I've ridden my 17 Versys now 18,000 miles in the first year (of which that was in 3 months) and so far it's been what I expected.
Great handling bike and extremely fun on tight twisty roads. Great fuel economy and uses 87 octane which is a big plus. The economy isn't all that different at speeds over 70mph from the larger displacement bikes but you do save a lot over time with 87 vs 91. Drop down to below 65 and the mileage difference quickly separates from the larger bikes.
I love that the panels come off quick and easy, it's one of the easiest if not the easiest that I've owned to strip the bike down, thank you Kawasaki for that.
Now that I lived on it riding all day for a month I'd say there's definitely better long distance bikes but it does a pretty good job. I'm on the stock seat and the slope thing is real but just pulling the airhawk pad forward a little eliminates it. I don't have any complaints using the airhawk and the stock seat. The knee's are really the only downside for me, too bent for long days and I'll probably either lower the pegs or add highway pegs to fix that. I'm debating adding crash bars for the inevitable tip over somewhere but I hate adding the weight to the bike.
I didn't use a radiator guard with all the gravel going to Alaska and other than bugs adding tiny bends to the fins and one large rock that got hucked by a car in Ontario on pavement no real dings in the radiator.
No skidplate used either since I'm not hoping over logs or going down any dirt roads with rocks that large.
Modifications I did do was replace the screen with the Puig touring screen which worked well, the adjusting screws to vibrate loose on one side over time and need to be watched though. The fender bolts where the only other screws that tried to escape so far. I've added a voltage USB (q.c 3.0) charger to the left accessory hole and a Blue Sea OLED temp gauge (air temp, you could do coolant if you wanted). And that gave me the same instrumentation I've had on my past bikes. The temperature gauge is extremely accurate. I've also run a standard SAE wire from the battery for my heated jacket and gloves and use it to charge a battery pack or check voltage when off with some accessory plugs.
Using a large 25000mah usb pack (q.c 3.0 version) worked very well, easily charging up while riding and then ample power to charge my phone, sena, Nikon D750 battery's with a usb charger, flashlight, inreach after the day was complete in my tent. The D750 battery's last forever and with two only needed to be recharged once in a month.
For gear I tried to keep things simple and used most of what I had. We divided up tools amongst the 3 bikes to save weight and space so we didn't carry triple of everything.
Basically I mimicked the factory tool kit with a large 27mm wrench for the rear, a large allen for the front and the standard sizes for the other bolts. Since all the bikes were Japanese (honda, Yamaha) we had a lot of common size tools. The 27mm got used a bunch with the chains going bad and stretching constantly. I use a motion pro tool to alight the chain/sprocket, a slack tool by them to adjust slack ( I go for 35mm loose end of spec as it was fully loaded) and a chain monkey to make getting it set quick and easy. The rear adjuster marks are off a little on my version, nothing huge but they aren't precise. All the tools got used. I carry a aerostich compressor and a Stop and Go plug kit, as mentioned it failed to plug the one flat we had which was a bad one. Now it's got the tire rope kit as well because that one did successfully stop the leak with 3 ropes.
Clothes I brought 5 underwear, 2 pants, 3 shirts, 5 socks, 1 down jacket, 1 set of thermal top/bottom and one set of rain gear (didn't trust the KLIM yet). All the clothing got used and the pants were some khaki scrubs recommended on ADVrider which are super comfortable, dry fast and don't look too goofy. Cheap on Amazon too and pack small. Highly recommended! I brought 1 pair of athletic shorts and flip flops and one set of sneakers. The down jacket was MVP of the trip and worn 80% of the time. My heated gear came out 3-4 times and was worth it's weight in gold when I needed it. Temps were from about 39-90, mostly around 45-60F as this was early-mid June. We hit everything for weather including some severe hail which covered the road in a sheet 1/4-1/2 inch for a short section in a T-storm, I saw it early and got onto the dirt shoulder and didn't crash as it was up a steep incline through a mountain pass and unridable safely until some 18 wheelers cleaned up a few lines down to the pavement.
All my clothes went in a Enduristan duffel on the rear seat, and the heated gear. My left pannier contained the tools and food. My right pannier contained my camping kit as we camped almost the entire trip. Tent/bag/pad/bag liner (warm nights and a 15 degree boost to the 30 degree bag if needed) pillow and ground pad. I use a Kelty tent with 14" poles to it fits no problem in the pannier. Once it's all out for the night the helmet goes in to keep the bugs out.
I used the Givi tank case for the Versys and it's great. It held my D-750 with a 24-120, 20mm/50mm prime and a 150-600mm. Next trip I'm just bringing my iPhone since I used that the most anyway lol. I did get some decent wildlife shots with the telephoto but I'm not sure it's worth all the bulk to bring it again.
This was the longest trip I've done to date, previously I'd ridden a 10 day 4k mile trip and crossed the country a bunch of times for close to that mileage, never 12k+ miles with no down days.
If I were to go to Alaska again I'd probably use an Africa Twin so I'd enjoy the gravel and dirt and get up to the arctic circle. I know you can get there on a Versys but I'd rather use a better tool for the job in that regard. For now I'm about to move to Alabama from upstate NY and the V650 will be a great bike for the twisty roads around deals gap that I'm not far from.
If anyone's on the fence about going, do it, life's short. It took saving up my vacation and quiting one job to get a gap between my next to get the 30 days off I needed to complete the trip but I'm glad it did. Most of the guys up there are retired and now have the time to make the trip. My dad had a blast at age 66 and just started riding bikes a few years ago.
My route from NY was through Ontario ( I live in upstate) then across upper Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota through the badlands and black hills. Onward over the bighorn national forest, into Yellowstone than north up through Montana passing into Glacier nat. park. From there we continued North through Banff/Jasper (wow) and then Northwest to follow the Cassier highway (37) to the Alaska Highway. I saw more bears on 37 than in my entire life (I'm from Maine). More black bears on the side of the road then we could keep count of. We saw 4 grizzly's and 1 brown bear. We continued along the Alaska highway to Tok, then south out to the kenai peninsula and seward/homer. Then up toward Fairbanks and Denali. My friend Eric blasted up to Prudhoe bay in shockingly little time (less than two days) and later caught up to us in Montana on the way back. We then made a loop around back to Whitehorse and returned down 37 to Montana and across US 2 into Ontario again and home. My dad and I decided to return down 37 as I just wasn't (nor was he) impressed at all with the Alaska Highway and found it pretty boring and loaded with trucks and construction. We stopped in Hyder (great road there) on the way back.
Highlights were the road to Skagway, The road to Hyder, The road to Valdez in Alaska. 37 in B.C (bears!) Going to the sun in Glacier, The badlands, The black hills, Bighorn national forest. We tried for Beartooth pass but it was closed. The road 83 from seeley to swan lake was really nice as well in Montana.
What's next for adventure? I want to go to Ushuaia. We saw a few people in Alaska who started there, I'm jealous! Maybe Baja first. I've not been though all the States on a bike except for Hawaii and all the Canadian Provinces except the plains area.