Review: 2015 Kawasaki Versys 650: A middleweight motorbike that makes sense in the City
Hands up if you enjoy commuting in London by tube train or bus. Anyone? Anyone at all? No?
Perhaps 2015 should be the year to time to make the commitment to try an alternative. Scooters and motorbikes offer an exciting way to beat the pain of the daily commute in congested cities, but....which one to choose?
Kawasaki are hoping that their new-for-2015 Versys 650 will appeal to City dwellers as a 'do it all' bike: one which can be used to get around the city Monday to Friday, but also one that is versatile enough to be used for longer distances and the odd touring holiday. We went along to the launch to find out.
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Visually, the 2015 Versys 650 is very different bike the outgoing model. Gone are the stacked headlights that seemed to split opinion, replaced by the distinctively shaped twin headlights that run through the Kawasaki range. They are housed in a newly styled top fairing which also incorporates a much larger screen. This will appeal to riders who may also want to use the bike for longer road trips and the odd touring holiday.
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Changes further back on the bike include a newly styled, more angular exhaust end can, which nestles elegantly beneath the bike, tucked away almost out of site.
And all models of the new Versys now feature an integrated luggage mounting system, which is cleverly designed into a new, stronger subframe. This ‘direct mount’ system means that specially designed panniers (and optional extra on the base model) can be easily added without the need for clunky-looking brackets. They simply clip into mounting points in the grab rails and a small bracket near the pillion foot-rest. It's a very cleverly designed system.
The styling and design changes give a fresh modern look that not only make the bike much sportier looking, but also make it look part of the Kawasaki family for the first time.
What's it like to ride?
Bimbling along at low speed, the wide handlebars give the rider total control, and the generous steering lock makes it a doddle to pick your way through busy city streets. The new Versys hasn't lost the balanced and easy-to-ride feel of its predecessor.
The power build smoothly from the 649cc twin-cylinder engine, making the bike feel friendly and predictable. A quick twist of the throttle delivers a punchy burst of acceleration that can be used to get away briskly from the lights or put some clear space between you and any dangers on busy city streets. Hold it open, and the twin continues to surge forward, quickly taking you swiftly up to the National speed limit by the time you're ready to change up to fourth gear. It will then go on to settle at cruising speeds of 70mph or 80mph with no vibrations through the 'bars, seat or footpegs. Feedback from the previous model of the 650 highlighted vibration at higher speeds as an issue that owners found distracting. Kawasaki has clearly listened; the 2015 model features rubber mounting for the engine and handlebars, and the result is a very smooth ride; the vibrations are gone.
At higher speeds, the Versys lollops rather than gallops, which makes for a very relaxed and comfortable ride. The engine is spinning at a lazy 4,000 revs at 70mph.
The bigger screen (now adjustable) gives far more protection from the wind than the rather smaller screen on previous models, which should mean that longer journeys are more comfortable.
What is it like in traffic?
The upright riding position gives town riders a good veiw over the top of most cars, and the wide handlebars make it easy to pick a course through traffic snarls ups.
The engine is plenty grungy enough to pull away from a standstill in Second gear, meaning that the rider only really needs to use one more gear in 20-and 30mph zones, making the Versys very city friendly.
On uneven surfaces or potholed roads (of which London has plenty) the Versys is king. Where Scooters and sport bikes can become a handful on poor road surfaces, the long-travel suspension of the 650 simply soaks up the bumps without drama, with the bike remaining settled. The quality of suspension on bikes is something that you tend to notice when it is deficient in some way. KawasAki have upgraded the suspension both front (with Showa forks) and Rear (with a KYB rear monoshock) on the new Versys. The result is a comfortable plush ride. No complaints at all.
The Versys was already a competent all-rounder (I used one as a long term test bike in 2010 for almost a year): the only two real criticisms being the vibration levels at higher speeds and its looks/styling.... the latter of which of course is subjective.
Kawasaki have addressed both of those points; adding rubber mounting points to eliminate vibrations, and by designing a successful facelift.
The bigger top fairing and higher screen make the new bike more comfortable for longer rides and touring, and the integrated luggage system means that clipping on panniers is a cinch.
The 2015 model Versys 650 is available now, from £6,749
To find your nearest Kawasaki dealer and for more information about the Versys 650, visit www.kawasaki.co.uk
Tech Spec Price: £6,749 Engine: 649cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin four-stroke Power: 69bhp (51kW) @ 8500rpm Torque: 47lb-ft (64Nm) @ 7000rpm Kerb weight: 216kg Seat height: 840mm Tank size: 21litres