Kawasaki Versys - Middleweight Motorcycles

Never mind what it looks like; admire what it does.

Kawasaki Versys

Middleweight Motorcycles: Kawasaki Versys

You can’t blame people for asking what the Versys is all about. At first glance—or even the second or third—
it doesn’t announce its identity in the same way plastic-clad sportbikes or chrome-adorned cruisers do. To get to the root of this 650 Twin’s true being, you have to ride it, and then its purpose hits you like some sort of revelation.

Looking like a crossbreed between an adventurer, a sportbike and a Pontiac Aztek, the Versys isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but this mutt is just as lovable and loyal as man’s best friend. Stuffed into its steel-framed chassis is the same liquid-cooled, 649cc parallel-Twin that powers the Ninja 650, and it pumps out damn near the same torque (41.7 foot-pounds) as the inline-Four in its cousin, the ZX-6R. Thanks to short overall gearing, the engine lets the Versys jump out of the hole like it means business, with no need to crank up the rev counter in the process. That’s why it’s hard not to like this mid-sized Twin: It offers good performance and hitch-free fuel mapping while delivering more than 40 mpg in our heavy hands.

Complementing the engine is a well-matched chassis. Long-travel (just shy of 6.0 in. at both ends), preload- and rebound-damping adjustable suspension yields a plush ride that soaks up rough urban-road imperfections easily. It does, however, place the rider’s butt 33.2 in. off the ground for a commanding view but a bit of a reach to the tarmac.

Handling is sporty, with a wide bar and upright seating that provide lots of leverage, allowing the rider to pitch the Versys around like a big supermoto bike. The twin 300mm, two-piston front brakes have good feel and power when you want to “whoa it down” (as former World Superbike Champion Scott Russell likes to say).

Which brings us back to that eye-opening moment: Once you throw a leg over the Versys and experience its combination of performance and practicality, it makes perfect sense—even though visually, it does very little to sell itself.


• Awesome ergos

• Fun engine

• Great city bike: nimble, commanding view and surefooted


• Slower than a Sportster 1200 Custom

• Polarizing styling

• Seat height may scare off potential buyers

Dry weight:|426 lb.
Wheelbase:|55.8 in.
Seat height:|33.2 in.
Fuel mileage:|41 mpg
0-60 mph:|3.9 sec.
1/4-mile:|12.95 sec. @ 98.14 mph
Top speed:|112 mph
Horsepower:|58.8 hp @ 8130 rpm
Torque:|41.7 ft.-lb. @ 7190 rpm