Kawasaki Versys 1000 (2019) | Long-term review

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
By John Milbank
BikingMilbank BikeSocial Consumer Editor, John owns a Yamaha MT-10 and Honda Grom. He's as happy tinkering in the workshop as he is on twisty backroads, and loves every bike ever built (except one). He's bought three CBR600s, a KTM 1050 Adventure, two Ducati Monsters, several winter hacks, three off-roaders, a supermoto pit bike, a Honda Vision 50 and built his own custom XSR700. 

 

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

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

 

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

• Great pillion machine

• Excellent luggage capacity

• It’s got a centre stand!

 

Three things that I’m not…

• A little juddering from clutch when pulling away

• The seat’s not as comfy as it was for me (though it’s still good)

• Shame green isn’t an option in the standard model

 

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

45.1mpg (tested), 54mpg (claimed)

Tank size

21 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

209 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

2x 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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