It’s A Commuter; It’s A Tourer; It’s Whatever You Want It To Be

Street-oriented adventure bikes are rapidly establishing themselves as capable commuters as well as tour bikes, and Kawasaki’s Versys 650 line is no exception. The 650 and the 650 LT deliver 68 horsepower and 47 pound-feet of torque to establish them as capable competitors in the mid-range adventure market.

  • 2015 - 2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 / 650 LT
  • Year:
    2015- 2019
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Parallel-Twin
  • Displacement:
    649 L
  • Top Speed:
    125 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    8299
  • Price:

Kawasaki Versys 650 Design

2015 - 2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 / 650 LT
- image 684424
It's a sporty-lookin' adventure bike that fits the established stereotype with a little more in the way of character than we usually see in this genre.

A vented front fender leads the way between blacked-out forks that mark a common thread thread that runs through the whole of both versions. It works with the dark body panels, black saddle cover and achromatic running gear to provide a high-contrast setting for the Kawi-green details on the rims and the body. That’s right, the main change over the MY18 models has to do with the color — gone is the bright, Pearl Blizzard White in favor of Metallic Moondust Gray — but that comes with certain benefits. Namely, that the radiator all but disappears into the black hole behind the stems.

A broad front fairing houses a couple of angry-alien headlights split the night below a narrow, adjustable screen that splits the wind. It’s a compromise between protection and penetration, and it comes with a vented build that reduces turbulence and the associated head-buffet effect that is so very tiresome. The angular qualities of the fairing just possess a certain Kawi-ness that is paradoxically difficult to define yet quite obvious, so I won’t even try here.

Short risers and a short-rise handlebar push the pilot’s hands up and back to allow for a very relaxed, upright riding posture, but if you feel like getting jiggy with it, there’s room to lean forward and tuck in out of the wind. Plus, the footpegs are positioned to allow the rider to operate the machine from a standing position, and they’re in a good spot for the body English action.

Since the swale between the 5.5-gallon fuel tank and the upswept subframe section is fairly deep indeed, it provides a feeling of oneness with the machine. Seat height is pretty tall at 33.1 inches off the deck, and at that height the 650s are going to tax riders with short inseams, but it’s the price you pay for the 5.9- and 5.7-inch suspension strokes on the front and rear, respectively.

The taillight is well protected in its recess under the tip of the tail while the blinkers ride on the mudguard/plateholder that controls the fling coming off the rear hoop. All-in-all, it’s a sporty-lookin’ adventure bike that fits the established stereotype with a little more in the way of character than we usually see in this genre.

Kawasaki Versys 650 Chassis

2015 - 2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 / 650 LT
- image 684442
It's very nice in the corners and weight is carried low to make handling easy.

Steel tubing makes up the double-pipe, diamond-style main frame as well as the backbone-type subframe, but in spite of that choice of materials, the curb weight measures in with 476.3 pounds on the base model, and you can add 20 pounds to that if you plan on running the LT with its hard-side panniers. I usually don’t like to get into accessories, but it’s worth mentioning here that the 650s come ready to receive a top case so you can expand your cargo capacity significantly.

Rubber engine mounts isolate the engine to prevent the transmission of the hand-tingling/butt-numbing high-frequency vibrations from the 180-out mill. A pair of 17-inch rims round out the rolling chassis with ZR-rated hoops in a 120/70 and a 160/60 on the front and rear respectively for a symmetrical look that ties in nicely with the sportbike sector.

Inverted 41 mm forks float the front end with adjustable rebound damping and spring preload as part of the stock package, and out back, a single, coil-over shock tames the asymmetrical swingarm with an easy-to-reach spring preload adjuster. As for the brakes, a pair of 300 mm, petal-cut discs and dual-piston anchors take care of business opposite a single 250 mm disc and single-pot caliper with ABS protection as part of the standard equipment package.

Frame: Double pipe diamond frame constructed from high-tensile steel
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41 mm hydraulic telescopic fork with stepless adjustable rebound and preload/5.9 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Single offset laydown shock with remote adjustable spring preload/5.7 in
Rake/Trail: 25°/4.3 in
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire: 160/60 ZR17
Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm petal-style discs with 2-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 250 mm petal-style disc with single-piston caliper, ABS

Kawasaki Versys 650 Drivetrain

2015 - 2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 / 650 LT
- image 738074
There's plenty of power for highway roll-on and gives you a smooth ride.

Kawi powers this pair with a 649 cc, parallel-twin mill. It eliminates waste heat through a water jacket and radiator with the Kawasaki Air Management System that shunts the hot air down and away from the pilot and oil jets bathe the bottom of the piston crowns to carry off heat from the hottest of spots.

Dual over-head cams time the eight-valve heads with a pair of 38 mm Keihin throttle bodies on induction control and digital fuel injection to meter and deliver the juice. Plus, the throttle bodies come with a set of computer-controlled subthrottles that help smooth out the differential between demand and capability.

Oversquare, it runs an 83 mm bore and 60 mm stroke with a 10.8-to-1 compression ratio that falls in the mid-range, but will still demand top-hook road champagne. An automatic fast-idle system also smooths out the bottom end when the engine is cold, and even once warm it can help stave off a stall as you come out of the hole.

A slipper clutch couples engine power to a cassette-style, six-speed gearbox that rocks a positive neutral-finder feature for your convenience and safety. Engine and transmission nest together to form a triangle with the crankshaft, mainshaft and countershaft at the points that make for a compact overall package. The mill churns out a total of 47 pound-feet of torque at an even seven grand with 68-ponies at 8,500 rpm, and that turns in a top speed of approximately 125 mph, though individual results may vary.

Engine: 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 4 valves per cylinder parallel twin
Displacement: 649 cc
Bore x Stroke: 83.0 mm x 60.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.8:1
Maximum Torque: 47.0 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with 38 mm Keihin throttle bodies (2)
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: 6-speed with positive neutral finder
Final Drive: Sealed chain

Kawasaki Versys 650 Pricing

2015 - 2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 / 650 LT
- image 684423
MSRP is up a couple of bills over last year at $8.3k for the 650 and $9.2k for the LT

The base model ’19 Versys 650 ABS rolls for an MSRP of $8,299. If you want the quick-release panniers and handguards that come with the LT variant, you can expect to shell out a total of $9,199. That’s right; both models saw a price bump of two Benjamins over the sticker last year.

Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months)
Color: Metallic Moondust Gray/Metallic Flat Spark Black
Price: 650: $8,299, 650 LT: $9,199

Kawasaki Versys 650 Competitors

2017 - 2019 Suzuki V-Strom 650 / V-Strom 650XT
- image 776800
2015 - 2019 Kawasaki Versys 650 / 650 LT
- image 771527
Price is a wash, but the V-Strom carries a slightly superior electronics suite.

Since I wanted to pick a domestic competitor for the Versys, I decided to go with another “V” bike; the V-Strom from Suzuki. Both rides toe the adv-bike line, but the Suzuki predictably has softer lines with a nice flow from stem to stern, and even the paint is toned down with white-over-black and black-over-black and nothing in the way of accents to spice it up. You could call it dignified, or you could call it boring; you could even call it safe.

The V-Strom’s mill relies on a low-rpm assist, cold-start assist and a traction-control feature, so it carries a slightly superior electronics suite. Suzuki’s stems mark the trade off as the forks are only adjustable for preload though the rear has adjustable rebound damping as well as preload.

Brake size and ABS protection is pretty even across the board. So is the power; the V-Strom checks in with 70 ponies and 45.7 pound-feet of torque against 68/47 for a difference that isn’t even likely to blip the old heinie-dyno. The base V-Strom 650 ABS rolls for $8,799 to land between the Versys brothers.

He Said

“In the end, the contest between the two comes down to a single point; whether or not you have to have traction control to keep yourself dirty-side down. Sure, some will find one or the other aesthetically pleasing according to taste, and some will have brand loyalty, but the real decision lies in the TC, says I.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Even though this is a mid-displacement, it’s really a big bike, but not necessarily a heavy bike. The seat is very comfortable and the rider position is upright as you’d expect on an adventure bike. It dives a bit on heavy front braking, but not overly so. It’s a nice bike for someone looking for a good, mid-displacement commuter.”

Kawasaki Versys 650 Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 4 valves per cylinder parallel twin
Displacement: 649 cc
Bore x Stroke: 83.0 mm x 60.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.8:1
Maximum Torque: 47.0 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with 38 mm Keihin throttle bodies (2)
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: 6-speed with positive neutral finder
Final Drive: Sealed chain
Chassis:
Frame: Double pipe diamond frame constructed from high-tensile steel
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41 mm hydraulic telescopic fork with stepless adjustable rebound and preload/5.9 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Single offset laydown shock with remote adjustable spring preload/5.7 in
Rake/Trail: 25°/4.3 in
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire: 160/60 ZR17
Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm petal-style discs with 2-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 250 mm petal-style disc with single-piston caliper, ABS
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 85.2 in
Overall Width: 33.1 in
Overall Height: 55.1 in/57.1 in (windshield down/up)
Ground Clearance: 6.7 in
Seat Height: 33.1 in
Curb Weight: 476.3 lb
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gal
Wheelbase: 55.7 in
Details:
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months)
Color: Metallic Moondust Gray/Metallic Flat Spark Black
Price: 650: $8,299, 650 LT: $9,199

Further Reading

Suzuki V-Strom 650

2017 - 2019 Suzuki V-Strom 650 / V-Strom 650XT
- image 815453

See our review of the Suzuki V-Strom 650.

Kawasaki

ALLYN IMAGES - DO NOT DELETE
- image 795478

Read more Kawasaki news.

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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