The Kawasaki Versys 650 has gained a strong following since its 2008 introduction in the United States and abroad. In 2012 Kawasaki brought forth a larger-displacement variant, the Versys 1000, to the European market. American riders would have to wait until the 2015 model year for the big Versys, where it arrives alongside its 650 sibling with both models having been restyled and updated.
We spent the day riding the Versys 1000 LT around the island of Sicily to see if it will be a hit like the 650.Straight away, we noticed the brick-like fascia of the previous iteration has been updated to a more sharp and sportier mug that echoes other sporty Kawasaki models. The restyle not only makes for a more appealing shape but it also has a function.
A chin spoiler below the headlights adds downforce to the front end at speed while channels on the side of the cowl improve airflow around the rider to reduce drag. Between the headlights a duct takes fresh air into the cowl to suppress heat to the rider. It’s a welcome change, as the outgoing model’s stacked headlight just did not have the same character as the Versys 650.
On the road air management from the angular beak worked well. The new windshield, adjusted to the tallest position, kept every bit of my body warm and dry, despite low morning temps and light sprinkles of rain. Speaking of the new windshield, while the 75mm of step-less adjustment is appreciated, the clunky adjustment knobs on the front of the screen are a fail. They muddle the sexy look of the front end and make on-the-fly adjustment inadvisable, as you have reach around the screen.
New bodywork gives the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT a sharper look.
Two power modes and three traction control modes give the rider plenty of options for varied road conditions.
A remote preload adjuster on the Versys 100 LT is great for changes in luggage and passengers.
The Versys 1000 LT comes standard with Kawasaki Quick-Release (KQR) saddlebags with 28 liters of space to bolster its touring chops. These are the same bags found on the Ninja 1000 and meld perfectly with the Versys’ styling. A one-key system makes opening, locking and removing the bags a snap. Removal of the bags takes just seconds and is very straight forward. The 1000 LT’s storage capacity can be further increased with the optional KQR 47-liter top case equipped on our test unit.
With the requisite light touring boxes checked, the Versys 1000 LT looks the part but it also performs. Powering the 1000LT is the 1043cc Inline Four that powers the Z1000 and Ninja 1000 – a powerplant we like very much. Revised ECU settings suit the power delivery to the Versys’ intended mission as a sporty do-it-all touring mount. Engine torque is meaty, with a strong pull off the bottom that revs all the way to the 10,000 RPM redline. The power build is steady and linear rather than a sportbike-ish ramp to top-end lunacy, a boon for city duty as well as mountain touring.
Two power modes allow the Versys 1000 LT rider to fine tune how the 1043cc are delivered with a Full or Low power mode. Low power offers 75% of the power and uses a milder throttle response according the engine’s RPM, gear position and throttle position. Combine the power modes with Kawasaki’s KTRC three-mode traction control and there is a setting for all situations.
Although the new adjustable windshield is a great addition to the Versys 1000 LT, the adjustment knobs look unfinished on the outside of the shield.
Mode One and Two of KTRC are well suited to spirited riding with Mode One allowing for some wheel lift and the least amount of electronic intervention. When the roads were dry this was my go-to setting, allowing for sporty acceleration. Mode Two has nearly as much acceleration but the front wheel stays planted. Mode Three has TC kicking in early but is highly useful then the roads are slick, like they were at the snowline of Sicily’s Mt. Etna. As we road up the volcanic mountain we encountered extremely cold pavement with a reduced traction coefficient. KTRC Mode One with Low power setting kept me on two wheels.
The front brakes of the Versys 1000 LT work well, but are not as powerful as some others we have tested.
Rowing through the Versys transmission is solid and I never experienced a missed shift during our ride though the tight and twisty roads of Sicily. Clutch effort is light thanks to the assist/slipper clutch. Aggressive down shifts are handled flawlessly by the slipper function, with no wheel hop or loss of rear control.
The 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 Lt’s suspension is plush on bad pavement.
Slowing the Versys is dual 310mm petal-style rotors clamped by traditional-mount Tokico four-piston calipers at the front and a 250mm rotor matched with a single-piston caliper at the rear. Brake feel is predictable, but not as strong as we have become accustomed to with the current crop of radial-mount and monobloc calipers. ABS intervention is never intrusive and works well when it does activate.
The 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT is a much better looking motorcycle than the previous model.
The roads of Sicily are far from well maintained and are riddled with potholes and rough patches – an environment that really tests the plushness and control of a motorcycle. The Versys 1000 Lt’s 549-pound curb weight is suspended by a “long-travel” 43mm KYB Separate Function fork and a horizontal back-link rear shock, both with 5.9 inches of travel. Up front rebound and preload can be adjusted, however, there is no compression adjustment available. A remote preload adjuster makes for quick tuning of rear sag as the loads change whether it be fully loaded bags, a passenger or both. Rebound adjustment is also adjustable, but again no compression tuning.
Pounding the city streets of Sicily the Versys rolls along without complaint, soaking up ripples and bumps with a comfortable ride. As the pace increases on highways the ride is still balanced, but toss in some turns and hard braking and the soft ride causes some front-end dive and the rebound becomes a bit quick. A few clicks on the rebound adjustment settles the ride down, but I would say more compression control is needed. Overall the ride is smooth and comfortable for most street duty and only begins to feel slightly off at the top 10% of the performance envelope.
Handling on the Versys feels lighter and nimbler than its Ninja 1000 and Z1000 brethren. Wide comfortable bars offer leverage for quick steering. While it’s not as light of foot as the Versys 650, it’s more stable in the corner and communication from the front end is excellent. Cutting an arc on the Versys 1000 is a blast and altering that line can be done without drama. I wouldn’t say the cornering prowess is at the level of the Ninja 1000 when hustling, but it’s not far off the mark.
At $12,799 The Versys 1000 LT represents a tremendous value in the sport-touring/adventure market. A potent and highly satisfying engine matched with a comfortable ride and modern styling puts the Versys on the short list for those riders looking for a do-it-all machine that won’t break the bank. The Versys 650 has earned a reputation for being a one of the best mounts Kawasaki offers, and based on my first ride I think the Versys 1000 LT will follow suit.