Kawasaki Versys 650 Review

Kawasaki Versys 650 Review

The Versys essentially is an adventure tourer and if you haven’t been following the biking scene in India or overseas, rest assured that that they are all the rage now. Built to conquer distant lands, these big machines were soon found to be versatile in other biking aspects. There seems to be the collective consensus among the journos who have ridden the Kawasaki Versys 650 that it seems to be the only bike you need, fulfilling most roles with aplomb.

All new?

The Versys 650 borrows the frame and engine from the Ninja 650 – a sports tourer. The difference between the two, you may ask. The suspension for starters, has a longer travel affording more ground clearance. The seating is taller and more upright thanks to the higher bars. There is a taller, adjustable flyscreen and a large 21-litre fuel tank all of which make the Versys more adventure friendly. The sharp detailing also stands out; I think the Versys 1000 is the best looking adventure tourer available in India right now so the baby Versys gets brownie points for aping its bigger cousin. The tail section too is brilliantly executed – there are grab rails that run alongside the wide rear seat and notches are built into the rear tailpiece for the optional hard panniers to cleanly snick into. All this adds a mere 5kg over the Ninja 650 and 12kg over the ER-6n.

Swing a leg over and you will appreciate the relatively low saddle height and the easy reach to the controls. The seat is wide and will sustain a day’s worth of hard riding with ease. Thumb the starter and you are greeted with a muted rumble. The parallel twin prefers being low-key in the decibel department and I think that’s fantastic for a touring machine. Too loud an exhaust can be quite aggravating and add to fatigue if you are covering long distances at a stretch. Wind her up though and there is a pleasing induction roar. Performance is good and linear. The Versys 650 does not get traction control and frankly, doesn’t need it. In terms of usability and accessibility, it’s very close to being idiot-proof (you can never make a 100 per cent idiot proof machine anyways). A novice can ride it fairly well and in the hands of a skilled rider the Versys shines even more.

Out on the twisties of Lavasa, it can handle as well as the equivalent 600cc naked. That is due to its Showa separate function forks that lets you adjust preload and damping via two green anodised nuts atop the fork legs. The rear offset monoshocks gets a fairly simple preload adjuster via a remote dial that lets you adjust stiffness in a jiffy. The steel frame too is stiffer than the 2015 version while the Dunlop Sportmax tyres provide ample grip for you to get away with cornering antics. Getting off the road and on the trail, I was surprised at how nimble the Versys felt while attacking gravel. The 170mm of ground clearance overcomes most obstacles while the grunty engine made light work of charging up the hill. It’s quite a hoot to ride off-road. Well it could have performed better with on-off road tyres. Slap a pair on and you’ll have Tiger-rivalling performance off-road.

Powerful?

The 649cc parallel twin makes 3bhp less power at 68bhp, a result of the engine being tuned for more bottom end torque. Torque output remains the same at 64Nm. You will be hard pressed to notice the power deficit when compared with the Ninja 650 though the keener among us will catch the improved response of the Versys at low revs. It is ridiculously easy to maintain a fast clip thanks to its broad power band that makes sure you don’t have to work the gears that often.

Value?

The Versys 650 is comfortable, decently fast, handles well, can sustain long-distance touring, is quite good off-road, is surprisingly traffic friendly, and is easy to ride without losing out on the thrill factor. The retail price of Rs 6.66 lakhs (ex-Delhi) makes it one of the most affordable adventure tourers out there. It might be close a lakh and a half more expensive than the Ninja 650 but for that difference you get Showa separate function forks, ABS (which is missing in the ER-6n as well) and a larger, more versatile bike. The Versys 650 comes quite close to being the ‘one bike’ you’ll ever need.

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