2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT - First Ride

Big new Versys is big on versatility and power.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT action shot

We've been missing out. Kawasaki's 1,043cc inline-4-powered Versys 1000 has been kicking around other markets since 2012, but finally joins its Ninja 1000 and Z1000 stablemates stateside in 2015. That's good, because we're fond of the torquey engine powering this trifecta. We're also big fans of the Versys' jack-of-all-trades character, even if the previous 650 twin had a face only a mother could love.

Redesigned for 2015, the Versys 1000 LT has a host of standard features, and its $12,799 price means it significantly undercuts the competition from Europe (BMW, Triumph, KTM) and Japan (Yamaha and Suzuki). Standard fare on the LT is generous, including color-matched 28-liter single-key hard cases, handguards, a manually adjustable (without tools) windshield, ABS, KTRC traction control (with four settings), two power modes, a slipper clutch (with assist function), and a fully adjustable KYB fork and shock with provisions for preload and rebound.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT static rear view

With a name like Versys, this Kawasaki must be versatile. And it is. With its long-travel suspension (5.9 inches at each end), upright riding position, and torque-monster engine, this Kawasaki eats up underfunded secondary roads with aplomb, and I can assure you that Sicily—site of the bike’s international press introduction—must have some of the worst maintained but amazingly fun roads anywhere in the world.

It took only a few minutes of seat time to be reminded that this is a great engine. Despite not utilizing ride-by-wire, Kawi has packaged this 1,043cc engine with multiple ride modes and TC settings, giving what is already an incredibly smooth powerplant some other tricks to tame the highways.

Our photo location was on the lower slopes of snowcapped Mt. Etna, the famous 10,990-foot volcano. The road heading up into the national park was wet from morning rains, and even hints of roadside snow. In other words, a great opportunity to play with the TC settings and see if I could get the KTRC light on the dash flashing. In full power mode, while really giving the new Versys 1000 LT some stick, I was able to do so. But I came away impressed with how much effort it took, thanks to the engine’s smooth nature.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT cornering action shot

Equally smooth was the suspension, which ate up the bumps with ease. There’s enough provision for adjustment to find a good setting, whether you’re blitzing apexes solo or riding two-up with luggage. With excellent front brakes (310mm discs pinched by four-piston calipers), the Versys LT dives a bit under hard braking, but the bike really likes to be trail-braked into corners, which helps get its fairly substantial 550 pounds turned more effectively. While the big Versys lacks is its little brother’s light and flickable handling, it will pay its rider back with the ability to eat up serious miles. My only complaint: The seat’s too soft, and my butt felt sore after a long day on Sicily’s asphalt whoops.

With sporty styling that resembles the rest of Kawasaki’s sportbike range, plus a fantastic engine that oozes torque and a chassis that eats up bumpy and twisty pavement with ease, the 2015 Versys 1000 LT has arrived in the US, and we’re glad you won’t have to take out a second mortgage on your home to own one.

2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT
ENGINE Liquid-cooled DOHC inline-4, four valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE 77.0 x 56.0mm
MAXIMUM TORQUE 75.2 lb-ft @ 7500rpm
FUEL DELIVERY EFI with four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies, oval sub-throttles
IGNITION TCBI with digital advance
FRAME Twin-spar aluminum
FRONT SUSPENSION/WHEEL TRAVEL KYB 43mm inverted front fork, adjustable rebound and preload/5.9 inches
REAR SUSPENSION/WHEEL TRAVEL KYB horizontal shock, adjustable rebound damping and 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 BRAKE Single 250mm petal rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS
OVERALL WIDTH 40.4 in. (with saddlebags)
OVERALL HEIGHT 55.1 in. (windshield low), 57.7 in. (windshield high)
SEAT HEIGHT 33.1 in.
WHEELBASE 59.8 in.
COLORS Candy Burnt Orange/Metallic Spark Black Flat Ebony/Metallic Spark Black

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