Since 2007, Kawasaki’s Versys–a contraction of “Versatile System,” in case you were wondering–has been the darling of practical-minded motorcyclists, with its flexible motor, comfy ergos, good handling and do-anything looks. How do you make a good thing better? Give it more power, which is just what Kawasaki has done with the 2012 Versys 1000.
The styling is based heavily on the 650 Versys, but it’s an all-new model. At its heart is the four-cylinder mill found in the Z1000 and Ninja 1000, tuned for better low and midrange power — Kawi claims 116 horsepower and 75 ft.-lbs. of torque at 7700 rpm. That’s a lot less than the long-term Ninja 1000 we’ve been hogging, but it should be competitive with the BMW R1200GS and Yamaha Super Tenere. Like a lot of new motorcycles, it offers switchable power modes (low and full) as well as ABS and Kawasaki’s S-KTRC traction-control system.
The chassis may not be exactly the same as the Z1000’s, but it’s definitely closely related. An aluminum twin-spar frame hugs the motor, and a horizontal back-link rear shock will look familiar to anybody who’s ridden recent Kawi products. Seat height is a manageable 33.3 inches, and the claimed wet weight is 526.9 pounds, which is heavy for a sportbike, but lighter than much of the competition. A new inverted 43mm KYB fork is rebound-damping adjustable and offers more than an inch of extra wheel travel compared to the Ninja 1000. Scorpion Trail tires in 17-inch sizes tell us this bike is intended for mainly on-road use.
Not really a dirt machine, but it should shine as a commuter or even medium to long-distance sport-tourer. It offers upright ergos and a big 5.5-gallon tank (half a gallon more than the Ninja 1000, so expect 200 miles per tank), and the accessory luggage looks spacious. It also sports a big, rider-adjustable windscreen and decent luggage rack, passenger seat and grab-handles.
This model shows how the Adventure Bike market–both here and abroad–is heating up. What’s interesting is how every manufacturer approaches the problem differently. This bike will fit in the street-oriented camp, along with the Suzuki V-Strom 1000, Tiger Explorer, and Honda Crosstourer. That should be a good comparo.
There is still no word from Kawasaki USA if this model will come to the USA, or at what price. We at MD are betting it will, with pricing somewhat higher than the $11,899 Ninja 1000.