Kawasaki Versys 1000 (2019) | Long-term review

Kawasaki Versys 1000 (2019) | Long-term review

 

Described as a ‘VERsatile SYStem’, the 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 ignores the pretences of many of the adventure bikes out there by focussing purely on the road. As a previous owner of a KTM 1050 Adventure that I never really took off-road, I appreciate the benefits of a motorcycle with long travel suspension and a commanding view – not to mention decent tank range and luggage capacity – but I’m honest with myself about where I’ll ride. Beyond gravel tracks and dodgy roads, I don’t need the ability to traverse the most gnarly trails in the back of beyond.

Over the next six months or so I’ll be updating you on the Tourer edition of the standard Versys 1000; I’ll be touring with my wife, loading it with luggage, commuting, and enjoying back-road blasts. This is your chance to find out everything you need to know about the bike, and if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask in the comments section…

 

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 June update: First impressions

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 July update: Pillion review

How does it compare to the BMW S1000XR?

Can the Versys 1000 handle the track?

How good is the Versys 1000 as an everyday commuter?

Kawasaki Versys 1000 build quality and reliability

Kawasaki Versys 1000 review: Verdict

Likes and Dislikes

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 specifications

 

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 June update: First impressions

Having been on the launch of the Versys 1000 SE, I knew what to expect. The big tourer weighs 253kg with its 21 litre tank full of fuel, while the four-cylinder engine makes 118.3bhp @ 9,000rpm and 75lb-ft @ 7,500rpm. On paper, the Kawasaki is outclassed by the likes of BMW’s S1000XR (and R1250GS), Ducati’s Multistrada 1260 and KTM’s adventure bikes. It only ‘beats’ Suzuki’s cheaper V-Strom 1000. But having covered 196 miles on the launch, I can honestly say that there’s more to it than that. And now, with 400 miles on this standard model, I’m even more impressed with the incredibly smooth and tractable motor; it’s so easy to ride, never feeling like it wants to stall, which makes for very easy tight manoeuvres, whether in a remote European village on a dodgy incline, or in the office car park. But it’s not soulless – this is still exciting to ride. The engine is a little buzzy above 5,500rpm, but in top gear you’re hitting 90mph before you can feel it.

The standard Versys 1000 costs £11,199 – I’ve got the Tourer edition, which includes brilliant hand-guards, a tank pad and a pair of colour-matched panniers for £11,899. Those panniers a large enough to take a full-face helmet, and styled very well to suit the bike. Most importantly for me though, when the boxes are removed, the bike looks totally clean, with no clunky frames; nice work!

 

Kawasaki Versys 1000 (2019) | Long-term review

The panniers are easy to remove, leaving clean lines thanks to the lack of support racks.

 

Personally, I’d prefer a top box to panniers, as my wife can lean against it and it doesn’t interfere with filtering like panniers can in very tight spots. Buying the top box on its own costs £343.75, or the Grand Tourer costs £12,699 and includes full luggage, along with a sat-nav mount, spot lights and engine guards,

Compared to the SE model that I rode on the launch, which costs £15,099 in Tourer spec, my bike has lost the semi-active suspension, quick-shifter, heated grips, riding modes, LED cornering lights, TFT dash and self-healing paint. So which bits do I miss?

So far, I haven’t been disappointed with the standard suspension (the rear has a remote preload adjuster), and I love the fact that there’s loads of space under the seat where the suspension pump and electronics would go. The riding modes weren’t that valuable as the engine’s so smooth, and the gearbox has a short, direct throw, so I actually prefer it to the spongy quick-shifter that’s on the SE.

The heated grips are the main things I wish this bike had (sad to be saying that in June), and the cornering lights were good, but I haven’t ridden in the dark yet. We’ll see. Or maybe we won’t!

So far then, I’m thoroughly impressed. There’s a slight judder to the clutch when pulling away sometimes, but I reckon that’ll ease with time. Once the 600 mile service has been done, we’ll take a closer look at the build quality…

 

500 miles with the Versys 1000

Find out how John’s getting on with the adventure tourer

 

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 July update: Pillion review

Nothing makes me bond with a bike more than being able to have a really great trip out on it with my wife, Helen; if we both enjoy exploring the countryside on any machine when we get some spare time, it becomes something really special.

With three days off together, we rode all back roads from Cambridgeshire to Devon – only around 250 miles, but on that route it meant six hours of riding time. With stops, we made the journey last around eight hours. And we loved it.

Helen was very comfortable on the large seat, and while I had to shuffle about a bit to keep my sensitive bum happy, the Versys 1000 was a good place to be.

We have the standard screen fitted, which gave Helen (5’3”) no uncomfortable buffeting, despite sitting up higher behind me. I noticed some noise during the ride, but nothing too tiring.

While this is the tourer edition of the bike – which comes with panniers – I’ve also now fitted the top box, which includes the optional back pad. At first Helen thought the £32 pad would push her too far forward, but over the three days she was very happy relaxing against the Givi-made luggage.

Fully loaded, the Versys did feel top-heavy to me as the rider; having Helen on the back as well as our luggage took a little getting used to – there was 13.68kg in the top box (yes, that’s more than you’re meant to have), and a total of 15.58kg in the panniers. With that, Helen and me, the Kawasaki was still well within its maximum payload of 220kg, and as I can easily get both feet down (even with the preload increased by eight clicks on the handy remote adjuster), I was soon riding normally, not fearing junctions as I do on taller machines.

 

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 Pillion review

The Versys 1000 proved a great bike for a couple to explore Exmoor on…

 

Whether fully-loaded or on my own, at high speed (85mph+), the Versys has a bit of a loose-feeling front-end; it’s never dangerous or frightening, but knock the bars and there’s a bit of a wobble from the front that’s accentuated with the preload increased when there’s little extra weight on the back.

At 600 miles I swapped the standard Bridgestone T31Rs for a set of Pirelli Angel GT IIs, to see how they’d perform; there was nothing wrong with the Bridgestones, but as they’re the OE fitment, it’s a chance to demonstrate some other rubber options while I have the Kawasaki.

The narrow, twisty back roads of Devon, with their high-hedges and confident locals, were easy to ride, and even on awkward inclines when a sheep ran out or a van appeared, the low seat made it a lot easier for me to slam my feet down and catch the bike before Helen, our luggage and I could get too off balance. Sadly I did still have to explain to one car driver on a single-track road that no, I couldn’t reverse my motorcycle back up the hill.

With the panniers on, the Versys isn’t a small machine, but it’s still pretty easy to filter – on the way home we did the first half of the journey on the motorway to get back a bit more quickly, but when the traffic snarled up I was still able to pick my way through.

After 580 miles on our short break, the Versys returned 44.4mpg – not bad considering how much it was lugging around and that we did the vast majority of the trip on back roads. The

Kawasaki is proving to be everything Helen and I could wish for…

 

Versys 1000 pillion opinion

How does a passenger find the Big Kawasaki adventure tourer?

 

How does it compare to the BMW S1000XR?

Talk for any length about the Kawasaki Versys 1000 and someone will always ask “but what about the S1000XR? It’s the better bike.” Better? Why? “Because it’s more powerful”.

Most of us know though that paper stats mean nothing, so while the BMW makes 47bhp more, I can’t stress enough that it’s a completely different machine.

Okay, both are classed as ‘adventure tourers’ (marketing speak for a bike with long-travel suspension that doesn’t bother pretending it’s for off-road), and both have a good load capacity, but while the Kawasaki delivers its more-than-ample performance in a flawlessly smooth, gentlemanly manner, the BMW is brash, shouty and aggressive.

And neither is wrong for its traits.

 

Kawasaki Versys 1000 vs BMW S1000XR

On the outside, two very similar bikes. But on the road, you’ll be surprised…

 

My wife describes the Kawasaki as a ‘bike hug’. She’s right (invariably), as with its large, soft seat and compliant suspension, it’s one of the most comfortable places to be for a long ride – especially on the back. I am finding some pressure points in the seat as the rider, but the overall handling is still incredibly easy; from the huge spread of torque and the glitch-free throttle response to the easy-going suspension, the Versys makes every journey a pleasure.

The BMW is a different beast, with firmer suspension and a much more direct throttle. The model we’ve compared it to is the top-spec Sport SE with semi-active suspension, and while it’s an incredibly nimble and accurate bike to ride, it’s far more on the sporty side of touring.

Trickling through villages shows up the BMW’s heavy clutch and abrupt throttle response. It’s certainly firmer, but if you want to really open a bike up on back roads, the XR is incredibly rewarding – where the Versys starts to lose pace and can feel more vague at the front end, the BMW remains taught and direct. It’s a sportsbike with wide bars and a commanding view.

To decide between the two – besides the fact that the Kawasaki is a good few thousand pounds cheaper – you need to decide what kind of rider you are. Both are incredible machines, and both deserve a test ride, but take your pillion and plan a route that allows you to test each bike on bumpy roads, motorways and more. If you don’t need 162bhp, why compromise on touring luxury?

 

BMW S1000XR pillion review

Helen spends the day on the BMW to see how it compares to the Versys 1000

 

Can the Versys 1000 handle the track?

Considering it’s a ‘VERatile SYStem’, it’s fair to expect Kawasaki’s adventure tourer to be able to handle some track time.

We’ve established that it’s not as pin-point accurate or sporty as the BMW S1000XR, but that soft set-up proved more than good enough for an enjoyable day at Cadwell Park on a Bennetts Rewards discounted track day.

The sessions started damp, and after a 90 minute ride that started at silly-o-clock to get there for the 7.30am briefing, I was cold and struggling to concentrate. But the combination of Pirelli Angel GTII rubber and the Kawasaki’s traction control and ABS meant I wasn’t worried about the large sections of damp tarmac, especially under the trees between Hall Bends and Barn. Coppice saw a large wet area at the end of the start/finish straight where speed needed to be scrubbed off, but not once did I see a warning light flash; the tyres had been perfect on the wet, early morning ride into Lincolnshire, and were just as confidence-inspiring on the track.

 

Kawasaki Versys 1000 (2019) | Long-term review

Photo by Tim Keeton

 

At the same time I had Pirelli’s original Angel GTs fitted to my Yamaha MT-10 – on that bike, with its ridiculous eagerness to lift the front wheel, I’d been thoroughly impressed by their unfaltering ability to grip the road, whether it was wet or dry. The GTIIs are Pirelli’s newest version, with the most obvious visual difference being extra channels in the rubber to move the water away from the contact patch.

On track, I ran the tyres at their standard pressures (36psi front and 42psi rear) – it was cold and damp, but even when it dried up I didn’t bother dropping them; they simply didn’t get hot enough to warrant it. And that’s my point – if sport touring tyres are good enough for the track instructors at California Superbike School and the Ron Haslam Race School, they’re good enough for me.

Sport touring tyres perform so incredibly well now that, whether you’re on an adventure tourer like the 118bhp Versys 1000, or a 158bhp hyper naked like the MT-10, there’s just no need for sports tyres. And having used Rosso Corsas (the sportiest models) on a Monster S4R I owned a few years ago, I know that unless that kind of rubber is worked hard and got up to temperature, it’s less grippy on the road than something designed for the conditions.

So the Angel GTIIs have proved far more capable than my abilities on road and track, wet or dry, but what of the Kawasaki itself? As expected, it performed fine, if not outstandingly; on the road it only starts to feel a little vague when you’re really pushing on, and the track gave more opportunity to explore that point. Hanging off the Versys just doesn’t feel right, and it starts to get more loose. It’ll touch the pegs down without much drama, and never feels insecure, but this isn’t the bike to try to get your knee down on; you’ll be hanging way off, and the front-end doesn’t make you want to do it. You’re better off sitting naturally and enjoying the ride.

Nobody will be buying a Versys 1000 as a track tool, but it’s more than capable enough of giving you the chance to sample some of the great tracks here in the UK. I can’t recommend enough that you do Cadwell at least once in your life, and if you try it on a Versys you know you’ll also have a comfortable ride hope at the end of the day.

 

Kawasaki Versys 1000 on track

Shod with Pirelli Angel GTIIs, find out how versatile this bike really is…

 

How good is the Versys 1000 as an everyday commuter?

I use the Kawasaki almost every day, in all weathers – that means my daily commute and trips for business meetings across the country. Not to mention pleasure rides, of course.

Despite having access to other machines, this is the one I choose every time, simply because it’s so easy to ride; the ultra-smooth engine makes it an absolute pleasure to trickle through busy traffic, wiggle through the car park, or navigate discarded shopping trolleys at Aldi. When you clear the traffic, the roar from the airbox reminds you that this is a 1,043cc four-cylinder. It might not have the peak power of some of its competitors, but if Kawasaki’s engineers had wanted that, they could have done it. At the expensive of making what is a wonderfully tractable motor.

 

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 review. Long term road test and full specs of the big adventure tourer. Pillion opinion, long distance, build quality and more…

Picking up pizza, crisps and chocolate (Fruit and Nut for my five-a-day, obvs) on the way home from work is easy when you have a top-box

 

The riding position works perfectly, giving a commanding view and plenty of leverage without being too big to fit through traffic. Then there’s the space under the seat for daily essentials (though I’m not keen on the awkward position of the keyhole under the tail), and the top box that’ll swallow two full-face lids with ease, without upsetting the handling or getting wedged between cars.

A centre stand makes chain maintenance easy, and the Pirelli Angel GTIIs are giving me bags of confidence on the wet and greasy roads, while also wearing well; I’ve put over 5,000 miles on them so far.

There are signs of corrosion on some areas, particularly some thinly-plated fasteners, but I haven’t been as careful about cleaning as I should have been. I did use ACF-50 on the bike when I got it, but that will have worn off by now (XCP is a longer-term protectant). I’ll be giving the bike a proper clean very soon…

BikeSocial’s boss, Steve Rose, borrowed the Versys for his 150 mile each way commute. Here’s what he thought…

“Daily work kit (laptop, locks, Tupperware and more locks) get chucked in the top box, while bulky panniers get left in the office to reduce the filtering paranoia. Heated kit plugs into the 12V socket on the dash and I’ve done less than two miles before clonking the first car wing mirror with the wide bars and sturdy handguards – my fault for being too ambitious – after that it doesn’t happen again.

“My trip is mostly motorway so at first it’s all about the engine. Smooth, easy power and drive like only a good inline four-cylinder can. The tacho is too bright and it takes a few goes on the unlit switchgear to find the right way to swap the display to show what I want.

“150-ish miles later I pull up. Home. Relaxed, comfy, smiling. I like this bike. The first blob on the fuel gauge took almost 90 miles to drop and then the rest every 15 miles or so after.

“I love the comfy seat and spacious legroom, but the screen is noisier than I expected and the headlights should be better on something that goes this quickly. The brakes feel soft. Maybe it’s the long fork travel, but it takes a lot of lever pressure before the slowing down is more apparent than the suspension movement.

“Filtering is confident, low-speed balance superb and ridden like a man who hasn’t been on a litre-bike for a while still brought over 50mpg.

“It’s not an adventure bike, clearly. Or a tourer until Kawasaki fits shaft drive, a bigger screen and heated grips. The Versys is actually a genuine all-rounder – possibly the most refined and grown-up Kawasaki I’ve ever ridden.”

 

Commuting on the Versys 1000

Join us for a ride on the Kawasaki through rush-hour traffic…

 

Kawasaki Versys 1000 build quality and reliability

I’ve ridden this Kawasaki Versys 1000 in all weathers for just over 12 months, covering 6,379 miles. It would have been more, but the Covid-19 lockdown meant I missed some final big trips.

But it’s been out in everything; from the beautiful weather of a Devon tour with my wife, to 200 mile blasts home in the pouring rain. It hasn’t been pampered, and I certainly should have tried to find more time to rinse it during the winter, but being used every day meant that, besides a couple of treatments with XCP Rust Blocker and ACF-50 for corrosion protection, the adventure tourer had a relatively hard life. And on some of the fasteners at least, it shows, some of the unpainted black metal finish showing noticeable furring and the exhaust header pipes going a nice shade of brown. Fortunately, they’re made of stainless steel, so a little lemon juice and tin foil brought them back up a treat.

The fasteners did clean up, but they still showed some signs of corrosion. More annoying was the patch of rust on the screen carrier, which looks like paint damage thanks to a stone chip; if this were my bike, I’d be back at the dealer asking for that part to be replaced.

Other than that, the caliper pistons are showing signs of salt damage, though most of the rust spots appear to be cleaning off okay; this isn’t a failing of Kawasaki, it’s simply a reminder of why it’s vital to keep the pistons clean and (carefully) greased. The bike’s due a service, so I’d hope that the dealer would have a look at this. You can find out more about maintaining brake calipers in this article.

Overall, given the amount of salt that seemed to be used on the roads around here during the winter, the Kawasaki has faired as I’d expect it to. Fortunately the plastics are excellent quality and stand up well to being removed, so other than some small gripes over the quality of some bolts and other small parts, the Versys 1000 is a well-built piece of kit.

 

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 review. Long term road test and full specs of the big adventure tourer. Pillion opinion, long distance, build quality and more…

I’ve got some great memories of brilliant rides after a year with the Kawasaki Versys 1000

 

Kawasaki Versys 1000 review: Verdict

Through all the updates over the past year, I hope I’ve given you a real feel for what it’s like to live with the Kawasaki Versys 1000. I can honestly say that, if I were to own just one bike to do it all – tour, commute and explore – it would be this very machine.

In fact, I very nearly did buy it; all that stopped me was the fact that I’m in the very fortunate position of needing to ride bikes for work, so riding my own motorcycles is something of a treat – that means I tend to buy bikes that are a little more focussed.

That’s not to say that the Versys 1000 is in any way dull or unexciting; compared to the far more aggressive BMW S1000XR, the Kawasaki can feel much more laid-back, but it’s not a machine that’s built for pushing hard. This is a bike that can truly allow you to savour and enjoy every ride, be it a 20 mile daily commute, a 200 mile motorway blast to a business meeting, a back-road adventure to one of the great motorbike events around the UK, or a tour fully-loaded with luggage and your partner.

Never more so has a bike earned its name; this is truly a VERsatile SYStem, and it’s with a lot of fantastic memories that I hand it back to Kawasaki. I just hope that it brings its next owner as much pleasure as it has my wife and I…

 

Kawasaki Versys 1000: The final verdict

John goes through every part of the bike in fine detail to show you just how it’s faired in the past year and almost 6,500 miles…

 

Three things I’m loving about the 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000…

• Very smooth engine

• Really easy to live with

• A truly versatile machine

 

Three things that I’m not…

• Some signs of corrosion in small areas

• The seat’s not the very best over long distance

• The screen’s a little buffetty at times

 

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 spec

New price

From £11,199 (£11,899 in Tourer spec reviewed here)

Capacity

1,043cc

Bore x Stroke

77x56mm

Engine layout

In-line four

Engine details

Liquid-cooled four-stroke

Power

118.3bhp (88.2kW) @ 9,000rpm

Torque

75 lb-ft (102Nm) @ 7,500rpm

Top speed

n/a

Transmission

6 speed, chain final drive

Average fuel consumption

50.0mpg (tested), 54mpg (claimed)

Tank size

21 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

231 miles (tested), 249miles (claimed)

Reserve capacity

n/a

Rider aids

Cornering ABS and traction control, slip/assist clutch, anti-stoppie, wheelie control, cruise control

Frame

Aluminium twin tube

Front suspension

43mm upside-down fork

Front suspension adjustment

Adjustable for rebound and preload on right fork top

Rear suspension

Single shock

Rear suspension adjustment

Remote preload adjuster and rebound adjustment

Front brake

2 x 310mm disc, radially mounted Monobloc four-piston calipers

Rear brake

250mm disc, single-piston caliper

Front tyre

120/70 ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T31 R

Rear tyre

180/55 ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T31 R

Rake/Trail

27°/106mm

Dimensions

2,270mm x 950mm 1,490mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1,520mm

Ground clearance

150mm

Seat height

840mm

Kerb weight

253kg

Warranty

Unlimited miles / 24 months

Website

www.kawasaki.co.uk

 

Looking for motorbike insurance? Get a quote for this bike with Bennetts motorcycle insurance

 

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