Around corner, or around globe with Kawasaki

The Kawasaki Versys 1000's tall stance is set up for adventure/tour style of riding, not so much off-road.

The Kawasaki Versys 1000 is new for 2012 and the long-awaited big brother to the Versys 650. The Versys 1000 offers adventure touring style with enough litre-bike power for two-up travel

The Kawasaki Versys 1000 is new for 2012 and the long-awaited big brother to the Versys 650. The Versys 1000 offers adventure touring style with enough litre-bike power for two-up travel

New for 2012, the Kawasaki Versys 1000 enters the market as the long-awaited big brother of the Versys 650.

This latest addition to the lineup comes well loaded with user-friendly ergonomics, modern instrumentation, an adjustable windscreen, standard ABS braking, two power modes, three traction control settings and available touring accessories.

Harnessing litre-bike power, the Versys 1000 promises “riding enjoyment in the widest variety of street riding situations—solo or two-up, around the corner or around the globe” according to company bumpf.

Note the emphasis on “street riding” above. One look may bring BMW’s GS to mind—the tall stance and adventure/tour styling—but Kawasaki Canada makes no pretensions of offroad prowess, slotting the bike firmly into the street/touring category, unlike other more ambitious markets, take Britain for example, where the bike is listed as a dual-purpose offering.

Actually, the Versys 1000 is more closely related to the Z1000 “super naked” street machine, mechanically at least. It shares the same sport-derived inline four-cylinder engine retuned for lower- and mid-range torque, and the same braking equipment along with other influences.

If I can make a four-wheel segue, it kind of reminds me of the SUV boom in the å90s when manufacturers realized that drivers’ offroad affectations seldom reflected actual ventures off the pavement.

Not that I’m saying the Versys 1000 is more about style than substance. It’s just a different kind of substance.

And all you have to do to find that out is to start this machine up and go.

The Versys shows its sportbike cojones immediately, hustling forth with a howl of power, accelerating up to highway speed in no time with a light snicking through the gears.

There’s enough engine here for any situation but the Versys 1000 will sail quietly and sedately on the freeway, spooling at around 4500 rpm, less than halfway up to a lofty 10,000 rpm redline.

That just-sufficient rate of engine spin, combined with ample one-litre torque, allows a rider to cruise country highways in sixth gear, slow to 50 km/h through town, and accelerate back up to speed without ever touching the shifter.

On my first tank, I rode until the fuel gauge ran down to one bar at 270 km, then hunted for a gas pump and added 15.3L of fuel at 290 km. By the end of the test, my combined fuel economy averaged out even better to 5.2L/100km, for a theoretical range of just over 400 km on the 21-litre tank of gas.

The tall seating (same seat height as Versys 650) is no problem for the long-inseam crowd and it provides a nice high vantage point in traffic and on touring treks. And the adjustable suspension offers relatively long wheel travel (150 mm front and back) to smooth the roughest roads.

The Versys 1000’s ergonomic triangle—from grips to bars to pegs—allows for a relaxed and upright seating position. The footpegs are lower and further forward than the pegs of the Z1000.

The seat itself is comfortable, padded with twice as much foam as the Z1000. The grab bars and rear carrier offer plenty of tie down points for bungeeing extra gear. And, for longer hauls, 34-litre hardshell bags and a 47-litre topcase are available, the complete kit adding up to about $1,800 including mounting hardware and colour-matching trim.

Facing forward, the rider’s view takes in wide handlebars and a windshield that adjusts quickly and easily (30 mm or 1.2 in) via two knobs in front. The cockpit styling complements the bike’s utilitarian, angular design—the multi-angled windscreen, the funky five-sided mirrors.

The only circular element seems to be the classic, round-gauged analogue tachometer mated to a square multi-function LCD screen that displays speed, fuel gauge, odometer, clock, dual tripmeters, instant and average fuel consumption, DTE range and air temperature. In a perfect world, I’d wish for a gear selection indicator, as well.

There is a little ECO indicator that pops up on the screen when you’re riding economically. Although, according to the brochure, in order for it to appear “the rider must ride in a gentle manner—less than 6,000 rpm, less than 30 percent throttle, under 160 km/h.”

In other words, if you don’t see much of the ECO indicator, man, you are having way too much fun.

At the rider’s left thumb, a selection rocker and set button allows you to control that fun level according to road and traction conditions, scrolling through choices of two power modes—full power  and low power (about 75 per cent of full) along with the three-mode KTRC system (Kawasaki TRaction Control).

Consider the included ABS, power and traction control and the 2012 Versys 1000 seems very reasonably priced at $13,499 (recently cut $500 by Kawasaki’s Mega Cash promotion).

That about $6K cheaper than the BMW GS that we, umm, actually decided to not compare it to. Competitors closer in price and intent (although with varying engine styles and equipment levels) would include Yamaha’s Super Tenere ($16,499), Suzuki’s V-Strom 1000 ($11,499) and Honda’s CBF1000A ($12,249).

Kawasaki Canada jumped on the Versys 1000 before their American counterparts (as they did with the Versys 650) because they felt it matched up better with our riders and terrain.

The Versys 1000 comes only in Metallic Magnesium Gray in Canada, a colour that seems to shift in tone from gray, to bronze, to brown, depending on the light reflecting off the metal flake. It’s a handsome, yet subtle colour that matches well with the industrial functionality and almost military flavour of this motorcycle.

If you’re on the hunt for adventure touring flavour and utility in a well-equipped motorcycle with a unique style and the heart, soul and strengths of a sportbike, the 2012 Kawasaki Versys 1000 is well worth checking out.

Kawasaki Versys 1000 (KLZ1000ACF) 2012

Engine: 1043 cc liquid-cooled, 16-valve DOHC inline four-cylinder (116 hp, 75 lb/ft)

Fuel Delivery: Digital fuel injection with four 38 mm Keihin throttle bodies

Transmission: Transmission six-speed with sealed chain final drive

Suspension: Front 43 mm inverted fork with stepless rebound damping and spring preload adjustability; Rear horizontal back-link, gas-charged, with stepless rebound damping and remote spring preload adjustability

Brakes: Front dual opposed four-piston calipers with dual semi-floating 300 mm petal discs; Rear single-piston caliper and 250 mm petal disc

Tires: Front 120/70ZR17M/C (58W), Rear 180/55ZR17M/C (73W)

Seat Height: 845 mm (33.3 in)

Ground Clearance: 155 mm (6.1 in)

Weight: 239 kg (527 lb)

Fuel Capacity: 21 litres

Fuel Economy: As tested 5.2L/100km (comb)

Colour: Metallic Magnesium Gray

Price: $13,499 (cash reduced $500 from 13,999 MSRP)


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