Kawasaki did so well with their modular middleweight range from the ‘80s and ‘90s, so it was no surprise that they adopted the same approach when their outgoing 500cc engine reached the end of its life. Kawasaki were always going to use their new twin-cylinder 650cc engine in a variety of models and the Versys 650 joined the ER-6 in the revitalised Kawasaki range as the replacement for the aged KLE500.
The Versys name is a combination of the designers’ mission statement, ‘Versatile and Stylish’. So what did Kawasaki create? It’s a bike that is hard to pigeon hole, there’s essence of an adventure bike for sure, the 830mm seat height points to this, but also there’s a sporty side and its riding position is very much on the tourer side, rather than the off-road stance so common of adventure models. Sometimes a motorcycle that fails to fall into one category can lead to confusion at point of sale but thankfully for Kawasaki this hasn’t ever been the case. The Versys is a handsome bike and the side mounted shock gives it a stylish look. The silencer is tucked away under the belly of the bike, almost Buell-ish in its design. Build quality is strong but owners that are less meticulous about cleaning will suffer corroded parts. The original Versys 650 was introduced in 2007 lasted until 2010 before it got a makeover. That model ran until 2015, when the current model was introduced.
What’s it like to ride?
The first thing you notice when getting on that saddle is just how roomy it is, it feels more like a litre bike with bars and pegs exactly where you want them. Pillions will have to master their own technique to hop on and off as the seat is pretty high. With around 50mpg achievable, the Versys is quite a frugal beast. The engine is great, there’s plenty of poke low down in the rev range which is exactly where you want it when riding in town. It’s equally good on the open road and will sit on a motorway all day without any gripes. It’s only when you push it over 80mph that things get a bit less comfy. Some owners complain of the Versys being particularly sensitive to different brands of tyres and the standard exhaust is pretty muted, so aftermarket silencers are a popular upgrade. Brakes are good but nothing to write home about, making braided lines a popular upgrade. It’s easy to see why this bike is a good choice for those fresh from their bike test, and it’s also easy to see why Kawasaki keep the model current and updated.
What to look for when buying a Versys?
We called Vinny Styles, the Sales Manager at Wheels Motorcycles, a Kawasaki dealership in Peterborough, and he gave us a few pointers of what to look for. He says: “We’ve handled loads of these and they are a brilliant bike that offers great value for money. The original model is still a desired bike, they are obviously cheaper than the newer models but they ride pretty much the same. An original bike is what you want, there’s still a good supply out there. Exhausts on older bikes will need a good prod and replacement silencers are common. The engine is a gem, there’s no real gremlins to be found here, even bikes with patchy servicing history will be fine. Finish on the chassis parts can suffer, it’s easy to spot a bike that isn’t garaged. Prices are still strong for the early models, the second generation are probably the most popular, that said owners tend to only change for another Versys!”
What goes wrong?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson from Grumpy 1260, who added: “There’s something about the Versys that owners love and the ones we get in for service work are often well used. People use them for commuting and also touring. The engine is well up for big miles. Servicing them is well within the reach of the home mechanic, it’s a great design. Upgraded fork springs are a popular change, so are rear shocks, especially if it’s used for lots of two up work or there’s luggage fitted.”
Carole Nash can insure your Kawasaki, apply online or over the phone