Originally designed for Canadian and European markets, Kawasaki Versys is a middleweight motorcycle with a standard riding posture. Versys stands for “Versatile System,” suggesting a system of riding attributes intended to offer versatility and do a little bit of everything. Performance is another key design element – the bike’s makers wanted to create a comfortable bike that would be responsive in both handling and engine power delivery so that its performance won’t be too much for a novice rider to handle but still enough for an advanced rider. Other features include long-travel suspension, powerful parallel-twin engine, aggressive styling, and compact size and weight.
Much of the 399 lbs machine is crafted from the Ninja 650R and there are a few similarities between the two. Both bikes use a 649cc DOHC 8-valve liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine, which was modified for the Versys so it’s compact and delivers smooth power. It shares the same 83mm x 60mm oversquare bore/stoke but features different camshafts and a modified exhaust system with a connecting tube between the two head pipes. The engine is densely packed between the stacked transmission shafts and a semi-dry-sump lubrication system that stores scavenged oil in the transmission cavity away from the crankshaft. The Versys has a slightly lower compression ratio (10.6:1) and a marginally bigger radiator for better cooling. These modifications make for an engine tuned for big power throughout the low and middle of the rpm range since the bike is primarily designed for city and back-road (pavement) riding - its excellent roll-on response is perfect for navigating through city traffic. Its peak torque is lower down the rev range providing a better throttle response at low revs. Both bikes have a 25.0-degree steering angle. The twin-cylinder mill is fuel injected by two Keihin 38mm throttle bodies. It also features twin cams, four valves per cylinder, under-piston oil jets and counterbalancer. Rather than the large artistic piece of cast aluminum used on the Ninja, the passenger peg mounts are a more traditional-looking collection of steel tubes. That being said, the Versys is an entirely different bike from the Ninja 650R.
The fully-adjustable Showa rear shock features a free piston and two-stage damping valves for progressive compression damping; it’s connected to a beautiful aluminum gull-wing swingarm that is longer than average, thanks to a short, dense engine and chassis. The 41mm tapered-tube inverted fork combines the best of off-road and sport bike suspension action for a perfect stiffness balance and a more-comfortable ride over a wide range of conditions. Fork height, preload and rebound damping can all be adjusted to fine-tune the suspension to the specific conditions or riding style. Additionally, the long-travel suspension’s soft-stroke makes for easy control of the chassis’ running angle by shifting the rider’s weight. The two-piece seat is carefully designed to provide optimum comfort for both rider and passenger. The tool panel is easy to read and allows the rider to quickly check the gauges. The adjustable windscreen can be raised or lowered to three positions in 20mm increments. Keeping in mind its minimal bodywork and abbreviated windshield, the 2008 Kawasaki Versys has surprisingly good wind protection that helps protect from the elements. Spaced comfortably and up high, the 33 inch wide handlebars can be moved slightly fore or aft and allow for a relaxed but commanding bar position; both the brake and clutch levers feature five-way adjustments to suit different hand sizes.
The engine’s triangular crank and transmission shaft layout make it quite short; the engine height is reduced with the help of a semi-dry sump oil system, and its width – by the narrow pitch of chrome complex plated aluminum cylinders. Just below the engine is a muffler with 3-way catalyzer and bullet-tip opening; its position assists in lowering the center of gravity and aids weight centralization. 180-degree crankshaft plus balancer shaft make for extremely smooth engine operation. Oil jets on the connecting rod big ends spray oil on the undersides of the pistons to assist cooling; liquid cooling helps maintain consistent engine temperatures, which contributes to the engine’s long life and allows closer engine tolerances for more horsepower. Because the coolant is routed through the engine cases there are fewer external hoses.
The 2008 Kawasaki Versys features digital fuel injection (DFI), utilizing two Keihin 38mm throttle bodies with ECU controlled sub throttle valves, which are located behind the main throttle valves and allow for a more precise throttle response. Starting and warm up are made easy by automatic fast idle system. Digital Capacitor Discharge Ignition (CDI) System Microprocessor controlled timing never requires adjustment and is ultra responsive to engine needs. Spark plug mounted “stick” ignition coils are compact and help reduce the overall weight. The six-spoke wheel design uses much less material between spokes, reducing the rim thickness and wheel weight. Tire size is 120/70-17 front and 160/60-17 rear. The two-piece seat is designed with a different thickness and foam firmness for the rider and passenger for optimal comfort. Passenger seat and grab bars provide a comfortable seating position. White LED back lighting provides increased visibility at night. The easy to read instrument panel features a large analog tachometer and digital readout for the speedometer, fuel gauge, dual trip meters, odometer and clock. The only thing missing from the legible instrument package is the standard issue coolant temperature gauge.
Six-speed cassette style transmission makes the shafts and shift drum which are in a compact layout easily removable as a single unit from the case for more efficient maintenance. The small and light trellis frame is designed by utilizing 3-dimensional computer analysis to achieve the optimum stiffness balance for better handling; it’s narrow at the knees and feet for better rider comfort and control. Petal design rotors offer improved cooling and warp resistance.
Stopping power is provided by two 300mm petal-style semi-floating front discs and dual-piston calipers, with a single-piston, 220mm petal-style disc keeping rear-wheel speed in check. The front stoppers have a minimal amount of initial brake bite, which is great for a novice rider.
The 2008 Kawasaki Versys is a smart option for beginners and intermediates looking for an all-around ride. A much more refined package than the Ninja, the Versys sports adjustable suspension, a slightly better chassis and a retuned engine. As its name implies, this motorcycle offers versatility, great performance and easy handling.
2008 Kawasaki Versys Specifications:
Engine: Four-stroke, liquid cooled, DOHC, four-valve per cylinder, parallel twin
Bore x stroke: 83.0 x 60.0mm
Compression ratio: 10.6:1
Maximum torque: 44.9 lb/ft @6,800 rpm
Fuel injection: Digital fuel injection with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies
Ignition: Digital CDI
Final drive: O-Ring chain
Frame: Semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel
Rake / trail: 25 degrees / 4.3 in.
Wheelbase: 55.7 in.
Front suspension / wheel travel: 41mm hydraulic telescopic fork with adjustable rebound and preload / 5.9 in.
Rear suspension / wheel travel: Single offset laydown shock with adjustable rebound and spring preload / 5.7 in.
Front tire: 120/70×17
Rear tire: 160/60×17
Front brake: Dual 300mm petal discs with two-piston caliper
Rear brake: Single 220mm petal disc with single-piston caliper
Overall length: 83.7 in.
Overall width: 33.1 in.
Overall height: 51.8 in.
Seat height: 33.1 in.
Dry weight: 399 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.
Color: Passion Red
Warranty: 12 months