I am on the fence about purchasing a Versys. So like any informed buy I have been reading countless hours of reviews on the internet and test riding as many bikes as I can. I figured I would write up a little A/B comparision that might help anyone looking at purchasing a Versys.
Last night I left work 2 hours early to test drive some bikes. A used Buell Ulysses XB12X ($8,680) a new Buell XB12XT ($12,999) and a V-Strom DL1000($9,799). Later this week I hope to ride a V-Strom DL650 and a Tiger 1050.
While I am no journalist or professional reviewer nor Valentino Rossi. I have owned many types of street bikes, dirt bikes, ATV's. I have been ridding for 28 years and even raced in the GNCC circuit. For what its worth.
First up the Buell XB12X right off the bat this thing sputtered and was hard to start. It was used and had 9k miles. One thing I noticed is that when the guy would rev it on its kick stand (revving a bike in nuetral is not the best idea) the bike started walking backward on its kick stand like 3 feet and left a 3' mark in the concrete from dragging the kick stand. Climbing on board I immediately felt comfortable. The seat was one of the best I ever sat on. The ergo's were nice near perfect, nice and upright just how liked them. The vibration of this bike was absurd. I have owned Harleys and other big push rod V-twins and this was much more pronounced. I dont want to spend alot of time talking about this bike because it was either abused or poorly maintained, or maybe Buells just fall apart after some time. Once underway, besides the sputtering engine I had alot of steering wobble and even more pronouced when braking. I can say that I am almost 100% positive that the steering head bearings were shot and the front brake was dragging. This bike was not a "good example" of a Ulysses I figured so I wrote it off as a lemon. Next up the bagged out XB12XT. It had 10 miles on it. Started right up once again the salesman rev's the engine, ones again the bike starts walking back on the kick stand dragging a 3 foot score in the concrete. I climb aboard and it has a noticably lower seat hight than the standard Uly same great comfortable layout same great seat, same teeth jarring rattle. The sales man insists that the all Buell's are rough like this if they sit for a long time without riding them. How true that is I dont know. Once underway I could tell this bike was in better shape than the used one but not by much. There was excesive poping through the airbox which was annoying (the airbox is where the gas tank is and looks like a gas tank) The popping occured during acceleration and deceleration. The was A LOT of wind buffeting, much more than the V even tough the deflectors are about the same size. While riding the bike smoothed out a lot, at speed there is much less vibration than the V. While the Uly has more ponies under the seat the bike didnt "feel" much faster than the V and it has a smooth linear powerband. The I felt the V had much better brakes than the Uly particulairly in the front. I would say that the Uly is pretty close to the V in handling however the Uly requires more work to turn at lower speeds and didt "feel" as nimble. This could be because there was 3 rather large bags attached to the Uly. I hammered the thottle several times, the front end would slightly come off the ground from first to second, not really a wheelie but I could tell there was no weight on the tire. On paper, the Uly looks much more powerful, but in the real world. They felt close. The tansmission was flawless. I mean one of the best shifting bike I ever ridden. The clutch pull was light. In the twisties these two bike would be close, if there are alot of switch backs the V would come out ahead. Oh the right mirror was spinning around from the base I had to lean it agains the fly screen. I spent an hour on the bike. But to be quite honest I knew the V was the better bike in the first 10 minutes. The Buell was smoother and less vibration once underway than the V and the Buell seat IMO was fantastic. At 1/2 the price the Uly was not even a consideration for me after I rode it.
Up next a brand new V-strom DL1000 it had .5 miles on it. Climbing on board (and after a 45 min ride) it is apparent the seat, pegs, bars, basically the overall ergo's are much more comfy than the Versys, not night and day difference but it is apparent. I was REALLY looking forward to this bike. I just knew that once I rode this one, I would choose it over the Versys. More power, more comfortable seat, bigger fairing, some off road ability, surely this bike will dissuade me from the Versys right? Once underway I had mega wind buffeting, like more than riding a naked bike. I know the factory windshield is adjustable and I think it was in the lowest position but, wow it got annoying instantly. I round my first corner, and notice this thing handles well and is quite nibble underway. By my second stop sign I can tell the Strom's brakes are much better than the Versys and have more "positive" feel. The Versys brakes really lack initial bite to me but once you get on them they do a great job at stopping, but the whole time I rode the Strom the front and rear both felt better. I also have to give the nod in favor of the Stroms suspension, it is noticably smoother and more comfortable than the Versys. And then there is the engine, more power, 90 degree twin has to be way smoother than the little parallel on the Versys right? WRONG. What the hell? I am one of those guys that always belive you can never have enough engine. Until now. The Strom does produce more power, I did a roll on wheelie in first gear with it. But the bike does'nt "feel" faster. While I am sure it will accellerate faster than the Versys, they "feel" the same, and at 75mph the DL1000 is less taxed than the Versys. I am sure the DL1000 vs the V in a 60-100mph roll on the DL would easily win but the 0-60 and around town I dont think I could "feel" the difference. Both have a very linear power powband the DL comes on much sooner, but the Versys feels better revving more. But the big gripe for me was all the engine vibration. I mean this thing was so bad that it was making my hands numb. The V had an annoying vibration but nothing like the DL. The DL1000 not only made the annoying vibration in the bars but also in the seat. The engine was not nearly as smooth as the V and always under acceleration felt like it was chugging no matter what gear or what RPM. I can really say that I am shocked that the one big thing that made me want a Vstrom 1000 over the Versys was the engine. I am disappointed. The transmission was also notchy, not smooth, the V does not have a perfect tranny either but IMO better than the DL. The clutch pull was harder and caused arm pump after a while. I the lever was quite high on the bike and I think angleing it down would help. Everyone raves how the WeeStrom 650 is a better bike than the 1000 and has a smoother engine. I will have to see for myself, but I can belive the hype after riding the 1000. My 1700cc air cooled pushrod Vtwin was smoother than this higher tech V-twin mill.
In short the Versys IMO has a better stock wind protection, better motor, and while the ungangly Stom is suprisingly agile, its no match for the corning abilities of the V. The Strom had a better seat (the 2nd best stock seat I ever on) and ergos. The strom also had better brakes and perhaps better suspension. I say perhaps because while the suspension is softer and much more comfy over bumps and on the superslab, the stiffer suspenders on the Versys help make it the road carver that it is. I think a new seat and lower pegs on the V could make it as comfortable as the Strom. Between these two its a close choice but once I factor in the vibes and the price difference the Versys clearly wins. I think if anyone thinking of buying a Ulysses rides a Vstrom 1000, the desision would be made for them in a second. The Strom is superior to the Uly.
If the weather cooperates tonight I will to Lincoln (50 miles away) and the dealer there said they will have a Versys and a Vstrom 650L ready for me to ride so I can do a side by side comparision. I bought 6 bikes from this dealer since 2004 so they know I am a serious buyer. I will have to see if the Wee is better than the Vee and for 2k less. I may go to the Triumph dealer over lunch to try the Tiger. But he wants MSRP for the Tiger and it is a demo with 800 miles. That alone makes me not want to buy it, but maybe if I like it I would be in the market for a used one.
Anyway this is just my opinions and 2 cents. I apologize for grammar and typo's Im sure they are in there.