The First 635 Miles . . .
have ticked off my Versys's odomoter in the past two weeks. I've ridden it on dirt roads, loose gravel, rough oil-and-chip, smooth and pristine asphalt country lanes and truck-beaten Interstates 24 and 57.
Wow, do I ever LOVE this bike! On one 400 mile trip last week, I spent the whole time watching traffic get blown around by 30-45 mph wind gusts. The Versys was incredibly stable, even when being alternately boxed-in and brutally exposed by 18-wheelers. Sure, the bike moved a bit . . . but always predictably and without ever losing its composure. In calmer air, the bike is just a complete joy to ride. I'm big (6' 5", 214 pounds, 34-35" inseam), but the bike feels, as Goldilock's said of the Baby Bear's chair, "Just right." I haven't experienced any of the discomfort that some folks have written about in regard to the reach to the footpegs or any of the problems some taller people have had with feeling as if the seat is making them slide forward into the tank. I think the Versys is going to be the first bike I've owned that did not immediately call for a custom/aftermarket seat. If I someday end up buying a Corbin saddle or the like, I suspect it will be just for the sake of indulging my need to farkle.
I'm also very impressed by the engine and transmission. The engine is still very tight, of course, but the fueling has been right on target from the very first time I used the throttle to the last time, this morning, when I gave it a short twist in 6th gear to get me past a lumber truck that was straining under a heavy load and just under the 55 mph speed limit on IL 148. For what it's worth to you, I recommend following the suggestions for running-in the engine that are in the manual: keep it under 4000 rpm for the first 500 miles and under 6000 rpm for the next 500. That means you're at just about 56-57 mph maximum for the first 500 miles, but then things open up: the 6K ceiling lets you cruise at 75 mph with no problems.
There are lots of great riding roads where I live, with good pavement, well marked and plentiful curves, changes of elevation, etc. The Versys is ideal for taking advantage of them! I had a Daytona 955i that was a blast to ride through the twisties and that would rocket so quickly on the straights that it made me break out into "flopsweat" (although, of course, not so much as to make me slow down) and huge grins. However, for me the Versys is actually a lot more fun, since it doesn't have all the largely useless top end speed and power, it has a much more upright and comfortable riding position, and it still has the capability of being confidently leaned over and hooned through curves in a manner that makes it possible to fantasize that you're Valentino Rossi or Casey Stoner or Nicky Hayden leading a MotoGP pack! Will the Versys win at any track days against more sport-oriented machines? No. Will it hold its own - at real world speeds and in real world riding conditions on the street - with just about anything out there? Yes. Is it comfortable, confidence-inspiring, transparent (in the sense of quickly becoming an extension of its rider's mind and body), and just plain FUN to ride? Yes, yes, yes!
I haven't had any of the problems that some folks have noted with vibrations from the engine and/or bodywork. I think part of this is due to the fact that my physical and psychological reference point for "vibration" on a bike is the Harley Sportster 1200 that I hopped up, made as loud as possible, and used to terrorize sportbike posers around the campus where I taught before retiring three years ago. I always wear a full-face helment . . . but without one I would have had to duct tape my eyeglasses to my face to keep the Sporty from shaking 'em off the first time I twisted the throttle! I sense a bit of "buzz" - and a pleasant, loping throb - from the Versys, but I like that. I rode a friend's Goldwing for a while last summer and, although I was impressed with how incredibly comfortable it would be for touring, I felt like I was driving a well-tuned and softly sprung Honda Civic and not a motorcycle. Although the Versys is very smooth and I'm really looking forward to doing some all-day rides on it, I'm also glad that it feels like a motorcycle!
The day before yesterday, I took the Versys in for its 600-mile service. All it needed was an oil change (where I made the shift to synthetic) and a replacement for a defective clutch-side mirror (which had a maddening habit of folding itself tankward whenever windspeeds and/or bike speed topped 45 mph!). Of course, all the various Versys bits and pieces were also checked and, if necessary, tweaked, tightened, etc. Even with the shift to synthetic oil (and an extra quart of oil to go - for topping off before the next service), the service cost just $62. That's quite a change from my experience with the first regularly scheduled service on my 2003 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail, which ran more than $450!!!!
I'm glad I went with stainless steel brake lines, which are providing excellent "bite" and stopping power, and I'm really glad that I added a "Back Off" brake light module that makes the taillight's stop signal flash (since I've seen it catch the attention, twice, of cell-phone-using cagers who otherwise would have plowed right through me). I also like the security of having the SW Motech engine guards (from Twisted Throttle). I've used the OEM top case so much that I added (just today) a Nelson Rigg passenger-seat case and saddlebag combination. I've got a "tail tidy" on the way, which will clean up the look of the rear end, and I used my bargain heat gun (an old hair dryer!) and some Goo Gone to get the ugly OEM "Kawasaki Versys" block letter decals off the tank panels. I've added a few small eagle-and-flag decals and I have a set of really nice POW/MIA decals on the way. I've also added - and I know this is sacrilege - a set of chrome and rubber, cruiser style, folding highway pegs to the farthest reaches of the SW Motech engine guards' top tubing. They give my loooooong legs an alternative position during long rides - and, according to at least two parking lot critics, add to the generally uncategorizable nature and appearance of the Versys. "Just what kind of a bike IS that?" "What kind of riding do you DO on that bike?" Ah, those kinds of questions are music to my ears.
What would I change about the stock Versys? I would make the mirrors' upper arms about 1.5" longer, which is not enough to make them look ungainly but would allow them to provide a view that didn't include part of your arms and shoulders! I'll probably be ordering a set of the SW Motech mirror extenders soon. I would make the OEM tank decal look less like a stencil applied hastily at dockside and try to give it some sort of font and style that would complement the lines of the tank and side panels. Other than that, it is a tremendous value for the money and one of the best motorcycles on the market. If it's anything like my KLR 650 in terms of reliability, then I'm confident that the Versys is a bike that I'm going to enjoy having for a long, long time.
I know this has been a long posting, but I decided to try to write something like the kind of "first impressions" that I've always enjoyed reading. If I've bored you, then please accept my sincere apologies. If you've got any questions, then post 'em here as replies or send me PMs. If I've provoked you, then tell me/us your differing opinions and experiences. That's what I like about being on a forum . . .
Here's hoping that, whatever and wherever and whenever you are riding, you're having a great time. Life is too short and precious to waste more of it than is absolutely necessary on drudgery and boredom!