Equally At Home On The Interstate Or On Twisty Roads

Introduced to the U.S. market in 2008, the Versys stable doesn’t really fit into any one slot. Sharing design elements with adventure tourers, sportbikes, and standard bikes, the Versys makes its own class of versatile commuter/weekender/tourer/grocery-getter bikes. Unless you want an all-out go-fast bike, the Versys lineup has a little something for everyone. A water-cooled 649 cc parallel twin drives the 650 and 650 LT and the 1000 LT gets a 1043 cc engine, also water-cooled, though engine size isn’t the only difference. The ’LT’ models are meant to take you on the long haul, but even between these two, one is more ’tourer’ than the other.

Continue reading for my review of the Kawasaki Versys 650, Versys 650 LT and Versys 1000 LT.

  • 2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys 650 / Versys 650 LT / Versys 1000 LT
  • Year:
    2015- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Parallel-Twin
  • Displacement:
    1043 cc
  • Price:
    8099
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys 650 / Versys 650 LT / Versys 1000 LT
- image 738077
If your inseam accommodates the seat height, you'll like the I-can-see-my-house-from-here position for navigating traffic.

Newly available in the U.S. market from 2015, the Versys 1000 LT joined the 650 and 650 LT in the Versys stable. All-around getting some attention from Kawasaki, the Versys 650 gets a little up-tweak with a windscreen and a little power boost for more cruise-ability and overall comfort.

Seat height is a consideration on the Versys, no matter which one you get. At over 33 inches, even average-height riders will notice the perched-on-a-skyscraper feeling, though the bike is slim and so give you all the straightline to the ground it can. At rest, you feel the weight of the bike, especially the 1000 LT, so combining weight with height, folks might be uncomfortable tippy-toeing these babies. If your inseam accommodates the seat height, you’ll like the I-can-see-everything-from-up-here position.

Heavy, yes, maybe feeling heavier than the scale reads; but once you get moving, the weight seems to melt away. Curves are surprisingly effortless, as the bike leans easily. The saddle is ultimately comfortable, so no problems there. It’s not zippy like a sportsbike, but you get positive surge at roll-on and it seems like the bike always has a little more to give if you want it. Both the 650 and 1000 are gutsy in the low-to-mid range, but ache to be on the open road. As a commuter, the Versys is just as easy to manage in the urban environment with a tight turning radius and a solid centerstand to make parking in a smaller footprint possible.

Style-wise, the Versys has a sleek sportbike-inspired look. In 2015, Kawasaki dropped the old stacked headlights for the more aggressive-looking cat-eye twin headlamps. The turn signals are modern and unobtrusive. Body panels are nicely shaped, but I wish there were better paint choices. Updated for 2017, the 650s and 1000 feature a gear shift indicator on the instrument cluster and the windscreen adjusting knob comes in a design that makes it easier to operate.

Chassis

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys 650 / Versys 650 LT / Versys 1000 LT
- image 738071
Since the 1000 LT is meant to be more of a long-distance tourbike, it needed different handling characteristics, so the factory traded just a bit of cornering ability for stability and tracking at speed.

Though the Versys siblings share a similar overall look, the 650s and the 1000 are completely different bikes once you get past skin deep. The 650 models run a steel, double-pipe diamond frame finished off by a stylish swingarm that is boomerang shaped on the right side and artfully split on the left side to allow for the passage of the drive chain.

Steering geometry comes set for a sporty riding style; the 25-degree rake and 4.3 inches of trail ensures the 650 and 650 LT lives up to its mission as an urban commuter. An offset, coil-over KYB monoshock becomes part of the overall look where it runs forward from the crook in the swingarm, and it sports a remote preload adjuster for easy tuning and 5.7 inches of travel. Inverted Showa forks support the front end on 41 mm tubes with 5.9 inches of travel at the axle, and the split-function setup places the spring on one side and the dampers on the other, each with its own adjuster for stepless tuning.

Things change drastically with the big brother of the Versys family. The 1000 LT drops the steel frame in favor of an aluminum, twin-spar skeleton in order to keep overall weight down, and the swingarm is of the standard yoke variety with none of the flair of the 650s. Since the 1000 LT is meant to be more of a long-distance tourbike, it needed different handling characteristics, so the factory set the steering head at 27 degrees with 4 inches of trail to trade just a bit of cornering ability for stability and tracking at speed. A horizontal monoshock comes tucked away out of sight and comes with 5.9 inches of travel as well as adjustable damping and a remote spring-preload adjuster. Inverted KYB forks run 43 mm tubes and come with the same adjustments and suspension travel as the rear.

The Versys family more or less comes back together in the brakes department. I say “more or less” because while the 650 models run a pair of 300 mm petal-cut discs up front, the 1000 bumps that up to 310 mm. Beyond that, the 250 mm rear disc, Nissin twin-piston front calipers and single-pot rear are consistent across the board, as is the ABS function and 17-inch cast rims.

Model: Versys 650 Versys 650 LT Versys 1000LT
Frame Type: Single 250mm petal-style rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS Single 250mm petal-style rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS Twin-spar aluminum
Rake/Trail: 25°/4.3 in 25°/4.3 in 27.0°/4.0 in
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41mm hydraulic telescopic fork with stepless adjustable rebound and preload/5.9 in 41mm hydraulic telescopic fork with stepless adjustable rebound and preload/5.9 in KYB 43mm inverted front fork with adjustable rebound and preload/5.9 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Single offset laydown shock with remote adjustable spring preload/5.7 in Single offset laydown shock with remote adjustable spring preload/5.7 in Horizontal back-link shock with adjustable rebound damping and adjustable spring preload, remote preload adjuster/5.9 in
Front Tire: 120/70x17 120/70x17 120/70x17
Rear Tire: 160/60x17 160/60x17 180/55x17
Front Brakes: Dual 300mm petal-style rotors with 2-piston calipers, ABS Dual 300mm petal-style rotors with 2-piston calipers, ABS Dual 310mm petal rotors with four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 250mm petal-style rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS Single 250mm petal-style rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS Single 250mm petal-style rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS

Drivetrain

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys 650 / Versys 650 LT / Versys 1000 LT
- image 684441
While the entire Versys range comes with a six-speed transmission, the 1000 LT alone benefits from slip-and-assist technology in the clutch that helps preserve contact-patch integrity by limiting backtorque during aggressive down shifts.

A 649 cc, water-cooled parallel twin drives the 650 and 650 LT and the engine is identical between the two. Dual over-head cams time the four-valve heads, and a pair of 38 mm Keihin throttle bodies tend to the engine management. This is essentially the same engine as used by the Ninja 650 sportbike, but it is tuned for a more grunty delivery with something just north of 40 pound-feet of torque for making passes and pulling hills.

As the name suggests, the 1000 gets something close to a liter mill. The 77 mm bore and 56 mm stroke plus combustion-chamber volume times four cylinders actually gives us a total displacement of 1,043 cc, but that’s close enough for government work. Much like the smaller engine, the 1000 LT’s lump is water-cooled with DOHC and quad-valve heads fed by a quartet of 38 mm Keihin throttle bodies. Unlike its little brother, it comes with some electronic wizardry in the electronics department, namely Kawasaki’s own three-mode traction control system and selectable engine power modes for customized power delivery.

While the entire Versys range comes with a six-speed transmission, the 1000 LT alone benefits from slip-and-assist technology in the clutch that helps preserve contact-patch integrity by limiting backtorque during aggressive down shifts. These nifty features add flexibility to the platform that you just don’t get from the smaller version, and give you the tools needed to safely manage the 75 pound-feet of torque this lump delivers.

Model: Versys 650 Versys 650 LT Versys 1000LT
Engine : 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 4 valves per cylinder parallel twin 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 4 valves per cylinder parallel twin 4-stroke, 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled
Displacement : 649 cc 649 cc 1043 cc
Bore x Stroke: 83.0 x 60.0mm 83.0 x 60.0mm 77.0 x 56.0mm
Compression ratio: 10.8:1 10.8:1 10.3:1
Fuel System: DFI® with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies DFI® with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies DFI® with four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies, oval sub-throttles
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance TCBI with digital advance TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: 6-speed with positive neutral finder 6-speed with positive neutral finder 6-speed

Pricing

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys 650 / Versys 650 LT / Versys 1000 LT
- image 738074
MSRP is the same as last year, but with new colorways all around for 2018.

MSRP on the 2018 Versys 650 is $8,099; add $900 on to that for the LT. The Versys 1000 LT comes in at $12,999. Both the 650s come in the choice of Metallic Flat Spark Black and Metallic Carbon Gray or Pearl Blizzard White and Metallic Flat Spark Black combos. The 1000 LT is available for 2018 in a Metallic Flat Spark Black and Metallic Spark Black combo colorway.

Kawasaki covers your new Versys with a 12-month limited warranty and offers the option of additional 12, 24, 36 or 48 months through Kawasaki Protection Plus™.

Model: Versys 650 Versys 650 LT Versys 1000LT
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months) 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months) 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months)
Color Choices:
2016: Metallic Matte Carbon Gray/Metallic Spark Black, Candy Matte Orange/Metallic Spark Black Metallic Matte Carbon Gray/Metallic Spark Black, Candy Matte Orange/Metallic Spark Black Candy Lime Green/Metallic Spark Black
2017: Metallic Flat Black / Metallic Carbon Gray, Metallic Flat Raw Titanium Metallic Flat Black / Metallic Carbon Gray, Metallic Flat Raw Titanium Metallic Flat Spark Black
2018: Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Carbon Gray, Pearl Blizzard White/Metallic Flat Spark Black Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Carbon Gray, Pearl Blizzard White/Metallic Flat Spark Black Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Spark Black
Price:
2016: $7,999 $8,899 $12,999
2017: $8,099 $8,999 $11,999
2018: $8,099 $8,999 $12,999

Competitors

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- image 684870
2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys 650 / Versys 650 LT / Versys 1000 LT
- image 684871
The styling between the Versys and the V-Strom fits, and even though the V-Strom is touted as an adventure bike, it's just a pavement-oriented LT that has some off-road capabilities, which makes them brothers-from-another-mother.

Manufacturers tend to play fast and loose with bike classifications sometimes, and that’s OK, they can call stuff whatever they want. With that in mind, I went shopping for a competitor for the Versys and found one on Suzuki’s adventure-bike tab in the V-Strom 650 ABS Adventure. The styling fits, and even though the V-Strom is touted as an adventure bike, it’s just a pavement-oriented LT that has some off-road capabilities. The Versys, on the other hand, borrowed design elements from, not only sportbikes, but adventure and dual-sports, too. Salient point is, they’re two sides of the same coin, so let’s have a look.

You’ll notice that both have similar standard-esque forms with the same type of mini fairing and windshield one would normally associate with the adventure/dual sports categories. The fairings do little more than break the wind off the rider’s chest, which is fine since that keeps weight down and keeps the fairing from being the dominant feature up front. Both bikes utilize some sort of ventilation system that works with the windshields to prevent excessive head buffeting. In short, just enough protection for a relatively relaxed commute.

While the Versys uses a steel, double-pipe diamond frame for the bones, the V-Strom comes with an aluminum, twin-spar frame similar to the Versys 1000 LT. Suspension travel is comparable with a slight edge going to the V-Strom for its 6.3 inches of rear-wheel travel versus 5.7 inches from the Versys. Kawasaki wins some back with rebound and preload adjustments on the front forks where Suzuki only offers a preload tweak. Brakes are also very similar, with Suzuki enjoying a 10 mm increase in disc diameter across the board but little else.

Suzuki powers the V-Strom with a 645 cc V-twin in contrast to the 649 cc parallel-twin layout the Versys favors. Naturally, both run liquid cooling and fuel injection, but Suzuki kicks it up a notch with its electronic Dual Throttle Valve that helps the engine smoothly transition in response to engine needs and throttle-hand demands, and an Idle Speed Control that provides smooth idling and starts. Both mills deliver just upwards of 40 pounds of grunt, and in the end there is really very little to choose between the two beyond the gadgets on the Suzuki mill.

The trade off comes at checkout where the V-Strom comes off looking a little proud at $10,049 while Kawasaki keeps the Versys 650 LT at $8,999. Not a big difference, but enough that it may be a deal breaker for someone hard up against a budget.

He Said

My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, “I kind of like the Versys line. It definitely fills a niche for riders who prefer a sportbike look but want to have some comfort on their daily commute and on longer trips. Saddlebags are always a welcome sight for me, and the vented windshields that help prevent buffeting is nice as well. As cool as they are, I have to say I don’t think they are special or different enough to really stand out from the throng of similar bikes on the market today.”

She Said

Tall is the word when it comes to the Versys. Scary tall for short folks, but pleasantly tall for everyone else. The seat is so comfortable — as a touring bike should be — and the I-can-see-my-house-from-here perch atop the bike makes navigating traffic a breeze. A couple of years ago, I think I wouldn’t have considered long-distance touring on a middle-weight bike, but these Versys models are really comfortable and really love the open road. As commuters, they are very capable and so they make for good multi-purpose bikes.”

Specifications

Model: Versys 650 Versys 650 LT Versys 1000LT
Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine : 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 4 valves per cylinder parallel twin 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 4 valves per cylinder parallel twin 4-stroke, 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled
Displacement : 649 cc 649 cc 1043 cc
Bore x Stroke: 83.0 x 60.0mm 83.0 x 60.0mm 77.0 x 56.0mm
Compression ratio: 10.8:1 10.8:1 10.3:1
Fuel System: DFI® with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies DFI® with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies DFI® with four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies, oval sub-throttles
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance TCBI with digital advance TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: 6-speed with positive neutral finder 6-speed with positive neutral finder 6-speed
Final Drive: Sealed chain Sealed chain Sealed chain
Chassis:
Frame Type: Single 250mm petal-style rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS Single 250mm petal-style rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS Twin-spar aluminum
Rake/Trail: 25°/4.3 in 25°/4.3 in 27.0°/4.0 in
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41mm hydraulic telescopic fork with stepless adjustable rebound and preload/5.9 in 41mm hydraulic telescopic fork with stepless adjustable rebound and preload/5.9 in KYB 43mm inverted front fork with adjustable rebound and preload/5.9 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Single offset laydown shock with remote adjustable spring preload/5.7 in Single offset laydown shock with remote adjustable spring preload/5.7 in Horizontal back-link shock with adjustable rebound damping and adjustable spring preload, remote preload adjuster/5.9 in
Front Tire: 120/70x17 120/70x17 120/70x17
Rear Tire: 160/60x17 160/60x17 180/55x17
Front Brakes: Dual 300mm petal-style rotors with 2-piston calipers, ABS Dual 300mm petal-style rotors with 2-piston calipers, ABS Dual 310mm petal rotors with four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 250mm petal-style rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS Single 250mm petal-style rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS Single 250mm petal-style rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 85.2 in 85.2 in 88.2 in
Overall Width: 33.1 in 37.2 in 40.4 in
Overall Height: 55.1 in/57.1 in 55.1 in/57.1 in 55.1 in/57.7 in
Ground Clearance: 6.7 in 6.7 in 5.9 in
Seat Height: 33.1 in 33.1 in 33.1 in
Curb Weight: 476.3 lb 476.3 lb (+ Saddlebags, Handguards, & Hardware approx. 20 lb.) 549.0 lb (+ Saddlebags, Handguards, & Hardware approx. 20 lb.)
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gal 5.5 gal 5.5 gal
Wheelbase: 55.7 in 55.7 in 59.8 in
Details:
Model ID: KLE650FJF KLE650FJFX KLZ1000BJFX
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty 12 Month Limited Warranty 12 Month Limited Warranty
Kawasaki Protection Plus™ (Optional): 12, 24, 36 or 48 months 12, 24, 36 or 48 months 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Color Choices:
2016: Metallic Matte Carbon Gray/Metallic Spark Black, Candy Matte Orange/Metallic Spark Black Metallic Matte Carbon Gray/Metallic Spark Black, Candy Matte Orange/Metallic Spark Black Candy Lime Green/Metallic Spark Black
2017: Metallic Flat Black / Metallic Carbon Gray, Metallic Flat Raw Titanium Metallic Flat Black / Metallic Carbon Gray, Metallic Flat Raw Titanium Metallic Flat Spark Black
2018: Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Carbon Gray, Pearl Blizzard White/Metallic Flat Spark Black Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Carbon Gray, Pearl Blizzard White/Metallic Flat Spark Black Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Spark Black
Price:
2016: $7,999 $8,899 $12,999
2017: $8,099 $8,999 $11,999
2018: $8,099 $8,999 $12,999

References

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 / V-Strom 650XT
- image 705614

See our review of the Suzuki V-Strom 650.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended.Image Source: kawasaki.com, suzukicycles.com

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