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2012 Kawasaki Versys 1000 Materializes In Milan

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.

45 Comments

  1. DynoSoar says:

    Let me be a bit clearer. I just don’t believe that the majority of people looking for a cool street bike really want a two wheeled SUV that will never go off-road. It means a bigger, heavier, taller, sloppier handling and, to me, much uglier bike than necessary. Are these big ‘Adventure Tourers’ just the result of all manufacturers following the BMW GS sales success because they can’t think of any original ways to make a street bike cool? Is the word ‘Street’ a marketing anathema?

    We have super cool ‘Sport’ bikes with crippling riding positions at legal street speeds, but absolute nirvana on a track day.

    We have super cool ‘Cruisers’ with crippling riding positions on the freeway, but with gorgeous paint, chrome and detailing and perfect for short rides with friends and pride of ownership.

    The ‘Sport Tourers’ all seem to have become overweight and/or dowdy and deliberately dull.

    The ‘Sport Standards’ (Speed Triple, Z1000 etc) are getting close but still a little too hyperactive for a long term relationship.

    So if I want to carry occasional luggage or a passenger, stay reasonable comfortable on the bumpier ‘roads less travelled’, the market is telling me I need a bike with ‘tough, off road inspired styling’.

    Well SC&£W that. Give me a K1200R that hasn’t been beaten to death with an ugly stick. OR how about putting the Triumph Explorer motor in a chassis with state of the art tarmac tyres, brakes and Ohlins suspension, a 60 inch wheelbase so I can launch it HARD, a roomy seat so I can shuffle around when my backside gets numb, all in beautiful two-tone pin striped paint, styled by Massimo Tamburini and weighing in at less than 500lb wet. OR same starting with a K1600 motor and some hotter cams with a solid 150hp at the tyre………….Call them ‘Roadsters’ so the marketeers don’t have to use the dreaded uncool ‘Street’ word and let the imagination loose.

    Its OK, the nice men in the white coats are coming to explain why I should like SUVs like everybody else for the benefit of the world economy. All better now. Rant over.

  2. Carl says:

    Taste in aesthetics is clearly objective and subjective. That not withstanding…I think kawasaki did a most excellent job on the looks of the bike.
    (Hey “DOC”, what do you consider to be a good looking bike????)
    The current face of the kle-650 I never cared for (kinda underwhelming), but on the ’1000′ it works just fine.
    BTW…I ride a 09 Versys, ( the original and better looking IMHO) and it’s continues to amaze me…and for the price it’s simply brilliant!!!

  3. PaulB says:

    I have always been told that the “main thing in life is to pay attention”, that would serve Kawasaki well from my standpoint. Two cylinders, 800cc’s, a couple of small upgrades to the suspension and keep the same character of the `09 Versys I currently own. That`s what was needed. This thing just misses the mark.

  4. MD says:

    I ride a 2007 Versys. It has been the perfect bike except at higher altitudes, and high speed extended freeway use. The bike needed another 30hp, without losing its near perfect handling, especially at low speeds. They may have done it.

    I never ride gravel, have no intentions with this type of bike. If I want an offroad machine, I’ll buy a KLR that can be dropped over and over, and is easy to pickup and keep going. This bike has damn near perfect ergonomics, and power. The present Versys needs an aftermarket shield otherwise it can be really noisy with turbulent air at the top of the helmet. Hopefully this bike will be better. Otherwise it looks to be the perfect road bike for a intermediate to advanced rider.

    BUT God almighty, did they get a color blind engineer to pick the colors? Burnt Orange, Metalic Green or Red, even straight Black. But White or Brownish Grey…yikes. Might wait another year to see if they can improve the color choices otherwise I would order straight away.

  5. DynoSoar says:

    Now what about the bike behind it in the last picture? Is that an old Zephyr or another Japan only modernized UJM of the sort I would dearly like to get my hands on.

    PLEASE let’s not make the same mistakes as the cage manufacturers by thinking that customers actually know what they want (Steve Jobs, RIP, knew that the sheep needed to be lead not followed to make truly great product). It has taken over a decade to put the SUV monster back in it’s cage. For the >1% of people who want to ride round the world without touching tarmac, a few KTM Adventurers make sense (although I suspect a low compression KLR650 or G650 would be more likely to run on the available fuel and arrive with the pilot unscathed). I suspect that many riders that are currently looking for a comfortable all rounder that can handle some soft luggage and a few bumpy roads would rather buy something sleek than paramilitary (more orange and root-beer Z1 than M1030B1 Marine Corps motorcycle).

    Then again, the R1200GS outsells the R1200R Classic 100:1. perhaps we are all doomed to a decade of two wheeled Ford Explorers :0

  6. tla says:

    not giving up my 650 versys for this!

  7. Doc says:

    OMG!!!!!! Bikes are getting uglier by the minute. I think the designers are trying to outdo each other. This thing is so ugly, I wouldn’t ride it on a dark moonless night. Reminds of the joke of someone’s kid being so ugly, you had to tie a porkchop around the kid’s neck just so the family dog would play him. Except I don’t think there is a women out there hot enough for me to ride this thing. Sorry Salma.

    • Carl says:

      Hey DOC…..just curious but what exactly do you consider to be a good looking sport tourer style bike?

  8. Ayk says:

    Adventure bike? Open your eyes, mate! There is no ‘street’ in adventure, except what you ride to get to the good stuff, and this bike stops at the end of the pavement.

  9. Philip says:

    I give in. I now accept and embrace the fact that modern motorcycles are ugly. I feel better now and can move on with my life.

    • Gutterslob says:

      I’m partially with ya on that one, mate. While I admit I find some modern designs nice, I do often find myself wishing for very basic old styling. Give me a modern 1000cc air-cooled inline 4, mated to a 6-speed box, single-shock, decent forks, alu-spar frame, single big round headlight (think old Monsters or UJMs), and decent pow:weight ratio and I’ll order it in a flash!!

  10. Dave says:

    Oh good…retuned for midrange. Yay.

    Apart from that…awesome.

  11. Vroooom says:

    As apparently the only person who rides his V-Strom off pavement a lot, I sure wish they’d put a 19″ (at least) front wheel on this. Was riding with a friend on a Versys this weekend in a forest near my house, and anything beyond packed firm dirt was an issue for him, and riding over drainage ditches or downed trees was practically impossible. I really like the bike otherwise.

    • Tim says:

      Not the only one.

    • j_cott says:

      as one of the many who rides his Strom only on pavement, I’m glad to see the 17″ front wheel – I converted my DL1000 to a 17″ because I was so tired of having to buy expensive, underperforming tires in a 19″ size.

      What with the HP increase, the 17″ front wheel, the inverted fork, this seems like maybe a nice upgrade from the Strom.

    • ben says:

      I have a DL1000 and immediately thought the same thing. I occasionally miss the flexability and high RPM power of the inline 4. It remains to be seen just how badly they have neutered the engine

  12. Jay says:

    Why a four? THe appeal of the Versys was the twin. I don’t think this is going to compare with the Triumph 1200 Tiger very well.

    • Tim says:

      They already have this motor. If MSRP included the cost of developing a new engine, people would be whining about the price.

  13. Tim says:

    I’ll admit to lusting after the new Ninja 1000, (even with the unfortunate name), but one of these might make more sense. I, too, wish they hadn’t bothered messing with the power curve but I’ll have to ride one to be sure. It’s likely that, in practice, the 116 ponies, (and, more importantly, the 75 lb./ft.), will be more than sufficient. This may be the ultra-versatile machine I’ve been looking for as a capable endurance rally bike.

  14. Ken says:

    I like it! Kawi is doing a good job with the 1000cc powerplant, and adding ABS. The Z1000, the Ninja 1000 and the VerSys 1000 all are looking good to me as a replacement for my 2000 ZRX1100

    Nice job Kawi..

    • ZRexrider says:

      Nothing will ever be a replacement for a Rex! JK.
      I’m in the same boat, gotta 2004 ZRX1200. Really intrigued by the Ninja 1000, but figured it is a too little close to the ZRX. The Versys 1000 however, that’s a different ball game.

      • Donnie says:

        I see I’m not the only Rex rider that took notice of the V1000 :D

        Since Maw Kaw refuses to bring us the DAEG, I guess that leaves us with very little to decide upon for an equivalent bike. That said, the V1000 would make an excellent replacement for the Rex, IMHO. Not a perfect replacement, but it would do well in place of the Rex.

    • DynoSoar says:

      Except I actually enjoy looking at a REX

  15. Ron says:

    Bikes are getting uglier every day. Why should this one be any different?

  16. Ruefus says:

    People will undoubtedly complain (and have started already) with things like:

    “It’s ugly!”
    “It should be a twin!!”
    “Its heavy!!”

    Inline four, upright ergos, serves as a tourer, commuter and as back road carver. Rock solid, if not cutting-edge technology with 17′s front and rear.

    This is not an ‘adventure’ bike. Under-engine exhaust routing with no protection?

    Welcome to the new look of UJM.

  17. SilverH says:

    Wow this “class” got crowded… Kwaka Versys.. Triumph Tiger explorer… Honda Cross Tourer ..Ducati Multi… BMW… Suzuki VStrom.. Yamaha Tenere??? Seems most of these bikes have little off road ability, a tall upright riding position and big chunky luggage options. Is the market really so large?

  18. Milo says:

    At one point I thought my V-Strom was a hideous machine, Since I’ve come to like the way it looks. Now I really love the way these adventure sport bikes look. I feel a new one in my future. I hope I can test ride them at the international motorcycle show.

    • Dean says:

      Compared to the Versys, Multistrada, tener, and almost any new BMW, my ols Vstrom is looking down right sexy!!

      Bartender, another Appletini!

  19. Jim says:

    Hmmm…. I’ve had an ’09 Versys 650 for a couple years, and it’s a wonderfully simple, easy to ride and reliable bike, if not dead sexy. This is intriguing as a little more oomph would be nice. ABS and traction control, too. Some bigger, dedicated bags would be nice. I have those Givi V35′s, and although good, they are oddly shaped and I can’t put my lid into them. I like it.

  20. JCM says:

    Basically a spiritual successor to the Z750S of the mid ‘naughties in my eyes. Or Super Tenere meets Bandit 1250.

    It is coming to Canada and is priced exactly the same as the Ninja 1000 with ABS. Considering all of the electronic bits, this is coming in at a very good price.

    At ~530lbs this thing is in the weight range of the beloved R1200GS, all the while having more power. This weight with 21L of fuel, which is what everyone is asking for.

    The thing that gets me is that it has been ‘retuned for more midrange’. It’s not like the 1043cc I4 was lacking in this department!

  21. Kjazz says:

    I dont find this bike as appealing as the 650 Versys. This looks a bit slab sided and heavy…..it probably is pretty heavy too. Plus, I think inline fours aren’t the correct engine for this task. Even Triumph’s triples are too much in my opinion. This is the place for a good twin.

  22. Mike says:

    It makes a lot more sense than the more expensive faux adventure bikes. 95% of these spend their whole life on the street, and a smooth inline four and 17″ rubber makes a lot of sense. I really enjoyed the Ninja 1000 that I test rode – given the state of our roads, a bit more compliant suspension, more legroom, and space for a passenger make a lot of sense.

    Hope they keep the price sensible, bet they sell a bunch!

  23. motogrin says:

    Apparently not–they managed to omit the ugly beak. Though I think the Duc’s SSA is cool, overall I think this is a better looking bike.

  24. Tommo says:

    “Kawi claims 116 horsepower and 75 ft.-lbs. of torque at 7700 rpm. That’s …more than some competing bikes like the new Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200″

    Triumph are claiming 137hp and 89 ft.-lbs

    I just dont get this bike… I mean perhaps if your are stepping up from a Honda Deuville, can’t afford some dull BMW standard and don’t mind being mistaken for a motorcycle courier any time you go somewhere.
    There are so many great, stylish characterful and versatile bikes out there – this thing is just filler.

    • Yoyodyne says:

      “I just dont get this bike… I mean perhaps if your are stepping up from a Honda Deuville, can’t afford some dull BMW standard and don’t mind being mistaken for a motorcycle courier any time you go somewhere.”

      That got me laughing pretty hard…gracias!

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Corrected the mistake regarding the Tiger Explorer 1200, which does make more power.

  25. zrx4me says:

    great bike,can’t wait to ride one.My only gripe is could Kawi not find any more exciting colors than white or dull gray?How about a red or a nice blue?

  26. Rocky V says:

    That thing looks terrible– Kawasaki had a great all arounder Zrx 1200 i have one — and it looks good — i wish they would have come out with a Zrx 14–
    if you like these bikes they should have made a 1000 twin

    i think the early 70′s Honda 750-4 had the looks

  27. Tommy See says:

    Adventure styling and Hype continues to be exciting.
    Keep it up manufacturers. Looks great I want to test ride it.
    Coming to America and Canada ?

  28. Pete says:

    That is one fugly bike. I like it.

  29. Mickey says:

    What a beautiful motorcycle, especially with the luggage. Kudos Kawi!

    Of course people will complain it’s not much of a dirt bike, but we understand that most of this type do not get ridden off road anyways, at least not on anything more challenging than down a fire road. However as a good ergo, plenty of power, do it all street “standard” that will do just fine.

  30. Tom R says:

    Wow. Did the designers have a Multistada sitting next to them during the entire design stage?

    • Kjazz says:

      aiming toward function tends to cause designs to converge.

    • Pierre says:

      Yeah, that was my first impression too.
      Yet, somehow, this Kawasaki’s design is decidedly more Italian than any of the resent Ducatis.
      Strange…

      • blackcayman says:

        What are the lot of you three smoking??? Ducati styling??? Just as ugly as the little brother. Next thing they’ll be selling is a “Rock’em-Sock’em” Robot helmet to match the nose. It’s a Kwacker