With a 140-mile commute to the office and back, it’s fair to say I’m going to be racking up the miles this winter. I know it hasn’t turned really cold just yet, but right now I’m feeling optimistic about the slippery roads, wind, rain and no doubt snow.
The reason is that I’ll be riding the unflappable Kawasaki Versys 1000. Having already covered over 9000 miles, it’s yet to disappoint me, and I don’t think months of winter riding are going to change that.
As standard it’s a bike with good road presence. It stands tall and proud and puts me in a very neutral position which makes it easy to handle and provides good visibility – a vital attribute for staying safe on a wet, cold, night.
I’m still in the process of getting the bike fully sorted for winter, but the mods so far include an adjustable Powerbronze screen (£75), which is now at its highest setting. Its size and height mean its top edge is in my line of sight but the benefit from the much- wider-than-standard screen is far better protection and significantly less wind chill to the upper body.
I’ve also fitted Kawasaki hand guards (£138.85), which offer reassuring protection and also reduce the direct wind chill dramatically. The new Kawasaki top box (£248.80) has great carrying capacity and keep my bag and laptop safe and dry.
Having progressively wound up the rear shock’s compression damping during the summer months to exploit the grip on dry roads, I’ve now backed it off to just below standard. With significantly less grip available I won’t be pushing the bike’s handling limits, and the softer suspension gives me more feel, grip and confidence at a time when I need it most.
But the single biggest change I’ve made to make the winter riding experience more palatable is new tyres. The original Bridgestone T30s did the job, but with hindsight they never gave great feedback, especially on the front. These have been replaced with Pirelli Angel GTs (approx £230 mail order), which impressed from the moment they were fitted. Dry grip, feel and handling is improved and their wet weather performance continues to inspire confidence, with their ability to warm up and get into their operating temperature quickly a key feature.
While I feel I’m nearly ready for winter there are still some other modifications I intend to do. I’m yet to fit heated grips – a must for winter riding – and am weighing up whether to use original Kawasaki grips or an aftermarket item such as Oxford Hot Grips, which I’ve used and been impressed with in the past.
I’m also looking to improve my chances to be seen and heard. While I’m not a fan of overly loud aftermarket exhausts they are a great way to inform distracted drivers of your whereabouts. The current silencer on the Versys clearly does its job efficiently and the engine note remains incredibly quiet at anything under 6000rpm. The plan is to fit a Scorpion silencer, which should improve acoustics without giving the neighbours reason to complain. It should also release a few extra bhp, which I probably won’t need this winter, but I’m always happy to have!
I’m also looking at the possibility of fitting spotlights to the front of the bike. They are available as an extra from Kawasaki or aftermarket suppliers.Getting the bike fully ready for winter remains a work in progress but while I know it won’t always be plain sailing, I’m feeling pretty confident about the Versys’ ongoing performance throughout the months ahead.