Every time I step off an adventure tourer, I’m left with a sense of conviction about their aptness for our roads. They’ve got the ability to gobble serious miles without compromising on comfort and also have a touch of sportiness sewn in. And that’s where motorcycles like the Kawasaki Versys 1000 appear to make a strong case for themselves. Let me tell you why.
2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000: Design
Firstly, it is the sheer size of the Kawasaki Versys 1000 that captures your attention, leaving you a little intimidated as well. With its new ZX-6R inspired face, the Versys 1000 is a little easier on the eyes, but it’s still not what you’d call pretty. What it is, is purposeful and imposing, particularly with its tall windscreen that can be adjusted using a couple knobs, but doing so on the fly is inadvisable.
Step to the side and it becomes even more apparent that this motorcycle is built to chew miles all day long. The 21-litre tank, massive fairing and spacious seating are all indicative of the Versys’ touring orientation. And if that’s not apparent enough, the luggage rack and dedicated slots to attach panniers add to the Versys’ touring cred.
But there’s no getting away from the fact that the bodywork is so huge that the relatively small 17-inch wheels make the motorcycle appear disproportionate, despite running sportbike tyre sizes. Clearly then, Kawasaki’s emphasis was skewed towards function rather than form and there are significant perks to that.
The other advantage of so much real estate is what is possibly the roomiest and comfiest rider and pillion seat in the class. The contours and cushioning are spot on and if there was a perch that’ll leave your better half comfortable at the end of a long day’s ride, this is it. The ergonomics are pretty relaxed as well, with a slightly pared-back footrest and an easy reach to the bar. That, along with the windscreen, takes the fatigue out of spending a whole day in the saddle. But that’s not all. There’s another factor that contributes to effortless riding, the engine.
2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000: Performance
The Versys’ engine is the crowning jewel of the whole package and I’m going to admit that I’ve got an Antarctica-sized soft spot for inline-fours. It is the same engine that also powers the Ninja 1000SX, however, it makes less power and torque in the Versys. Nevertheless, 120hp and 102Nm are decent figures and, as we found out, more than enough in the real world.
Firstly, when you fire up the engine, the sweet hum at idle feels like the calm before the storm. Once on the move, the loud intake howl is accompanied by a surge in acceleration that belies this motorcycle’s size and weight. You get to unmentionable speeds in no time and all the while, the engine doesn’t feel strained at any point. Slot the slick gearbox in sixth and the Versys transforms into an effortless cruiser, with enough juice in reserve to pull a quick overtake, sometimes even without downshifting. Even in the city, the engine’s tractability and heat management is impressive, making it capable of dealing with a city commute, if necessary. And when the opportunity arises, setting the cruise control system to a desired speed and rolling down the highway makes light work of covering big distances.
Silky smooth engine offers sportbike levels of performance.
The 2019 update to the Versys 1000 also brought in IMU assisted, three-step traction control (TC) and lean-sensitive ABS. Adding another layer of safety are the two power modes – Full and Low. The latter mode chops power to 75 percent and also softens the power delivery. This makes riding this big Kawasaki quite easy, whether in the wet or dry.
LCD display is hard to read under harsh sunlight.
However, we did find the TC to be too intrusive in some situations and it cuts power rather abruptly. A smoother throttle action does help to an extent but Kawasaki needs to refine the system further, so that it doesn’t upset the chassis the way it currently does on loose and slippery surfaces.
2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000: Handling
It is not just the performance but also the way this big, 255kg motorcycle handles that impresses. Okay, it is no Ducati Multistrada in the corners, but it is not as much of a handful as you’d imagine either.
Get past the initial trepidation of riding a tall motorcycle, get used to the slightly top-heavy feeling and you’ll be surprised to see how well this motorcycle takes to the bends. There’s oodles of grip and feedback through the chassis, while the 17-inch wheels make life easy during quick direction changes. Also, once tipped into a corner, the Versys is poised, with the 1,520mm wheelbase contributing to the mid-corner stability.
Tipped into a corner, the big Versys remains poised and confident.
The suspension does a pretty good job of absorbing undulations and the ride quality over bad roads is comfortable enough, despite the firm edge. Adjustability, however, is limited and one can tune the 43mm fork and monoshock for preload and rebound only.
For those wondering if they should wander off-road on this Versys, the motorcycle can handle a mild trail and that’s about it. Because, the 17-inch wheels, fat tyres and 150mm of ground clearance aren’t encouraging specifications to venture off the beaten path.
The 310mm discs do a good job of hauling down the motorcycle to a stop while the ABS is well calibrated to prevent unnecessary intervention.
2021 Kawasaki Versys 1000: Verdict
At Rs 11.44 lakh, the Kawasaki Versys 1000 is nothing but a steal for the kind of performance, practicality and touring abilities it offers. Not to mention the sweet sound and character of an inline-four engine. In fact, at this price point, its biggest competition comes from its sibling, the Ninja 1000SX. It may not have the ergonomics, suspension travel and all-day comfort of the Versys 1000 but it is much more powerful and better equipped. That said, the Versys offers unbeatable value for someone looking for a supremely comfortable and very fast road-biased touring motorcycle.