AIMExpo 2014: 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT - First Look

Good news: Kawasaki’s asphalt adventurer is now available as a 1000, but a significantly improved 650 remains available.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT studio 3/4 view

Our European Editor, Bruno dePrato, recently wrote about the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 from the INTERMOT show in Germany. To our delight, he reported that this larger-displacement Versys would soon be sold in the US. Now, based on what we've just learned at the AIMExpo show in Orlando, Florida, we know more specifics about this Kawasaki, which is a versatile sport-tourer with upright ergonomics that make it a great machine for taller riders.

As dePrato reported, the new Versys 1000 LT is powered by 1,043cc inline-four, a DOHC 16-valve motor with an ECU tuned for crisp throttle response, good torque, and a wide powerband. Twelve-hole injectors improve fuel atomization, and the rider can choose between a power mode that allows full engine performance and one that cuts it by 25 percent when conditions warrant. Other standard tech includes three-mode traction control, ABS, and a light-effort slipper clutch. Also worth noting: Kawasaki says the alternator of this new Versys 1000 LT puts out 15.3 amps at 1,100 rpm, which means the bike should have no trouble powering grip heaters (an accessory from Kawasaki) or GPS, even when the engine is at idle.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT open sidebags

Kawasaki says the long-travel suspension of the new Versys 1000 LT is firm enough for canyon fun, yet has the suppleness needed for good all-day comfort. There’s 5.9 inches of travel front and rear, courtesy of an inverted 43mm KYB fork and horizontal back-link shock, which is fitted with a remote preload adjuster to compensate for the weight of a passenger and/or loaded bags. Based on a rigid twin-spar aluminum frame, the 2015 Versys 1000 tips the scales at a claimed 549 lb., which puts it in the same weight league as the BMW R1200GS.

Of note, the rear subframe of the 2015 Versys 1000 LT incorporates passenger handholds and mounting points for Kawasaki’s quick-release hard saddlebags. These 28-liter bags are standard, but the top case, which is large enough to swallow two full-face helmets, is an accessory. The ignition key works all three bags. Adding further practicality is a standard center stand, which helps keep the bike stable when parked, particularly when it’s fully loaded. The 17-in. wheels are fitted with Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T30 tires, and strong braking performance is provided by a pair of 310mm front brake rotors with four-piston calipers.

Kawasaki doesn’t have an MSRP for the new Versys 1000 LT yet, but says the bike will go on sale in November. The company also knows the bike’s target customer: a person with an adventurous spirit, somebody who might log serious interstate miles before exploring some remote destination on a paved back road. And for that purpose, and perhaps even for daily commuting, the new Versys 1000 looks like it will succeed. The upright seating position makes for a great view, and the rider position is relaxed, with low footpegs making the bike comfortable over the long haul. The seat is tapered at the front to help the rider reach the ground, and from the midpoint back it’s flat and wide for passenger comfort. What’s more, the handlebar and engine are both rubber-mounted, taking some vibration out of the equation. Handguards are standard, featuring composite covers with aluminum brackets.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT with sidebags and top case studio 3/4 view

For 2015, Kawasaki has altered the styling of the Versys 1000. Gone are the old stacked headlights, replaced by two narrow and horizontal units mounted in a new fairing. In general, we think the update looks good, aided by a horizontal chin spoiler below the headlights that adds downforce at speed for enhanced stability. An air intake between the headlights also feeds more air to the four-cylinder engine as speeds increase. Channels on both sides of the fairing, between the upper and side sections, are said to improve airflow and reduce air resistance. Also, the large windscreen provides 2.95 inches of tool-less adjustability. That’s enough, says Kawasaki, to reduce buffeting for taller riders.

Two colors will be available: Candy Burnt Orange/Metallic Spark Black and Flat Ebony/Metallic Spark Black. Accessories include the aforementioned top case, plus an LED light bar, grip heaters, a helmet lock, and a radiator guard. Frame and front axle sliders are also available, as well as a gear-position indicator integrated neatly into the instrument cluster. Other available bits include liners for the bags, a backrest pad, a DC power outlet, a GPS mount, tank and knee pads, plus a windshield, a gel seat, and a U-Lock bracket.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT studio 3/4 view

THE 2015 VERSYS 650

In other news, the Versys 650, powered by Kawasaki’s 649cc parallel-twin, has been significantly upgraded for 2015. It will be sold as two distinct models: the Versys 650 ABS and Versys 650 LT. The LT has handguards and quick-release hard saddlebags like those of the new Versys 1000 LT. Both 650s, however, have have many other changes for 2015, highlighted by new styling, a slight bump in power (thanks to a new exhaust), and footpegs that have been moved 15mm lower and 15mm forward for improved rider comfort. Moreover, all new Versys 650s now have a rubber-mounted engine, a larger windscreen, a Showa fork, a KYB shock, Nissin brake calipers, and a half-gallon-larger fuel tank. Look for the new 650s to arrive in December or January.

|2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT
ENGINE|DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four
BORE & STROKE|77.0 x 56.0 mm
MAXIMUM TORQUE|75.2 lb.-ft. @ 7500 rpm
FUEL INJECTION|EFI w/four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies, oval sub-throttles
IGNITION|TCBI with digital advance
FINAL DRIVE|Sealed chain
FRAME|Twin-spar aluminum
FRONT SUSPENSION / TRAVEL|Inverted KYB 43mm inverted fork with adjustable rebound and preload / 5.9 inches
REAR SUSPENSION / TRAVEL|Horizontal back-link shock with adjustable rebound damping and adjustable spring preload, remote preload adjuster / 5.9 inches
FRONT TIRE|120/70R-17
REAR TIRE|180/55R-17
FRONT BRAKES|Dual 310mm petal rotors with four-piston calipers, ABS
REAR BRAKES|Single 250mm petal rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS
OVERALL HEIGHT|55.1 in. (windshield set low), 57.7 in. (windshield set high)
SEAT HEIGHT|33.1 in.
WHEELBASE|59.8 in.
COLORS|Candy Burnt Orange / Metallic Spark Black Flat Ebony / Metallic Spark Black

Versys 1000 LT studio left-side view.

Versys 1000 LT studio front 3/4 right-side view.

Versys 1000 LT studio rear 3/4 left-side view.

Versys 1000 LT studio front 3/4 right-side view.

Versys 1000 LT open side bags.

Versys 1000 LT instrument panel.

Versys 650 LT studio front 3/4 right-side view.

Versys 650 LT hand guards.

Versys 650 LT side bags.

Versys 650 ABS studio front 3/4 right-side view.

Versys 650 ABS studio right-side view.

Versys 650 ABS nose section.