While you could complain most Japanese two-wheeler makers fail to enthuse Indian bikers, including the biggest two names Honda and Yamaha, you have to doff your cap to Kawasaki for going full steam ahead here, bringing the Indian big bike market so much cheer, as exciting bikes flow in one after another from them. Proving they aren’t running out of steam just yet, the Versys 1000 is Kawasaki’s latest big bike for us.
We’ve just ridden the mean machine.
A burly bike, the Versys has recently been revamped by Kawasaki, the litre class motorcycle now a ‘pukka’ Kawasaki, with sleek, sharp and aggressive lines making a flamboyant statement we’ve grown to associate with this Jap bikemaker. A twin headlight fits the Versys 1000 in front, powerful at night. Unlike any other Kawasaki superbikes in India although, the Versys is really tall and a touch top heavy, far too intimidating and clearly off-limits for shorter riders. This ride has us convinced the handsome Versys 1000 does more as a really quick superbike with a ravenous appetite for touring, rather than a dual-purpose adventure bike.
A tall front visor is height adjustable by means of two hand operated knobs, easily lifted or dropped and cocoons riders with really good wind protection, even when pushing high speeds of over 150kph, so easily achieved on the Versys 1000. The rider zone is spacious and easy to get familiar with, as you stare over an easily read digital-and-analogue instruments console. Apart from an analogue tachometer, all other information such as the speedometer, fuel-gauge, odometer, dual trip meters, current and average fuel consumption, remaining range, clock and ambient temperature are displayed on a prominent liquid crystal display. The wide, flattish handlebar is painted black, as went well with our test bike’s all-black theme.
Top quality grips feel plush and comfortable, and there's also nice reach-adjustable brake and clutch levers. Switchgear quality is likewise pleasing, with mode buttons allowing you to toggle between power modes, as well as the Versys 1000’s different levels of KTRC, Kawasaki’s traction control system. The Versys 1000 comes with large, easily adjusted rear view mirrors, these nicely styled and offering clear vision of all behind. The motorcycle fairing extends back into a 20.8 litre fuel-tank, this providing good thigh grip. A spacious, stepped saddle is provided for rider and pillion, with large grab handle in place for pillions at the Versys rear. A centre-stand comes standard with the Versys 1000, and it’s surprisingly easy to lift and dismount the bike from this.
Kawasaki could have done better with styling for the Versys 1000’s bland, straightish four-into-one exhaust system, that comes in a stainless steel with matte black finish, dual outlets peeping out from the canister rear. Overall, attention-to-detail and build quality are just top drawer, Kawasaki having used top-quality materials throughout the Versys 1000, with fit-and-finish likewise amongst the best in class.
The Kawasaki Versys uses a four-stroke, in-line 4-cylinder engine that displaces 1,043cc. The big, liquid-cooled and fuel-injected engine rumbles to life with a gentle push of your thumb, and settles into an in-line 4 typical, butter smooth murmur. The Versys 1000 makes 118.4bhp at 9,000rpm, while maximum torque of 10.4kgm is produced at 7,500rpm.
The big Kawasaki enjoys pleasantly light clutch feel, and benefits from a slip function, as comes standard, a boon when downshifting hard, when the slipper function keeps things smooth and under control, as the powerful, multi-cylinder motorcycle sheds speed. The big Versys has a six-speed transmission with perfectly spaced ratios that shift smoothly in a 1-down, 5-up configuration. Not that you’re going to need to work the gearbox much, having experienced the big motors torque laden performance.
And Kawasaki’s walking the extra mile in terms of generous electronic riding aids, with two performance modes, L and F. One uncaps all the big engine’s power in an aggressive feeling engine map, while the second noticeably softens power delivery. The Versys 1000 performs reasonably well in the bustle of Indian traffic, thanks to a flexible engine, with healthy torque flowing through from as low as 3,000rpm. Open throttle though, and there’s a Kawasaki typical power surge, smooth, velvet fisted but with mega punch that needs to be respected, and gets the front pawing upward to hover over tarmac with ease, in the first three gears. The big Kawasaki pulls with gusto all the way to redline, starting at 10,000rpm, and power comes in a strong wave, that builds momentum with revs. Kawasaki’s KTRC traction control system works like a treat as already experienced on other superbikes from the big K, including the fierce ZX-14R. KTRC offers three modes on the Versys 1000, each progressively restraining the motorcycle rear wheel from stepping out under exuberant throttle, keeping loss of grip on uneven, loose tarmac to manageable levels. Get hard on the gas and the Versys 1000 cleaves through the air with abandon, whooshing past 150kph and pushing towards 200kph in no time, the smooth engine always remaining refined, vibe free and displaying excellent manners thanks to perfectly sorted fuelling. Throttle response is aggressive and requires getting used to if migrating to the Versys 1000 from a small capacity bike, as expected from any 100bhp plus motorcycle.
Kawasaki’s done well to give the Versys 1000 an engine that feels strong, and offers flawless performance, save for it sending up some heat when riding slowly.
The big tourer has a tall, commanding, sit-up in comfort riding position, and its riding saddle is wide and plush enough too. The Kawasaki Versys 1000 uses a robust, twin-tube frame with an alloy swingarm at the rear. There are fat USD forks in front and a single, gas-charged horizontal shock at the rear, with easy adjustability via a twist knob.
Ride quality on the Versys feels nice and balanced, even a touch on the sporty side, with long-travel suspension working really well to absorb bumps and rough roads, while never feeling unduly mushy, and seldom allowing the bike to get out of shape. It’s not as sure-footed as a more typical streetbike, but the Versys 1000 offers decent handling, with stable cornering manners and an enjoyable feel in the twisties that will make you quickly forget it’s a 249kg bike.
The Kawasaki Versys 1000 comes with six-spoke, 17-inch wheels front and rear, and Bridgestone tyres on our test example offered good grip. A pair of 310mm disc brakes in front and 250mm single disc brake at rear functioned to provide fierce stopping power, with the ABS system working flawlessly at all times. Two fingers on the front lever proved quite enough for most stop situations on the big Kawasaki.
Priced at Rs 12.90 lakh (ex-showroom, Pune), the refined Kawasaki Versys 1000 makes a really good option for those looking to buy a motorcycle with the ability to do more than just be quick off-the-line, in comfort. Upmarket features which you won’t see on many rivals at this price point include traction control, multiple power modes and ABS, apart from a slipper clutch, which lend the Versys proposition much steam. Make no mistake, Kawasaki has hit the nail on the head with the stylish Versys 1000, a capable, powerful mile muncher with loads of presence.
Rayomand Darius with inputs from Rishad Cooper