Itís been a year and a couple of months since I bought my V
, and having just returned from a trip around New Mexico. I thought it was time to summarize some of my observations and impressions about the bike. Long story short: I love this bike! There are however some areas that I think could be improved by Kawasaki.
I do a lot of touring on my Versys and I top out at over 200 pounds, so the first thing I would like to see changed is the seat. Itís just not very comfortable on long rides, and the problem is compounded when youíre out for a multi-day trip. Usually by day 3 or 4, my butt is screaming at the thought of another 300 or more miles. I recently bought an Alaska Leathers sheepskin pad for the front pillion, and while it helps, itís not a cure. I really donít want to spend $500 on a new custom seat, so I may consider a seat mod such as Mean City Cycles
offers. I will note, that I havenít done the front shim adjustment, although I donít think it would improve the discomfort I feel in my butt. If anyone has done this mod, and cares to chime in on this your input would be much appreciated.
The mirrors were problematic from the start, in that they loosen up, (sometimes just from vibration). This was a problem for me first on a trip through Colorado, when I discovered the tool kit doesnít have a wrench big enough to handle the adjusting nuts. It occurred again on my trip through Mexico last winter, when they loosened up while riding a rough dirt road. Since then Iíve added loctite to the formula for success, and so far, so good. Other than that, the stock mirrors donít seem to be able to be adjusted so that half their rear view vision isnít filled with a great view of my chest. Iíve been considering bar end mirrors as a solution to this as well as lowering the height enough to squeeze it into the back of my van.
The V was originally billed as a dual sport bike by Kawasaki. I would say that is stretching the limits of the bike, although it is more than adequate to handling some off road riding/crossing streams/forest roads/etc. This is not a problem for me, but I mention it for those thinking this is a souped up version of a KLR. Itís not.
I recently switched to Avon Distanzias and really like their performance over the stock street tires which the bike came with for the kind of riding I do. I donít ride way off road, but I do like taking some forest road detours, and the new Distanzias really improve the sensation of riding on marbles the street tires had when I hit a gravel road.
I laid the bike down about 4 months after I bought it, when I pulled out of a gas station just after dark, when a van from the oncoming lane cut directly in front of me. I barely had time to hit the brakes, which I did, (hard), and immediately went down and as the bike slid to a stop, I barrel rolled behind it. I was kinda amazed, when I stood up and found no serious injuries. The reason, I would credit my survival with some minor road rash is that I was wearing a mesh, (Joe Rocket), jacket, full face Shoei helmet, and Icon, leather gloves. Both the jacket and the gloves were destroyed. Surprisingly, the helmet never made contact with the pavement until I finally slid to a halt. Lesson: Wear protective gear! The van never stopped, and a witness helped me get the bike to the side of the road and called a cop who in turn called a tow truck, (broken shift lever, and some cosmetic damage Ė Total repair bill was about $500. The reason I tell this story is to illustrate two things that could and in the first case, should, be done to improve the safety of the V. The first is the stock headlight. Itís just not adequate, especially on low beam. I donít know for sure that this played a role in the van driverís inability to see me coming, but Iím sure the fact that my lights were on low at the time of the accident didnít help. Kawasaki has no excuse for not furnishing this great handling bike with a more adequate headlight. The second suggestion, would be for Kawi to offer an optional ABS system for the brakes. Again, I donít know if it would have made a difference in my going down, but it wouldnít have hurt.
Now for some of the good news. This bike is just outright fun to ride. On my recent trip around New Mexico,
I crossed Emory Pass on my way to Silver City twice, as well as many other roads that are remarkably scenic and twisty. The Versys is a champion on this kind of riding. I met several cruisers lumbering their way up and over the pass, and even viewing them in the oncoming lane, I could see that their riding experience was much different than the agile V, as I flicked through the seemingly endless turns. Even on the straightaways/highways, the V pulls strong and steady. Our highway speeds in NM are mostly posted at 75mph, and the Versys handles that speed, (and more), all day long, or at least as long as I can stand to ride with the dang seat the way it is.
The Versys runs like the proverbial top. Ultra reliable. Starts every time. Pulls smoothly. This is a big plus from the perspective of someone like me who likes to do light touring. When I rode by myself 3200 miles through Mexico
last winter, I never worried about it failing, even on some extremely remote roads, some of which were dirt.
All of these performance characteristics have made the Versys what I would consider an ideal bike for me in general and particularly as a re-entry bike for me after a 20+ year hiatus from riding. Being a 200+ pound rider, I might be interested in a slightly larger displacement motor, perhaps in the 800cc to 900cc range. Having said that, I donít think the lack of such an option will stop me from buying another 650 Versys when I get my next bike. On that note, Iím going to be moving soon, and am thinking of selling my V, and getting a new one when I arrive, so if anyone is interested, Iíve got a great Versys, with about 8k miles, factory luggage, Givi windscreen, and a couple of cosmetic blems for sale. Thanks for reading, and see you on the road, (and donít forget to keep the rubber side down!).