Motorcycling tips and 'how to' guides

Motorcycling tips and 'how to' guides

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Reviewed: Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE


The big Versys was already a brilliant value ‘adventure tourer’ but is it better for becoming a posh one?

Americans would possibly have us believe that bigger is always better and there’s an undeniable truth that more is always, well, more. But when it comes to bikes like the brilliant value Versys 1000 things aren’t quite that simple.

Kawasaki’s ‘Z1000SX on stilts’, while never a true adventure bike (its street wheels and heavy four-cylinder motor put paid to that), has nevertheless, ever since the launch of the original in 2012, proved a big hit.

The reason was simple: despite odd looks, with bags of all-rounder ability and a price of around £10K it was a brilliant, versatile, comfortable and smooth two-up tourer for bargain money. And it was, erm, simple.

Things got better still in 2015 when the grunty, detuned four-cylinder motor was reworked to 118bhp, its ergonomics and spec improved and its styling face-lifted, still simplicity and all for the same old bargain price.

But this latest 2019 version, however, brings a dilemma. New ride-by-wire allows more advanced electronics including power modes and traction control and operate through new switchgear and instruments similar to those from the H2 SX. The bodywork, including adjustable screen, and styling are also updated to remind of the supercharged H2 SX and there’s new radial brakes calipers, too, all for a still pretty tempting £11,199. So far so good.

But the bigger news is that the Versys 1000 is now joined by a sister, higher spec ‘SE’ (for Special Equipment) version, which this is where things become slightly blurry.

This has all the updates of the ‘stocker’ and more besides. So, there’s fancy gizmos such as cornering LED lights, ‘self-healing’ paint and even a lean-angle meter. There’s genuinely welcome luxuries such as heated grips, power socket and further uprated clocks with a colour TFT screen in place of the base version’s LCD panel, both as again adapted from the respective variants of the H2 SX and H2 SX SE.

But the biggest update over the base Versys is the SE’s new adaptive, Showa semi-active suspension as developed from that of the ZX-10R SE superbike.

It works, too – up to a point. The constantly self-adjusting suspension gives a plush, sophisticated ride and you can adjust rear preload on the move via a prod of a button for added dynamism or to compensate for pillion and/or luggage. But there’s also no denying that, despite the added refinement the Versys is still a big old bus and can feel a little soggy and imprecise in fast turns and a wrench to tiller about. It’s certainly not as sporty as the BMW S1000XR, for example.

Many of the rest of the SE’s ‘extras’ fail to prove their worth, too. The TFT screen is nice, as are the heated grips, but the cornering LEDs and fancy paint are gimmicks, and the quickshifter unnecessary.

And when the price of all those fripperies, those ‘extras’, those ‘more’ things has lifted the price of the Versys 1000 SE to £14,399, which is not just a hefty £3200 more than the stock bike, but is approaching that of the far more powerful, sporty and genuinely premium BMW S1000XR, you have to wonder whether it’s actually worth it.

So, though better and more sophisticated than the original Versys 1000, the new Versys SE is also so much more expensive and therefore loses one of its biggest selling points.

My advice? Go for the base version, forget about the SE’s fancy goodies and spend any spare cash on one of the luggage options instead. Then you’ll get a Versys that’s not only better than ever, but is truly ‘more’ as well.

And all, still, for bargain money…


ENGINE TYPE Transverse-four, DOHC, 16v, liquid-cooled
MAXIMUM POWER 118 hp (87 kW) @ 9000 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE 102Nm @ 7700rpm
FRONT SUSPENSION 43mm upside down fork, semi-active damping
FUEL TANK 21 litres


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