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MD 2015 Bike of the Year: The Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT

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If one machine can haul ass, handle like a sport bike, provide the comfort of a long distance tourer, and leave the showroom at a bargain price, well … maybe it deserves to be MD’s Bike of the Year. Those attributes describe Kawasaki’s 2015 Versys 1000 LT. A machine that lives up to its name.

Delivered with standard, removable saddlebags at a U.S. MSRP of $12,799 (it gets a $200 price bump next year), the Versys 1000 LT is also a relative bargain. It doesn’t mess around with a 19″ or 21″ front wheel … it gets 17″ wheels front and back with some of the best sport touring rubber we have sampled (Bridgestone’s T30). With its wide handlebars, you can confidently toss the big Versys through corners, and still enjoy freeway cruises while sitting bolt upright on a comfortable seat behind the adjustable windscreen and hand guards.

We tested a black model earlier in the year, but borrowed the Candy Burnt Orange version for our BOTY photo shoot. Enjoy the collection of new photos below.

For 2016, the Versys 1000 LT gets two new color schemes, including Candy Lime Green/Metallic Spark Black and Metallic Raw Titanium/Metallic Spark Black. Take a look back at our review for all of our thoughts and impressions (including our suggested suspension adjustments) or take a look at Kawasaki’s web site for further details and specifications.  Congratulations to Kawasaki!

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98 Comments

  1. Vic Hedges says:

    Congrats to Dirck Edge for responding to many comments. Personally I like this type of bike and while I will look up the specs I am wondering about the prospects for lowering the bike to street bike ground clearance. If a bike is powerful, short and tall overall handling might be greatly improved by reducing the ride height to the degree that cornering clearance remains good if not in the super-sport range.

    Riding a 650 Honda duallie on the highway at 70 is a bit on the windy side.

    Care to give a rough estimate? Inline 4 1000cc is the right answer tuned for low and mid range IMO after riding many types of bikes.

  2. Dirty Bob says:

    Not a tourer(legs are bent, maximum distance is couple hundred miles) and not price wise(one can buy a Victory Gunner for 13,000). Looks fun but no winner!

    • Francois says:

      You are talking rubbish, those legs are in a comfortable sitting position without sitting with all your weight on your tailbone and back. Cruisers are only comfortable for those who has never ridden anything else, especially on long distances.

    • Paul Jensen says:

      I rode mine 1300 miles in 26 hrs including a 3 hour stand still an accident that blocked the interstate at the age of 54. it is just coming up on 6k miles. I wholeheartedly disagree with you!

  3. James says:

    It’s a nice, powerful, useful motorcycle, but I don’t really see that it’s particularly original or groundbreaking. It’s a inline 4 cylinder UJM with bags. Am I missing something? If I am, I apologize. Does it at least have cruise control and self cancelling indicators?

    There are a lot of more imaginative models introduced in 2015, a few BMWs, the 800 cc Triumph igers. The Road Glide Special is the bomb. Those are a little more imaginative to me, for MOTY.

    I don’t get what’s so special about this Versus.

    • Mr.Mike says:

      I’m assuming that the win less about imagination and more about execution

    • Fred_M says:

      As the first sentence states, “If one machine can haul ass, handle like a sport bike, provide the comfort of a long distance tourer, and leave the showroom at a bargain price, well … maybe it deserves to be MD’s Bike of the Year.”

      This is a bike that combines capability, versatility, and affordability. It’s a one-bike solution for many riders who can only afford one bike for commuting, riding around town, touring, and sport riding.

    • Gary says:

      A simple tool is a joy forever.

  4. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    So good to see the return of the UJM, albeit in the form of an ‘adventure’ bike..

    • Snake says:

      When they bring the seat heights down to a range that most people fit, from the current 33.1 inches, then I’ll be happy to apply the “U” in “UJM”.

  5. al says:

    This bike is the “alien”..

  6. Ricardo says:

    Talk about an ugly girl winning a beauty contest!! this bike must be one of the ugliest out there behind the other “adventure” bikes…

    • Bob K says:

      But the ugly girl put out… and did it well. So she beat out the prettier ones.

      It’s a fantastic bike. I’ve had the pleasure of trading off one afternoon. I like how you don’t have to be a programmer to pick settings like on other “more advanced and sportier” bikes. I just like to get on it and go. I don’t want a dash full of menus and cluttered switchgear. Not a luddite. I just don’t want it on the one mode of transport I derive great pleasure from.

      I have a ’11 Ninja 1000 and prefer it for less weight, slightly smaller and more aggressive suspension and power delivery. I travel coast to coast and border to border with ease 700+ miles each day but sometimes I wish for a better seat and a couple more inches of suspension travel. I also like how this luggage is better integrated than my Givi V35 cases. I’d put money down on a Versys, if my N1k got stolen. I am getting older and my spine getting more hammered. A more comfy ride that’s not far off what the N1k is wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      • Kagato says:

        “But the ugly girl put out… and did it well. So she beat out the prettier ones.”

        : – )
        Kinda’ like a Roller Derby Queen, lol, she was 5 foot six, 215, bleached blonde mama with a streak of mean…
        : – )

        old Jim Croce song if anyone is wondering ; – )

  7. mickey says:

    and it’s little brother, the 2015 Versys 650LT could be considered a worthy contender as well

  8. Jeremy in TX says:

    Thinking back on all the great bikes that have come out this year, I have to say this is a good choice for BOTY. It is definitely the value leader in its class. The Versys 1000 also offers the comfort, features and performance at a price that makes it a compelling option to those that possibly weren’t even looking for “this much” bike to begin with.

  9. ze says:

    Hey Dirck, you look great wheeling this bike..

  10. teelee says:

    Dirck, you guys got it right. This was a great choice.

  11. Blackcayman says:

    There must be at least 5 people waiting for the FJ”R”-09

    It could’ah been Bike of the Year if Yamaha would get off their duff.

    • Bob L says:

      I am one of the 5…..please make the 2nd gen. FJ”R”-09 look like a 3/4 FJR-1300 and keep it less than 500 lbs. Otherwise, I’ll just keep hoping and riding my 05′ FJR. BTW – this might be a great bike but I just don’t get the styling. I’m old.

    • mickey says:

      A true FJR-09 would certainly be on my radar, however I think yamaha would say we already build that bike and it’s called the fj09 ( even though we know that’s not exactly what we want).

      As it is I think my next bike will be a 2015 Versys 650.

      A mini FJR would be great. I just dont see it happening.

      • Scott says:

        I don’t, either. I understand what the “FJR 900” crowd is thinking, but from Yamaha’s point of view, that bike would be filling a very tiny gap. I think between the 1300 and the FJ, they pretty much have the bases covered. If they added some FJR features to the FJ to bring it closer to the level of the 1300, I think the price would go up accordingly, and you would end up with a bike so close in price to the FJR1300, people would ask, why bother with the 900?

        My prediction for the next iteration of the 900 triple? I know you don’t want to hear it, but I think it’ll be an “adventure tourer” with a 19″ front wheel, spokes, and skid plates, that will eventually supplant the Super Ten – along with an FZ07-derived version as well…

        • Bob L says:

          Mickey/Scott…..all good points. I’m also one of the guys that wanted Honda to make the older gear-driven cam, V-4 in 1,000cc, with a lighter-weight VFR-style sport touring bike. We didn’t get that either. I may just quit dreaming n’ wishing.

        • Snake says:

          Yamaha screwed the pooch with the FJ-09. We told them what we wanted and they gave us…what we didn’t ask for. The main issue IMHO for the largest range of potential buyers is my constant pet peeve for these past 6 years: seat height. The average person into 900cc bikes is not going to fit a 34-inch seat, plain simple.

          And in a bout of schadenfreude I get to prove a point: as of December 10, 2015, there were 946 unsold (leftover) FJ-09 on sale on cycletrader.com. They didn’t sell to the extent that Yamaha had hoped – THEY MISSED THE TARGET. Again, we told them what we want – a mini-FJR1300 – and they thought they knew better.

  12. Bub says:

    Really…not the S1000XR?

    • Dirck Edge says:

      There are so many great bikes in the “adventure touring” category, we really took a close look at value as a significant factor. Here is our understanding of the price, equipped with saddle bags (not stock on some of the bikes unlike the Versys 1000 LT) of some of the competitive models: BMW S1000XR – $19,887; Ducati Multistrada 1200 S – $21,094; BMW R1200GS – $20,769; KTM 1190 Adventure – $17,899; Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT – $12,799. Of course, the more expensive models tend to have more horsepower and more accessories (such as cruise control), but factoring in value and the intangibles, such as “fun to ride”, we think the Versys 1000 LT is a remarkable machine. Don’t forget that the Versys also shares an engine design (and the same 1,043 cc displacement) with two other Kawasaki models, and the engine reliability is well proven – also a factor. With saddlebags, the Versys is within roughly 20 pounds of the curb weight of the BMW S1000XR and the Ducati. The big GS is heavier than the other 3 bikes by 30 pounds, or so.

      • TF says:

        I am a pretty die hard Multistrada fan, having owned two now, but I always buy gently used bikes and let someone else take the depreciation hit. I would have a tough time justifying the 8K price difference between a new Multi vs. a new Versys (sorry, couldn’t resist). Value is important and the Versys seems like a great choice for BOTY.

      • Montana says:

        I think Dirck got it dead nuts on. If motorcycling becomes a “rich man’s hobby” in the eyes of the public, it will suffer the same dismal fate as high end audio, “I’d love to but I can’t afford it.”
        Not only that, when you buy a European machine, the purchase price is only the cost of admission. The annual dues seem to run between 5% and 10% of the cost of admission. Most Japanese bikes cost only a small fraction of that to maintain.
        As for aesthetics, any bike without a “beak” is infinitely better looking than any bike with, IMHO.
        Kawasaki should be commended for keeping the mass market in mind when it priced this bike. Its performance is so close to the others that the winner of the weekend canyon-carving contest will be decided more by the skill of the rider than the cost of the machine. I can’t give a higher commendation than that.

      • Scott says:

        Not that I’m arguing the choice of BOTY, but Dirck, the FJ-09 didn’t count toward that list? Seems like a direct competitor to the Versys (more so than the Euros IMO), and even after you buy the saddlebags, the FJ’s still something like $1400 less.

        Maybe the Versys is a nicer bike to ride, I don’t know. But the performance/dollar ratio seems to favor the FJ…

  13. WJF says:

    this thing is so heavy, smaller bikes orbit around it

  14. Gary says:

    GREAT choice.

  15. North of Missoula says:

    It may be the Toyota Camry of the segment, however out of the 17in front wheel adventure touring class I would pick the 1000 Versys over the competition all day long. By all definitions it should at least make every short list for MOTY IMO.

    Good power,
    Excellent ergos,
    Decent handling,
    Integrated luggage,
    Great price,
    Mature well proven engine
    Japanese reliability,
    Fat dealer network

  16. Tim says:

    Let the complaints begin (or in this case continue since I already see a few). I can’t judge this bike, as I’ve not ridden it. What I can say is that another publication named the 650 Versys bike of the year several years ago, and I owned one at the time. There was outrage over the choice, but owning mine, I can confirm that was a great choice. I’ve gone on to bigger and more expensive bikes, but I don’t believe I’ve ever had a bike with the fun factor of that Versys 650.

    I guess what I’m really trying to say here is that if we’ve not ridden the bike, and a lot of other competing bikes, we shouldn’t probably be judging the choice.

  17. Vrooom says:

    If they put a 19″ front wheel on that thing, maybe suck off 40 lbs., and I’d buy it in a heartbeat. I actually ride my bikes off road, and a 17″ front wheel sucks for that. I’ve owned 3 V-Stroms, so not being pretty isn’t an issue for me.

  18. Auphliam says:

    I checked one of these out recently when I had my Victory in the dealership for my state inspection. Admittedly, there’s not much there in the looks department to really grab your emotions, but I have to say it definitely is one of the most comfortable bikes I’ve ever sat on. The seating position is so absolutely natural, perfect reach to bars (for 6′ me) and the seat felt great.

    Because of the sedate looks, it just doesn’t get any attention. The whole time I was in the relatively crowded showroom, I was the only person there to even look at the bike.

  19. Gary says:

    Somewhere between blah and yawn. I thought Bike-of-the-Year should be an inspiring proposition.

  20. Mark says:

    Beautiful bike! Looks amazingly like my … Tiger 1050. Except the Tiger is at least 50 pounds lighter, has a much more “charismatic” engine, a great chassis and brakes, (but suspension needed work) and was released in 2007. The press didn’t fawn all over it, because it wasn’t in fashion. Some even panned it.

    I like I bike I can ride cross country, has good wind protection, is light and fast and handles well. So many great bikes in this category today. I don’t care for the electronic aids, with the exception of ABS. Just something else to maintain or to fail. Haven’t seen the market so flush with what I like in a bike since….. about 1980.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I never saw many of them out on the road, but I always thought the Tiger 1050s were very appealing motorcycles. Like you said, maybe it was just ahead of its time.

      • notarollingroadblock says:

        Yes appealing, except for that weird looking seat and kicked up rear end, which it appears they fixed on the “Sport” model.

        • Notorious Fred says:

          That weird looking seat is probably the best seat in motorcycling, incredibly comfy. Mark: you took the words right out of my mouth, the stance and profile of the versys is very similar to the Tiger 1050. I love mine, best bike I’ve owned.

  21. Hot Dog says:

    Who’s the hooligan pulling up the front wheel? Damned kids.

  22. Joe Bogusheimer says:

    Given the bikes that all you moto-journos have been raving on about all year (various KTM 1290s, new superbikes, etc), I can’t say this one was on my radar as a pick for BOTY. Not to say it’s not a fine bike – I’ve seriously considered getting one myself – but hardly ground-breaking or trend-setting in any area. At least it’s about 300% better looking than the previous generation.

    And yes, if you’re going to have dual headlights on a bike, they should both have low and high beams. Nobody’s convincing me that one low beam, even if it has a reflector optimized for the purpose, and one high beam likewise optimized, is a match for two low beams or two high beams. My old V-Strom had great lighting, my Fazer 8 (with a typical single low beam setup) not so much.

    • Snake says:

      The moto-journos, if you really take count, seem content on hyping bikes that aren’t the largest percentage of the marketplace. Not sure what’s up, but they seem stuck in a self-imposed stereotype of liking only certain styles of motorcycle while downplaying or forgetting just about anything that doesn’t meet that profile. You can pretty much tell how a journalist will rate a bike, before you even bother to read the article, based upon the intro: wheelie pic and mention of speed? I’ll rate high.

      We’ve got overgrown 17-year olds writing about, and (negatively) influencing, our market. So many great bikes out there, that aren’t wheelie-monsters, get lost in the glossy pages of modern moto rags.

  23. Ryan says:

    Such an ugly bike though..

    • Daimyo says:

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but most of us I think can agree that it’s a HUUUUGE step up in style from the last generation which I will agree with you had a face only mama Kawasaki could love.

    • Biz says:

      I bought a 2014 650 Versys, and like the look of the stacked light design better. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but being a graphic designer of over 30 years, with numerous awards, I’m sticking with my statement: Versys styling is bad azz cool

  24. Max Frisson says:

    Nice package, I never had considered this bike. At first I thought it was just a rebadged V-Strom. The 4 cyl. makes it more appealing. To me at least. Lot cheaper than the BMW S1000XR that is my current #1 new bike in consideration.

  25. Jamo says:

    Four cylinders is one too many. Two is better. I’m liking the new Bonnevilles.

    • teelee says:

      Kawasaki makes a better bike than a Triumph, a Thailand Bonneville, that’s a no from me plus the company is crappie to there dealers

    • peter h says:

      Heavy and slow vs. heavy and fast. I’ll take the Kawi with the fast.

  26. The brit says:

    Great bike, peachy engine, comfy for both rider and more importantly your passenger. An easy to service bike, Japanese bomb proof reliability. I have done 13,000 miles on mine in nine months, and had no issues, no recalls, no warranty work. Proper real world motorbike.

  27. The Spaceman says:

    An excellent choice for MOTY. I bought my FJ-09 for virtually all the same reasons the Versys won. This was my second choice but the FJ’s styling and slightly smaller overall size appealed to me more.

  28. Provologna says:

    Except for more upright riding position and cosmetic design, this seems virtually identical to its Ninja 1000 cousin, no? Seems odd they make both models.

    I’d take the Versys for its more preferable riding position. Seems to be well deserving of the award.

    For the guy claiming the Ninja handles better, I can’t see why it would. I presume geometry is similar, possibly just a bit longer WB on the Versys.

    There are many more great bikes now compared to past years. Very nice!

    • saddlebag says:

      I think the Ninja is tuned for a top end hit. This one has a nice linear powerband.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Several differences between the models you mention. The Versys has a different frame with a longer wheelbase and different steering geometry, and the engine tuning creates more low end power and a very flat torque curve. Brakes and suspension (longer travel on the Versys) are different. There are other differences.

      • Selecter says:

        This – between the two, the engine/transmission are really the only things the two bikes have in common, other than also having two wheels and a seat. And even then, the two engines behave differently enough due to pretty substantial tuning differences.

        It’s like saying the SV650 and V-Strom 650 were the same…

  29. todd says:

    Yuk. Id rather have the FZ07 that would do all the same stuff but handle better/be more nimble for much less money. I don’t think the award considers actually spending your own money on the bike or living with it for a few years, commuting with it daily. Even then, there are much better used bikes for even less money that would serve one better, or at least just as good. I guess BOTY is limited to what’s available new and over 100hp (so as not to be labeled as a “beginner bike”). I’m glad my choices are not limited to that.

    • saddlebag says:

      One could do anything on most any bike. I guarantee you will not haul a spouse and a weeks worth of luggage around with you nearly as quickly or comfortably on an FZ07.

      • todd says:

        I’ve hauled my spouse and a week’s worth of luggage on a bike with around 30hp and a bit more often on the old 40-50hp BMW. I never had any problems breaking speed limits, climbing mountains, or passing cars loaded up. The ability of doing a power wheelie with my wife and camping gear on the back is at the bottom of my priority list.

    • Brian says:

      Lots of articles on the web about great used bikes, great small bikes, great city bikes, etc. Does every article on every bike have to take all those factors into account?

      There’s always somebody who did more with less back in the day. “Now when I was a young feller, 1 horsepower was god’s a plenty to haul me ‘n my sweetheart and a week’s worth of luggage to catch the steam train to Saint Louie.”

      • Dirck Edge says:

        LOL

      • todd says:

        In case you haven’t realized but doing more with less makes you a better, more resourceful person who finds it easy – no – a privilege to appreciate the simple things in life. Everyone else seems to be a product of the McDonald’s “Super Size Me” school of thought.

        • Selecter says:

          Time to sell my motorcycle and buy a bicycle for a 3,000 mile road trip next year, then. That will make me so much better as a person! Then I can go online and tell everyone about it!

          Keep patting yourself on the back, there… You clearly deserve it!

          • todd says:

            If you had the balls to do that, I’d congratulate you. Meanwhile keep telling yourself you’re a fast rider because you own a “fast” motorcycle.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            “If you had the balls to do that, I’d congratulate you. Meanwhile keep telling yourself you’re a fast rider because you own a “fast” motorcycle.”

            I’ve done it (20 years and twice that many pounds ago)! I am also faster on a faster motorcycle than I am on a slower one. Just sayin’.

        • Brian says:

          Just so you know, I’m speaking as someone who learned to ride as a teenager 20-some years ago on a ’71 BMW R50/5, a bike I still own (and am presently restoring). Love the bike and will keep it forever, but wouldn’t particularly want to take it on the DC beltway with 225 lb. me, a passenger, and a load of luggage.

          Anyway, I don’t consider myself a particularly fast rider, but I do enjoy the accelerative thrills to be had with modern machines. Guess that makes me…bad, somehow? Unable to appreciate the simple things in life?

          Whatever.

      • Blackcayman says:

        nailed it!

  30. TimC says:

    My comment when I posted the link to this article to my Facebook:

    Given MD’s (aging – who, moi? – editorial slant) this isn’t a huge surprise.
    This is actually a bike I’ve had on my radar, though probably not before I return to The Dark Side and get a K1300S.

    • TimC says:

      And then I remember the maintenance pangs of The Dark Side (aka German Engineering) and I think…yeah, this really could be my next bike.

  31. Joga says:

    Bought one back in February over 5000 miles on it very enjoyable bags are great just added Givi rack and top box.

  32. Mike says:

    Ride this first and then the Ninja 1000 and let me know if you still believe it handles like a “sport” bike. Still a great bike.

  33. Bob Loblaw says:

    I agree; those T-30’s are terrific. Now if Kawi could just get both headlights to be on at the same time – not giving cops an excuse to pull us over.

    • Shaunock says:

      Has that actually happened? Your cops must be idiots.

      • TimC says:

        They are very skilled in the use of Tasers.

      • thmisawa says:

        yep, got pulled over in Anchorage Alaska on my N1000 for a “burned out headlight”. To make it worse the officer was not buying that the “low beam” was not burned out. I got a warning.

    • Buckwheat says:

      Screw the cops – both headlights need to be on for aesthetic purposes. At least the original Versys design didn’t have that problem.

      • saddlebag says:

        I can’t see the front of the bike when I ride, so to me it’s immaterial. I wasn’t a fan of the T30s though. Front one was great and lasted 12k miles. Rear one only lasted 6k and made the bike understeer in fast sweepers.

      • peter h says:

        I only have one eye so this doesn’t bother me.

    • billy says:

      They’re just harassing you then. How many headlights are required on a street legal motorcycle? That’s right, one.