compliment to the chassis settings. In addition to a more-comfortable ride, the long-travel suspension’s soft-stroke allows easy control of the chassis’ running angle by shifting the rider’s weight.

Complimenting the able suspension is the carefully designed cockpit that features a two-piece seat constructed to provide optimum comfort to both the rider and passenger. An easy-to-read and informative instrument panel allows riders to quickly scan the gauges and get their eyes back on the road. Capping off the comfort list is an adjustable windscreen that can be raised or lowered to three positions in 20mm increments.


2008 Kawasaki Versys
- image 178511
2008 Kawasaki Versys

Unique features

Aggressive styling
Powerful parallel-twin engine
Compact size and weight
Long-travel suspension
Comfortable cockpit


2008 Kawasaki Versys
- image 178510
2008 Kawasaki Versys

649cc parallel twin-cylinder, DOHC engine is the most compact in its category.

The engine is considerably smaller than that of the Ninja 500 and helps reduce the dimension of the entire motorcycle

Tuned to deliver smooth, responsive power in the low-to mid-rpm range with exceptional roll-on response –ideal for negotiating city traffic

Triangular crank and transmission shaft layout makes it short front to back, a semi-dry sump oil system reduces overall engine height, and the narrow pitch of the chrome composite plated aluminum cylinders helps reduce engine width

Muffler with 3-way catalyzer and bullet-tip opening is mounted below the engine to help lower the center of gravity and aid weight centralization

180-degree crankshaft plus balancer shaft for extremely smooth engine operation

Oil jets on the connecting rod big ends spray oil on the undersides of the pistons to aid cooling

Liquid Cooling

  • Maintains consistent engine temperatures for long engine life and sustained power during hard use
  • Allows closer engine tolerances for more horsepower
  • Fewer external hoses because the coolant is routed through the engine cases

Digital Fuel Injection (DFI)

  • Utilizes 38mm Keihin throttle bodies with ECU controlled sub throttle valves for optimum performance and rideability
  • The sub throttles, located behind the main throttle valves, permit the DFI system a more precise throttle response, similar to a constant velocity carburetor
  • Automatic fast idle system makes starting and warm-up easy
  • Precise fuel injection plus exhaust catalyzer significantly reduce emissions

Digital Capacitor Discharge Ignition (CDI) System

  • Microprocessor controlled timing never requires adjustment and is ultra responsive to engine needs
  • Spark plug mounted “stick” ignition coils are compact and help reduce weight

Six-Speed Transmission

  • Cassette style transmission means the shafts and shift drum are in a compact layout that is easily removed as a single unit from the case for easier maintenance

Adjustable Windscreen

2008 Kawasaki Versys
- image 178505
2008 Kawasaki Versys

  • Three different settings, each 20mm apart, allows riders to adjust windscreen height to suit their preferences

Trellis Frame

  • High tensile steel trellis frame is small and light
  • Designed using 3-dimensional computer analysis to achieve the optimum stiffness balance for better handling
  • Narrow at the knees and feet for increased rider comfort and control

Single shock Rear Suspension

  • Aluminum gull-wing swingarm and offset, laydown single rear shock complement the frame design to create an integrated line flowing from the steering head to the rear hub
  • Short, compact frame and engine design allows the swingarm to be longer, which helps improve overall handling
  • Showa shock has adjustable preload and rebound damping and uses a free piston and two-stage damping valves for smooth action during initial compression that becomes much firmer near the end of the stroke for a more planted feel

Long-Travel Fork

  • 41mm Inverted fork with stiff springs combines the best of off-road and sportbike-type suspension for excellent performance over a wide range of conditions
  • Tapered, relatively short outer tubes help provide the ideal stiffness balance to compliment chassis settings
  • Fork height, preload and rebound damping can all be adjusted to fine-tune the suspension to specific conditions or riding style

Triple Petal Design Brake Discs

  • Petal design rotors offer improved cooling and warp resistance
  • Same rotor design as found on the Ninja ZX™-6R and ZX™-10R supersport machines

Six-spoke wheels

  • Also found on the Ninja ZX-6R and ZX-10R; the six-spoke design requires much less material between spokes so that the rim thickness is thinner and overall wheel weight is reduced

Comfortable Cockpit

  • Each part of the two-piece seat was designed with a different thickness and firmness of foam to optimize comfort for both rider and passenger
  • Passenger seat and grab bars were designed to provide a natural seating position for added comfort
  • Easy-to-read instrument panel has a large analog tachometer and digital readout for the speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer, dual trip meters and clock. White LED backlighting provides increased visibility at night


2008 Kawasaki Versys
- image 178512
2008 Kawasaki Versys

Engine: Four-stroke, liquid cooled, DOHC, four-valve per cylinder, parallel twin
Displacement: 649cc
Bore x stroke: 83.0 x 60.0mm
Compression ratio: 10.6:1
Maximum torque: 44.9 lb/ft @6,800 rpm
Cooling: Liquid
Fuel injection: Digital fuel injection with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies
Ignition: Digital CDI
Transmission: Six-speed
Final drive: O-Ring chain
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.
Dry weight: 399 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.
Color: Passion Red
MSRP: $6,899
Warranty: 12 months

Anthony Kodack
About the author
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  (1) posted on 08.13.2008

I came off a V Star 650 for the 2008 Kawasaki Versys. “Wow”, I have no regrets! "This bike is a blast”! It’s fast, nimble, and the seat, & seating position are very comfortable for all day rides. Go down and take one for a test ride, "you won’t be sorry". As for any women thinking about getting a bike, "don’t be scared off by some of the reviews, about the bike being too tall". I have been riding a Versys for a year now, and I have "never" had a problem reaching the ground, because We adjusted the pre load a little, so the bike will squish down slightly when I sit on it, and I am 5’5", with a 32" inseam. It is a "absolute must” to include the Versys in your test rides before you make your final decision to buy a bike. "I guarantee you’ll love it".

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