The Kawasaki Versys 650 seems like it hasn’t been around that long and yet it’s been plodding along for 16 years now. With the clue being very much in the name, the Versys is a versatile mid-size adventure touring motorcycle.
It is designed to provide a comfortable and enjoyable riding experience on both paved roads and mild off-road trails, making it a suitable choice for long-distance touring, weekend trips, light off-road adventures and even a short office trip during the week.
The Kawasaki Versys 650 has an interesting history that showcases the evolution of the model over the years. Let’s dive into its timeline and the changes it has undergone:
First Generation (2007-2009):
The Versys 650 was first introduced by Kawasaki in 2007. It was designed to fill the gap between sport bikes and dual-sport motorcycles, offering a versatile option for riders looking for a comfortable and capable all-rounder.
The original model featured a 649cc parallel-twin engine, upright riding position, and a focus on providing a balance between on-road performance and light off-road capability.
Second Generation (2010-2014):
In 2010, Kawasaki launched the first major update to the Versys 650. The changes included revised styling with sharper lines and a more aggressive appearance. The suspension was tweaked for improved handling, and the front fairing received updates to enhance wind protection. The fuel injection system was also refined to deliver smoother power delivery and improved fuel efficiency.
Third Generation (2015-2019):
The third generation of the Versys 650 debuted in 2015. It featured a significant redesign that gave the bike a more streamlined and modern look. The front end received a new twin-headlight setup, and the overall styling was more angular and sporty.
The suspension was revised for enhanced performance, and the seat and ergonomics were improved for increased comfort. The instrument cluster was updated with a new design and additional features.
Fourth Generation (2020-Present):
The current iteration of the Versys 650, introduced in 2020, builds upon the strengths of the previous generation. It features further refinements in terms of styling and spirited sport riding alongside its enhanced touring features.
The bodywork is more aggressive, and the LED lighting has been adopted throughout the motorcycle. The engine received updates to meet Euro 5 emissions regulations while maintaining its power and torque characteristics.
The electronics package was enhanced with the addition of rider aids such as selectable riding modes, traction control, and improved ABS.
Latest Kawasaki Versys 650 Specification
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 8 valve, DOHC, Parallel Twin
Capacity: 649 cc
Max Power: 67 bhp / 49 kW @ 8,000 rpm
Max Torque: 60.7 Nm / 44.8 lb ft @ 5,500 rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Top speed: 128 mph / 206 kph
Fuel capacity: 21 L / 5.5 US Gal
Seat height: 845 mm / 33.3 inches
Wet weight: 218 kg / 482.9 lb
Design and Aesthetics
The latest 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 features a design that combines sportiness with adventure touring aesthetics. At the front, the Versys 650 features a twin-headlight setup that contributes to its distinctive look.
The new LED headlights have a sleek, angular shape and utilize LED technology for improved visibility and energy efficiency. The front fairing integrates smoothly with the fuel tank, creating a cohesive and aerodynamic profile.
The bodywork of the Versys 650 showcases a more aggressive and dynamic appearance compared to its predecessors. It boasts sharp lines and angular contours, giving it a modern and edgy look.
The fuel tank has a sculpted design that not only adds to the bike’s aesthetics but also offers a comfortable seating position for the rider. The knee grip characteristics of the fuel tank afford freedom of movement that allows riders to adjust sitting position if required. The body panels flow smoothly towards the rear, emphasizing the bike’s aerodynamic nature.
The 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 features a liquid cooled, four-stroke, parallel-twin engine has been retuned for more low and mid-range torque. This is accomplished through the use of variable camshafts and fuel injection settings.
These modifications cause peak torque to occur at a lower engine speed and improve throttle responsiveness between 3,000 and 6,000 rpm. A balancing tube has also been installed between the exhaust headers to level out power delivery. It typically produces roughly 67 horsepower and 61 Nm torque, which is plenty for both highway cruising and vigorous riding.
A 180-degree crankshaft is also used in the engine. This necessitates an irregular firing interval (180 degrees, 540 degrees), which results in a characteristic “throbbing” sound at idle.
Kawasaki’s 649 cc parallel twin engine powers the Versys to a solid performance across various riding scenarios. It offers quick but smooth acceleration thanks to its improved low-end and mid-range performance, allowing riders to effortlessly merge into traffic or execute overtaking manoeuvres. The engine’s power delivery is smooth and predictable, providing a pleasant and enjoyable riding experience.
Performance and Handling
The 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 strikes a fairly good balance between sportiness and stability. Its chassis is designed to provide nimble and precise handling, allowing riders to confidently navigate through corners and twisty roads.
The motorcycle’s long travel suspension setup, which includes long-travel front forks and an adjustable rear shock, helps absorb bumps and uneven surfaces, contributing to a comfortable and controlled ride.
The Versys offers a comfortable riding position, with an upright stance and a spacious seat. The rider’s triangle (relationship between the handlebars, seat, and footpegs) is designed to reduce strain on the wrists, back, and legs, making it suitable for long-distance riding.
The ergonomics of the bike allow riders to spend extended periods on the saddle without feeling fatigued. Long distance it is then.
Suspension and Braking
The 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 is equipped with a its own branded reliable braking system, featuring dual triple petal 300 mm front disc brakes and a single 220 mm rear disc brake. The front dual piston caliper brakes offer superb stopping power also incorporating Kawasaki’s Intelligent anti-lock braking systems (KIBDS) which prevents wheel lock-up during hard braking and on slippery surfaces.
While the 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 is primarily designed for on-road riding, it possesses mild off-road capabilities. Its 41 mm telescopic front forks give 150 mm of travel while the rear monoshock offers 145 mm of travel with adjustable rebound and spring preload.
These, along with the Versys’s reasonable ground clearance and 17-inch wheels with road-oriented tires allow riders to explore gravel roads and easy trails. However, it is important to note that the Versys is not intended for hardcore off-road adventures and the suspension system will struggle when more difficult terrain is presented to it.
Electronic Aids, Features and Tech
The 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 is equipped with several unique features and advanced technologies that enhance its performance, comfort, and safety way beyond its price range. Here are some features and technology found on the bike:
Kawasaki Electronic Control Suspension (KECS) (Optional)
This optional extra allows riders to electronically adjust the suspension settings of the Versys 650. It offers three modes (Road, Sport, and Comfort) to tailor the suspension characteristics according to rider preference and road conditions.
KECS helps optimize the bike’s stability, handling, and comfort for a more personalized riding experience.
Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS)
For more added braking confidence, the 2022 Versys incorporates the Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System, which provides precise and controlled braking performance. KIBS utilizes sensors to monitor wheel speed and modulates brake pressure during hard braking or on slippery surfaces. This technology helps prevent wheel lock-up and allows riders to maintain control while braking.
Assist and Slipper Clutch
The Versys comes equipped with an assist and slipper clutch, which provides a lighter clutch lever pull and reduces the effects of engine braking during aggressive downshifting. This technology enhances the bike’s overall control and stability, especially when cornering or performing quick gear changes.
Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC)
The 2022 Versys 650 incorporates the Kawasaki Traction Control system, which offers two modes (1 and 2) to suit different riding conditions and preferences. KTRC helps prevent excessive wheel spin by monitoring and adjusting engine output, ensuring better traction and stability on varying road surfaces and in challenging weather conditions.
Integrated Riding Modes
Integrated riding modes on the Versys allows riders to select pre-programmed combinations of power delivery, traction control, and other parameters to suit different riding situations.
The available modes, such as Sport, Road, Rain, and Rider (customizable), provide enhanced versatility and adaptability for varying road and weather conditions.
Kawasaki Economical Riding Indicator
The Versys comes with the Kawasaki Economical Riding Indicator on the instrument cluster. This feature evaluates current riding conditions and displays a green arrow when the throttle operation is optimized for fuel efficiency. It promotes fuel-conscious riding habits and helps riders achieve better fuel economy.
The motorcycle is equipped with LED lights for both the headlights and taillights. LED lights offer improved visibility, longer life, and reduced power consumption compared to traditional lighting systems. The Versys 650’s LED lights contributes to better visibility for the rider and enhances the bike’s modern aesthetics.
Advanced Instrument Panel
The 2022 Kawasaki Versys features a modern and informative instrument cluster. It includes a digital TFT colour display that provides essential information such as speed, RPM, fuel gauge, gear position indicator, odometer, remaining range, dual trip meters, and also Bluetooth smartphone connectivity. The screen’s background colour is selectable (black or white), and screen brightness adjusts automatically to suit available light
Ride Comfort and Ergonomics
The latest Kawasaki Versys 650 is designed with rider comfort and ergonomics in mind, providing a comfortable and enjoyable riding experience, especially during long journeys. The upright riding position places the rider in a natural and relaxed posture with the handlebars positioned higher and wider, reducing strain on the rider’s wrists, shoulders, and back. This ergonomically designed riding position allows for extended periods of riding without discomfort or fatigue.
The bike provides generous legroom, allowing riders to stretch their legs comfortably during long rides. The footpegs are positioned slightly forward and the knee bend is relaxed, promoting a relaxed position.
The Versys also comes equipped with a spacious and well-padded seat designed for maximum comfort. The seat provides ample support to both the rider and passenger, reducing fatigue during extended rides. Some models may offer seat height adjustability, allowing riders to find the optimal position that suits their height and riding style.
Rubber mounts and vibration damping technologies have also embraced the Versys to minimize the transmission of vibrations to the rider. These technologies reduce rider fatigue and enhance overall comfort during long rides.
The bike features an adjustable windscreen that can be easily adjusted to suit the rider’s preference and riding conditions. This allows for customized wind protection and aerodynamics. By adjusting the windscreen height, riders can reduce wind buffeting and fatigue, particularly during highway cruising or adverse weather conditions.
Variants and Pricing
The 2022 Kawasaki Versys 650 is currently available in three variations: standard (£8,349 / $8,899), Tourer/LT (£9,149 / $10,099), and Grand Tourer (£10,749 / Not available in the US). Here are the key differences between these models:
The Tourer / LT model is the same specification and design as the standard model however also comes with a 56L side pannier system, pannier inner bags, hand guards, a tank pad and TFT screen protector.
The Grand Tourer model is the same as the Tourer / LT model with the addition of a 47L top box, LED fog lights, larger adjustable windscreen, heated grips, engine sliders, GPS handlebar bracket and a USB charging socket.
Versys 650 Competition
There’s no doubt that when Kawasaki released the original Versys in 2008, it was looking to attract customers away from the highly successful Suzuki V-Strom 650. Both are popular adventure touring motorcycles known for their versatility and capability on different terrains. While they share similarities, there are also notable differences between them.
Design and Style
The Versys has a more modern and aggressive design with sharp lines and a sporty appearance which has changed quite drastically from the original model. It features a more street-oriented styling.
The V-Strom has a more rugged and adventure-focused design which hasn’t really been updated in some time. It has it’s distinctive beak-like front fairing and a taller windscreen for better wind protection during long rides.
The Kawasaki Versys 650 is powered by a liquid-cooled, 649 cc parallel-twin engine that produces 67 horsepower and 45 lb-ft of torque, while the Suzuki V-Strom 650 is powered by a liquid-cooled, 645 cc V-twin engine that produces 70 horsepower and 46 lb-ft of torque. In terms of feeling the difference between the two you’d be hard pressed to notice.
Suspension and Handling
Both the Kawasaki Versys and Suzuki V-Strom typically feature a well-balanced but basic suspension system with only minor rear shock adjustability and good ground clearance. Mostly angled to long distance riding and comfort.
Electronics and Features
The V-Strom 650 and Versys 650 both have similar electronics packages including multiple riding modes, traction control, and front and rear ABS, but the V-Strom 650 has the Suzuki Easy Start System that makes starting the bike easier.
Price and Value
The Suzuki V-Strom 650 is the more affordable of the bikes, with a starting price of around £7,999 / $9,104. The Kawasaki Versys 650 is only slightly more expensive, with a starting price of around £8,349 / $8,999.
Ultimately, the choice between the Kawasaki Versys and the Suzuki V-Strom will depend on individual preferences, brand loyalty and budget. Both are extremely reliable and capable adventure tourers and separating them is something almost impossible to do.
I must admit that Kawasaki have done a great job of keeping the Versys up-to-date each time they’ve released a new generation and the most recent of these has features and electronics that belong on more expensive bikes, so it’s certainly a lot of bang for your buck. However, I feel like I can say the exact same things about the Suzuki V-Strom.
What’s more surprising is that currently it feels like Kawasaki and Suzuki have the mid-range all-round adventure touring market to themselves. Honda’s closest bike to these is the fantastic CB500X, however it’s lacking in the power department in comparison.
Yamaha has the Tenere 700, which is a fair bit more expensive but in it’s defence is a fully fledged off-road demon and BMW have the F750GS but is way overpriced when you look at it side-by-side with the Versys and V-Strom.
Both are great and long may they rein but if I had to make a choice between the two and spend my own money, I’d go with the V-Strom. However, don’t ask me why because I’m not sure I could tell you.