Well, I turned up at Kawasaki Bristol at 3pm in the afternoon for my allotted ride with my girlfriend and the new versys.
My route took me from the dealership down the M32, M4 and M5, turning off the Clevedon junction to head out towards cheddar gorge. The route back involved a couple back lanes and the versys coped admirably with all I could throw at it.
A first impression when sat on the bike is this is going to be a comfortable ride, and it is. The seat is extremely plush and whilst I had no immediate discomfort, it seemed to be all day comfy. I would consider a gel seat as my bum did get a bit numb just from being sat on it for ages...
Wind protection is astounding. I often wondered how people could wizz past me down the motorway at 80mph constant when I could only do 70 maximum. Wind would try to rip my face off constantly. With the versys there is no drama; 80mph cruising could be covered all day.
Her ladyship was also impressed. Its the first time she has let go of me completely, placing her hands on her lap. Compared with the SV she was holding on for dear life. She found the seat comfortable and much more so than the SV, and the riding position much roomier. This bike has furthered her confidence in riding as a pillion.
With regards to the ergonomics, the sizing of the bike is adequate for my lardy self, and the bars are not a stretch or awkwardly placed. The foot position is perfectly acceptable and its easy to get onto and be comfortable. Everything seems to fall into place naturally.
As for the engine, all I can say is wow. It suits my riding style perfectly. I am lazy with the throttle and the torque just kicks in when I need it, powering out of corners. Setting off from the show room saw me surprised by the instant pick-up and acceleration. I had opened the throttle as if on the SV, it certainly woke me up! Two up the torque is plentiful, carrying myself and the lady with no fuss at all. There’s enough poke from the engine for overtakes I wouldn’t have even attempted on the SV. Though the bike is down on power on paper compared to the SV, it certainly doesn’t feel it.
Still in-keeping with the engine subject, the vibrations have been mentioned by many a review and I will agree they are noticeable. I became used to them over the course of the test ride. However when cruising at 70mph the vibes were certainly noticeable, to the point I tried to prod for another gear. There were two options, power through it up to 75mph or down to 65mph. Emma also commented on vibes compared to the SV, but on the whole conceded that the comfort much outweighed it as an issue. The vibes seemed to be most noticeable to me at 5k rpm, but sit above or below, or power through and its perfectly fine.
Moving onto all round ability, as aforementioned I took the bike down the motorway and through country roads and back lanes. The bike coped admirably in all situations. I had attempted roads on the versys I would never have attempted on the SV.
The suspension was lovely and plush, wafting over road imperfections with notable state of comfort. Hitting a pot hole however, would see the suspension react harshly, feeding it back through the bike to rider and passenger. On the whole whilst riding I noticed suspension producing a see-saw effect. Under braking, the front began to dive a lot more than on the SV. This could be a trait of tall bikes, because I have never ridden one – which means I would need to get used to it.
The handling is neutral and I managed to throw the bike into some corners comfortably, with the bike remaining composed for a range of bends. From only riding a cruiser, naked and semi sports bike the handling on the versys is confidence inspiring. It has a weird sensation of ‘falling’ into corners; however feedback is adequate for the speeds undertaken.
One instant observation when leaving the dealership is the back brake is pants, whilst the front brakes offer plenty of initial bite. I can make a direct comparison with these brakes as I have exactly the same system on the SV. The brakes on the SV seem more balanced, with the front providing enough power when braking hard, but no initial bite. The rear on the SV is strong in comparison with the versys, making back brake maneuvering on the SV easier. The versys provided a few head bumping moments when braking due to the bite present on the front end. The rear could do with the same sort of power, if not a little less. Perhaps changing pads and over to braided hoses would help somewhat…
On the whole this bike is an impressive bit of kit, whilst it might not be much of a looker (though it is growing on me), its ability far outweighs its visual aesthetics. It’s a similar story to some BMW’s, many also look ugly and squinty with an asymmetrical design, but function far outweighs its looks.
I was so impressed with the bike I didn’t want to go back to the showroom with it. Fortunately there were no other test riders after me, so I was able to stay out longer – and I relished the chance. I was supposed to be out for an hour, I returned two and a half hours later.